The All Progressives Congress National Working Committee on Monday met with the Presidency as part of efforts to counter moves of some governors, who had begun moves to change the party’s decision on their Edo State counterpart, Mr Godwin Obaseki.
The APC NWC members led by the National Chairman, Mr Adams Oshiomhole, arrived at the Presidential Villa, Abuja at 4.30pm for a meeting with the President’s Chief of Staff, Prof Ibrahim Gambari.
When the meeting ended at 6pm, Oshiomhole, in an interview with the State House correspondents, said there was no way the party leadership could have bent the rules for anybody and allowed right of first refusal for those aspiring to contest when the party’s constitution did not make provision for it.
He said since the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), did not enjoy such a favour when he was seeking re-election in 2019, party leaders could not change the rule for others.
It was gathered that some governors, who were sympathetic to Obaseki, had reached out to the Presidency to seek its intervention in the Edo State APC crisis.
The APC screening committee on the state governorship primary had, on Friday declared Obaseki and two other aspirants ineligible to contest the party’s July 22 governorship primary.
The panel explained that Obaseki was, among others, disqualified because of contradictions in his credentials.
The governor, who rejected the decision of the committee, said he would not appeal his disqualification because he did not believe he would get justice from the Oshiomhole-led NWC.
The governor has been meeting some governors of the Peoples Democratic Party, in what is generally believed to be preparatory to joining the opposition party.
A highly placed APC official privy to the NWC’s meeting spoke to one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The source said, “Some governors approached the Presidency to seek a political solution to the disqualification. At the meeting with the chief of staff, the NWC presented documents, including the Edo governor’s credentials, the screening committee relied on before disqualifying Obaseki. The party officials presented three reports: Those of the screening committee, appeal committee and the NWC. The national chairman defended the decision of the party on Obaseki.”
After the NWC’s meeting with Gambari, when Oshiomhole was asked about Obaseki’s reported exit plan and the position of his party, he said the issue was still in the realm of speculation.
The former governor of Edo State said, “I don’t know about (Obaseki’s) exit. What we see from your media, electronic and print, is that he visited a number of PDP governors. We heard in the electronic media and read it in the print that those consultations may have to do with his plan and so on, but we are not here to speculate.
“Our party is not a party of big men. It is governed by rules. Both the small and the big are subjected to that rule.
“I am sure you will agree that our President led by example when we conducted direct primary in the last presidential election. We still went to Eagle Square for affirmation.
“So, if the President did not have the right of first refusal because our constitution does not provide for it, we cannot under any circumstances now bend the rules when it comes to some people and change the rule when it comes to others.
Our duty as the management board of the APC is to ensure that we obey strictly the provisions of our constitution which empower the NWC to conduct primaries for president, governors, National Assembly, and State Houses of Assembly.”
He again justified the screening process that led to Obaseki’s disqualification, saying it was meant to forestall a repeat of what happened to the party in Bayelsa State.
He said, “Because of what happened in Bayelsa, we have decided that we have to be very strict. There are always two issues that lead to disqualification after elections. As you saw in Bayelsa, we won the election, but for technical reasons, we lost it at the Supreme Court.
Oshiomhole also justified the decision of the party to conduct direct primary, saying it was in conformity with the social distancing protocol to curtail COVID-19.
He also said direct primary was more democratic and less susceptible to corrupt practices.
He said he was sure that a new law put in place in the state would not stop the party from conducting its primary.
According to him, the Edo State PDP conducted ward congresses to elect its delegates.
He stated, “He is our governor. We are law-abiding. But if the PDP can conduct activities across 192 wards with the same law, I don’t think our governor will discriminate against his own party.”
Attempts to get a reaction from the spokesperson for Obaseki, Mr. Crusoe Osagie were futile. He did not pick or return calls to his mobile telephone. A response to a text message sent to him on the subject was still being awaited as of 10:40pm.
But the Chairman of the APC faction in Edo State loyal to the governor, Anselem Ojezua said, “Oshiomhole cannot bring out laws from his pocket and impose it on our party.
“I don’t know what he went and told the Chief of Staff but the fact remains that we are a party governed by laws. We have a constitution and by that constitution, the power to set guidelines for the party primary is vested in the National Executive Committee.”