Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki yesterday held a closed-door meeting with his Rivers State counterpart and strongman of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Nyesom Wike.
The meeting lasted about 45 minutes, after which both governors declined to speak to journalists.Later, Obaseki tweeted appreciation for the solidasrity and goodwill of Edo people and Nigerians amid the alleged injustice meted out to him by the All Progressives Congress’ (APC) screening committee. He also said he would reveal his next move after consulting his supporters and meeting President Muhammadu Buhari.
The visit, the first by Obaseki since he became governor, came at a time the Edo helmsman is facing fierce opposition from his party, ahead of next week’s governorship primary. A committee set up by the party had ruled last week that Obaseki could not contest in the primary.
Pleading anonymity, a source close to Wike, who is also a PDP chieftain, told The Guardian that Obaseki’s visit could herald his defection to the PDP.
“In the event of Obaseki’s possible defection to the PDP, he will need the support of Governor Wike, who is one of the most formidable PDP governors in the South South. Considering the fact that Wike survived the APC onslaught in the 2019 general elections, you can see why the visit could be considered strategic,” the source said.
But a former Edo State Commissioner for Agriculture, Abdul Oroh, dismissed Obaseki’s romance with PDP stalwarts, saying: “Half of the strength of the PDP is now with us. They are not going to win. He can run to the governors of the South South, who have not been able to develop the Niger Delta in spite of the huge amount of money they have collected as oil revenue.”
Also, a frontline governorship aspirant in the PDP, Kenneth Imasuagbon, said the meeting did not raise any cause for concern, being a simple case of one governor visiting his colleague.He dismissed insinuations that the visit could be part of plans to circumvent the process and hand over the party’s ticket to Obaseki. “Is Obaseki a member of the PDP? Is Wike with the membership register of the party in Edo State?” Imasuagbon queried.
He explained that the unnecessary frenzy about what Obaseki did or did not do was being created by the APC to cover the injury and duplicity in its relationship with the governor. According to him, what should occupy the minds of patriotic Edo indigenes is how to create wealth and banish poverty in the state.
This was as Crusoe Osagie, Special Adviser to the Edo State Governor on Media and Communication Strategy, yesterday, took a swipe at the APC’s appeal committee in a statement titled ‘Obaseki’s Unjust Disqualification: Appeal Committee Can’t Uphold A Matter Never Appealed’.
“The charade of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and his puppet screening committee seems to know no end and their commitment towards the destruction of what is left of the smoldering integrity of our great party under Oshiomhole’s watch appears assured,” Osagie said.
He noted: “As if the embarrassment, which they brought to the party through the shameless and unjust disqualification of Governor Godwin Obaseki by the screening committee was not sufficient, they have now gone ahead to announce that the appeal committee has upheld the dubious disqualification.
“The question is, how does an appeal committee claim to uphold an issue that was not appealed. The governor has been unequivocal in his stance that he was not going to appeal the so-called disqualification by a screening committee that can best be described as a gathering of court jesters, who congregated to massage the ego of their paymaster, who is Comrade Oshiomhole.
“Juxtaposing this comical, distasteful and disgraceful charade against the mantra of change, integrity, social justice and progress, which ought to be the character of our great party, the APC reveals the depth of the abyss into which Comrade Oshiomhole has dragged the party.”
Asked why the committee upheld a decision that was never appealed, APC National Legal Adviser Babatunde Ogala replied: “I am not supposed to be interrogated on this matter because the committee we set up has submitted its report and we have accepted it. If there is any questions to be asked, I don’t think I am in the right position to answer.”
But an APC chieftain, Fouad Oki, said Ogala should not be expected to speak the truth on the issue, “since he understands that what the National Working Committee (NWC) did was not right.” Oki however refused to comment further, saying he was not really sure if Obaseki filed an appeal against his disqualification or not.
He hoped that Edo State would “not become a theater of bloodletting during and after the primary,” and urged the APC leadership to “call the national chairman to order.”
In another twist, a source within the Edo State chapter of the APC told The Guardian that a plot was ongoing to harass Obaseki’s aides using one of the nation’s anti-corruption agencies.
“The former commissioner of Information and Orientation, Mr. Paul Ohonbamu, and the immediate past Chief of Staff, Taiwo Akerele, got wind of the plot to checkmate the governor in the event that he defects from the party.
“Party leaders noted that without loyal members in the Edo State House of Assembly, it would be useless to contemplate impeachment. So, the idea of going after his commissioners and heads of agencies that remain loyal to the governor was upheld,” the source stated.
Also, a factional chairman of Edo APC, David Imuse, at a press conference yesterday, urged Oshiomhole to expel Obaseki and factional state chairman, Anselm Ojezua.
The Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) meanwhile has called on the NWC to ensure that those who fly the party’s flag in this year’s gubernatorial elections in Edo and Ondo States emerge through a fair and transparent process.PGF chairman and Kebbi State Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu in a statement yesterday after a teleconference with his counterparts, pledged to work collectively to strengthen the party by allowing internal democracy in the selection of candidates for all elections.