The hope of any form of reprieve for disqualified Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki faded on Monday.
His disqualification from the race for the All Progressives Congress (APC) ticket is final, national chairman Adams Oshiomhole said.
The national chairman spoke on Monday at the State House, Abuja, after leading NWC members to a meeting with Chief of Staff to the President Prof Ibrahim Gambari.
Oshiomhole allayed the fears that the party might lose Edo State to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) if Obaseki defects to the rival Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and gets its governorship ticket.
Progressives Governors’ Forum (PGF) Chairman and Kebbi State Governor Atiku Bagudu joined the NWC members at the meeting.
The NWC members in the team are: National Vice Chairman (Northwest) Inuwa Abdulkadir; National Treasurer Adamu Panda; National Welfare Officer Ibrahim Masari; and National Publicity Secretary Malam Lanre Issa-Onilu.
Speaking on the screening of the governorship aspirants in Edo State, Oshiomhole said: “We have these three gentlemen on parade to contest the primaries, which has been slated for June 22. In line with the provisions of our constitution, we will do direct primaries. It’s more democratic, less susceptible to corrupt practices and it makes the party to be membership driven.
“It’s always for me something interesting that after you have picked your candidate by a handful of elite, you’ll now organise a rally to introduce him to the members. They are supposed to bring the members to us and we can only achieve that through direct primaries.
“So, we are doing everything possible, having completed the issue of screening and we have upheld the result of the screening committee, we are proceeding now to conduct the primaries, God willing, on the 22nd of June in Edo State.
“One person appealed his disqualification and he had ample opportunity to approach the Appeal Committee and even with the benefit of coming with his lawyer because this time, 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.
“We have decided we should look at the composition of the committee, we have very senior lawyers, professors of law, we have various professors who should be familiar with the issues of certificate, because those are always the booby traps; whether there are impunities or contradictions or forged documents.
“Then we have lawyers who have handled election tribunal, they know the issues that people can raise, once you have filed your nomination because the courts have said INEC cannot screen candidates, the power to screen candidates, is exclusively part of the party.
“So, if the party mismanaged the process and they produce someone who has a fake certificate or multiple age or issues of spelling, those lawyers know what can lead to disqualification.
“So, we have confidence in the report they gave us, but in line with our democratic practice and as stated in our constitution, they also had an opportunity to make an appeal and that opportunity was provided. One of them took advantage of it, unfortunately he wasn’t successful. The appeal panel still reaffirmed the findings of the lower panel.
“We are getting ready for the primary on the 22nd and we pray that God will preside over the exercise, it will be free, fair and transparent and we’ll have a candidate that can unite the party in the state.”
Speaking on the possibility of the APC losing Edo State to the PDP in a situation reminiscent of the Benue experience, Oshiomhole said incumbency alone was not enough to give victory in an election, pointing out the fact that the peculiar political sentiments of Edo State would determine the winner.
He said: “All those who defected with Saraki lost. Those who did not defect – Bauchi, Adamawa sitting governors – lost. Even Governor Kayode Fayemi, as a sitting governor, was defeated by Fayose, so there’s no evidence that being a sitting governor guarantees you victory, it all depends on the local sentiments in the state.
“I think we need to get away from this fixation. Whether in America, Britain or in Nigeria, there are plethora of cases where sitting governors lost, sitting senators lost, sitting reps lost. There’s no guarantee that if you field somebody because he has incumbency you’ll win. Incumbency also has its liability, depending on the sentiment of the people of the state.”