The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Abuja reports that 12 delegates from a 192 wards in 18 local government areas will converge on Benin to choose a candidate out of the 12 aspirants angling for the top job in the state.
NAN also reports that of the 12 aspirants, 11 bought their expression of interest and nomination forms for N5.5 million each while one, a woman, got hers for free. Some of the aspirants confirmed the allegation that some fellows were buying up Permanent Voter Cards (PVC) ahead of the Sept. 10 election in the state.
An aspirant, Mr Charles Airhiavbere, told newsmen at the APC secretariat that such acts were fraudulent, despicable and shameful.
“That information is correct. Delegates have reported some elements buying up PVCs for N5,000. This is a gross abuse of human rights. It’s a challenge a leader has to face in the future. It’s painful to hear. “One aspirant had to post an advert that people should not sell their birth rights. In Owan, one buyer was driven out of that area,” Airhiavbere said.
On another allegation that the aspirants were being pressured to step down, Airhiavbere said: “I will not be in that category of people stepping down for other aspirants.
“Aside that where is the democracy if I step down; that is a psychological warfare but for me I won’t step down for anyone.’’
Another aspirant and incumbent deputy governor, Mr Pius Odubu, told newsmen that “I’ve heard that allegation too but I cannot confirm whether it is true or not.
“In any case if anyone does that, it’s just a wasteful exercise because there are other forms of identification aside from the PVCs.
“What you need is to properly identify yourself at the polling unit through the voter’s register… so anybody buying up PVCs doesn’t believe in the tenets of democracy.”
For Mr Chris Ogiemwonyi, the I-G, Independent National Electoral Commission and the APC should look into the allegation before the primary. He condemned the action that a lawmaker, Rep. Phillip Shuaibu, allegedly invited members to his house and mandated them to come with their PVCs for an exchange of N10,000 each.
“The lawmaker called the delegates to his house requesting, threatening and intimidating the delegates to submit their PVCs to him with an intent to disenfranchise voters and use the PVCs for other purposes.
“As we speak the process is ongoing. This is wrong, it is not the democracy we fought for. We do not want PDP to take over the state.
“I call on the APC leadership not to allow a process that is flawed and challengeable in court to produce the next gubernatorial candidate.
“I’m equally surprised that today, the Edo House of Assembly, led by the Speaker, never sat. We are raping democracy. Are they supposed to be here with an aspirant. That is disgraceful, unacceptable, shameful and wicked.
“We believe the process can be managed and that is why we are talking with the APC leadership,” he said.
Reacting to the allegation, the aspirant, Mr Godwin Obaseki, said: “I don’t believe that Ogiemwonyi with his standing will say that. I hold him in high esteem.
“I can tell you that nothing like that happened. For someone to make such a flimsy, unguarded statement is quite unfortunate. Everybody has a right to prefer somebody in a race. Having worked with everybody if the governor decides to choose someone is there anything wrong with that.
“What has put me at an advantage is the skills and quality I have as a person. The governor did not appoint any of these people, they chose me so that says a lot.”
He said it was very erroneous to say nothing had been done in the state for the past eight years because “if the government before us did a tenth of what Oshiomhole did with the allocation the state had then, we would have had a platform or something tangible to work with.”
NAN reports that five aspirants were at the secretariat today to submit their nomination and expression of interest forms.