Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The controversy trailing the build-up to the party primaries in the scheduled governorship election in Edo State has assumed another dimension with two political parties fighting over the use of the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium as the venue for their primaries.
If not quickly resolved by authorities, the Action Alliance (AA) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will all conduct their primaries at the stadium on the same date.
The Action Alliance has already alerted the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of this development and has equally called on the PDP to shift its primaries to another date.
The AA had initially notified INEC on May 28 about its intention to hold its primary on June 25 and 26 at Ogbemus Hotel and Suites but later changed the venue to the Samuel Ogbemudia stadium in compliance with the Edo State Government laws and COVID-19 public safety regulations in the state which stipulates that all primaries must hold at the Samuel Ogbemudia stadium.
In a letter addressed to the Chairman INEC dated June 17, but received on June 18, with the title “Re: Notice of Action Alliance Edo State Governorship Primary Election”, the party drew the attention of the Commission to the change in venue from Ogbemus Hotel and Suites, No. 2 Nosa Ekhator Lane, off Upper Sokponba Road Benin City, Edo State, to the Samuel Ogbemudia stadium.
The letter, signed by Hon Adekunle Rufai Omo-Aje and Amb Suleiman Abdulrasheed, National Chairman and Secretary, respectively, cited Edo State laws as it relates to COVID-19 as reasons for the change in venue.
The letter reads: ‘Due to the circumstances beyond our control, Edo State Government laws and in compliance with the extant COVID-19 regulations in the state “Regulation 2(2) of the Dangerous Disease (Emergency prevention) Supplementary Regulation dated 22nd May 2020 (gazetted vide gazette No. 20 vol. II).
‘We write to notify you of our change of venue for our primary election in Edo earlier scheduled to hold on June 25 and 26, 2020, at the Samuel Ogbemudia stadium by 10 am prompt, we regret any inconveniences this change of venue might cause the commission.’
Meanwhile, the Action Alliance has asked the PDP to shift its own primaries to another date to avoid a breakdown of law and order.
In a letter addressed to the National Chairman of PDP through its counsel, Chief Oba Maduabuchi (SAN), dated June 23, the party noted that given the political realities, it will be unhealthy for the two parties to hold their primaries on the same day and venue.
The letter entitled “Re: Your purported fixing of your Edo state gubernatorial primaries for the 25th of June at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium Benin City: Notice of the holding of A.A Governorship primaries on the same date and venue”, reads in part:
‘I am instructed by my client that on the 28th day of May 2020, it wrote to INEC informing the Commission of its intention of holding it’s gubernatorial primaries for Edo State on the 25th and 26th days of June at Ogbemus Hotel and Suites, No 2 Ekihator lane off Upper Sokponba Road Benin City, Edo State at 10 am.
‘INEC approved the date and included same in its time-table for the primaries. PDP was given the 19th to 20th June 2020 as it requested.
‘The Edo State Government has now made a new set of regulations in the light of the present COVID-19 pandemic which stipulates that all primaries must be held at the Sam Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin City, and with the prior consent and approval of the state government. Consequent upon this new reality, my clients applied to the Effect state government for its permission to use the stadium for its governorship primaries on the 25th and 26th June 2020.
‘Following this approval, the Action Alliance now wrote another letter to INEC informing it of the change of venue.
‘You can, therefore, imagine my client consternation and worry when the PDP announced that it had rescheduled its own primaries to the 25th and 26th day of June 2020 at the same Sam Ogbemudia Stadium Benin City, Edo State capital.
‘The essence of this letter is to protest this development as it shall neither augur well for our anti-COVID-19 measures nor safety if two parties are allowed to hold governorship primaries on the same day and date in the same venue and town. We, therefore, most respectfully urge that you shift your own primaries to another date since by the regulations only the stadium shall be used for primaries in Edo state and we cannot afford to risk a breakdown of law and order.’