Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Adams Oshiomhole has announced that the party will go ahead with its planned primaries on June 22.
The ruling party chairman expressed optimism that the election will be free, fair and transparent, adding that a candidate that can unify the party in the state will emerge.
Oshiomhole gave the briefing to State House Correspondents at the end of the meeting he and members of party’s National Working Committee (NWC) had with the Chief of Staff (CoS) to the President, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, at the State House, Abuja.
The meeting comes on the heels of the party’s disqualification of Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki from contesting in the state gubernatorial primaries.
‘We’ve gone a long way. We’ve advertised the timetable, there was the stage of collection of forms and about six people collected forms. In that time table, we also provided for screening and we also provided for appeals arising from the screening,’ Oshiomhole said.
‘This is standard practice that the NWC has adopted since 2015 and in the case of Edo, we have completed the process of selling forms, we have also completed the process of screening, we have completed the process of appeals arising from the screening by those who wish to take advantage and the NWC has met and has reviewed the report of the screening committee and we were unanimous that the screening was thoroughly done and found that three people were eligible to contest, with regards to the provisions of our constitution.
‘We have these three gentlemen on parade to contest the primaries, which has been slated for the 22nd of June 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 be membership driven.
‘It’s always for me something interesting that after you have picked your candidate by a handful of elites, you’ll now organise a rally to introduce to the members who is going to contest an election. 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, it’s 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 party.
‘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 unify the party in the state.’
On if APC was ready for Obaseki’s exit, Oshiomhole said: ‘I don’t know about exit. What we see from your media, electronic and print, is that he visited a number of PDP governors. We read from electronic and 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’m 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 National Working Committee to conduct primaries for president, governors, National Assembly, and State Houses of Assembly.’
Speaking on the new law and direct primary, the party chairman said: ‘In the face of that law, we saw last week, and I’m sure you guys are very vigilant, that the PDP conducted ward congresses to elect their delegates that will go to the stadium. And with that, you start to reason whether people can gather up to 5,000 in a stadium. Can you achieve social distancing with 5,000 people in one location? Can you rather have a situation where you don’t carry people from villages to the centre? If they vote in their respective wards, you will not have more than 100 to 150 persons queuing to vote and maintain social distancing, and wear face masks. So, we will find a way around it. He is our governor. We are law-abiding. But if PDP can conduct activities across 192 wards with the same law, I don’t think our governor will discriminate against his own party. So, we are hopeful that everything will be peaceful.’