Tony Osauzo (Benin) and Ndubuisi Orji (Abuja)
Following his disqualification from the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship primary, Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, is reaching out to the People Democratic Party (PDP) governors to facilitate his smooth entry into the opposition party.
Sunday Sun gathered that immediately Obaseki’s disqualification from the APC primary was announced by the ruling party, the Edo governor started reaching out to his colleagues in the PDP to assist him enter the party and possibly clinch the party’s governorship ticket.
A highly placed source at the PDP national secretariat, Abuja, told our correspondent, yesterday, that there have been several consultations between Obaseki and some PDP governors, as well as other leaders of the opposition party, since last Friday, on the possibility of him flying the party’s flag in the next Edo governorship poll.
This is coming amidst rising tension in the Edo State chapter of the PDP about the governor coming into the opposition party and clinching the party’s ticket for the September 19 Edo governorship election.
According to the source, some leaders of the party at the state level, especially the governorship aspirants and their supporters, are not favourably disposed to Obaseki coming into the PDP at the eleventh hour and clinching the party’s governorship ticket.
Recall that negotiations between Obaseki and PDP leaders in the state prior to the governor’s disqualification from the APC governorship primary was stalled over alleged demand for him to drop his deputy, Philip Shaibu.
However, the source noted that some of the PDP governors are working towards striking a win-win deal for the Edo governor and the aggrieved party leaders so that Obaseki can be supported to clinch the opposition party›s nomination.
The PDP national secretariat had earlier cleared three aspirants to contest the PDP governorship primary scheduled for June 23 and 24. They are Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, Kenneth Imasuagbon and Gideon Ikhine.
“Some leaders of the Edo PDP are not favourably disposed to Obaseki coming into the party and getting the governorship ticket. They believe that they have been building the party and it would not be fair to the governor to just come in and be handed the ticket. But there have been talks between the Edo governor and some PDP governors. The PDP governors are in support of him (Obaseki).
“Their (Edo PDP leaders) fear essentially is that if Obaseki comes into the party now and is given a waiver by the national secretariat to contest the governorship primary; he will likely win. You know the governor will be coming with commissioners, local government chairmen and other appointees, who will be automatic delegates. Discussions are still ongoing to find a common ground.
“Though the national secretariat will likely grant Obaseki a waiver if he decides to join the PDP; the party will not ask anybody to step down from the contest for anybody. At the moment, we have three aspirants cleared for the governorship primary. But that does not foreclose anybody who has aspiration from coming into the party. But there will not be automatic ticket for anybody,” the source stated.
A chieftain of the Edo PDP, and member of the Ogbeide-Ihama campaign team, Kassim Afegbua told Sunday Sun that they were not opposed to anyone coming into the party. He, however, said that things must be done right.
“The idea of Governor Obaseki crossing over to the PDP is still in the realm of rumours. But if per adventure he decides to come in, he will be subjected to the vigours of the process. We at Ogbeide Ihama’s campaign group will not be averse to anyone crossing over to support our aspiration. But we cannot contemplate looking backward to cede the number one position which we presently maintain to anyone, least of all a decampee,” Afegbua, who is also a former Commissioner for Information in the state told our correspondent.
Efforts to reach the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, as at press time, was unsuccessful, as he did not respond to repeated calls put to his mobile phone.
But the Chairman of the Edo State chapter of the PDP, Dr Tony Aziegbemi, yesterday, dispelled rumours presently making the rounds in the state that Governor Obaseki has defected to the party.
Aziegbemi who spoke in Benin City, however, disclosed that some close associates of the governor have made overtures to the leadership of the party, but that Obaseki is yet to personally reach out to him or any member of his executive council.
“It is true that some close aides of the governor have reached out to the PDP. The governor, however, is yet to personally reach out to us. Our doors are open to Governor Obaseki. He is welcome should he decide to come and join us. The doors of the PDP are wide open”, he said.
The PDP chairman would not, however, comment on what will be the fate of Obaseki in the primary of the party which is scheduled to for this weekend in Benin, even as the South-south zonal chairman of the party, Chief Emmanuel Ogidi, had insisted on due process should Obaseki defect to the PDP.
It would be recalled that the APC Screening Committee citing loopholes in his Higher School Leaving Certificate from the Institute of Continuing Education, Benin, his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) discharge certificate and for taking the party to court, had disqualified Obaseki and three other governorship aspirants from the governorship race.
Ogidi, the South-south National Vice Chairman of the PDP during his recent working visit to the state, had insisted that the doors of the party are open to anybody who intended to defect to the party and would not shut it, so long as the defector abides by the laws of the party.
“If Governor Obaseki comes we will take him. We can’t drive anybody from entering. Our doors are wide open. I am not, however, aware that he has started negotiations with us with a view to defecting. If the governor has seen the light and wants to come to the PDP, he is welcome.
“We have a procedure. There is going to be primary. The PDP does not award. If you win the primary, you become the candidate”, he said.