Amid plot to disqualify Obaseki, court restrains APC, INEC

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There are strong indications that Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State might face another hurdle in the June 22 governorship primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Sources within the APC headquarters and the screening committee set up by the party to examine the credentials of the aspirants, confided in Huhuonline.com that the decision to disqualify Obaseki follows apparent discrepancies in the information he submitted to the party in 2016 and those contained in his current nomination forms.

 

Among the inconsistencies cited in Obaseki’s certificates are that his O/Level results showed that he has three credits but despite that he spent only three years to allegedly bagged a Bachelor of Arts degree in Classical Studies from the University of Ibadan, Ibadan, in 1976, without an A/Level result. A/Levels are required for a three-year direct entry course in Nigerian universities. If you have O/Level credits in at least five subjects, then University of Ibadan and a indeed other universities required a mandatory four-year course. The question begging for an answer is: could three O/Level credits/passes have given Obaseki admission into University of Ibadan as required by law? And if indeed, he got the admission, could he have graduated in three years instead of mandatory four years? Besides, there’s a discrepancy in his degree certificate and that of another governorship aspirant, Chris Ogiemwonyi, who graduated the same year in University of Ibadan with a Postgraduate Diploma in Petroleum Engineering.

 

In a petition to the Chairman of the Screening Committee for Edo State Gubernatorial Election, some concerned members of APC in the state, Mr. Edobor Williams, Ugbesia Godwin and Amedu Anakhu, warned that the party would be risking another Bayelsa scenario if Obaseki is not disqualified. In the petition, they said their action was borne out of their passion for APC’s success in the forthcoming governorship election in the state.

 

In the petition, dated June 8, 2020 and entitled: ‘Petition For The Disqualification of Godwin Obaseki from Participating in the Gubernatorial Primary Election For Edo State, signed on their behalf by their lawyer, Mr. Chisimdi Chima, the petitioners said their findings after a thorough checks on the governor’s background revealed that in 2016, he submitted a false affidavit to INEC to aid his qualification for the then governorship election.

 

According to them, PDP, which had suspected foul play over the documents submitted to INEC, had approached an Abuja High Court for a Certified True Copy (CTC) of the affidavit of loss of document Obaseki had presented in his form CF 001 to INEC in 2016. The petitioners said in response to PDP’s request, the Abuja High Court denied issuing any affidavit to the governor.

 

Based on the above, the petitioners stated that the letter of the court to PDP dated September 28, 2016, “clearly established the element of false affidavit on the part of Godwin Obaseki, which makes him disqualified.” The petitioners added: “Any political party that fields such a disqualified candidate would be fined under section 31(8) of the Electoral Act.”

 

The trio said they wanted Obaseki investigated for allegedly falsifying a public document and submitting same to INEC for official use following the governor’s interest in participating in the forthcoming governorship election. They also called for Obaseki to be investigated over his alleged academic qualifications, which he submitted to INEC in 2016. They said: “The problem with Obaseki educational history is that it appears fraudulent as no explanation has been reasonably offered why a four-year academic program was completed in three years against the established course requirement for the completion of a degree program in Classical Studies.”

 

According to them, the governor claimed that he obtained a degree in Classical Studies from the University of Ibadan in three years after gaining admission from Eghosa Grammar School with only three credit pass in his Ordinary Level certificate. While they noted that the three-year degree program was, and is still applicable to only students with Advanced Level certificate/Diploma/National Certificate of Education, they said the governor never showed that he possessed an A’Level certificate to qualify for a three-year program.

 

They therefore prayed the screening committee to disqualify Obaseki for alleged falsehood. Attached to the petition include copies of the sworn affidavit dated June 7, 2016, letter from Chief Ferdinand Orbih SAN, September 2, 2016, letter from the FCT High Court, dated October 28, 2016, Form CF 001 submitted to INEC on July 12, 2016 and University of Ibadan revised/new requirements for U.T.M.E and direct entry.

 

The petitioners also compared Obaseki’s University of Ibadan certificate with that of Ogiemwonyi, who graduated from the school the same year – 1976, saying there are conspicuous differences. They noted that while Obaseki’s certificate was signed by just the vice chancellor, Ogiemwonyi’s was signed by both the vice chancellor and the registrar of the institution. The petitioners are already before the Federal High Court in Abuja, to contest the veracity of the governor’s credentials.

 

The APC yesterday began the screening of six governorship aspirants vying for its ticket. The party heralded the screening with the display of the credentials of all the governorship aspirants at the national secretariat of the party in Abuja for public scrutiny. APC said the publication of the credentials of the aspirants was to allow the public participate in the screening as a way of saving the party the type of embarrassment it faced in Bayelsa State where it was denied the fruit of its electoral victory in that state’s governorship election. Besides, Obaseki and Ogiemwonyi, others whose credentials were displayed were Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Hon. Osaro Obaze, Iduoriyekemwen Matthew and Dr. Pius Odubu.

 

According to the details provided by Obaseki, he wrote his West African Examination Council (WAEC) in June 1973 and he had three credits in Christian Religious Knowledge – C6; History – A3; and Geography – C6; while he also had passes in English – 7; Literature – 7 and Chemistry – 8. However, the governor presented a “To Whom it May Concern” for his Higher School Certificate (HSC) from Institute of Continuing Education Centre, Benin in 1975; while he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1979 from University of Ibadan. He was born in 1957.

 

Also, the details provided by Ize-Iyamu revealed that he obtained his WAEC in 1979 with credits and one pass. The details of his WAEC result showed that in English, he scored C4; Literature – C4, History – C4, Mathematics – A3, Chemistry – P7, Biology – A3 and Economics – C4. He also obtained a Bachelor of Law degree from University of Benin in 1986 and he was called to bar in 1987 and served in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) between 1987 and 1988.

 

The details of Ogiemwonyi’s credentials revealed that he obtained WAEC in 1969 and had seven credits and one pass. He also obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from University of Benin 1974, and served in the NYSC between 1974 and 1975. He further obtained Postgraduate Diploma in Engineering in 1976 from University of Ibadan. He was born in 1951.

 

 Obazee’s credentials showed that he obtained his WAEC in 1992 with five credits and three passes.

 

He equally obtained Bachelor of Science degree from University of Benin in 1999 and a Master of Public Administration in 2012 from the same university. He served between 2000 and 2002. He was born in 1970. On his part, Matthew’s details showed that he obtained his WAEC in 1985 with six credits and one pass. He also obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from University of Benin in 1991and served between 1991 and 1992. He was born in 1966.

 

Odubu’s details revealed that he obtained his WAEC certificate in 1974, and had seven credits and one pass. He attended Southern University, Baton, Louisiana in the USA, where he obtained a degree in 1980 (BA Hons) and also obtained a degree in Law from the same university in 1983. He obtained a Master’s degree from Georgetown University Law Centre, Washington in 1985. He also attended the Nigerian Law School in 1986 preparatory to his call to the bar. He was born in 1957.

 

However, Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Communication Strategy, Crusoe Osagie, dismissed the plot as evidence of one man’s ambition to play god, stressing that his principal will challenge any attempt by the APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, to use powers he does not have. This is just as a Federal High Court in Benin City, yesterday, adjourned hearing in a suit seeking to restrain the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from conducting governorship primary using the direct election method to select its candidate in the state.

 

Adjourning hearing to Thursday, June 11, the presiding judge, Justice Mohammed Garba Umar, said all parties in the suit are not permitted to do anything contrary to the procedure and hearing of the suit. He also directed parties to file all papers and exchange same documents within two days.

 

Joined in the suit filed by the factional state deputy chairman of APC, Pastor Kenneth Asemokhai, and a governorship aspirant of the party, Matthew Iduoriyekemwen, is the electoral umpire. The two party chieftains had approached the court seeking to restrain the APC from adopting the direct mode of primary, citing COVID-19 and 2018 APC National Executive Council (NEC) resolution as the grounds for their action.

 

The mode of APC primary generated the acrimony between the governor’s camp and Oshiomhole’s loyalists shortly after the NWC of the party rolled out guidelines adopting direct primary. The plaintiffs, who were represented by Ken Mozia (SAN) and John Odubela (SAN), argued that the APC constitution provides that the states should suggest mode of primaries to the NWC, adding that they have suggested indirect primary in which 4,000 delegates would participate with 500 delegates representing each ward.

 

However, defendants’ counsel, led by HO Ogbodu (SAN), claimed otherwise, thereby prompting Justice Umar to direct parties in the suit to file their motion papers, while declining to grant the ex parte order. He, however, gave the defendants three days to file their papers to show cause why the injunction should not be granted when the matter was first heard on Thursday, June 5.

 

While the legal disputations continue, it was gathered that Obaseki’s fate hangs in the balance over plans by the screening panel to disqualify him, following discoveries that information he supplied about his academic qualifications in 2016 differed from the documents and claims he made in the latest nomination forms.

 

Insisting that those discrepancies would turn out to be Obaseki’s Achilles heels, a highly placed source in the party singled out the governor’s claim that he graduated from the University of Ibadan with a B.A Degree in Classic in 1979 as against his earlier claim of graduating in 1976 as part of the justification for the impending action.

 

But, speaking with newsmen at the party’s national secretariat, National Publicity Secretary of APC, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, said the public display of aspirants’ credentials was necessary because of the party’s previous experience in Bayelsa State. On whether the party will contact the institutions as claimed, he said: “By mere putting it on the board here, making it transparent, putting it before the public, it does mean that people who know them very well; school mates, acquaintances, friends and even enemies could come up with whatever they have. We are expecting help from whatever angle it could come from.”

 

Yet dismissing the claims, the governor’s aide, Osagie, said: “They are tired of talking about University of Ibadan, because they know that cannot fly, one day, one lie, one day, one story. University of Ibadan is a premier university such that before you can study there, you must have fulfilled all the admission conditions. “Oshiomhole has sworn that over his dead body can Obaseki get a second term, but he has seen how the man is rising in political stature. All these institutions are there, let them go and verify.”