Barring any major upset, the horse-trading and high-stakes negotiations masterminded by Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, Sokoto State Governor and chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum (PGF) and his Delta State counterpart, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, finally led to a deal that cleared the way for incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki to win the Edo governorship primary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) holding today in the capital, Benin City.
The reprieve came after the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt struck out the suit filed by the leading aspirant of the PDP before Obaseki’s late- entry into the race, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, seeking to bar Obaseki from participating in the primary. Justice Emmanuel Obile struck out the suit after counsel to Ogbeide-Ihama, DC Demwigwe (SAN), withdrew the case following an out-of-court settlement, which saw Ogbeide-Ihama, hitherto the candidate to beat, withdraw the suit and threw his support behind Obaseki. Following an appeal by a member of the plaintiff’s legal team, Ferdinand Orbih (SAN), the court stood down the matter for three hours to allow the parties explore an out-of-court settlement which was later announced before Justice Obile struck out the case saying: “I commend the counsel and parties for settling out of court as it is the proper thing to do.”
With the withdrawal of Ogbeide-Ihama, only one of the three aspirants Kenneth Imasuagbon is remaining in the contest. Yesterday, Imasuagbon restated his resolve not to step down for the governor. In a statement signed by him and made available to journalists in Benin City, Imasuagbon debunked rumors that he had accepted $2 million from Obaseki to step down for him; after the governor defected last Friday following his disqualification from the All Progressives Congress (APC), on whose platform he won his first term. The Abuja-based educationist said he was in the governorship race to win and not to make up the number of aspirants for the PDP ticket.
Some 2,229 delegates from 18 LGAs in the 192 wards in Edo State will today decide who will fly the PDP flag between Obaseki and Kenneth Imasuagbon in the September 19 governorship Election in the state. The list of delegates; a copy of which was obtained by Huhuonline.com showed: Akoko Edo (120); Egor (117); Esan Central (118); Esan North (133); Esan South (118); Esan West (120); Etsako Central (114); Etsako East (114); Etsako West (140); Igueben (120); Ikpoba Okha (116); Oredo (141); Orihonmweon (135); Ovia North (144); Ovia Southwest (117); Owan East (124); Owan West (124); Uhumnwode (124).
Huhuonline.com understands that the peace deal that made Ogbeide-Ihama to withdraw the suit came after Tambuwal and Okowa persuaded him to put party interest above his self-interest. Although the terms of the gentleman’s agreement were not made public, sources close to former Edo PDP chairman, Chief Dan Orbih who attended the negotiations alongside Ogbeide-Ihama told Huhuonline.com that
Ogbeide-Ihama would be the next consensus gubernatorial candidate in 2024; after the PDP leadership zoned the 2024 governorship ticket of the party to politicians from the Edo Central.
Also, as part of the settlement, the National Vice Chairman of PDP for the South-south, Chief Emma Ogidi, sacrificed his position by resigning. Orbih was appointed as a replacement. In line with the settlement, the NWC of the party yesterday dissolved the South-south Zonal Committee of the party and announced a new caretaker committee. According to the National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, “The action of the NWC is pursuant to Sections 29 (2)(b) and 31(2)(e) of the PDP Constitution (2017 as amended). The newly constituted South-south Zonal Caretaker Committee, which is chaired by Chief Dan Orbih, is to pilot the affairs of the party in the South-south Zone for a period not exceeding three months (90) days as prescribed by section 32(2)(e) of the PDP Constitution.”
In a letter he signed and distributed to reporters, Ogbeide-Ihama said: “I apologize to all my leaders who I continue to hold in high esteem, supporters and party faithful who feel unhappy and surprised at this action I have taken. For me, it is a matter that borders on deep morals, unwavering principles, and strong character, which have formed the cornerstones of my existence. Finally, I want to express my deep and profound gratitude to the very respected elders across our state who have reached out to me to intervene in this matter. I have listened and I am still listening. A well conducted process will produce a candidate. Whoever that candidate is will have my full support as has been my antecedent in the party. I ask that you all disregard the various falsehoods being spread around by these ‘strange’ characters about my actions being sponsored by forces to frustrate the governor, or that this is for pecuniary gain. Such things have never deserved my attention or response. As I have always said, such crude and unrefined politics remain beneath me.”
Meanwhile, the PDP has raised a 25-man appeal committee, led by its National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus. Other members of the appeal panel include: former Senate President, Senator David Mark; Senator Ahmad Makarfi; Hajia Inna Maryam Ciroma; Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo; Senator Liyel Imoke; Professor Wale Oladipo; Senator Suleiman Nazif; Kola Ologbondiyan; Austin Akobundu; Emmanuel Ogidi and the National Secretary of the Party, Senator Ibrahim Tsauri will serve as committee secretary. A statement issued by PDP National Organising Secretary, Col. Austin Akobundu, (rtd), said the electoral appeal panel would consider appeals arising from the governorship primary.
Ahead of the shadow poll today, the PDP yesterday assured Nigerians of a peaceful and successful primary. The former National Vice Chairman, South-south, Ogidi told the Morning Show of ARISE news channel, that he was confident Obaseki would emerge victorious. Ogidi said APC members were jittery that Obaseki resigned from APC to join PDP and they were scared that he would win the PDP primary and then go ahead again to defeat their candidate, Osagie Ize-Iyamu as happened in 2016. According to him, the current crisis PDP is facing in Edo State was sponsored by the APC