Floodgate of litigation opens as Shaibu, Ighodalo win Edo PDP parallel governorship primaries

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  • Party chieftains drag PDP, INEC to court, challenge delegates’ list
  • Why Uzodimma was replaced as Edo primary chair – APC

The Edo State People’s Democratic Party on Thursday held a parallel governorship primary that produced the state deputy governor, Philip Shaibu, as the candidate for the September 21 election.

Also, a businessman, Asue Ighodalo, was declared the winner of the PDP governorship primary election, which took place in Benin City on Thursday.

While some delegates were accredited at Edo Hotel Marquee to proceed to the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium venue of the primary election, another set of delegates met in a facility in Commercial Avenue where they announced Shaibu as the candidate of the PDP.

They claimed that they went to the venue for accreditation but were chased away by security agencies.

They also alleged that the list of delegates published by the national leadership of the party was not the authentic one, adding that they saw names of people from Bayelsa State and members of the All Progressives Congress.

Declaring Shaibu winner of the election, Bartholomew Moses said, “During the counting of this primary election, Philip Shaibu has a score of 301 votes and therefore, we hereby declare Philip Shaibu as the authentic elected candidate for this election in the PDP.”

The people had barely finished their exercise when gunmen invaded the venue.

They were dressed in vigilante outfits and came in many vehicles, including two black unmarked Toyota Hiace trucks, unmarked white Sienna and a white Hilux among others.

They shot indiscriminately into the air as the people scampered in different directions for safety

Before the election, the delegates led by Festus Owu had protested at the deputy governor’s official lodge where they complained to him that they had been disenfranchised.

Speaking to the protesting delegates, Shaibu said, “I appeal to all of you to be peaceful. I don’t want anybody to be injured, I don’t want anybody molested and I am happy the way you have conducted yourselves peacefully and have come to report to me that you were not allowed to be accredited but I want to tell you that no one man can determine the destiny of a people and by the grace of God, they cannot disenfranchise you people.

“The law is clear that you people are the authentic delegates. Now that they have pushed you away, they want to go and replace you but I assure you that your votes must count, they cannot change and replace your names. I assure you that I will take your protest to the committee that is coming but you must remain peaceful in everything you are doing.”

Speaking to journalists later, Shaibu said, “I saw the crowd outside and I asked who they are and they said they are delegates, I said they should be directed to the venue of the accreditation but they said they were protesting because they have been sent away from the venue of the accreditation and they won their election and they have their results.

“The election will hold and if a winner emerges with fake delegates, the election will not see the light of the day but if a winner emerges with the authentic delegates, there will be no problem, I am sure.”

However, a businessman, Asue Ighodalo, was also declared the winner of the PDP governorship primary election, which took place in Benin City on Thursday.

Ighodalo was said to have defeated about nine other candidates including the Deputy Governor of the state in the election.

He reportedly polled a total of 577 votes to become the candidate of the PDP in the September 21 governorship election in the state while his closest rival garnered one vote.

The Chairman of the Edo PDP Primary Electoral Committee and Governor Dauda Lawal of Zamfara State declared him as the winner of the exercise.

A total of 10 aspirants had contested for the ticket.

Some of the aspirants, including Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama and Omosede Igbinedion withdrew participation in the election.

Other aspirants included Arthur Esele, Anselm Ojezua, Osaro Onaiwu, Martins Uhomoibhi, Hadizat Umoru, and Felix Akhabue.

While Ogbeide-Ihama blamed irregularities and corrupted processes by the national working committee of the party for his withdrawal from the race, Omosede Igbinedion stepped down for Asue Ighodalo.

In his acceptance speech, Ighodalo thanked the state governor, Godwin Obaseki, and the entire people of the state for their love and support.

He noted that Obaseki has laid the foundation for him to build upon if eventually elected governor.

He promised to assemble young men and women for his government to turn the state around.

He said, “I must thank the entire people of Edo State for their support and most especially the Governor Godwin Obaseki for the confidence he has in me.

“Governor Obaseki has laid the foundation for me to build upon if I am eventually voted as governor of the state. I will assemble young men and women that are capable of turning the fortunes of the state around,” he added.

Floodgate of litigation opens

However, a floodgate of litigation has put palpable pressure on the PDP over the conduct of Edo governorship primary election.

The arrangements for the primary poll were put under pressure following a fresh lawsuit seeking to stop the party from using the delegates list from the controversial ad-hoc delegates election conducted on February 4, 2024.

Two party chiefs, Adomokha Alabi and Christopher Obbarere in suit FHC/ABJ/CS196/2024 filed at the Federal High Court had listed the Independent National Electoral Commission, the PDP, the acting national chairman, Umar Damagun, the sacked national secretary, Setonji Koshoedo, the National Working Committee and the National Executive Committee, as first to sixth defendants respectively.

The argument of the litigants in the court case is the propriety of Koshoedo who was sacked as Acting National Secretary by a court order on January 9, 2024 signing the Notice for the Edo State Primary election of the PDP.

Recall that the notice was issued on February 1, 2024 which gave rise to the election of ward delegates.

Among the reliefs being sought by the plaintiffs is the invalidation of the delegates produced by the ward delegates’ election on the claim that the notice for the election issued by Koshoedo was irregular and invalid as he was not legally empowered to do so.

Writing to the PDP acting national chairman to desist from proceeding with the primary election in Edo State scheduled for Thursday, February 22, 2024, the plaintiffs through their lawyer, A. Labi-Lawal, wrote:

“We act on the firm instruction of MOSES ADOMOKHA ALABI and CHRISTOPHER EBODE OBOARERE who are active members of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) hereinafter referred to as “Our Client”.

“Recall that a few days after the Judgement in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/1580/2023, between Hon. Geoffrey Ihentuge & Anor Vs. PDP & 4 Ors. your party issued a Notice of Primary election dated February, 01, 2024 received by INEC on the 2nd day of February, 2024 signed by Hon. (Arc) Setonji Koshoedo purporting to be Acting National Secretary in defiance of the Judgment of the Court.

“It was consequent upon the said letter of February 01, 2024 that Ward Congresses were said to have been conducted on the 4th of February, 2024 across the 192 wards in Edo State wherein delegates were said to have been produced in preparation for the Primary Election of 22nd February, 2024.

“We wish to bring to the notice of your good offices that there is a pending suit before His Lordship, the Hon. Justice I.E. Ekwo of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja challenged the issuance of that notice via the letter of February 01, 2024 and by extension the Ward Congresses that were held on 4th February 2024 that produced the delegates in preparation for the Party Gubernatorial Primary Election.

“The suit for all intent and purposes strikes at the very foundation of the primary election as it challenges the delegate list your party intends to use in the conduct of the primary election and your party is kindly advised not to put itself in a collision course with the Federal High Court of Nigeria by giving effect to the list of delegate produced from the Ward Congress that was held on the 4th day of February, 2024 which was accentuated by the Notice issued via the questioned letter dated 1st February 2024.

“May we kindly draw the attention of your party to the settled principle of law on issues of this nature as expounded by our Court in the plethora of authorities, one of which is the case of OJUKWU Vs MILITARY GOVERNOR OF LAGOS STATE & ORS (1985) LPELR-21274 (CA) Pp. 54-55.

“Consequently, your good offices are hereby advised to desist forthwith from giving effect to the list of delegates produced from the Ward Congress that was held on the 4th day of February 2024, and await the final outcome of the suit in Court.”

Why Uzodimma was replaced as Edo governorship primary chairman — APC

In another development, the APC on Thursday clarified the reason Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State was replaced with his Cross River counterpart, Bassey Otu, as Chairman of the Edo governorship primary election.

Addressing a press conference in Abuja on Thursday, National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Felix Morka, said the governor was “unavoidably unavailable” to complete the primary election, hence the need to replace him with his deputy.

The party announced the changes in a statement issued by APC National Organizing Secretary, Sulaiman Argungu on Wednesday.

The changes were made a few hours after four leading Edo State governorship aspirants passed a vote of no confidence in the governor.

The governor had announced Dennis Idahosa as the winner while returning officer Stanley Ugboaja declared Monday Okpebholo as the winner.

Elsewhere, Ojo Babatunde, who claimed to be representing the returning officers in all the local governments, declared Anamero Dekeri the winner of the election.

On Tuesday, the national leadership of the APC in Abuja declared Saturday’s primary inconclusive.

The ruling party, however, raised an eyebrow when a section of the media reported that the Imo State governor was sacked.

The National Publicity Secretary of the APC appealed for understanding, saying the party did not sack Uzodimma as reported.

Morka said, “The attention of the All Progressives Congress has been drawn to reports in sections of the media suggesting that the Governor of Imo State, and Chairman of the Progressives Governors’ Forum, His Excellency, Hope Uzodimma, was sacked or dropped as the Chairman of the Edo Gubernatorial Primary Election Committee, and replaced with the Governor of Cross River State, His Excellency, Bassey Otu.

“We wish to clarify that Governor Uzodimma was neither “sacked” nor “dropped”, as has been erroneously reported, but was unavoidably unavailable to lead the completion of the Party’s Edo State Gubernatorial Primary Election Process due to his prior scheduled attendance of, and presentation of a report, to the National Economic Council meeting today February 22, 2024.

“As a result, His Excellency Bassey Otu, Governor of Cross Rivers State, who was the Deputy Chairman of the Committee, graciously accepted to serve as Chairman, and to complete the Edo State Gubernatorial Primary Election Process.”