•No regrets for not being stooge, says governor
•INEC predicts low voters’ turnout in Edo, Ondo gov elections
•Akeredolu frustrated by inability to remove me, says Ajayi
By Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja, Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City and James Sowole
A former National Chairman, All Progressives Congress, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, has apologised to the people of Edo State for supporting Governor GodwinObaseki to emerge as the state governor in 2016.
He, however, said his mission for now would be to ensure the governor’s defeat in the governorship election scheduled for September 19.
But in a swift response, Obaseki said he had no regrets for not being a stooge of Oshiomhole.
Both politicians had fallen apart shortly after Obaseki became governor in 2016. The quarrel persisted until last month when the governor was disqualified from contesting the APC governorship primary, forcing him to switch to the rival Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), where he picked up the ticket to run on September 19.
Oshiomhole, addressing a crowd that gathered to welcome him at his Iyamho country home, said: “I have made a mistake by supporting a man who has no vision for my people. So, I want to correct my mistakes by making sure a servant of God, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, is elected as governor and kick the snake out of the government house.
“From now till September 19, I am here in Edo State because a political lion that I am, I am not scared of anything.”
Saying Ize-Iyamu is not a stranger to Edo politics, Oshiomhole stated: “He campaigned for me in 2012 and I won all the 18 local government areas of Edo State. He knows the roots unlike the current governor, who just became governor and does not know the efforts people made to make him governor. We will kick out this MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) governor and replace him with a pastor who will sweep out the Coronavirus party by the grace of God.”
He added that his preoccupation now is to see that the state returns to the path of development.
According to him, “Now the snake that enters our family home, God has driven the snake to where he belongs.
“I have come home to join you and start the process of reclaiming the house back to the family of APC. And if the people say, yes, and God says yes, there is no man born of a woman that can say no.
“So, now I have only one mission and I know it is our common mission: to bring Edo back to the part of sustainable development. “We want to return to the government of the people by the people and for the people.”
Oshiomhole accused Obaseki of highhandedness against APC members in the state.
“The governor was demolishing the houses of our members while some were being jailed for trump-up charges; these are the people who fought for him to become governor,” he said, adding: “I even pleaded with those who were being persecuted to take it easy, that they shouldn’t burn the house we all laboured to build because they wanted to smoke out the snake. But now, the snake has been smoked out of the house.”
He said the campaign would be easy because there were visible projects the APC would use to campaign, unlike the incumbent who had been busy signing MoUs.
No Regrets for Not Being Stooge, Says Governor
Obaseki, however, fired back at his predecessor, saying Oshiomhole was unhappy with him because of his refusal to allow him to have a third term by proxy.
The governor, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, said the former national chairman was disappointed because the governor refused to be used in his (Oshiomhole) quest to become a godfather in the state.
The statement described the adverse comments of Oshiomhole as just an expression of his frustration over his failure to achieve his goal to govern the state for a third term using Obaseki as a proxy.
“In 2016 when Oshiomhole nominated and supported Obaseki, his hidden motive was used Governor Obaseki who he thought would be a pawn in his game to defraud Edo people and enthrone himself as the ultimate godfather of Edo politics at the expense of the will and wishes of Edo people,”
He said Obaseki’s refusal to mortgage the interest of the majority of Edo people for the satisfaction of Oshiomhole is at the root of the ongoing hostility.
“If Oshiomhole had made any mistake in supporting Obaseki in 2016, it is to the extent that he thought that the governor will submit himself as a tool to be used to hold the collective will and best interest of all Edo people hostage and for this Obaseki owes Oshiomhole no apologies because the interest of Edo people is and will always be greater than the interest of one man.”
Akeredolu Frustrated by Inability to Remove Me, Says Ajayi
In Ondo State, the Deputy Governor, Mr. Agboola Ajayi, at the weekend berated his principal, Mr. Oluwatotimi Akeredolu, over his comment that he regretted making him (Ajayi) his deputy in 2016, saying the governor’s comment was borne out of frustration over his inability to remove him from office.
The governor, during his campaign tour of Eseodo Local Government Area of the state on Saturday had described the choice of Ajayi as his deputy in 2016 as an error.
However, Ajayi in a statement yesterday by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Babatope Okeowo, said he was never a burden on Akeredolu before, during and after the election that produced the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government in the state.
The deputy governor said his contributions to the contest and eventual victory were immense and tangible.
He said: “We understand the frustration of Governor Akeredolu over his inability to remove his deputy illegally through the instrumentality of the House of Assembly.
“These and many injuries Governor Akeredolu caused himself cannot be blamed on his deputy who he was sidelined for the past three-and-a-half years.
“It must be put on record that Akeredolu contested in 2012 governorship election and came a distant third in the election won by Dr. Olusegun Mimiko of Labour Party.
“It was the experience, weight, and political capital, Hon. Ajayi brought into 2016 gubernatorial election that produced the current All Progressives Congress (APC)- led government in the state.”
The plot to remove Ajayi from office by the state House of Assembly suffered asetback following the refusal of the state Chief Judge, Justice Oluwatoyin Akeredolu, to set up a seven-man panel to investigate allegations of impeachable offences levelled against Ajayi.
The chief judge, in a reply to a letter from the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon. Bamidele Oleyelogun, had cited some constitutional errors in the lawmakers’ process to remove the deputy governor.
However, the state legislature had said there was no going back on the mission to remove Ajayi as the House would return to the drawing board to perfect theremoval plot.
INEC Predicts Low Voters’ Turnout in Edo, Ondo Gov Elections
Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) at the weekend expressed concern that COVID-19 might affect the turnout of voters in the Edo and Ondo States’ governorship polls.
The commission also restated its decision not to allow voters without face masks into polling units to vote, noting that there will be strict enforcement of the policy.
INEC National Commissioner in charge of Information and Voter Education, Mr. Festus Okoye, while featuring on a programme on ARISE NEWS Channel, thebroadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, said it was impossible for the elections to be postponed as a result of the pandemic because of its likely constitutional implications.
He stated that the commission would step up its enlightenment and education campaigns in both states to ensure that people come out to vote despite the fears of the virus.
According to him, though the times are unusual, all countries are now devising means to ensure that they do not remain stagnant, noting that the INEC could not be left out.
On the likelihood of INEC staff spreading the COVID-19 disease to voters if they are not first screened, INEC stated that for now, there is no plan to make testing mandatory but it would do so in collaboration with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), if the need arises.
Okoye said: “The commission is concerned about voter turnout in Edo and Ondo States and Nigerians should be concerned too, but we must realise that we are in a very unusual situation.
“We are in a situation that’s called novel. There’s apprehension, there’s fear all over the place. But countries must adopt strategies on how to move on. Nobody has been able to tell us when this coronavirus will end.
“The implication is that society must move on. Now, we cannot engage in the orthodox voter education that we used to do. Political parties have a role to play, the media and civil society groups too.
“We will raise our enlightenment campaigns. We need to assure our people that these strategies can work only if they take personal responsibility for their health.”
On why senatorial elections were postponed and not the governorship because of COVID-19, he said that governorship elections were time-bound and could lead to a constitutional crisis if postponed.
He said if the president was allowed to postpone elections as in the time of war, it would become both a presidential and a political issue, which might be outside the purview of INEC.
“So, rather than engage in these constitutional debates, whether the COVID-19 amounts to war, whether someone has authority, it is better to deploy all necessary containment strategies instead of slipping into a constitutional crisis, which nobody knows how it will end,” he added.
Okoye stated that though INEC’s spending would increase in relation to non-pharmaceutical expenses, it will decrease in terms of the savings from physical meetings, flights and others.
He reiterated INEC’s plan to test run its new electoral model with the Nasarawa Central State Constituency election, to see if it will work in Edo and Ondo States.
“We have fixed the Nasarawa election for the August 8. We want to see how the security agencies will deal with the issue of crowd control and how we manage the collation centres and also the registration area centres where we will leave presiding officers and their assistants overnight.
“If there are challenges, we will look at how to deal with them before the Edo and Ondo governorship elections. This is an unusual situation,” he added.
He noted that protocols still remain fluid and will continually be adjusted as demanded by the times, stressing that the commission will mobilise resources from neighbouring states to complement what is available in both states.
However, the commission stated that its policy on adherence to the NCDC protocols remained sacrosanct.
“Our policy is that if you are not wearing a face mask, you should not even come close to the polling units and it’s one of the things we are enforcing strictly.
“We might have voluntary testing before and after the election. We are trying to work out the logistics with the NCDC. If the advice is that it must be mandatory, then the commission will not have anything against it,” he said.