Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Edo/Ondo polls: We won’t tolerate rigging, PDP govs tell Buhari, INEC

Governors on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party have said they won’t tolerate rigging in the Edo and Ondo states’ governorship elections holding on September 19 and October 10, 2020, respectively.

They, therefore, called on the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), the Independent National Electoral Commission, and security agencies to be impartial in the conduct of the two elections.

The governors reached the decision on Saturday after a virtual meeting of the PDP Governors’ Forum presided over by its Chairman and Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal.

Apart from Tambuwal and the forum’s Director-General, CID Maduabum, other PDP governors who attended the meeting were the Abia State Governor and the forum’s vice-chairman, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu; Ahmadu Fintiri (Adamawa); Senator Bala Mohammed (Bauchi); Prof Ben Ayade (Cross River); Nyesom Wike (Rivers); and Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta).

Others were David Umahi (Ebonyi), who was represented by his deputy, Mr. Eric Igwe; Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu); Seyi Makinde (Oyo); Bello Mattawale (Zamfara); and Godwin Obaseki (Edo).

It was the first meeting Obaseki attended with fellow PDP governors since his defection to the party on June 19 after he was disqualified from the primary election of the All Progressives Congress.

The PDP-GF formally welcomed Obaseki and congratulated him on his emergence as the party leader in Edo State and the party’s candidate in the forthcoming governorship election.

Meanwhile, one of the governors at the meeting told one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity that the governors decided that they would not accept the outcome of any election considered to have been rigged in the two states.

He said the governors also believed that INEC, as the electoral umpire, should be allowed to do its job without any hindrance from either the security agencies or any interested party.

Unlike the Kogi State governorship election which he described as being held under “a rancorous atmosphere,” the governor called on the security agencies, INEC, and the President to act in the best interest of the nation.

He said, “Yes, we met and we looked at the events happening in the two states. Though the electioneering has yet to kick off in Ondo State, we all witnessed what happened to our (PDP) members when we went to the Oba of Benin Palace (in Edo State) a few days ago. Nigerians saw how hoodlums, hired by our rival (party) attacked us and the governor. The aim of the attackers was to provoke us so that we would also react and thereby throw the entire area into confusion.

“We are, therefore, sounding a note of warning that we as a party will not accept the outcome of any rigged election in the two states. We want clear, clean, transparent, and fair elections. Winners must emerge without any state help.

“The people must be allowed to be governed by the people of their choice and not state- or security-imposed ones.

“That’s what we are saying. We do not need any state or security help in any of the states because we know that our candidates are popular and loved by the people.

“All that we are saying is that peoples’ votes must be allowed to count. We will not also accept the random arrest of our members in any of the states or any state for that matter before or after the elections.”

Asked if the PDP would also call for the deployment of any of the electoral officers in the two states, he said “we are not interested in whoever is coming to conduct the election. What we are saying is that, let the referee be impartial. That’s all.”

The PDP-GF also issued a communiqué signed by Tambuwal at the end of the meeting. In the communiqué obtained by one of our correspondents, the governors resolved to set up two committees to coordinate its legislative and legal engagements with the Federal Government.

It read in part, “The meeting resolved to set up two committees of the forum, namely the Legislative Liaison Committee, which is expected to liaise with both the national and state legislatures on legislative matters, and guide the forum on pending Bills, including the Electoral Act Amendment and constitutional review matters as it affects the forum;

“(and the) Legal Affairs Committee: This is expected to identify and coordinate legal matters affecting the forum. In particular, the committee is expected to guide the forum on local government, interstate, and federal government relations.

“It is also expected to explore the various infractions of the constitution by the Federal Government, including the arbitrary and illegal deductions from the Federation Account.”

The forum further resolved to lend its complete and total support to its candidates in Edo and Ondo states, Obaseki and Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) for them to emerge victorious in the elections.

“The forum enjoined Mr President, INEC and security agencies to play an impartial role in the elections in Edo and Ondo states while urging PDP supporters to stay vigilant and ensure that all votes are counted and all votes count,” Tambuwal added.

The governors commended the PDP National Working Committee under the leadership of Prince Uche Secondus, resolving to work towards enhancing internal democracy within the party.

Run responsible campaigns, INEC tells political parties

Reacting, INEC called on political parties to run what it described as responsible campaigns.

The INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr. Festus Okoye, who spoke with one of our correspondents, also said the commission was ready to conduct free and fair elections.

He said, “The commission is irrevocably committed to the conduct of free, fair and transparent elections. The commission’s commitment is exemplified in its creative, innovative, and dynamic response to the challenge of conducting elections in a novel pandemic environment accentuated by fear, anxiety, and uncertainty.

“The commission is marching forward courageously and cautiously in its preparations for the conduct of the Edo and Ondo state governorship elections and the 15 pending bye-elections.

“We urge political parties, aspirants, and the candidates in these elections to run responsible and responsive campaigns that anchor the health and safety of the electorate as the epicenter of democratic governance.”

Ize-Iyamu knocks Obaseki over N750m monthly security vote

Meanwhile, the APC governorship candidate in Edo State, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, on Saturday decried the alleged collection of N750m as monthly security vote by the PDP candidate, Obaseki.

The APC candidate also accused Obaseki of making the state House of Assembly increase his (Obaseki’s) security vote from N500m to N750m.

Ize-Iyamu, who spoke at a media parley in Benin City, Edo State capital, alleged that only N5m was given to the state police command monthly, adding that the “paltry money” was making it difficult for the security agency to effectively tackle kidnapping, banditry and other crimes in the state.

He said the police could not combat crime with such a meager amount of money, adding that since the governor allegedly decided to increase his security vote, he should have also done the same for the police.

Ize-Iyamu also accused the state government of failing to account for the N5bn loan it received from the 2018 Central Bank of Nigeria Agricultural Credit Scheme.

He said while the state government claimed to have spent N2.8bn out of the loan meant to assist farmers in clearing their farmland, the details of the farmers to whom the balance of N2.2bn was shared had remained a mystery.

“The over N2bn supposedly invested in Sobe Farms, in Sobe, Esan West Local Government Area of Edo State, is a complete hoax. The farm was established as a drainpipe to siphon the scarce resources of Edo people into the pockets of government agents, her cronies and surrogates in the guise of Agric vendors from other states.

“In a similar light, the 2018 CBN Agricultural Credit Scheme of N5bn, a loan meant to assist farmers in clearing their farmland and increasing their yields in the state, remains unaccounted for,” Ize-Iyamu said in his manifesto, a copy of which was made available to Sunday PUNCH.

Obaseki, Ize-Iyamu families clash over endorsement

Families of Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu have clashed over the endorsement of the latter by the former’s families.

Prominent members of the Obaseki family had on Saturday endorsed and pledged their support for Ize-Iyamu.

According to a statement, this happened when the governor’s family visited the APC candidate at his private residence in Benin City.

Speaking at the meeting, a cousin of the governor, Victor Obaseki, said although the PDP candidate was their kinsman, he would not get their support.

He said, “I am here today (Saturday) in company with my cousins to support Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. Godwin Obaseki, the executive governor, is our cousin. Generally, the Obasekis have their own way of doing things.

“We are a different branch of faiths; we are supporting our brother, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, with unalloyed support for him. I have supported him before, and I will continue to support him. We will do all our campaigns for him without let or hindrance, fully from the bottom of our hearts.”

Ize-Iyamu said the Obaseki family’s support was a confirmation of the alleged poor administration the governor had given to Edo people in the past four years.

In a funny twist, family members of Prof Idia Ize-Iyamu, wife of the APC candidate, have reportedly urged their daughter to distance herself from her husband’s aspiration.

According to an email from the spokesperson for the Edo State Governor, Crusoe Osagie, Idia’s family representative, Pa Aimua Osenwende, reportedly said, “She has invested so much in her marriage to Osagie Ize-Iyamu. We are a noble family, known for honour in Benin City and we would not want our family name to be dragged in the mud with her husband.

“We know the APC candidate (Ize-Iyamu) will not win this election because he is clearly not a good candidate. Obaseki is the name on everybody’s lips in Edo State. So we do not want our daughter to share in the calamity on September 19.

“So we have told her that she has done enough and should distance herself from the electioneering, Osagie, her husband, has nothing to lose, but our daughter has so much to lose to the APC’s shenanigans.”

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