The leaders of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the Owan East Local Government Area of Edo State are battling with the state Deputy Governor, Phillip Shaibu, over allegation of a chairmanship candidate for the forthcoming local government elections.
The APC local leaders said they have, therefore, rejected one Andrew Osigbe, whose name they said was “unduly” submitted to the party leadership at the state.
During a protest in front of the state headquarters of the APC in Benin City, on Thursday, a day after the party primaries, the local leaders of the APC insisted the party field one Victor Ohiosumuan as its authentic candidate.
The protest was led by the Chapter Chairman of the APC in Owan East, Roland Edeki.
“This is to bring to the knowledge of the State Chairman of our party, Barr. Anselem Ojezua, the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, party leaders at various Local Government Areas, and the entire people of Edo State that the party primaries scheduled to hold on 24 January 2018 was purportedly hijacked by the Deputy Governor of the State, Comrade Phillip Shaibu,” Mr. Edeki read out a prepared statement to journalists at the venue of the protest.
The statement was co-signed by him and two other persons – Aledu Bello and Haruna Raphael – the party secretary and leader respectively.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the party leaders, including the party executive from 10 out of the 11 wards in the area, and other statutory delegates, were all waiting at the mini stadium at the local government headquarters, Afuze, for the ratification of Mr. Ohiosumuan as their consensus candidate, unaware that the deputy governor was supervising a parallel primaries elsewhere.
Mr. Shaibu, allegedly connived with the state Commissioner for Science and Technology, Emmanuel Agbale, who was the head of the three-man electoral panel in the local government area.
The other two members of the electoral panel – Isikpe Kadiri and Jafaru Yakubu – were with the rest of the other party officials and delegates at Afuze. They were not part of the parallel primaries.
At about 4:02 p.m., the APC chapter chairman, Mr. Edeki and the two electoral officers decided to conduct the primaries, having waited for long without seeing the head of the electoral panel.
Mr. Ohiosumuan, a lawyer, was overwhelmingly elected by the delegates.
Pally Iriase, the member representing Owan West/East Federal Constituency in the Federal House of Representatives, told PREMIUM TIMES, Friday, that Mr. Ohiosumuan was the validly elected flagbearer of the APC.
Mr. Iriase, who is the chairman of the APC Caucus in Owan East, said that 22, out of the 27 members of the caucus present on that day, voted for Mr. Ohiosumuan.
“We know that democracy is on trial in Owan East. It’s a very sad case for us in the APC because this is the same thing that made many of us to leave the PDP.
“The revolution is reversing itself, we pray to God to save the soul of the APC,” he said.
Ebomhiana Musa, the spokesperson for the deputy governor, admitted that there was controversy over the APC primaries in Owan East, but said the deputy governor had no hand in what happened.
“It is not the government that determines who emerges as a candidate of the party; it’s purely a party affair. So, the issue of the deputy governor imposing a candidate does not arise because it’s not within his power to do so,” Mr. Musa told PREMIUM TIMES.
“Yes, the deputy governor was there in Owan East during the primaries. He was there by virtue of his position and his office. As the leader of the Edo North, he has the power and every right to visit any of the local government areas with the Edo North and outside the Edo North to supervise and make sure everything went well.
“I don’t want you to isolate Owan East; he visited all the local government areas in the Edo North to make sure all went well,” he said.
When contacted, the state chairman of the party, Mr. Ojezua, told PREMIUM TIMES that the party was looking into the controversy.
“A process like this must always have its challenges and we are dealing with them,” he said. “We must have a resolution at the end of the day.”