Edo guber: PDP at crossroads over court Judgment amid internal crisis

By Henry Uche

For many critical observers, there is no gainsaying that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is at a crossroads as it enters the final race in the party’s bid to retain Edo State Government House.

In the build up to the September governorship election, the ruling party has been embroiled in internal crises but the greatest threat to the chances of the PDP in the forthcoming poll is the recent judgment of an FCT Federal High Court which invalidated the process that led to the emergence of Dr Asue Ighodalo as the candidate of the party.

Justice Inyang Ekwo, in a judgment, held that the PDP’s primary held on Feb. 22 failed to comply with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022; the guidelines for the conduct of the poll and the party’s constitution.

Expectedly, the development led to celebration in many parts of Edo State members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, saw the judgment as a positive step as it removed a major opponent, Ighodalo, to the bid of their candidate, Senator Monday Okpebhelo.

Even more surprising was that a substantial part of the PDP, comprising those who consider themselves as the original stakeholders of the PDP before the advent of Governor Godwin Obaseki welcomed the verdict and saw it as a just recompense against a man who was welcomed to the party but decided to take over the title documents.

However, while the news immediately went round that Ighodalo had been disqualified, some national officials of the PDP subsequently issued a statement that Justice Ekwo did not specifically mention Ighodalo as having been disqualified.

But legal pundits aver that the issue of disqualification of Ighodalo was never brought up by the plaintiffs who originated the case. The plaintiffs were 372 delegates who emerged from the ad-hoc ward elections but were removed by the PDP from participating in the remaining process that led to the emergence of the candidate.

These ward delegates went to court with certificates of their election signed by the party’s electoral officers in each of the sub-wards.

Analysts belive that what many saw as the albatross for Ighodalo was that the PDP came to court with certificates of ward delegates which were mostly signed by the governor of Enugu State, Mr Peter Mbah who was the chairman of the Ward Delegates Election.

The judge in examining the claims of the PDP wondered how one man could have been in 192 wards at the same time to sign the results of the delegates’ election.

Governor Mbah came in as chairman of the ad-hoc ward delegates election after his colleague Governor Seyi Makinde pulled out under controversial circumstances.

The PDP appeared like a house divided against itself when the secretary of the PDP in Edo State, Mr Hilary Otsu blamed Governor Obaseki for the problem the party was facing.

He countered the national party’s assertion in a statement circulated to newsmen, stating that:

“the news of the Federal High Court ruling on Edo governorship congresses and primaries, does not come as a surprise. The process was faulted by many and just as 9 out of the 10 aspirants went to various courts to challenge the outcome.

“The governor insisted on his way or no way. Unfortunately, he isn’t the candidate. His belligerent posture all these years led him to mishandle this process leading to this first time ever debacle.

“Edo PDP has never had its governorship primaries challenged in court. One of the aspirants, Barr. Ojezua warned severally on TV that PDP stands the risk of not having a candidate and fatally, so it is right now.”

The division in the PDP became obvious when about eight of the party’s aspirants were seen in a video celebrating the court decision.

But in a response, PDP National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba and Legal Adviser Kamaldeen Ajibade (SAN) clarified that the court did not issue any order nullifying Ighodalo’s primary election as the party’s candidate for the Edo governorship election.

They emphasised that the reliefs sought by the plaintiffs did not include the disqualification or nullification of Ighodalo’s primary election victory.

Also, the chairman of the PDP Edo State Governorship Campaign Council and Adamawa State Governor, Ahmadu Fintiri, had dismissed the process as a child’s play, asserting that it won’t withstand scrutiny in the Court of Appeal.

He assured that they would intensify their campaign efforts, committing to additional work that wasn’t initially planned. He stated that they would outshine their detractors, demonstrating their expertise in this area.

Fintiri stated, “Yes, there is a little setback, temporarily. God will see us through it. I am referring to the three days ago Court Judgment. Anybody, who peruse and look through the entire process will know that it is a child’s play.

“This will not stand in the court of law. Particularly, we will be approaching the Court of Appeals, and that shouldn’t deter us, we will put in more commitments, and more work that we have not intended to do earlier so that we would put our detractors into shame, and this is what we know how to do best.”

But he acknowledged the challenge of their assignment, stating that they will rely on the guidance and experiences of senior party stakeholders to navigate it successfully.

He said, “We already know that this assignment is not an easy one. It is taxing and it demands a lot of commitment and seriousness on our part, our candidate has a lot of credibility with him, he is deliverable, we can make him win if we’re serious; the governor has worked, he’s visibly on the ground in Edo, his track record and pedigree, is also enough for us to harvest and use positively to win the election for PDP in this election.

“Like I said, this is not an easy assignment, it requires a lot of sacrifice and commitment on our part, and for us to have accepted this appointment, I know also that we are ready, we have really agreed to do what is required of us to win the election. We are all politicians and the only thing we understand in politics is to win an election. We are out to win.”

In his remarks, the PDP National Legal Adviser affirmed that they faced challenges in Edo state, emphasizing that the court did not invalidate the party’s primary election.

Ajibade stated, “I know many people were taken aback when the news broke that our primary election has been nullified and that our candidate has been disqualified. Yesterday, I was on television to put the record straight and the CTC that came out has vindicated me on what I said on Television.

“In Edo state, we have a lot of challenges, we have 8 cases that we are battling with and certainly we know that where you have a party that is popular, the struggle for the ticket will be fierce. Out of the 8 cases we are done with 7. The one of the day before yesterday was the 7th. We still have one pending before the court and by God’s grace, it will go the same way the other cases have gone.”

Ajibade who maintained that the party’s candidate, Ighodalo, is steadfast, confirmed that they will appeal the judgment to the highest court.

He continued, “To put the record straight, I know that some of you might not have the time to look at the CTC, but the court did not nullify our primary. The issue before the court was basically the issue of delegates in the election. The apex Court has pronounced that the issue of delegates is purely an internal party affair.

“To cure the issue that we normally have in the party whereby anybody can be sponsored to go and challenge primary, to go and disqualify other candidates that was why the National Assembly introduced section 84 (14), many of us can go and take a look at that. It says it is only an aspirant who participated in a primary election that can challenge such an election.

“But like I said, in the wisdom of the judge, he saw that from a different angle. But by the time we get to the appeal court, we will put our record in proper perspective.

“This is not the first time we have had this; during the last election we had a similar issue that moved from the Federal High Court to the Supreme Court. Members of the campaign council, do not be discouraged by what you hear. You can pick up the CTC and read and know that our candidate is unshakable.”

As for the PDP governorship candidate, Ighodalo, he acknowledged that the competition would be challenging but affirmed their determination to give their utmost effort.

He stated, “It is not going to be easy. It is going to be very difficult. We are already seeing the signs. It is going to be a difficult election; not on the issues, but on the distractions. But sometimes these distractions are more difficult to deal with than issues.

“But I know we have leaders who are more than capable to set the ball rolling and to lift us higher than some others. So, I am truly grateful. “On behalf of my deputy and myself, what I want to say is this- we will give this everything we have. We will give it our 150 per cent commitment. We will ensure that we will make this our party extremely proud to have presented us as their candidates.”

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