The government of Edo state and the All Progressives Congress are set for a showdown today.
Adams Oshiomhiole and Godwin Obaseki
The All Progressives Congress and the Governor Godwin Obaseki administration in Edo State will be at loggerheads today as the party is set to hold its governorship primary election in the 192 wards of the state.
According to Punch, the Edo State APC governorship election committee headed by the Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodinma, which on Sunday released guidelines for the party primary election, insisted that the exercise would hold in all the 192 wards in the state.
But the state government said, in compliance with its COVID-19 law, the APC must apply for a waiver before organising a political gathering in any part of the state.
It alleged that the APC had imported thugs into the state with the aim of causing destruction of lives and property.
The state government had on May 28 gazetted regulations aimed at preventing the spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19.
Obaseki’s Special Adviser on Media, Mr Crusoe Osagie, had on Monday last week, explained the law. He said any party that wanted to organise a gathering must apply for a waiver from the state government and that such must be held in one location.
However, APC committee said its guidelines were in compliance with the state government’s COVID-19 regulations.
A statement by the Secretary of the APC committee, Dr Ajibola Basiru, said voting would commence simultaneously at 8am at the 192 wards in the state.
It insisted that not more than 18 persons would be allowed to gather at the same time from the commencement of voting till the end of the exercise when results would be announced.
The party said, “That the process of the election of the candidate of the party shall commence at 8am on Monday, June 22, 2020 at the various wards in all the local government areas with strict compliance with Edo State’s extant law prohibiting gathering of more than 20 persons.
“Not more than 18 persons including Presiding Officers and Independent National Electoral Commission observers shall be at ward voting centre at any point in time
“There shall be simultaneous accreditation and voting in batches as aforesaid until all eligible members have cast their votes without violation of the state’s COVID-19 regulations.
“Not more than 18 persons shall be in attendance for the announcement of results at all ward centres and collation of results at all levels including the state collation.
“All members of the party and members of the public are enjoined to be peaceful and comply fully with the state’s COVID-19 regulations.”
But the state governor, who reacted through Osagie, told The PUNCH the APC needed to share with the state government, information about its guidelines.
This, he said, would enable the government to assess the APC programme for the primary election if it is in conformity with its law on COVID-19. Osagie, however, noted that the APC was behaving as if it was above the law.
He stated that as of 7pm on Sunday, the APC had yet to apply for a permit for the primary election as stipulated by the state COVID-19 law.
He said, “They have not intimated the government of what they want to do in Edo. All the information they have released as guidelines is the kind of information they would have shared with the government so that the government will know exactly what they are doing and if it fits the regulation we allow them to go ahead, but if it does not fit we tell them to make some amends. They are acting as if they are above the law.”
Also, the Secretary to the State Government, Mr Osarodion Ogie, in a statement on Sunday, said the President should caution the APC.
He stated that all political parties holding primary elections should abide by the state “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Quarantine Regulations and the Government’s Gazette on political gatherings during this pandemic.”
According to him, these guidelines were issued in fulfilment of government’s statutory duty to ensure the protection of lives and property in the state, in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.”
He noted that the APC was acting in defiance of the law. The SSG stated, “We note with concern that all the political parties conducting primary elections in Edo State have notified the government of their readiness to comply with the extant laws and COVID-19 regulations, except the All Progressives Congress.
“The APC appears resolved to carry on with the conduct of their primary election in violation of the Edo State COVID-19 Quarantine Regulations and the State Government’s Gazette on political gatherings in a pandemic.”
He alleged that the APC had imported thugs into the state to actualise its illegality.
The SSG stated, “We also have it on good authority that these persons have imported thugs into the state to actualise this illegality, further threatening the peace and security of our dear state. In light of this, we want to state unequivocally that the Edo State Government will spare no expense in upholding the law and protecting the lives of our people. We will ensure we identify and prosecute anyone who engages in this illegality and their collaborators, should they proceed with this unlawful conduct.”
“We also want to appeal to the Presidency, President Muhammadu Buhari, the Inspector-General of Police, the Department of State Services, and other security agencies to prevail on those behind this act of lawlessness, to desist forthwith with their planned activity.”
The Secretary of the APC committee said that his panel was not obliged to inform the state governor about the guidelines for the party”s primary slated for Monday.
He said, “We are not obliged to share the information with them. The state is now a PDP state.
Our guidelines are in line with the state COVID – 19 regulations because we will not be more than 18 people at any polling unit.
“There will not be congregation of more than 18 people so we are not going against the governor’s COVID-19 regulations. We don’t need his permission. “
The Director of Communication and Media, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu Campaign Organisation, Mr John Mayaki, described the governor claim as an alarmist.
He said, “A day after he assembled hundreds of youths at the PDP secretariat without social distancing or any form of protection, the governor laid claims to Edo State COVID-19 Quarantine Regulations and the state government’s gazette on political gatherings and falsely accused the party (APC)of violating these guidelines.
“We wish to clarify to the public that unlike Governor Godwin Obaseki, the All Progressives Congress and its officials in Edo State are law-abiding.”