A Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt has granted accelerated hearing to a suit challenging the eligibility of incumbent Edo State governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, to participate in the governorship primary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), rescheduled for Thursday, June 25.
This was contained in a court document with suit FHC/PH/CS/69/2020 filed by Hon. Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, who is also contesting the PDP primary for the Edo State gubernatorial election, and released on Monday night, June 22.
The Court further invited the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and seven others over the legality of the waiver granted Governor Godwin Obaseki to participate in the Edo State Peoples Democratic Party governorship primaries and specifically ordered the plaintiff in the case to serve the originating processes on the PDP, Godwin Obaseki and six others by substituted means, to enable them defend the legality of the waiver
Joined in the suit was the Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, PDP National Vice Chairman, South South Zone, Elder Emmanuel Ogidi, the party’s Edo Primary Election screening committee Chairman, Hon. Kingsley Chinda; the Edo screening Appeals panel chairman, Sen. James Manager, as well as some members of the Screening and Appeals panels including, Chief Bodekeme Boyleyefa and Hon. Ajibola Muraina, the PDP, Governor Obaseki and INEC.
Hon. Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, who presently represents Oredo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives had, in the Certified True Copy (CTC) of the court order, prayed the court to bar Obaseki from contesting the primary election on the grounds that the Edo Governor did not purchase the nomination form for the election.
Also, he had held that Obaseki did not undergo screening within the time frame stipulated in the timetable by the PDP before the waiver granted Obaseki and his deputy, Philip Shaibu, who recently defected from the All Progressives Congress.
Ihama also questioned the validity of Obaseki’s certificates and subsequently sought an order of the court restraining the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); from recognizing Godwin Obaseki as a candidate of the PDP in the Edo guber primary election.
Consequently, Justice E A Obile, who heard the motion ex-parte ordered that the status quo be maintained, pending the accelerated hearing of the motion on notice on Wednesday, June 24, 2020.
The primary of the PDP is scheduled for June 25, while the Independent National Electoral Commission has fixed the main election for September 19, 2020.
It will be recalled that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had earlier stipulated that all political parties interested in participating in the September 2020 Edo State governorship election must conclude their primaries on Saturday, June 27, 2020 and the deadline for all political parties participating in the Edo State governorship election to submit the names of their candidates remains 6p.m. on Monday, June 29.
INEC’s Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, had made this declaration during a meeting with security chiefs to adopt the security code of conduct for all security personnel covering the governorship election.
He said: “All political parties interested in fielding candidates for the election are reminded that they must conclude their primaries for the nomination of candidates in the next 10 days.
“The deadline is Saturday, June 27, 2020. I must stress that the date is firm and fixed. There will be no extension of the deadline. While the conduct of primaries and nomination of candidates will be the sole responsibility of political parties, our officials will monitor the primaries as required by law.”
He added that there will be no extension of time for political parties that fail to submit the names and other details of the candidates that emerge from their primaries using the dedicated portal created by the commission.
On the eligibility of candidates to contest the governorship, Prof. Yakubu said: “Arising from our experience in managing the nomination of candidates for the last two governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States, it is important to draw the attention of political parties to the four mandatory requirements for eligibility of candidates for governorship elections enshrined in Section 177 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
“A candidate nominated by a political party must be a Nigerian citizen by birth; must have attained the age of 35 years; must be a member of, and sponsored by, a political party; and must be educated up to at least school certificate level or equivalent.
“Adherence to these clear constitutional provisions is compulsory in order to avoid the unnecessary litigations that follow the nomination of candidates, some of which are still pending before the courts.
Recall further that following his disqualification by the screening committee from even participating in the Edo State APC gubernatorial primary, in grounds of academic discrepancies, Governor Godwin Obaseki said he would not appeal since he was convinced he would not get a fair hearing. He also did not go to Court to contest his disqualification but immediately decamped to the PDP, where he was warmly received and widely welcomed and endorsed by the leaders, governors, stakeholders and majority of the membership of the party both in Edo State, the South South Zone and across the country.
Edo State PDP Chairman, Anthony Aziegbemi, also confirmed that Governor Obaseki and his deputy had decamped to the PDP and Obaseki himself has registered as a member of PDP in his Oredo Ward 4 of the party in Edo South Senatorial district and picked up his PDP membership card in his Ward.
The National PDP Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus personally presented him with his membership form in a widely reported ceremony and the PDP further granted him a waiver to participate in the party’s Edo guber primaries in a statement issued by the National publicity Secretary Kola Ologondiyan, which paved the way for him to also legitimately purchase the party’s governorship expression of intrest and nomination forms.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) then announced the continuation of its governorship screening exercise via a statement, released by Col. Austin Akobundu (rtd), the party’s National Organizing Secretary, which reads in part thus: “The National Working Committee (NWC) of our great party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has approved the continuation of the Screening Exercise by the Screening Committee.
“The Committee is mandated to screen all Aspirants for the upcoming 2020 Governorship Election in Edo State”.
The exercise which then continued on Saturday June 20, 2020 at the NWC hall Wadata Plaza, Abuja from 10:00am prompt, successfully screened Governor Godwin Obaseki, in addition to the earlier screening of three other aspirants; Hon. Omoregie Ogbeide-ihama, George Ikhine (who recently stepped down from the race to support Obaseki) and Kenneth Imasuagbon (who was screened virtually since he was still held up abroad due to the global Covid-19 travel ban), who had earlier procured and submitted their forms.
The National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP, as is expected, would then procedurally receive the report of the screening Committee, as well as that of the Appeals panel, in the event of any, before conducting it’s primary on Thursday June 25, publishing the name of its candidate for the September 2020, Edo state Governorship election, on or before Saturday June 27 and submitting same to INEC not later than 6pm on Monday, June 29.
It will be recalled that the NYSC has also since cleared the Air On Gov. Godwin Obaseki’s Certificate, issued him a fresh one with his name’s spelt correctly and apologized for previous error.
Also, the University of Ibadan has confirmed that Godwin Obaseki was indeed a student of the institution and at no time did the University issue two certificates to him. A statement by the Registrar of UI, Mrs Olubunmi O Faluyi, said Obaseki gained admission to the university in 1976 and graduated in 1979 with a Second Class Honours, Lower Division in Classics and records of his admission and graduation intact in the archives of the university.
Governor Godwin Obaseki himself has described the suit filed in the Port Harcourt Federal High Court and the interim injunction pending the accelerated hearing of the substantive matter, as an attempt by fifth columnists to destabilise the party.