Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, may have begun moves to reach out to the governors on the platform of the main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party, to facilitate his defection and ensure he clinches the party’s governorship ticket in his state.
This followed his recent disqualification from contesting the governorship primary of the All Progressives Congress in his state, First News learnt.
First News learnt that days before his disqualification by the APC, Obaseki began to reach out to the other governors in the opposition PDP to assist him to defect and even ensure he emerges the party’s standard bearer in the September 19 governorship poll in Edo.
First News further gathered that consultations between Obaseki, the opposition party’s governors and other PDP chieftains intensified at the weekend with the discussions focused on the possibility of his flying the PDP flag in the forthcoming Edo governorship election.
Meanwhile, Obaseki’s frantic efforts to defect into the PDP has raised tension in the opposition party in Edo State as some party chieftains in the state are said not to be comfortable with his plan.
Recall that Obaseki’s inability to meet the conditions set by the PDP leaders in the state before his disqualification from the APC primary, particularly the demand by chieftains that he drops his deputy, Phillip Shuaibu, stalled negotiations between the governor and PDP leaders in the state.
But First News learnt that that some of the PDP governors have been working towards striking a fair deal for both Obaseki and the aggrieved Edo PDP leaders to enable the embattled governor to eventually emerge the opposition party’s standard bearer in the September 19 governorship poll.
PDP National Secretariat had earlier cleared three aspirants to contest the PDP governorship primary scheduled for June 23 and 24. They are Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, Kenneth Imasuagbon and Gideon Ikhine.
According to a credible party source, who pleaded anonymity, “Some leaders of the Edo PDP are not favourably disposed to Obaseki coming into the party and getting the governorship ticket. They believe that they have been building the party and it would not be fair to the governor to just come in and be handed the ticket. But there have been talks between the Edo governor and some PDP governors. The PDP governors are in support of him (Obaseki).
“Their (Edo PDP leaders) fear essentially is that if Obaseki comes into the party now and is given a waiver by the national secretariat to contest the governorship primary; he will likely win. You know the governor will be coming with commissioners, local government chairmen and other appointees, who will be automatic delegates. Discussions are still ongoing to find a common ground.
“Though the national secretariat will likely grant Obaseki a waiver if he decides to join the PDP; the party will not ask anybody to step down from the contest for anybody. At the moment, we have three aspirants cleared for the governorship primary. But that does not foreclose anybody who has aspiration from coming into the party. But there will not be automatic ticket for anybody.”
But a chieftain of the Edo PDP, who is also member of the Ogbeide-Ihama campaign team, Kassim Afegbua, said that they won’t oppose the defection of anyone coming into the party. He, however, insisted that things must be done right.
Afegbua, who is also a former commissioner for information in Edo State, said, “The idea of Governor Obaseki crossing over to the PDP is still in the realm of rumours. But if per adventure he decides to come in, he will be subjected to the vigours of the process. We at Ogbeide Ihama’s campaign group will not be averse to anyone crossing over to support our aspiration. But we cannot contemplate looking backward to cede the number one position which we presently maintain to anyone, least of all a defector.”
PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, was not reachable as of the time of filing this report.
He did not pick calls and did not reply text messages sent to his phone.
Chairman of the Edo State chapter of the PDP, Dr Tony Aziegbemi, however, said on Saturday that Obaseki had yet to defect to the party.
He confirmed that though some associates of the embattled Edo governor had been reaching out to the leadership of the party, Obaseki had yet to personally reach out to him or any member of his executive council.
“It is true that some close aides of the governor have reached out to the PDP. The governor, however, is yet to personally reach out to us. Our doors are open to Governor Obaseki. He is welcome should he decide to come and join us. The doors of the PDP are wide open”, he said.
But the South-South Zonal Chairman of the party, Chief Emmanuel Ogidi, has insisted on due process should Obaseki defect to the PDP.
Recall that the APC Screening Committee, while citing loopholes in Governor Obaseki’s Higher School Leaving Certificate from the Institute of Continuing Education, Benin, his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) discharge certificate and for taking the party to court, had disqualified Obaseki and three other governorship aspirants from the governorship race.