Fresh facts have emerged that the Monday meeting of the All Progressives Congress National Working Committee with the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja, was part of the moves to counter plans by some governors of the ruling party to reverse the disqualification of Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, from the June 22 governorship primary election in the state.
First News learnt that some APC governors sympathetic to the embattled Governor Obaseki, had sought the intervention of the Presidency in the Edo APC crisis.
But at the end of Monday’s meeting between the APC NWC and Gambari, APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, told State House correspondents that it was impossible for the party leadership to bend the rules for anybody and allow right of first refusal for those aspiring to contest, when the party’s constitution did not make provision for such.
Oshiomhole argued that since President Muhammadu Buhari was not allowed to enjoy such a favour when he was seeking re-election in 2019, there was no way party leaders could change the rule for anyone.
He said, “I am sure you will agree that our President led by example when we conducted direct primary in the last presidential election. We still went to Eagle Square for affirmation.
“So, if the President did not have the right of first refusal because our constitution does not provide for it, we cannot under any circumstances now bend the rules when it comes to some people and change the rule when it comes to others.
“Our duty as the management board of the APC is to ensure that we obey strictly the provisions of our constitution which empower the NWC to conduct primaries for president, governors, National Assembly, and State Houses of Assembly.”
Last Friday, APC screening committee on the state governorship primary had disqualified Governor Obaseki and two other aspirants from contesting the party’s June 22 governorship primary.
According to the panel, Obaseki was, among others, disqualified because of contradictions in his credentials.
But the governor, who rejected the decision of the committee, said he would not appeal his disqualification because he did not believe he would get justice from the Oshiomhole-led NWC.
Obaseki has since then been holding meetings with some governors of the Peoples Democratic Party as part of his moves to join the opposition party.
A source privy to the NWC’s meeting with Gambari said, “Some governors approached the Presidency to seek a political solution to the disqualification. At the meeting with the chief of staff, the NWC presented documents, including the Edo governor’s credentials, the screening committee relied on before disqualifying Obaseki. The party officials presented three reports: Those of the screening committee, appeal committee and the NWC. The national chairman defended the decision of the party on Obaseki.”
Speaking on the reported plan by Governor Obaseki to exit the APC, Oshiomhole said, “I don’t know about (Obaseki’s) exit. What we see from your media, electronic and print, is that he visited a number of PDP governors. We heard in the electronic media and read it in the print that those consultations may have to do with his plan and so on, but we are not here to speculate.
“Our party is not a party of big men. It is governed by rules. Both the small and the big are subjected to that rule.”
The APC chairman reiterated that Obaseki’s disqualification was to forestall a repeat of the fate suffered by party in Bayelsa State.
He said, “Because of what happened in Bayelsa, we have decided that we have to be very strict. There are always two issues that lead to disqualification after elections. As you saw in Bayelsa, we won the election, but for technical reasons, we lost it at the Supreme Court.”
Oshiomhole also justified the decision of the party to conduct direct primary, saying it was in conformity with the social distancing protocol to curtail COVID-19.