Cracks in PDP over Obaseki

The planned defection of Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is already upsetting the order in the opposition party with leaders taking divergent positions on alleged plot to concede the party’s governorship ticket to him.

While several PDP governors and leaders are for the concession, a few others are resisting the offer on the grounds that it would not help party discipline.

Some old members are said to be angry at what they see as preferential treatment for Obaseki in the race for the governorship ticket.

They are worried that the allegations which cost Obaseki the APC ticket may work against the PDP in the event that he emerges as the party’s candidate.

Some governors want those allegations sorted out before any concession is made.

Top PDP members including former President Goodluck Jonathan and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar are rooting for Obaseki to cross over to the party.

Although the governor is yet to make a formal statement on where he is headed after rejecting the offer to appeal his disqualification by the APC, reports from his camp indicate that his political future lies in the PDP.

A non-governmental organization, Rainbow Push Coalition (RPC) yesterday added a new dimension to the controversy surrounding Obaseki when it accused him of holding two voter cards in violation of the Electoral Law.

Investigation by The Nation showed that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State and the two PDP Senators from Edo State, Clifford Ordia (Edo Central) and Urhoghide Aishagbonnriodion (Edo South) are behind the plot to give the governorship ticket to Obaseki.

Sources said they facilitated the secret talks between Obaseki and some PDP governors and party leaders.

The secret talks were in anticipation of his disqualification by the APC Screening Committee.

Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and the influential former Chairman of PDP in the state, Chief Dan Orbih, are yet to make any commitment.

Although Obaseki’s defection plan is yet to be formally tabled before the party, it was gathered that he was given some conditions at the secret talks for him to get the governorship ticket.

A top PDP source said: “These terms excited Obaseki. This is why he wasted no time in saying that he would not contest his disqualification by APC.

“We are yet to table all these conditions before the National Working Committee and the National Executive Committee of PDP. But this may be fast tracked in the coming week.

“As for the Deputy Governor, there is no way we can hand over the party and governorship ticket to Obaseki wholesale. We have to consider the interest of old members of PDP by asking one of them to be running mate to Obaseki.”

The source admitted that PDP leaders were weighing options before the relevant organs of PDP admit Obaseki.

They do not want the concession of PDP governorship ticket to Obaseki to plunge the party into a deeper crisis.

Another party source said: “Our leaders are weighing the options on whether or not to take a risk with Obaseki but without plunging the party into a serious crisis.

“The truth is that PDP is not strong and all the aspirants that have emerged cannot match the electoral strength of APC. But getting Obaseki will add value to our challenge to APC candidate.

“Apart from incumbency factor, Obaseki has enough facts and figures to de-market APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who is  a factor in this forthcoming poll. He also has the war chest to confront APC.

“Some of our leaders like ex-President Goodluck Jonathan and ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar are being consulted. Some of our governors have thrown their weight behind Obaseki. But not all the governors and leaders have bought into his candidature.

“The level we are is to weigh the options as to whether we should field him, because we cannot gloss over the allegations raised by the APC against Obaseki.

“Part of the options is legal advice on his eligibility. Some of our leaders are also suspicious of his alleged plans to return to APC if he wins the election.”

Responding to a question, the source added: “Some leaders have been covertly negotiating with Obaseki in the past few weeks because it was obvious he would be disqualified.”

Another source said that following Friday’s announcement by the leadership of the PDP that it was willing to welcome Obaseki into its fold and even give him a chance to seek the gubernatorial ticket of the party, some prominent chieftains of the party have swung into action to avert what they see as a looming destructive error.

Highly placed party sources said yesterday that after several weeks of considering what has become known within the party as the ‘Obaseki project’, a group of prominent party leaders consisting of serving governors and other stakeholders on Friday communicated their readiness to support the candidacy of the governor if he left for the PDP.

But not all of them initially bought into the project.

The source said: “A good number of those in the group, a very powerful clique within the party for that matter, had before then distanced themselves from the Obaseki project, even as the governor’s lobbyists worked hard on them for their endorsement.

“A governor from the South-South, who before now made it clear he would  never support Obaseki as PDP candidate, is now among those calling on the party in Edo State to consider giving him the ticket.

“Also, a former chairman of the party, who constantly criticised Obaseki and foreclosed the possibility of the governor joining the PDP and picking its gubernatorial ticket, is said to have told his supporters that they may have no choice but to back Obaseki, given the support he now enjoys among prominent party leaders, especially at the national level.”

Among those who threw their weight behind Obaseki on Friday were a former President and a former presidential candidate, the source said.

The Nation gathered that some PDP members are skeptical about Obaseki’s chances in the face of the reasons given by the APC for denying him fresh nomination.

The APC Screening Panel which interacted with Obaseki premised his disqualification on: claiming to have a Higher School Leaving Certificate which is unknown to the Nigerian educational system; allegedly being in possession of an affidavit disowned by the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory; error in the National Youth Service Corps discharge certificate which bears Obasek as against Obaseki; loss of primary, secondary and Higher School Leaving certificates; alleged violation of Article 21 D (V) of the party’s constitution, which forbids members from taking the party to court; legal precedents occasioned by the judgments of the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court on discrepancies in names.

Chieftains of the PDP are now said to be worried that his indictment by the APC screening committee may hurt his chances of delivering the state to the PDP even if he gets the party’s ticket and win the governorship election.

“The fear of the Bayelsa experience where the APC lost the state to PDP in spite of a resounding victory at the polls is now the beginning of wisdom for our leaders as far as the Obaseki project is concerned,” the source said.

There were also indications that governorship aspirants on the platform of the PDP might have resolved to reject any idea of stepping down for Obaseki.

It was gathered that some of them, in tandem with some party leaders, may have decided to protest the rumoured plan to have the governor join the race for the PDP ticket, arguing that “Obaseki did not obtain the nomination form as and when due, and has never been a member of the party at any point in time before now.”

One of the aspirants said: “We don’t want to waste this great opportunity to recapture the state. The APC is so weakened by intra-party crisis now than ever before.

“The people are so dissatisfied with the ruling party both here in Edo and at the federal level that it is so certain they will reject whoever their candidate is.

“And the PDP here parades very strong and popular aspirants. Any one of us currently seeking the ticket will be more acceptable to the people than an Obaseki that has been battered and de-marketed seriously by his own party men.

“Why should we then dash our ticket to a discredited figure and throw away this golden opportunity of saving Edo State from the clutches of these dealers?

“Our resolve is simple: allow a real PDP person to emerge as our candidate.

“Many of those supporting the idea of handing over the party’s ticket to the governor are now worried that with the allegations against him before the APC screening committee now in public domain, it is certain that those grounds for his disqualification will continue to dog his steps before, during and even after the governorship election.

“And if one remembers the Bayelsa saga, there is no certainty that he will not be pronounced ineligible at some point in the race.”

It was also gathered that a meeting of prominent stakeholders has been scheduled for tomorrow in Abuja to discuss the new development.

The leadership of the party may have also sought advice from its legal department on the disqualification of Obaseki by the APC screening committee.

Similarly, the legal team of the governor is said to be considering steps to ensure that the grounds for disqualification do not become banana peels for Obaseki as the guber race progresses.

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