Precious Igbonwelundu, Okodili Ndidi, Abuja and Osagie Otabor, Benin
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Friday said there was no plan to conduct a fresh election to fill 14 vacant seats in the Edo State House of Assembly.
This is contrary to Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki’s claim that INEC will soon hold the election.
National Commissioner and Chairman Voters’ Education and Information Committee, Festus Okoye, told The Nation: “The Commission has not taken any decision concerning the declaration of vacancies by the Edo State House of Assembly.
“When that is done, it will be communicated. It is the sole responsibility of the Commission to fix dates and conduct elections.”
Rotimi Oyekanni, Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to INEC Chairman Prof Yakubu Mahmoud, added that no such decision has been taken.
He said: “To the best of my knowledge, the last meeting of the Commission was on December 19 and no such decision was taken.
“Traditionally, the Commission issues a statement whenever it decides to conduct an election.
“I am not aware of any decision to that effect.”
While addressing All Progressives Congress (APC) members from Owan East and West Local Government Areas (LGA) in Sabogida-Ora, Owan West, the governor said INEC had been notified of the vacancies and that the election will soon hold.
Governor Obaseki also said President Muhammadu Buhari directed him to deal with all those creating the political crisis in the party.
He accused APC National Chairman Adams Oshiomhole, who he said remains suspended, of creating factions in the state.
Obaseki said Oshiomhole no longer had Edo people’s support.
According to him, members of the Edo People’s Movement (EPM), which is loyal to Oshiomhole, were trying to destabilise the party because they have been thrown out.
The governor said the party remains united, strong and formidable, stressing that EPM members were not in APC.
He said: “Members of the EPM are trying to frustrate the good plans we have for Edo people as they plan to burn markets and government buildings. They intend to discredit our administration but the people of Edo know better.
“APC is one party; those that say they are in EPM are not APC, including their National Chairman who we have suspended. Those mistakenly elected into Edo State House of Assembly, who are members of EPM, have been thrown out.
“INEC is aware and will soon announce a date for a fresh election, where we will have the opportunity to elect credible representatives to represent us in the House.
“Any person doing anti-party activities, President Buhari has asked us to deal with them. We have been told to go back to organise our party; that’s why we are here.”
The governor said the party has “done a lot” for Edo people, moving the state forward progressively.
He added: “The support here today is massive and it speaks volume, further showing that the suspended National Chairman’s antics will not work.
“He no longer has the support of Edo people. The act of trying to create factions of APC in Edo State can’t work; we are still intact, strong and united. Our politics in Edo is transparent and can’t tolerate any act of dubiousness. If you are a progressive, you must be a real progressive.”
But, factional APC Secretary, Mr Lawrence Okah, urged members to ignore Obaseki.
He alleged that the governor was making moves to join the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) after holding meetings with top opposition members.
“It is clear and obvious that the governor’s second term ambition has affected his sense of reasoning. We do not blame his ignorance because our national chairman made him governor on a platter of gold.
“A man that has never voted before in Edo State until last year; a man that lost his unit, ward, local government and senatorial district in the Presidential election, has now turned a superstar because he controls the resources of the state.
“Does he even know what a campaign is? The whole world was even asking us whether he was deaf and dumb when Oshiomhole was marketing him in 2016 because he could not even speak for himself.
“So, it is funny when he said he now owns the Edo APC,” the factional secretary said.
He dared Oshiomhole to “get his own INEC” to conduct the election.
“He will soon realise that the people of Edo State regretted the day they gave him their mandate. The fact remains that Obaseki is now going around the state recruiting people that will move with him to the PDP.
“Just two days ago, he held a meeting with top PDP leaders in Edo State to perfect plans for his defection. But, we will tell him that none of our members will join him to PDP. Even his deputy, Philip Shaibu, will not follow him to PDP.
“If he is a man like his claims, he should have met face to face with the National Chairman of our great party to discuss any matter bothering him rather than abusing Oshiomhole in his backyard.
“I want to urge our people to disregard his careless statements and remain focused. Edo State APC under our indisputable leader, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, remains solid,” said Okah.
One of the conveners of EPM, Henry Idahagbon, said the movement no longer existed having served its purpose.
According to him, Obaseki did not know that the EPM was dissolved and buried on November 13.
The former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice said Obaseki lacked ideas on how to govern.
On Obaseki’s comments that Oshiomhole had lost support, Idahagbon asked the governor to wait for the election.