The defection of Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on June 19, was one of the major victories in his political career. That move, which Obaseki even confessed, was a revival of his political career after his disqualification by the All Progressives Congress (APC) screening committee, had been described by many as ‘money gulping’. Investigations by Saturday Telegraph revealed that the governor had made the move to join PDP when it became obvious to him that APC would not give him ticket. But many people have said that Obaseki paid to join the PDP. Who did he pay to and how much did he pay to get the PDP ticket?
‘Obaseki was nearly milked dry’
One of the multiple sources that spoke with our correspondents on the matter, Okharedia Ihimekpen, is a chieftain of the PDP in Edo State. He revealed that the governor had to pay heavily to get the party’s nomination. Being among the six people that held the first PDP meeting in 1998, he is adjudged as one of the oldest members of the party in Edo State, who knows the inner secrets of the party. He said: “It was not easy for Obaseki, he had to pay many dues and debts to ensure that he succeeded in the game.
I won’t be able to quantify how much he spent but he paid every payable person in the party. I can tell you that they milked him dry before they accepted him”, he said. The one-time Director of Communication during the Chief Lucky Igbinedion’s regime, who is popularly called ‘Living Ancestor’, also alleged that the governor placed some people on his payroll and agreed to give out political appointment as part of the negotiating strategy. “I can tell you that so many PDP members are already on his pay roll, he had promised them different political positions as palliative measures. That is the extent he went, it was not a tea party for him. That is why he can stand up to say he would win the election”, he said.
On the retaining of the deputy governor, Phillip Shuaibu, as the running mate to the PDP candidate, Ihimekpen further alleged that Obaseki had to pay a separate fee for that as well as those that defected along with him. “It was another payment before giving him the party’s ticket and allowing all members of his team into the PDP. Like I told you, I said money changed hands. I cannot tell you the amount of money. When the man was begging here and there, first of all he started with South–South PDP governors, he was doing it gradually.
“Even when he went to the top, some PDP top shots in Edo went and laid ambush for him, but the man knew the game and was able to navigate his way through. In politics, for you to bulldoze your way in top situations like that, it is not normal and not always easy.
“You and I know that the man must have spent a fortune to get to where he is today in the PDP. At a time, the slogan was ‘the highest bidder’ and when something changed hands, Governor Wike became furious and said; ‘ha, it is like these guys want the highest bidder, they are tax collectors”, he said. To further confirm that he was actually sure of his comments, Ihimekpen was asked again to clarify whether the PDP leaders agreed to sell the ticket to Governor Obaseki.
The one called ‘Living Ancestor’ answered in the affirmative. “You asked a question that you have seen the answer, and you are asking again for another answer. If you say the party’s Publicity Secretary said that the PDP ticket was not for sale, so, now, how did Obaseki get it? How did Obaseki get it if it was not for sale? Did he merit it?
“Was there any serious party primary? How did he pass through the hurdles where people had to be stepping down? As a journalist, you will now do your analysis whether it was for sale or not”, he explained. Also, one of the aides to a serving commissioner in the state who spoke on condition of anonymity said: “These politicians are terrible people, is it not the money the governor refused to spend for APC leaders that he is now spending on PDP people? We that have been suffering for him since the crisis but now beg our friends from the PDP to give us something to buy a bottle of beer. One of my friends from Edo Central who is a delegate told me that he was given (N150, 000) one hundred and fifty thousand. Record has it that between three and five thousand delegates from the 18 Local Government Areas of Edo State gathered at the Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia in Benin – City to vote Governor Obaseki. You can imagine how much money has been spent on delegates alone.
In fact Governor Obaseki’s defection from APC to PDP was a harvest for most PDP top leaders in the state. We from APC that followed him to PDP have nothing to show for it. I followed him because of my principal, we are also waiting for them to settle us too, because we also have our followers who are waiting for us in our various villages.” Another PDP delegate from Ovia South East who gave his name as Emmanuel Obasuyi Osaro said: “Yes I’m very happy that PDP has come to power once again in Edo State. We have suffered neglect for the past 12 years, lost all our political positions to Adams Oshiomhole and his team.
But today it is a big joy to me that we are back to our former position in the state. For the past years in opposition, I have never seen N150,000 as political money, but today I’m happy that I was given some money as a delegate. But for Obaseki’s defection I won’t have gotten this amount of cash that I have now. I want to thank him that he did not give the money to our greedy party leaders; I won’t have seen one kobo. We are all going back to our base to our various wards to commence work for him. It is Obaseki or no election in Edo State.
Discussions on Shuaibu
Though the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, denied knowledge of the governor paying money to the party, another PDP source, who confided in Saturday Telegraph confirmed that money changed hands. “Does anybody pay money to join a party? There is nothing of such”, Ologbondiyan told Saturday Telegraph. However, it was gathered that some PDP bigwigs were demanding N6 billion for Obaseki to run with his deputy, an amount he reportedly said was on the high side. “Obaseki discussing with us but we have concluded that part and moved on”, the highly placed official said, noting that the amount was infinitesimal compared to what he paid to join the party and secure its ticket. According to a party source, the governor parted with between N8 to N12 billion to settle the party’s national leadership for the Shuaibu slot to sail through while the negotiations for the PDP ticket also cost him huge sums of money.
‘Wicked lies from APC members’
Reacting, the leadership of the PDP in Edo State described as recalcitrant, wicked and reckless, the allegations in some quarters that Obaseki paid to secure the party’s governorship ticket to pave way for emergence as the party’s candidate. Noting that Obaseki and the three governorship aspirants that stepped down took the decisions in interest of Edo people, the party noted that allegations could be likened to a quarrelsome housewife who out of ignorance and foolishness drove away her husband that had loved her so much only to realize his value and importance after he must have married a second wife who cherishes him with so much love. The Publicity Secretary of the PDP in the state, Chris Nehikhare, during an interview with Saturday Telegraph said the allegation emanated from the pit of hell and reckless voices of members of the APC who drove Obaseki away from their fold because of greed and selfish political aggrandisements that have torn the party into shreds at the state and national levels. Nehikhare explained that neither Obaseki and Shaibu nor the trio of Barrister Kenneth Imasuagbon, Engineer Gideon Ikhine and Omoregie Ogbide Ihama paid a dime to move into the party, stressing that they as noble men decided on their own to join the PDP because of its ideology as a democratic party with the interest of the people as its focus and attraction. “I can tell you categorically that Obaseki did not need to pay anybody or anybody demanded any amount of money for him to join the party. The negotiations that took place were because whenever there is going to be a merger or even in marriages people discuss so that they know how they will move in future. “For our candidate or aspirants by the time these discussions reached the stage where they were all satisfied they stepped down for a smooth election of Obaseki. This was done not for the interest of the PDP but for the interest of Edo people, realizing that Obaseki is a better candidate than the other party (APC),” he stated.
Obaseki, Shuaibu blast APC
Meanwhile, Obaseki and Shaibu have fired salvo at the APC leaders for “undemocratic character” exhibited during the crisis that led to their defecting to the PDP. Speaking during a visit to Engineer Gideon Ikhine’s camp office, Obaseki described APC as a lawless political party that has no regards’ for constituted authority. “I’m very happy to stand here today and watch my brother Engineer Gideon Ikhine speak. Today you would agree with me that history is being made not only in Edo State, but in the entire country Nigeria. Democracy has taken a new direction. “I was in a system before where old politicians see themselves as lords, where things are done with recourse to law. A political party that is lawless, party without idealogy, a party where people do things with impunity where integrity does not anything to them, a party where there is no justices and fairness, so I left APC because I do not like their impunity.” Also, Shuaibu said that Edo people are ready to swim the big ocean with Obaseki for continuation of the delivery of the dividends of democracy which he promised them in 2016. He however noted that the decision to dump APC was not an easy one, but said that it was necessary to follow his principal because of the love and wonderful work that the State Governor is doing in the state. “I want to tell the peace loving people of Edo State that we are always there for them, we appreciate the support they have given to us since we came on board in 2016. We are together in this battle to free Edo State from the hands of bad people. “As the election draws near, I urged everybody to be calm and our great party the PDP so that we can both achieve our aims. I’m happy that Edo state is now a PDP state why APC is now the opposition party.
‘Comparison with Imo case, act of ignorance’
The Edo State Chapter of the also flayed those behind the unfounded insinuation that Obaseki risks the Supreme Court verdict delivered on Mr. Uche Nwosu, the factional candidate of the APC in the last governorship election in Imo State, who was disqualified for standing for election on the platforms of two political parties. Nehikhare in a statement made available to newsmen in Benin, the state capital said those who are making the claims to muddle the waters are being smart by half and are at best ignorant of the law and the circumstances surrounding the governor’s emergence as the candidate of the PDP. “We want to put it on re-cord that the governor contested for the primary election of only the PDP. He was unjustly disqualified from the APC primary and wasn’t even on the ballot during the poll. While on the converse, Uche Nwosu in Imo State was the factional candidate of the APC after the primary election. “He was returned elected and only ran to Action Alliance after he was edged out of the contest. The Supreme Court, in fact, ruled that he had a valid ticket with the APC, which invalidated his candidacy in AA.”
We rely on enlightened electorate to win -APC
However, the APC has said it would rely on the enlightened electorate to win the election. The party, in a statement by the Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Hon. Yekini Nabena also dismissed the PDP statement, describing them as diversionary, baseless and theatrical. Nabena, who said the election would be determined by one man one vote said, the PDP is intimidated by the quality, depth and political sagacity of the APC National Campaign Council deployed to organise a formidable campaign structure to ensure success of the APC. “The APC has no interest in rolling in the mud with the PDP and engaging them in their senseless and drunken tirade. Edo state is not dubbed the Heartbeat of the Nation for nothing. The Edo electorate is sensible, sophisticated and progressive. “The focus of the APC is to display to the Edo electorate our pro-people credentials, infrastructure/development track record, social investments, wealth creation initiatives among others which is being replicated across APC states.”
APC not ready for issuebased campaign, says PDP
But in a swift reaction, the PDP accused APC of not being ready for issue-based campaign going by composition of the national campaign council of the September 19 Edo governorship election. In a statement by National Publicity Secretary, the PDP expressed the fears that the violence that characterised the Kano and Kogi governorship elections would be replicated in Edo given the personalities that constitute the council, while noting that its candidate enjoys the support of the Edo people due to his personal character and performance in office Ologbodiyan said: “Part of APC’s plot is to import election mercenaries as observers to attempt to scare the people of Edo State, suppress them and steal their mandate. It is however not surprising that such is the drift of the APC campaign, given that it has neither messages nor plans for the people of Edo. “With its defective nomination process, an ailing campaign council and a dented governorship candidate, it is clear that the APC is not preparing for issuebased and people oriented campaign, but for process manipulation and ballot robbery,” PDP said.