• Party missing in INEC’s provisional list
• What’s playing out is democracy in action, says Okowa
• We duly submitted, uploaded Oborevwori’s name before INEC deadline, insists PDP
The controversy regarding who is the authentic governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Delta State is not about to end. Indeed, it got more so last weekend when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released the list of participating political parties and candidates in the state, with PDP missing in the list of 16.
This was just as the party held a mega rally in Ozoro, Isoko North Local Council, to mobilise members and receive decampees from other political parties. Absent at the rally were former governors of the state, Chief James Ibori and Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan; governorship aspirants, Senator James Manager and Olorogun David Edevbie, and other major stakeholders, unlike the earlier pre-primary election rally in Asaba, ostensibly as a fallout of the party’s primary election in May this year.
Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Oborevwhori Sheriff Francis Orowedor, with the backing of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, won the primary election held in Asaba, while a former commissioner for Finance and Okowa’s immediate past chief of staff, Edevbie, who is the choice of Ibori for the position, came second, in what many see as proxy political battle of dominance. A dissatisfied Edevbie later approached the Federal High Court in Abuja, in suit No: FHC/ABJ/CJ/795/2022, seeking the disqualification of Oborevwori for allegedly submitting fake credentials to the INEC and declaration of himself as the candidate.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo, on July 7, ruled that Oborevwori was not qualified to participate in the exercise, let alone being declared winner, having supplied false information and submitted forged credentials/certificates, and ordered INEC to recognise Edevbie as the PDP candidate. Oborevwori has since appealed the lower court judgment. Armed with that judgment, Edevbie, through his lawyers, wrote to the INEC, urging it to comply with the court order by replacing Oborevwori’s name with his without further delay.
Consequently, INEC, in a letter to the PDP national chairman of PDP dated July 18, 2022 and signed by its Secretary, Rose Oriaran-Anthony, acknowledged receipt of the court order served by the court in the case between David Edevbie and Sheriff Oborevwori and two others, adding: “While hoping your party takes note of the judgment Order, please accept the assurance of the Commission’s warm regards.” It was, therefore, surprising that the controversy continued last Friday night, when INEC omitted PDP and its candidate in the provisional list for Delta State.
While Oborevwori’s supporters insisted that he remained the authentic candidate for next year’s election, it was obvious that the electoral body refrained from publishing the particulars of any of the aspirants, pending when the party is able to resolve its internal crisis. That position was reinforced by PDP in a statement on Saturday by its National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, who insisted that it indeed has a valid governorship candidate, as it followed all due process to ensure its participation in the election in the state. He stated that contrary to speculations, the PDP never disobeyed any court order regarding its governorship election in the state. According to him: “In line with the new Electoral Act, submission of names of candidates is no longer physical but by electronic transmission to the INEC. Under the electronic process, INEC grants access to its portal to political parties to electronically upload its candidates’ information/particulars; which access for governorship candidates closed on Friday, July 15, 2022.
“With reference to Delta State, our party duly submitted and uploaded the name of Oborevwori Sheriff Francis Orohwedor as the Delta State Governorship candidate of the PDP onto INEC Portal on Friday, July 8, 2022.
“On July 18, 2022, three days after the closure of access to the INEC portal, our party and INEC received a court Order directing the substitution of the name of Oborevwori Sheriff Francis Orohwedor with another name. “However, given the closure on July 15, 2022, our party had no access to the INEC portal.” He added: “Subsequently, the PDP and INEC were served with Court of Appeal processes comprising Notice of Appeal, Motion for Stay of Execution and Records of Appeal filed by the candidate whose name was initially uploaded by the party onto the INEC portal.
“It is instructive to state that under the INEC guideline, the last day for effecting any change of names of candidates for the 2023 general election is September 28, 2022.
“For emphasis, the PDP currently has a candidate for the 2023 governorship election in Delta State. If there be any change drawing from the outcome of the judicial processes, such will be duly and appropriately reflected in compliance with the Order of court. The PDP as a law-abiding party has always and will continue to comply with Orders of court in every matter and situation.
“Our party therefore urges our members, teeming supporters and the people of Delta State to disregard the speculations and remain focused on the platform of the PDP in their determination to consolidate on the achievements of the Governor of Delta State and our vice presidential candidate, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa. “The PDP is fully prepared for the 2023 general elections in Delta State, as well as across the nation and will emerge victorious at the polls.” PDP insisted that it has a valid governorship candidate, as it followed all due process to ensure its participation in the election in the state. He stated that contrary to speculations, the PDP never disobeyed any court order regarding its governorship election in the state.
At the rally held at the Delta State University of Science and Technology Stadium, Ozoro, Okowa described what is going on as “a normal democratic process,” adding “there is nothing to worry about, no cause for alarm and no cause to fear, as what is playing out is democracy in action.” State Chairman of the party, Chief Kingsley Esiso, said: “As the state chairman of this great party, it is my responsibility to educate our people on developments in the party. Weeks ago, our party conducted one of the freest and fairest governorship primaries in the state and a candidate emerged and our party has dutifully submitted the name of that candidate.
“It is our responsibility to stand and defend the outcome of that primary. The issue before the court has nothing to do with the integrity and credibility of that primary. “By the action of INEC yesterday (Friday), we have been told in PDP to wait patiently for the outcome of the court judgment.” He added that the winner (Oborevwori), through his legal team, with the PDP will defend the mandate of its candidate in the court.
The party used the rally, attended by Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Ndudi Elumelu and Oborevwori, who was tactfully recognised only as Speaker of the state Assembly, apparently not to incur the wrath of the court, to welcome several defectors, including Chief Fred Obe and his Grassroots Unity Movement; Chief Solomon Omene, Chief Gladys Agba; Mr. Nwaham Iwendi and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) State Secretary, Chief A.T. Okrakpo, into the PDP fold. Esiso had earlier reiterated that the primary purpose of the rally was to receive defectors from other parties, saying Nigerians can no longer tolerate a party that has divided the country along ethnic, religious and regional lines.
Speaking further, Okowa said the party’s victory in the recent Osun State governorship election was a pointer to its readiness to rescue the country in next year’s general election, adding that PDP remains the only party that can return the country to better days, assuring that contrary to insinuations in some quarters, the party was strong, virile and united in the state. “In the last seven years, it has not been too well with us as a nation, but we know that God has come to our rescue and it’s just for the PDP to take it and run with it and that sign has already started with our victory in Osun. “We went to the heartland of the APC in Yoruba land to make a statement and to God be the glory.
They did not give PDP a chance, the APC thought it was a done deal, but God showed His mighty hand and when the results started coming, it was unfortunate for the APC. “That is just the beginning and I must thank Nigerians who have come to realise that something has gone wrong and that we need rescue and there is only one party that can rescue Nigeria as at today; it is the PDP. “2023 is about the youth and women of Nigeria and we cannot continue to suffer and stay hungry. We must definitely move forward,” he told the crowd. With both sides unwilling to sheathe the sword, the matter of who is the authentic governorship candidate of the party for 2023 is likely to end at the Supreme Court, even as mobilisation continues ahead of commencement of campaigns in September.