The embattled Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, has hurriedly signed a new gazette aimed at stopping the proposed direct primary election by the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the State.
Besides, the Governor in the emergency gazette, banned social gathering involving more than 20 persons in the State, without his explicit approval, while suggesting the Stadium as the only facility for any political party desirous of gathering for the purpose of primary elections.
The new guidelines, announced in the wake of the APC internal primary, has been criticised as a body of regulations designed to give the Governor special advantage in the election, and force the All Progressives Congress, APC, as well as the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, into opting for his preferred indirect mode of primary election for the APC.
The gazette claimed by the State Government to be a product of an epidemiological study that predicted that Covid-19 infections in the State would peak around the 28th of June, made special provisions that broadly reflect the Governor’s desire for an indirect primary in the State.
For instance, despite restricting social gathering to just 20 persons, special conditions were made for gatherings of at most 5,000 people, subject to the written approval of the Governor. These 5000 persons who may gather for political reasons, must assemble in Benin City, and in a single facility with capacity for not less than 10,000 persons, according to the gazette.
Coincidentally, or not, all of these align with the Governor’s argument for an indirect primary, through the use of Delegates and other Officials numbering up to 5,000. The Governor has long expressed his desire for restricted participation in the party’s internal primary at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, in Benin City, where according to critics, it is easier for him to use the might of his Office to influence and rig the process.
Essentially, going by the specificity of the gazette regulations, Governor Godwin Obaseki has written his personal wishes into law, hiding behind an epidemiological study which evidence is yet to be seen by anyone other than the Governor and his political Allies.
Governor Obaseki has long faced accusations from several advocacy groups in the State, over alleged connivance with Health Agencies, to manipulate the State’s Covid-19 situation into enforcing biased laws aimed at giving him an unfair advantage in the APC primary election, allegedly.
A coalition of the groups, including the National Youth Advocacy Group, Orhiomwon and Uhunmwode Youths Restoration, and Etsako Youth Vanguard, said in a joint statement earlier this week that: “It is to our greatest dismay, that as soon as the mode of the primaries for Edo 2020 was announced by the APC, the Edo State report on Covid-19 infection has risen astronomically.
“Whereas, it took Edo State 60 days to move from the index case to 100 cases, it has taken just 10 days for that number to leapfrog to about 300 cases.”
Other Civil Society groups have expressed concerns over what they described as the Governor’s “dangerous and desperate” plans to breach the trust between the government and its people, by spreading unnecessary panic and embracing deception to score a political goal.
Obaseki’s insistence on an indirect primary instead of a direct primary process that would involve all registered members of the party, is said to be connected to his waning popularity in the State, and widespread rejection by members of the All Progressives Congress, who have come to see him as a betrayal and incompetent Administrator.