• Says Tinubu not in support of zoning

From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja

In the party’s rescheduled primary for the upcoming gubernatorial election, former Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole has stated that it will be unjust for the All Progressive Congress (APC) to impose zoning when it did not do so in Kogi and Benue States.

The senator representing Edo North stated this after he met with President Bola Tinubu at the presidential Villa Abuja on Wednesday.

According to him, the state chapter of the ruling party is not interested in “turn-by-turn democracy.”

Oshiomhole’s visit to the president came at the heels of the rejection of Hon Dennis Idahosa, as the winner of the primary election announced by Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State after last Saturday’s exercise.

Two other candidates including Senator Monday Okpebholo and Sunday Dekeri also claimed victory as they accused the former governor of trying to impose Idahosa.

Edo APC stakeholders opposed to Idahosa have cited the fact that he is from the same Edo South Senatorial District as the incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki who is completing his two-term eight years tenure, advocating that power should move to a different zone.

But Oshiomhole insisted that after discussing the zoning question with President Tinubu, the president expressed his commitment only to free and fair primary.

He said Tinubu told him that the rescheduled primary should not be based on zoning but the will of the majority of APC.

Oshiomhole maintained after allowing Kogi State Governor Usman Ododo to succeed Yahaya Bello even though they are from the same senatorial district, and also not stop the Tivs from dominating Benue State governorship elections, the APC cannot single out Edo State for zoning.

Speaking on the purpose of his visit, Oshiomhole said: “Is true I came to see Mr. President and is about the Edo governorship primaries. As I’m sure you know by now, the NWC had reasons of course to review the governorship primaries that was conducted last week as a result of controversies arising from the conduct of that primaries.

“So today as a party member, and of course the leader of the party in Edo State, I came to discuss some of the issues that I think are relevant and also in order to ensure that the APC family in Edo State you know, conduct themselves in a manner that Mr President will be proud of the outcome of the of the primaries, because at the end of the day, after the primary, we’re going to face the main election.

“They have been a lot of rumours which I thought Mr. President should speak to and I needed some clarification from him because as the leader of the party, there are a couple of things that I want to be sure that I know where he stands.

“One of them is issue of zoning. The President has affirmed that he has no voting right in Edo State. Even though the Edo people have the right to vote for the president, therefore, what matters to him is to ensure that APC members in Edo State in the direct primaries, participate in the free and fair primaries.

“That’s his the decision of the President. They have been rumours in the air that there’s probably zoning to one area or zoning to another area.

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“The President said that as far as he’s concerned is committed only to free and fair primaries not based on zoning. Because you don’t do zoning at the eve of the primary. If there’s going to zoning those involved in the decision will have to be so comprehensive that the people of the state understand it. And number two, if you have zoning, you will not allow people who are not from the particular zone to procure forms.

“Now the national Secretariat of the party is on record as having issued the statement, which was widely used to the effect that the APC governorship ticket was open to anyone who is eligible to procure the nomination form which was why at the end of the day, we have 12 candidates that procured the form.

“So the key issue in my conversation with Mr. President is that the primary that have been rescheduled for tomorrow to continue is not based on and will not be based on zoning, it will be based on free and fair primaries. It is a continuation of the exercise that had some challenges arising from an individual proclaiming himself as as a returning officer, which is completely strange to the rules of the party, which has led to what the media has widely reported as two factions, emerging. So that’s it.”

Asked to clarify if indeed the President actually said he was not for zoning, Oshiomhole said:

“I have the authority of the President to address the press on this matter, because of the various lies lies and half truths now what is fair in democracy is not for any man, including the president single handedly imposing anyone. The fairness of the process is determined by whether or not the candidate that emerged is the true choice of the electorate of the APC members. And that is where the president stands.

“Now when you choose to single out Edo State you are just being unfair. Is it not the same APC where recently in Kogi state, where you have back to back somebody from one senatorial zone succeeding and another? Why is Edo different? In Benue state since 1999, you had only people from one particular language, the Tivs that have produced governors after governors since 1999. Are you about to change the rules? In any case, who are you and I to dictate to Edo APC members where their candidate must come from?

“If you impose the candidate, as some of you want to suggest, when you go for the election proper, are you going to tell people to vote based on your own privilege, elite consensus of turn by turn democracy? We are not for turn by turn democracy.

“I have been in Edo politics since 2007. I won the election against what PDP consider to be their preferred area. Only the people of Edo State in this case at this age, the people of APC that can nominate the candidate.

“I have the authority of the President to clarify this. His name should not be used recklessly by people who are afraid of free and fair election.

“What I alluded to, is that in a democracy, the majority must necessarily have your way. You can’t do it otherwise, there is no sentiments about it. Fairness means that the outcome is a reflection of the will of the people, fairness is not when you allocate. This turn by turn democracy kills fairness.

“So I won’t stop here to talk if I didn’t have that discussion. I needed to have that discussion. So that Edo APC at the level of the primaries, will feel free.

“And I let me ask you, in all fairness, is a democracy is imposing a smaller number on a bigger number? Look at the demographics. I don’t like to talk ethnicity because for me, that is not and I don’t really care what people say, Oshiomhole say, Oshiomhole say. Everybody comes to me to say I need you to endorse me and I say I am not the project.

“I worked to earn…as I speak I am not a governor. Right. By the time I contested a election to the senate, I had been removed as the national chairman of APC. They could remove me from the office but they could not remove my fighting spirit and I am back because I have my people with me.

“Some of you will recall at that time they allege that my people from my ward have lost confidence in me but I went back to the polls and the people of Edo North reposed confidence in me.”