[OPINION] When Does The Battle To Unseat Obaseki End?

  • Oshiomhole is using APC members – Nehikhare
  • Oshiomhole is an elder statesman, doesn’t have any involvement – APC
  • APC continued the legal battle PDP started against Obaseki – Azebamwan
  • This isn’t about love or hate but appropriate fitness to run – APC Chieftain

After the November Governorship election in Edo State, Godwin Obaseki finally put his challenges to rest or did he?

Before retaining is office as the governor, Mr Obaseki had to fight his own former party, the All Progressives Congress who thought he was no longer fit to lead them.

One of the cruces was his refusal to bow before the political leaders of the group, particularly a former governor of Edo State, and sacked National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Adams Oshiomhole.

While the political godfather claimed Obaseki failed to continue the projects he left behind, Obaseki argued that he was fought over his refusal to share money.

The governor disqualification from the APC led to his migration to the opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party where he and his deputy, Philip Shaibu finally got their dream ticket that kept them on the seat of power.

A few weeks after the election, at the time the governor thought things are finally falling in place, he got a kick in the knot from the same APC, one of the party members Williams Edobor who believed Obaseki lied on the form he submitted to Independent National Electoral Commission dragged him to court.

The suit sparked interest within and outside Edo State and the governor, though triumph at the federal court, his battle may have just begun as APC move to appeal court.

According to the plaintiff accusation, Mr Obaseki forged his Bachelor of Art in Classical Studies Certificate which he submitted to INEC in support of his nomination as a candidate in the Edo governorship election.

First plaintiffs’ witness, Edoba Omoregie, had testified that Governor Obaseki submitted false or forged certificate which he claimed to have obtained from the University of Ibadan in 1979.

Mr Omoregie, a professor, said that the certificate submitted to INEC for the purposes of the September 2020 election was without a date of issuance and signature of the registrar.

He said the certificate presented by the governor for the 2020 election was different from the one he submitted to INEC when he contested the earlier 2016 election for his first term in office.

He said Mr Obaseki lied under oath and submitted a false or forged certificate to INEC.

The second plaintiffs’ witness, Samuel Omale, an employee and legal officer of INEC, tendered Mr Obaseki’s Form EC9 submitted INEC ahead of the 2020 election, Premiumtimes report.

He said he was not part of INEC team that received documents for the purposes of the election.

The plaintiffs’ fifth witness, Gabriel Iduseri, who said he graduated from the University of Ibadan and obtained Bachelors of Arts in Classical Studies in 1976.

He insisted that Mr Obaseki gave false information in his Form EC9 where he claimed to have graduated from UI in 1979.

He said Mr Obaseki tendered an equivalent of the certificate in 2016 but completely different from the one he tendered in 2020.

Iduseri took it up a notch that with only three credit passes in Geography, History and Religious Knowledge, Mr Obaseki would not have qualified to be admitted into UI in 1976 whether through the direct or indirect entry.

The plaintiffs’ sixth witness, Mikailu Asekome, said he gained admission to UI to study Agricultural Economics in 1974 and graduated in 1978.

He said it was not possible to be admitted to UI without five credits.
He said his own certificate he obtained from UI was signed by the university registrar and the Vice-Chancellor.

Meanwhile, Obaseki’s defence, Charity Aiguobarue said he was the one who made the photocopy of the governor’s credentials attached to Form EC9 submitted to INEC last year.

He said he did not forge or falsify the documents. He said the form EC9 did not contain false information.

He said the absence of the logo and signature of the registrar was cut off from the photocopy of Mr Obaseki’s UI certificate was “ostensibly because the size of the certificate was bigger than the A4 paper on which the photocopy was made”.

Mr Obaseki’s second witness was Abayomi Ajayi, the Deputy Registrar, Legal of the University of Ibadan.

He confirmed that Mr Obaseki was duly admitted into UI in 1976 to study Classics, later renamed Classical Studies in 1979.

He said Mr Obaseki was admitted as a direct entry in 1976.

He said Mr Obaseki met the admission requirements despite the absence of credit in the English Language in the governor’s result.

He said the governor duly graduated in 1979 and was duly awarded Bachelor’s of Arts in Classical Studies in 1979.

He said the incomplete signature of the VC on Mr Obaseki’s photocopy of the certificate and the absence of logo and the registrar’s signature from the photocopy was because the certificate was bigger than the size of the paper used for the photocopy.

Mr Obaseki’s third witness was Eghosa Osaghae, a professor of Comparative Politics from the University of Ibadan.

He confirmed that he was Mr Obaseki’s mate in secondary school. He also said he gained admission into UI along with the governor in 1976.

He confirmed that the governor duly graduated in 1979.

In his judgement, the presiding judge Ahmed Mohammed said “Allegation of forgery borders on crime which must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

“In the instant case, no iota of evidence talk-less of a proof beyond a reasonable doubt was brought to prove the allegation of forgery against the first defendant (Mr Obaseki)”.

“Having thoroughly analysed the evidence of this case, it is the conclusion of this court that plaintiff did not forge his O’Level Certificate, his HSC certificate, and particularly his University of Ibadan degree certificate.

“Accordingly the plaintiffs’ case is dismissed.”

It’s obvious that the APC is never going to allow Obaseki to have peace, and Obaseki, an alleged political neophyte has continued to fight his way through the cracks.

“This isn’t about right or wrong,” an APC Chieftain who prefered to remain anonymous told Standard Gazette on Saturday that the fight is not whether Edo people love the governor, it’s whether Obaseki lied and backed it up with an affidavit.

“Obaseki was lucky to have gotten that verdict. His case of perjury was not given justice by the Federal High Court. It is another judgement without justice,” he told Ehi Ekhator of Standard Gazette.

He added, “Obaseki sworn to an affidavit that he graduated in 1976 and in 2020, in another affidavit before INEC, he said he graduated 1979. Nigeria judiciary is on a crossroad and the world is looking at judiciary right now.

“He supplied the document to substantiate the 1976 document, and he swore to an affidavit, ignorance is not an excuse before the law.”

The Chieftain believed Obaseki had the time to run back to INEC and correct his mistakes but refused. He backed it up with necessary documents and then provided a different date in 2020.

Obviously, the argument is reasonable, Obaseki didn’t need the University of Ibadan to defend him, there is no argument whether Obaseki graduated or not, the argument remained the date he gained admission and graduated and where he got the documents to back them up in 2016.

The APC chieftain in his argument to Standard Gazette is that Obaseki perjured himself and should be made to answer for it.

So, the question continues, where does the battle end? Obaseki is concurrently fighting two court wars. One is at the Tribunal, and the other is to prove which of the documents is correct.

Tribunal judgement is likely to come in February and he is expected to go all the way to Supreme court in both cases.

“The battle does not remove the fact that Obaseki is substantially loved by Edo people including members of the APC.”, the APC Chieftain said.

However, he argued that “the cases against him are separate from the love by Edo people. It is about the appropriateness of fitness of Godwin Obaseki as it were before the election and, or during the election, whether pre-election or post-election dimension.”

On when the battle to unseat Obaseki end, the State Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mr Chris Nehikhare accused Adams Oshiomhole of using members of the APC to stay relevant even after the governorship election.

Mr Nehikhare said “You are asking the wrong question, the battle ended the day Obaseki was re-elected. He won 13 out of 18 local government area convincingly. What we have now are the opponents touching on straws, trying to give hope to their party members, making their party members remain with them and not to be abandoned.

The battle ended, Obaseki will remain, governor, till 2024 and other things are just political shenanigans. I know a lot of proxies are being used, it was not the APC candidate that went to court.

When asked if he thought Mr Oshiomhole was still responsible, the Secretary said “Of course, Adams Oshiomhole and the party leaders are desperate to have their claws on the state resources. They would try and do everything possible to achieve their aims. They want to sneak into the backdoor.”

On Monday, State Secretary of the APC Mr Chris Azebamwan disagrees with his colleague in the PDP, saying ‘nobody is fighting Obaseki’.

In his defence, Mr Azebamwan alleged that Obaseki’s court war is a “continuation of the legal action that was initiated by the PDP and Chief Dan Orbih in 2015/16”.

The APC spokesman argument is in the public domain. Before Obaseki jumped ship, PDP was at the forefront to make Obaseki squirt over his academic qualifications.

As politics isn’t a fair game, the same PDP is now responsible for the defence of the legal suit initiated by the party.

Mr Azebamwan told Standard Gazette that “At the time, the academic qualifications of Obaseki were called to question but the matter was not concluded on its merit because the hearing ran out of time. The Court lost its jurisdiction then.

“The All Progressives Congress, APC merely dusted the files and updated the relevant information with materials from the 2020 application that Obaseki made to be its flag bearer.

“The ongoing court case is in pursuit of truth, transparency and justice. It is not a fight against an individual as you erroneously inferred.”

The APC Spokesman defended Oshiomhole’s involvement in the lingering fight against Obaseki. He said “Adams Oshiomhole has joined the elite club of elder statesmen and cannot be embroiled in politics of acrimony against an individual. His values go far above such mundane considerations. PDP should direct its energies to more productive pursuits.”

The pre and post-election legal war against Obaseki will linger for a while. It isn’t clear yet whether the governor will overcome them all, however, most of his recent battle is self-inflicted.

Obaseki remains a formidable politician and his stand against godfatherism will continue to encourage hapless politicians across the nation, but the question remains, will Obaseki himself become a godfather?

How long will the fight to unseat the governor last, when does it end? and who is a better alternative if Obaseki wasn’t the governor today? His triumph at the federal high court is the first step, the governor still has a long way to go to defend his academic qualifications, while on the other hand, battles the Tribunal, both, if not controlled, may unseat him.

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