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Legal, moral implications of granting pardon to ex- convicts, serving prisoners

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By Chief Mike Ozekhome,

INTRODUCTION

Crimes are vices that should not be tolerated in any society. They are offences against the state and are punishable under the law. The essence of punishing people convicted of crimes is to serve the criminal just desert, make restitution to the victims and deter other people from engaging in criminal activities, amongst others.

Sometimes, the President and Governor of a state may decide to show the milk of human kindness to people already found guilty of crimes. This practice is, respectively, sanctioned by sections 175 and 212 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as altered. This practice is even Biblical. For example, Pontius Pilate wanted to grant pardon to Jesus Christ. But, when the mob protested, he released Barnabas instead of Jesus, and washed his hands off the baying at the blood of an innocent man already exonerated by him and King Herod, in preference of Barnabas who had been accused of treason and other heinous crimes (Mark 15:6). Pardon is an unusual show of kindness to people whom the State has already condemned for certain ignoble acts they committed.

Pardon is a loud statement. The meaning of the statement is determined by the context and circumstances of the act. For example, in a state where there is a high record of kidnapping and cyber fraud, showing mercy to people convicted of kidnapping and cyber fraud could be construed as State connivance, or an impetus for offenders to commit more of such crimes. Nigeria, for example, is rated the 149th out of 180 most corrupt countries in the world, and the second most corrupt country in West Africa, by Transparency International (TI), under its anti-Corruption Perception Index. Granting pardon to people convicted of corrupt practices, whether still serving or having served, may be construed as a tacit approval of such corrupt practices. This becomes more worrisome under a government which made fighting corruption one of its tripodal mantras.

MEANING OF PRESIDENTIAL PARDON

A pardon is an executive order granting clemency for a conviction. It may be granted “at any time” after the commission of the crime.

This right of pardon is granted to the Governor and the President, respectively, under sections 212(1) and 175(1) and (2) of the Constitution, and is legally available to all classes of convicts in Nigeria. It can be obtained by a convict who applies to a Governor or the President, as the case may be, for grant of the prerogative of mercy or pardon in his favour, either personally or through a Solicitor, or even through the prison authorities where he or she is incarcerated and is serving term of imprisonment.

For the purpose of exercising this power, section 153(1)(b) of the Constitution establishes the “Council of State,” which advises the President in the exercise of his prerogative of mercy. The council, as a government agency, is composed of high- heeled and distinguished Nigerians who are believed to be the have full complement of the country’s ethos.

Thus, although the President’s powers in this area are not subject to the strict approval of the Council of State, he cannot act unilaterally, whimsically, capriciously and arbitrarily. The usage of the word ‘shall’ in the phrase, “The President’s powers under paragraph (1) of this section shall be utilized by him after consultation with the Council of State”, demonstrates this. The exact legal force that the advice of the Council of State bears, i.e., whether it should be taken as limiting the President’s powers of pardon, or whether it is merely a courteous procedure to abide by, is a thorny issue amongst analysts. The President’s obligatory gazetting in the Official Public Notice of the Government of the Federation concludes the pardoning process. The President, including the Governor, by extant constitutional provisions, have no constraints or hurdles whatsoever on whom they can grant pardon to.

State pardon is therefore a discretionary power that must be utilized with utmost caution and must accord with the law. It must never be used as a tool of political patronage, nepotic purposes, monetary benefits, or for self-aggrandizement. It must be used in a fair and impartial manner, free of prejudices, bias and public disapproval. It must be strictly in accordance with the best interest of the nation, and the letter and spirit of the Constitution and the code of conduct applicable to all public officers in Nigeria.

THE LEGAL CONSEQUENCES OF THE GRANT OF A PRESIDENTIAL PARDON

The Legal effect of presidential pardon was expatiated upon in EX-PARTE GARLAND 71 U.S. 333 (1866) thus:

“The inquiry arises as to the effect of a pardon, and on this point the authorities concur. A pardon in the eye of the law, cleanses the offender and make him as innocent as if had never committed the offence”. Such a convict is like Naaman the leper who deeped himself in the River Jordan and became cleansed of his leprosy. In FALAE V OBASANJO (1999) 3 LLER 1(CA), the Court of Appeal held that a pardon relieves the person of all sins. Musdapher, JCA (as he then was) said:

“In my view, under Nigerian law there is no distinction between “pardon” and “a full pardon.” A pardon is an act of grace by the appropriate authority which mitigates or obliterates the punishment the law demands for the offence and restores the rights and the privileges on account of the offence. The effect of a pardon is to make the offender a new man, or novus homo, to acquit him of all corporal penalties and forfeitures annexed to the offence pardoned”.

In the same vein, the court in OKONGWU V STATE, (1986) 5 NWLR (Pt. 44) 721, held that a free pardon had the effect of erasing “all suffering, consequences, and punishments whatsoever that the said conviction may ensure, but not to wipe out the conviction itself” from the pardonee. Thus, even where the fines have been vacated, the conviction will forever remain on the record of the court. Thus, even if a person has been pardoned, he can still legally appeal his conviction.

This was why in OKONGWU V STATE (1986) 5 NWLR (Pt. 44) 721, it was held that a free pardon has the effect of blotting out “all suffering, consequences, and punishments whatsoever that the said conviction may ensure, but not to wipe out the conviction itself”.

The 1999 Constitution in sections 175 and 212, have made provisions for the grant of pardon, respite, or clemency to any person, either free, or subject to lawful conditions as may be determined by the President or the Governor, respectively. Such pardon could be for an indefinite or specified period. They could substitute a lesser form of punishment or remit the whole or any part of such punishment, or substitute a less severe form of punishment. While under section 175 (2), the President shall carry out such an exercise after consultation with the Council of State, the state Governor shall carry his out “after consultation with such advisory council of the State on prerogative of mercy as may be established by the law of the State”.

There is the more worrisome legal conundrum in the entire presidential pardon as it pertains to the two Governors. This is whether the president could have legally granted pardon to former Governors Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame of Plateau and Taraba States respectively, having regards to the fact that both men were convicted for offences allegedly committed between November 2000 and May 2007. The offences under which they were tried and convicted fall under State laws which took place after the promulgation of the1999 Constitution during which time they were Governors. Specifically, they were tried and convicted under sections 115,119 and 309 of the Penal Code Act, Cap 532, LFN, 1990, obviously an existing State law within the meaning, import and true purport of sections 315(1)(b) and 318 of the 1999 Constitution. This Act which became effective as a state law is applicable to the FCT and the Northern States. This Penal Code Act ,not being a federal legislation of the NASS, became an existing state law deemed duly enacted by the 19 Northern States by virtue of section 315(1)(b) of the 1999 Constitution. It becomes clear therefore that only the Governors of Plateau and Taraba States could have legally and rightly granted pardon to Dariye and Nyame,invoking section 212 of the Constitution; and not Mr President under section 175 of the Constitution.

The doctrine of separation of powers ably propounded in 1748 by Baron de Montesque and which is accorded constitutional imprimatur in sections 4,5 and 6 of the 1999 Constitution operate here. Should anyone challenge their pardon, an interesting constitutional issue would have been thrown up for constitutional pundits and legal analysts like yours sincerely. Let us now look at the moral implications.

THE MORAL IMPLICATIONS OF THE PRESIDENTIAL PARDON

The moral implications of granting pardon to people may send different messages and signals to different people. The messages could either be seen as genuine forgiveness, connivance, condonation, conspiracy, or impetus, etc.

There is this aphorism often credited to Benjamin Franklin, to the effect that “to err is human, to forgive is divine and to persist is devilish.” This saying is true. It is Biblical that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Jesus also admonished that if ‘we’ say that ‘we’ have no sin, ‘we’ make Him (Christ) a liar and the truth is not in us. In the case of a woman caught in the act of adultery brought to Jesus Christ for just determination, Christ demonstrated forgiveness by challenging the mob to first cast a stone at the woman if they had no sin. Shortly after the mob departed, Jesus forgave the woman and commanded her not to go back to her sinful lifestyle. Christ gave this woman who was about to be stoned to death a second chance to mend her ways.

Pardon is however an exercise that should be exercised sparingly after due consideration of the fuller implications and after full contrition and penance on the part of the offender. For example, during the military junta, some human rights activists were prosecuted unfairly and executed, some under retroactive laws. Such was the unforgettable grieving fate of the trio of Bartholomew Owoh (26), Lawal Akanni Ojulope (30) and Benard Ogedegbe (29), who were accused of drug peddling, but whose execution was sanctioned by Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) as military ruler. This, notwithstanding the intervention the heart-rending pleas by Playwrites Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe and J.P Clarke. Granting pardon to people should be viewed by the society as a recognition of a cause worth celebrating, not offensive and fouling the air.

This brings us to the case of Senators Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame, both former Governors, who had been convicted and imprisoned for stealing billions of naira from the coffers of their state treasuries and thus impoverished the very people they were elected to govern. These individuals were the Chief Executives of their states. They had sworn oaths of office and allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and vowed that they would govern their states with utmost good faith. However, they betrayed their people by stealing from them. They breached the trust reposed in them. None of them admitted their guilt or wrongdoings until the courts found them guilty, up to the Supreme Court. As a matter of fact, Joshua Dariye was a sitting Senator when the Supreme Court affirmed the 10 year jail term earlier passed on him. What then is the basis for granting pardon to these individuals in a country where corruption is the bane and struts around imperiously like a peacock?

I had noted severally since 2013 (after my release from a 3 week horrific ordeal in the hands of kidnappers), that we must kill corruption which had become the 37th richest and most potent state in Nigeria, before it kills us. By granting pardon to these treasury looters, Buhari is reviving, nurturing and watering corruption with State powers.

When former Bayelsa State Governor, Diepreiye Alamieyeigha (DSP) whom I had defended throughout his State-sanctioned ordeal was granted pardon by former president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, I wrote and justified it. I did so for the following reasons: DSP had fully served his term of imprisonment after his conviction. He had earlier been pardoned by late president Yar’Adua who later died before consummating the pardon, until Jonathan succeeded him under the “doctrine of necessity”. As noted by former Attorney General, Mohammed Bello Adoke, at page 62 in his 270 page book, titled ” The Burden of Service”, DSP had also shown contrition, remorse and repentance. He had also earlier been pardoned by Yar’Adua, though not gazetted before his death. DSP had also helped greatly in brokering the peace process that led to amnesty in the restive Niger Delta region that halted oil production. This in turn led to stability in the area and reduce pipeline vandalism, kidnapping of expatriates, and thus improved oil production which had plummeted to a state of nadir, leading to national ruckus and impoverishment. He had evidently demonstrated that he believed in one stable Nigeria.

Perhaps more significant is the fact that Alamieyeigha was gravely ill with life-threatening ailment, from which he later died barely 2 years after the pardon was granted him.DSP had thus earned the state pardon after the Council of State recommended approved it. The same cannot be said of these two Governors who were still serving their jail terms.

Thus, the act of granting amnesty or pardon though discretionary, this discretion must be exercised judiciously and in the best interest of the country, so as not to create doubts in and dampen the confidence of, the citizenry in the national moral fabric, and in the fight against corruption.

So, when the Council of State recently authorized the pardon of 159 convicts, including Senator Joshua Dariye of Plateau State and ex-Governor Jolly Nyame of Taraba State, who were both imprisoned for stealing N1.16 billion and N1.6 billion respectively, many Nigerians justifiably showed anger, because these two political leaders had been duly tried and convicted for stealing money belonging to their respective states. The courts in Nigeria were unanimous in their verdicts that they were corrupt and had corruptly enriched themselves while serving as governors of their respective states. They were still serving their sentences.

These men had betrayed the trust their people reposed in them by stealing money meant for the development of their respective states while serving as their chief executives.

Many Nigerians thus viewed the action of Mr president in granting them pardon as recommended by the Council of States, which is a body peopled mostly by friends and political benefactors or allies of the convicts, as an action taken in bad faith. This is more so that President Buhari had assumed office on the goodwill of the Nigerian people, largely fuelled by his avowed commitment to fight corruption in all its ramifications, to a standstill.

The purpose of criminal prosecution is to secure justice, not only for the accused, but also for the victims of crimes and the State; and to some extent get reparation and restitution for the victims, while deterring others from going the same route.

Where lies the justice for the impoverished people of Plateau and Taraba States who will now watch their tormentors stroll out with red carpet treatment?

The government budgets huge sums of money for the prosecution of such accused persons from the tax players’ sweat; and if after the rigorous period of trial and subsequent conviction, the guilty are simply let off the hook in such a brazen manner, the little remaining lean hope the citizens have in the system is further diminished.

I dare say that in these two instances, both the President and the Council of State goofed and abused their undoubted constitutional powers and privileges.

A constitutional issue as volatile as this could have been better managed if the minders of the president had told him the embarrassment this could cause the government in the estimation the comity of nations. And it is doing just that.

This brazen abuse of power will definitely ricochet and erode the confidence of our international partners in the fight against corruption. It will also dampen the morale of the agencies fighting corruption, such as EFCC, the Nigeria Police Force, and the ICPC, amongst others.

This singular ill-advised act of abuse of power will also definitely embolden political thieves and unrepentant pilferers of our national commonwealth. It shows that once you are a friend of the President or a member of his political party, or his acolyte and supporter, you can get away with any crime. In other words, in Nigeria, corruption surely pays!

With this action, the fight against corruption appears forlorn and a mirage. What is the essence of spending scarce resources in the name of fighting corruption if at the end of the day the convicts will be pardoned and stroll into their palatial homes in splendour in this ugly manner?

Granted that the constitution gives the President and the Governors the power of prerogative to pardon criminals in deserving circumstances, must it be done in the vulgar way and manner the instant case was handled?

In fairness to the president, not all the 159 convicts and ex-convicts granted presidential pardon are politicians. But, the most prominent of them are the two former Governors. That is what has led to the national rockus,bedlam and hoopla. This is because it could be argued ( and rightly too), that the main essence of the last meeting of the Council of State was to give imprimatur to, and grant pardon to the two political heavy weights, while making up the number with some insignificant lightweight ones, using garnished veneer and sleight of hand .

The president by so doing has certainly violated the provisions of the Constitution and his oaths of office and allegiance to defend the Constitution. This recent pardon, in my humble view, is the worst way to fight corruption. It will further water, nurture and elevate corruption to a fundamental objective and directive principle of State policy. It is so sad and counterproductive.

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Opinion

Disability is not a barrier

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Throughout history, individuals with disabilities have faced various challenges and prejudices in their daily lives. However, it is important to recognize that disability is not a barrier to success or personal fulfillment. With the right support and mindset, individuals with disabilities can achieve their goals and make significant contributions to society.

A prevalent misjudgment about disability is that it limits a person’s abilities and potential. In reality, many with disabilities have demonstrated excellence in myriad pursuits, including education, career, and personal relationships. For example, renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, despite being diagnosed with ALS at a young age, made groundbreaking contributions to the field of theoretical physics. His feats proved disability does not equate to incapacity.

Let’s get back to our clime, our own Hon. Arome Ibrahim made outstanding impacts as Disability Commission Chairman. His disabled condition did not impair his competent discharge of duties. He showed the world disability imposes no barriers and cannot equate to ineptness.

Moreover, societal attitudes toward disability considerably influence the opportunities available to the disabled. When society focuses on accommodating and empowering the disabled rather than dismissing them as inferior or helpless, it cultivates greater inclusion and accessibility. By promoting a culture of diversity and acceptance, we can create a more inclusive and supportive environment for all individuals, regardless of their abilities.

The resilience and resolve exhibited by many with disabilities also warrants recognition. Despite myriad obstacles, they frequently demonstrate extraordinary perseverance and valor in pursuing their ambitions and goals. Such tenacity serves as a powerful reminder that with the proper support and mindset, no limits exist regardless of one’s physical or cognitive constraints.

Disability should not be seen as an impediment to success or happiness. By challenging stereotypes, promoting inclusivity, and embracing diversity, we can empower individuals with disabilities to achieve their full potential and lead fulfilling lives. It is crucial for society to recognize and celebrate the unique abilities and contributions of individuals with disabilities, as their experiences and perspectives enrich our collective human experience. By fostering a more inclusive and supportive society, we can create a world where disability is truly not a barrier.

Courtesy: Kogi State Community Advocacy Group On Disability Inclusion

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Edo 2024: Can Tinubu bell the ‘cats’ in APC’s primary fiasco?

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Gov Hope Uzodinma
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By Ehichioya Ezomon

“Even among thieves there’s honour,”is the sentiment that “criminals have a code of conduct among themselves.” According to grammarist.com, “some aspects of this code of conduct may be to not steal from each other, or to not testify against a fellow criminal to the police.”
Is there such a “code of conduct” among politicians? It’s doubtful, as among politicians – like among dogs – the first to die becomes the meat for the rest of the pack. If there’s really honour among politicians, heads would’ve rolled since the evening of Saturday, February 17 over the botched governorship primary election of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State, to choose a candidate for the September 21 governorship poll.
It’s such a messy affair that President Bola Tinubu’s invited to step in. So, will Tinubu prove the doubting Thomas wrong – coupled with his preachment of equity, fairplay and rule of law – by summoning the political will and courage, cancel the charade of a primary election, and save the APC from a second defeat in four years in Edo State?
Perhaps, the President has shown some spine, as the APC’s National Working Committee (NWC) has declared the primaries “inconclusive” after meeting and briefing Tinubu about the chaotic outcome of the exercise, and “the President expressed concerns at the turn of events, and directed the NWC to ensure that the exercise was concluded,” as first reported by The Nation on February 21.
Hence their tails tucked in-between their legs, the Abdullahi Ganduje-led NWC, after an emergency meeting on February 20, scheduled the completion of the primaries for Thursday, February 22, going by a statement by the national publicity secretary of the APC, Mr Felix Morka, fielding questions from reporters after the NWC meeting.
Morka said: “At its emergency meeting held today, Tuesday, February 20, 2024, to consider the report on the Edo State Governorship Primary Election, the National Working Committee (NWC) deliberated on the report and resolved that the Edo State Governorship Primary Election has not been completed, and has now fixed Thursday, February 22, 2024, for the completion of the Primary Election Process.”
Dr Ganduje and his team didn’t have to await Tinubu’s directive on what to do to rectify the controversial primaries. In a best case scenario, the APC leadership would’ve acted swiftly, called for calm, and given the assurance to members, particularly in Edo State, that it’d look into the primary misadventure through the primary election appeals committee instituted ahead of the exercise by the NWC. 
And in a worst case scenario, the party would’ve dismissed the conflicting declarations made – with four aspirants laying claim to winning the primaries – dissolved the Governor Hope Uzodimma-led primary election committee, and fixed a new date for a re-run or fresh primary poll within days, to meet the February 24 deadline set by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
But what did Nigerians – particularly the shocked and distrust members of the APC in Edo State – see and hear from the leadership of the party? A congratulatory message in the night of February 17 from the national chairman, Ganduje, “to the winner of the primaries,” and solicitation for the “defeated aspirants” to “bury the hatchet” and work for party unity to win the Edo governorship.
As of Sunday, February 18, four aspirants claimed that they won the primaries – supervised by Governor Uzodimma, Cross River State Governor Bassey Otu, and five other members of the APC Edo Governorship Primary Election – to choose a candidate for the September 21 election. 
The primary election claimants include Hon. Dennis Idahosa, a member representing Ovia Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, who’s declared as the winner by the Uzodimma committee; and Senator Monday Okpebholo (APC, Edo Central), who’s declared the winner by the NWC-appointed state chief collation and returning officer, Dr Stanley Ugboajah.
The others are Hon. Anamero Dekeri, member representing Etsako Federal Constituency, pronounced the winner by local government returning officers; and Mr Clem Agba, former minister of state for Budget and National Planning, who claims that going by the turnout of voters, he won the majority of lawful votes of APC members, and has threatened legal action to affirm his “victory.”
Tension had enveloped the Edo political landscape when – on the eve of the primaries, two of the leading aspirants – former Secretary to the State Government and twice governorship candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, and former Deputy Governor Lucky Imasuen withdrew from the race, citing the APC leadership’s zoning of the governorship to Edo Central that’s been marginalised in the governance of the state since civilian democracy returned in Nigeria in 1999.
Amid reports that the primaries didn’t hold in virtually all 192 wards of the 18 local government areas of Edo State, results started flying on social media, and coming in droves from the local government collation agents and returning officers into the designated state collation centre in Benin City, capital city of Edo State.
But midway into the televised collation of the primary results, scores of armed political thugs invaded the centre – and in the presence of security operatives, and INEC officials – disrupted the proceedings, and beat up journalists, electoral officials and destroyed laptops and television cameras. 
Until that moment, it’s assumed that the primary election was one for all the aspirants. But the Uzodimma-headed committee, perhaps apprised in advance about the hoodlums’ attack, relocated to another venue, where it declared Hon. Idahosa as winner of the primaries, even as only eight of the 18 local government areas’ results had been collated.
Recall that stakeholders in Edo APC had protested Uzodimma’s appointment to head the primary election committee, alleging that he’d do a hatchet job for Senator and former Governor Adams Oshiomhole, who’d openly canvassed – even in a viral video on social media on the eve of the primaries – for Idahosa’s candidacy.
So, Uzodimma, willy-nilly, proved the Edo APC stakeholders right by taking advantage of the mileu caused by the political thugs at the collation centre to announce Idahosa as “winner” of the primaries, despite Senator Okpebholo leading in the results of eight councils declared before the thugs struck.
Still, amid the uproar that greeted Uzodimma’s declaration of Idahosa as the “duly nominated candidate,” Mr Ganduje, in a rather fait accompli statement by his chief press secretary, Mr Edwin Olofu, congratulated the “winner,” and called on the “defeated aspirants” to support him for the unity of the APC.
“I want to congratulate the winner of the Edo State governorship election, I want to equally commend and appreciate Governor Hope Uzodimma’s election committee for their hard work and the transparent manner in which the primary election was conducted,” Ganduje said.
“At this point, I want to call on all the aspirants to bury the hatchet and work for the interest of the party so that our party will emerge victorious (on September 21),” Ganduje added.
Was Ganduje’s congratulatory message to Hon. Idahosa hasty, as alleged by aggrieved  supporters of the “defeated aspirants,” or played into a script written by Comrade Oshiomhole to smoothen the primary path for his “anointed candidate,” Idahosa?
As seen in a trending video 24 hours to the election, as first reported by THISDAY, Oshiomhole claimed that President Tinubu had adopted Idahosa as the APC governorship candidate, a claim debunked by the deputy chairman of the Edo State APC gubernatorial primaries committee and Cross River Governor Otu.
Sen. Otu “categorically dismissed the rumour that President Tinubu has anointed a particular aspirant for the Edo APC gubernatorial primaries,” and “urged party faithful to disregard the lie and vote for their choice candidate.” 
“This perhaps fuelled counter-narrative on the eve of the primaries, that the Presidency had settled for an aspirant from Edo Central, to be anointed for equity, justice and fairplay, and that Senator Monday Okpebholo is the anointed candidate,” THISDAY reports.
.The same narrative of endorsement led to the withdrawal of Pastor Ize-Iyamu from the race, “with a directive to his supporters to cast their votes for Okpebholo,” and the subsequent withdrawal by former Mr Imasuen, citing the reported APC zoning of the governorship to Edo Central.
In the interim, the national publicity secretary of the APC, Mr Felix Morka, defended Uzodimma’s declaration, and dismissed the affirmation by the chief returning officer, saying the NWC had empowered Uzodimma to make the final return on the primaries. 
Morka said: “We wish to state categorically that only the Governor Hope Uzodinma-led Edo State APC Governorship Primary Election Committee is duly authorized to undertake final collation and announcement of results of the Primary Election in the state. We urge all party members, officials in the state, and the general public to disregard the said announcement of results by these unauthorized persons.”
But a letter signed by the APC National Organising Secretary, Sulaiman Mohammad Argungu, appointed Ugboajah as the State Chief Returning Officer, with 18 others as Local Government Area Returning Officers for each of the 18 local government areas of Edo State.
So, who had the authority, between Uzodimma and Ugboajah, to make pronouncement on the outcome of the primaries, as the two were on legitimate duty?
Nonetheless, the Edo chapter of the APC, via its publicity secretary, Prince Igbinigie, describing the conduct of Uzodimma as “most embarrassing, unfortunate and bizarre,” faulted the governor’s “usurpation” of the duties of the local government collation agents and the returning officers for the primaries.
Mr Igbinigie alleged that “upon learning that his preferred aspirant wasn’t winning, Uzodimma singlehandedly relocated the collation centre, and then unilaterally assumed the role of the state’s returning officers without recourse to inputs from the local government collation agents as well as the chief returning officer of the exercise.”
However, Igbinigie said after normalcy was restored at the “recognised collation centre,” with the local government area returning officers and representatives from INEC, the results were declared by Dr Ugboajah, “whose responsibility it is to carry out this function.” 
Reeling out the scores by 11 of the original 12 cleared aspirants for the primaries, with Sen. Okpebholo having 12,145 votes, and Hon. Idahosa getting 5,536 votes for the first and second positions, respectively, Igbinigie said: “Therefore, it is the desire of the state working committee to reiterate that Sen. Monday Okpebholo is the duly elected gubernatorial candidate of our great party for the September 2024 governorship election.” 
Meanwhile, one of the leading aspirants and court-removed former Governor Oserheimen Osunbor has appealed to President Tinubu to step in and arrest the primary crises allegedly instigated to divide the APC for the PDP to retain power in September. Prof. Osunbor asked Tinubu to:
(1) Cause an investigation to be instituted into the allegation that this sham of a primary election, and the crises it has generated, have been induced by gratification given and received by the principal actors to damage APC and pave the way for the emergence of the PDP candidate in the election.
(2) Order the cancellation of the primary election, which has produced two or four candidates, as it can’t stand the test of legal scrutiny but rather will jeopardize the chances of APC, as there’s been “a brazen disregard of the Party Guidelines, Party Constitution and the Electoral Act, which may prove fatal in the event of litigation.”
(3) Order another primary election to be conducted ahead of the 24th February deadline set by INEC. Different officers should be assigned to conduct the fresh primaries.
Declaring that, “I make this appeal as the most popular aspirant with name recognition and acceptability throughout the length and breadth of Edo State,” Osunbor, at a press conference on February 18 in Ekpoma, Esan West of Edo State, said registered members of the APC across the state came out to vote for their preferred candidate, but “to their disappointment, the election did not take place anywhere that I know of across the 18 local government areas of Edo State.”
“The party officials deployed from the Abuja office of the National Organising Secretary to conduct the elections at the various wards and local government areas of Edo State were kept in hotels in Benin,” Osunbor said, adding, “There is no record or video of any of them preforming their assigned roles in the election at their respective designated points.”
“What we saw on television was not result of election but allocation of votes by some persons in Benin to each of the aspirants. In the end, two candidates have been announced as winners, Sen. Monday Okpebholo and Hon. Denis Idahosa in a primary election that was never held or was not conducted in accordance with the law and guidelines. 
“This charade confirms the widespread suspicion that they are labouring to present a weak APC candidate that will be easily over-run and defeated by the presumed PDP candidate during the election. They are not working in the interest of APC but of PDP. We must avoid a repeat of the scenario which led to the defeat of APC in 2020.”
Also on February 18 in Abuja, after an emergency meeting, APC stakeholders rooting for Hon. Dekeri, called on Ganduje and President Tinubu to, “as a matter of honour, discard Governor Uzodimma’s infamous declaration of one Mr. Denis Idahosa, who didn’t win the primaries.” 
Spokesman of the forum, Mr Emmanuel Godwin, said Uzodimma wasn’t the chief returning officer for the election, and accused the primary committee of “usurping the duties and responsibilities of local government returning officers in the Edo State primaries.”
Godwin said: “It is unfortunate that Hope Uzodimma, who is not the returning officer in whatever capacity, assumed the position and went ahead to announce Dennis Idahosa when the returning officers were still collating the results.
“We wish to therefore state categorically that the purported announcement is null and void and it should be disregarded in its entirety. Governor Uzodimma lacks the power to usurp duties and responsibilities of local government returning officers in the Edo State primaries.”
In the lead-up to the February 17 primary election Ganduje, and Uzodimma presented themselves as democrats, who wanted things done as laid out in the rulebook of the party. On February 15, at the national headquarters of the APC in Abuja, the former governor of Kano State, inaugurated the APC Edo Governorship Primary Election and Appeals Committees for the direct primary poll.
Specifically on the appeals committee, Ganduje, who vows to reclaim Edo State from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to expand the coast of the ruling APC in Nigeria, said: “It is a tradition for us to always constitute a body that will undertake an assignment so that at the end of it, we get good results.
“I will like to inform you that the composition of the two committees is a product of the National Working Committee (NWC) in accordance with the constitution of our party. Whatever you do, the contestants are free to appeal. That is why we have an appeals committee, which is like the Supreme Court.”
From hindsight, the Ganduje message was a double-edged sword: Members of the primary election committee should conduct a credible and transparent election acceptable to the aspirants, their supporters, and members of the APC; and whatever the outcome of the poll, the aspirants shouldn’t rock the boat, but appeal for a possible remedy.
Responding, Uzodimma thanked Ganduje and the NWC for the confidence reposed in the members, promised to discharge their assignment with utmost diligence, and stressed that, “Our prayers is that we work hard to justify this confidence reposed in us,” as “our party is a fantastic brand, very popular, and a good product.”
“It behooves on members of our committee to work in harmony with the party’s local leadership in Edo, to bring up a product that will look like our party and is easily marketable in Edo,” Uzodimma said, and urged the APC leadership to pray to God Almighty “to give us the wherewithal to carry out our assignment.”
In the end, did Ganduje and Uzodimma carry out the duty of producing a sellable, marketable and acceptable candidate in accordance with the dictates of the constitution of the APC? No, they did the opposite, in connivance with the local potentate, Comrade Oshiomhole who, from the get go, had primed Hon. Idahosa as his “anointed candidate” for the governorship. 
Pre-the primary election, the APC NWC sent officials to the wards and local government areas of Edo State, to authentic the number of actual and financial members of the party – a finding that revealed that only about 42,000 members were qualified to participate in the primaries.
Surprisingly, announcing the results several hours before the completion of collation, Governor Uzodimma ascribed 40,453 votes cast by the verified 42,000 members to Hon. Idahosa alone. Other aspirants’ scores were: Anamero Dekeri, 2,030 votes; Monday Okpebholo, 100; Clem Agba, 100; Osagie Ize-Iyamu, 2; Gideon Ikhine, 700; David Imuse, 400; Charles Airhiavbere, 162; Oserheimen Osunbor, 180; Blessing Agbomhere, 50; Ernest Umakhihe, 2; and Lucky Imasuen, 2 votes.
“This is to certify that Dennis Idahosa, having scored the highest number of votes, is hereby declared winner of the primary election,” Uzodimma said.
In the results declared by Ugboajah, Sen. Okpebholo received 12,145 votes; Dennis Idahosa, 5,536; Afolabi Umakhihe, 2,090; Anamero Dekeri, 1,625; Charles Arhiavbere, 919; Gideon Ikhine, 902; Oserheimen Osunbor, 688; David Imuse, 507; Lucky Imasuen, 503; and Osagie Ize-Iyamu, 383 votes. Clem Agba’s name and score weren’t included.
“This is to certify that Monday Okpebholo has scored the highest votes, and declared winner of the APC governorship primary and thereby declared the candidate of the party,” Dr Ugboajah said.
And in the results announced on Saturday night by Mr Ojo Babatunde for the local government returning officers, Hon. Dekeri got 25,384 votes, while Idahosa received 14,127 votes. No votes were recorded for Okpebholo and nine other aspirants.
 
If any of the three results declared by the different authorities of the APC Primary Election Committee for Edo 2024 governorship election are considered, only Dr Ugboajah’s declaration merits giving any probative value, having followed the prescribed process of collation and declaration of results.
Besides, no matter their level of popularity and reach in Edo State, no single aspirant among the 10 that made it to the fiercely-contested primary, could secure even 15,000 votes, talkless of outlandish votes in excess of 40,000 from less than 42,000 members that voted. It’s daylight robbery to claim as such!
As the National Leader of the APC – an appellation he’d styled himself for eight years under the Muhammadu Buhari administration (2015-2023) – President Tinubu should show true leadership and cancel the bogus primary election in Edo State, and call for re-run or fresh primaries before the INEC deadline of February 24. Nothing else will assuage the electoral heist perpetrated on February 17! Edo people are watching and waiting, and may not forget their deliberate disenfranchishment on September 21!

Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria

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Edo Guber: A time for reflection, decision-making for the PDP

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Politics, much like the tides, is a constantly evolving force. What was hailed as the prevailing political thinking yesterday may be discarded today, replaced by a new set of circumstances and dynamics.

In Edo State, this phenomenon is currently shaping the political landscape, particularly in the selection of a gubernatorial candidate for the upcoming 2024 elections.

In recent months, within the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), there has been a general sentiment that the governorship should be allocated to Edo Central.

This argument had gained traction, with a degree of acceptance among party members. However, the political tides of Edo State have since rapidly shifted.

With the All Progressives Congress (APC) preparing for their gubernatorial primaries on Saturday, strong indications suggest that the party will nominate a candidate from Edo South. This strategic move takes into account the fact that Edo South is home to the majority of voters in the state. By fielding a candidate from the south, the APC hopes to garner massive support from the Edo South electorate, capitalizing on the principle of regional loyalty.
Politics is a majority game. Emotions and sentiments cannot guarantee victory.
Also the voting population in Edo is as follows ; Edo south.62% Edo central.13% while Edo north has 25%.

This poses a challenging predicament for the PDP. If they choose to adhere to their initial inclination and nominate a candidate from Edo Central, they risk losing the popular vote. Additionally, considering the federal might of the APC in the center, the PDP may face an uphill battle in a state that has traditionally leaned towards their party.

Consequently, the PDP finds itself at a crossroads. Should they mirror the APC’s strategy and select a candidate from Edo South, they stand a higher chance of securing electoral success by appealing to the region’s voters. However, this decision would deviate from their original plan and disrupt the delicate balance within the party.

As the political dynamics continue to shift, the PDP’s choice becomes crucial in determining their prospects in the 2024 elections in Edo State. They must weigh their commitment to Edo Central against the potential consequences of alienating voters from the south. Striking the right balance is imperative if they are to maintain a competitive edge against the APC and have a fighting chance at victory.

In this delicate balancing act, the PDP must consider various factors, including regional loyalty, the overall political climate, and the aspirations of their party members and stakeholders. The ultimate goal is to select a candidate who can unite the party, appeal to a broad spectrum of voters, and withstand the impending political storms that lie ahead.

As Edo State traverses this intricate web of political dynamics, it is essential for parties and candidates to recognize the importance of adaptability and responsiveness. The ability to adapt to evolving circumstances while staying true to their core principles will be crucial in gaining the trust and support of the electorates.

They must navigate the complex political currents in order to arrive at a candidate who can lead them to victory. The outcome of this delicate choice will determine not only the party’s fate but also the trajectory of governance in Edo State for years to come.

-Moses Ekunwe from iguben . writes from Benin city

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