The ghost of the June 18, 2016 governorship primary election of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Edo State has refused to go away with the Appeal Committee hinting that the election may be annulled if allegations of irregularities and possible manipulation of the process are found to be true.
Two aggrieved aspirants – Kenneth ‘The Rice Man’ Imasuagbon and former Minister of State for Works, Chris Ogiemwonyi – had appealed the conduct of the primary which returned Godwin Obaseki, chairman of the Edo Government’s Economic Management Team as the winner, alleging some irregularities and manipulation of the electoral process by the Governor Aminu Masari-led primary election committee in favour of Obaseki.
The duo, who addressed a joint press conference in Benin City, the Edo capital last week, specifically claimed that ballot papers used by the delegates for the election was manipulated.
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Speaking weekend in Abuja on the weighty allegations made by Messrs. Imasuagbon and Ogiemwonyi, Chairman of the Appeal Committee, Opeyemi Bamidele, said manual inspection and forensic analysis of the ballot papers used for the election would be carried out to give room for justice.
He noted that the integrity Edo APC governorship primary was at stake because of the weighty and sensitive issues raised by the two petitioners, adding that the party leadership had agreed to extend the date for the submission of its report, which ought to have been submitted on Friday, to this coming week.
Mr. Bamidele, who was the Labour Party candidate in the 2014 governorship election in Ekiti State, said the Masari led-Election Committee would hand over the ballot papers for manual inspection and forensic analysis in the presence of the petitioners and newsmen.
The former House of Representatives member stressed that the party must do a thorough job to serve as a good reference point for the forthcoming primary election in Ondo state and the subsequent ones.
“I want to assure all of you that cancelling the primary election is not something we will blink an eye if it becomes so necessary based on our findings hinged on expertise that has been placed at the disposal of our committee. We are inviting those who are experts in forensic analysis to also look into some of these issues because it is either it is not true or it is true.
“If it is true that the integrity of the ballot papers has been compromised, then definitely, there is no way the result of such primary election can stand. I don’t think it is an issue we will lose any sleep on”, he said.
However, Bamidele said the appeal committee will only act on compelling evidence after inspection and analysis of the ballot papers.
According to him, “If we are going to say that this must be done, we have to know on what basis we are saying that. If we are going to say no, the integrity is not compromised, we must also know on what basis we are saying that. We just need to be scientific which ever conclusion we draw”.
The former lawmaker recalled that Edo Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, led the APC team that conducted the governorship primary election in Bayelsa State and when he was not personally convinced on the outcome, he put down his foot down until another round of primaries was conducted in Bayelsa.
“So, he himself set a precedent in that respect. It is not about individual. It is about the integrity of the party and that of the electoral process”, Mr. Bamidele added.