• Thursday, July 25, 2024
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Edo guber: PDP contending with internal foes


With the commencement of electioneering in the race for the next occupant of Dennis Osadebey Avenue, contenders are touring the books and crannies of Edo State.

In recent weeks, the three major political parties have set up their campaign teams and many people have now shifted attention to the governorship candidates to hear their agenda for the state ahead of the election slated for September 2024.

But within the three major political parties, the last few weeks have been full of intrigues and drama, with political actors aligning and realigning their forces in line with their interest.

Read also: INEC battles setback to ensure readiness for Edo off-cycle guber election

But peace appears elusive and seems not to have returned to the camp of the ruling party in the state, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), with the internal division within the party which started before the primary election deepening in recent weeks.

The Edo PDP crisis emanated from the disagreement between Governor Godwin Obaseki and his deputy, Philip Shaibu.

The cordial relationship between Governor Obaseki and Shaibu was damaged after the latter insisted on succeeding the governor.

Shaibu was eventually kicked out leading to the emergence of a former chairman of Sterling Bank, Asue Ighodalo as the party’s flag bearer.

The major point of disagreement was the zoning arrangement to ensure equity in the state. Why the incumbent Governor preferred a candidate from Edo Central, Shaibu hails from Edo North.

Shaibu has refused to give up on the battle even after he failed to secure the PDP ticket. He seeks a pound of flesh.

He, alongside his supporters, joined forces with the All Progressives Candidate (APC) and pledged to work with the APC’s candidate, Monday Okpebholo in the state to defeat the PDP’s candidate in the election.

Shaibu has also teamed up with party’s national vice chairman (South-South) Dan Orbih, past member of representing Oredo federal constituency, Omorgie Ogbeide-Ihama among others to pledge their support toward Okpebholo’s gubernatorial bid and even donating financially in that regard. They have also collapsed their structures into his campaign team.

Orbih has severally rejected overtures from the PDP to join the Ighodalo’s campaign team in the state.

The decision of the three notable politicians to join forces with the opposition has not gone down well with the PDP in the state, which moved swiftly recently to suspend them, citing anti-party activities.

The party said it suspended Shaibu, Ogbeide-Ihama and Orbih, and that they were no longer needed in Edo PDP.

The suspension of the three top politicians comes amid recent defection of some chieftains and members of Edo PDP to opposition parties. Last month, Felix Akhabue, one of the governorship aspirants on the PDP, and Frank Okiye, the former Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly, defected to the APC.

While Akhabue was a former Esan West local government chairman as well as a former Commissioner for Business, Wealth Creation and Cooperative during Governor Obaseki’s first tenure, Okiye was once deputy chief of staff in the office of the deputy governor during the Adams Oshiomhole administration.

Akhabue was one of the 10 aspirants on the platform of PDP for the September 21 governorship election who protested the outcome of the ward and local government congresses.

He was also the Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly in 2019 but impeached in 2020.

The duo joined several others who defected to APC at a political rally held in Ekpoma, the administrative headquarters of Esan West Local Government Area last month.

Okiye had hinged his decision to resign from the party on the alleged alienation of the majority of his constituents and supporters by the state government from the activities and programmes of the party and the government of the state.

Also, in April, a two-time senator representing Edo South, Matthew Uroghide and several other party members dumped the PDP and switched allegiance to the APC.

Although opinions are divided among party members and observers about the gale of defections and internal crisis in the Edo PDP, many people are surprised that the PDP has not been able to its his house in order since after the primary election.

Across the state, there are growing concerns and anxiety among party members over the likely implication for the party in the September poll.

Some political analysts are if the opinion that the internal crisis in Edo PDP may linger till the gubernatorial election if Governor Obaseki did not make serious efforts to resolve contentious issues.

They also said that the current divided house could have serious implications for the party’s chances, despite being the ruling party in the state.

Others blamed the inability of the Edo PDP to resolve its internal dispute on the fragile state of the party at the national level. They have also advised Obaseki to learn from the Osun State episode, where internal crisis led to the defeat of the APC and its candidate, Gboyega Oyetola by the PDP’s candidate, Ademola Adeleke.

“I think the governor is having an overbearing influence on the party; maybe, he is trying to have control, but you should understand where all this is coming from; it is to install his anointed successor and some people don’t want that, ” Political Analyst, Kunle Okunade said.

“At the other end there is the problem of Wike and his group, who would oppose anything Obaseki does; you know Orbih is Wike’s boy. So, it is the problem that we are seeing at the national level that is coming down to Edo. Who controls the party? I wonder who is going to settle, because the party is not even settled at the national level,” he further said.

Meanwhile, the ruling APC has seemingly become stronger following its ability to resolve its internal crisis caused by the outcome of the primaries which initially produced two candidates – Okpebholo and House of Representatives member, Dennis Idahosa.

The party later resolved the crisis by confirming Okpebholo as its authentic candidate and Adam Oshimhole’s anointed candidate, Idahosa as deputy governorship candidate.

Observers say that recent defections into the APC in recent weeks have made the party stronger and that since Ighodalo and Okpebholo are from the same Edo Central senatorial district, the governorship election winner could be determined by who can swing votes and has large support from other senatorial districts in the state.

“I think the election would be decided by who can get votes from other constituencies, particularly Edo South, which has over 60 percent of the votes. But Obaseki has not done badly; maybe, he is not getting the media attention he deserves.

“But don’t forget that the PDP is the ruling party in Edo, if the party can put its house in order, it has a bright chance of winning,” Femi Lawal, political analyst said.

Speaking to BusinessDay Sunday on the chances of the candidates, Sylvester Odion Akhaine, a political scientist, who was an aspirant for the APC ticket, said that both the PDP and APC candidates have the possibility of emerging victorious if they put their houses in order and do the right thing.

“Both the PDP and APC candidates have the possibility of emerging, but APC needs to do a lot of work to consolidate the work of our candidate.

“The way things are it is too early to say, it is too close to call; Okpebholo and Ighodalo would divide Isan votes, Olumide Akpata would probably have a block vote especially the Obidient members in Edo South,” he said.

Odion Akhaine lamented the lack of a clear-cut governance issues and the means to addressing them in the run up to the September 21 gubernatorial election in the state.

He alleged that the state had been led by a self-serving crop of leaders, who were partly imposed, and feeding fat on the commonwealth, while the governance output has been below average, to the detriment of wellbeing of Edo people.

“In the area of insecurity, Edo State is ravaged by insecurity that has undermined the once enterprising people’s effort at self-sufficiency in food production. Equally absent is the formula to tackle youth unemployment in the state.

“No one has articulated a clear roadmap to deal with these problems. Beyond campaign rhetoric, Edo realities are one of minimal governance and zero in some sectors. In comparative and relative terms, the state cannot rank as a leader in any notable sector of socioeconomic activities.

“Whoever wishes to govern the state must pre-occupy him/her with the issues outlined above and explain them clearly to our people, including how resources will be mobilised to solve the problems beyond the monthly allocation from the central pool.”

However, a legal practitioner, Kalu Agu has predicted landslide victory for PDP candidate.

Agu explained that disputes which arose from the PDP adhoc delegate congress are internal affairs of the party which are not justiciable under the laws of Nigeria and by the pronouncement of the Supreme Court.

He said from all indications, the people of Edo State have cast their lot with the PDP due to the overwhelming achievements of the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led PDP government.

The election expert stated that his position was a product of a careful and credible study as well as field analysis of the people of Edo State who have tasted what true governance and service delivery is under the current administration.

Agu said, “From all analyses, the people of Edo State are supporting PDP heavily. The PDP is doing very well in Edo State under Governor Obaseki especially because of the numerous developmental projects of the governor.

“All the PDP needs to do now is to come together and consolidate its support. Once they are united, the PDP will take the APC to the cleaners in the forthcoming election.

“Nobody wants to risk having the APC in Edo State. What is happening in Nigeria today under the leadership of the APC is a clear signal that Nigerians across the country have rejected APC.”