• Sunday, June 23, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Chieftains’ resignation leaves Edo PDP in quandary, shrinks contenders’ chances ahead guber poll

Chieftains’ resignation leaves Edo PDP in quandary, shrinks contenders’ chances ahead guber poll

Has the umbrella that sheltered Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State from the accumulated rainfall prior to the last governorship election been ripped open? Can it stand and fully cover those underneath in the coming days?

These questions may have come early despite being over a year away from the much-anticipated off-cycle governorship poll in Edo State scheduled to take place in September 2024. But, in a competition, when the base of one of the challengers is divided, the opponent will be in a dominating position to claim victory.

After 12 years of being on the sidelines in governance in Edo State, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may be in for another passive participation as they continue to grapple with internal crisis that has obviously led to the resignation of some key members of the party.
As the race for who will succeed Governor Godwin Obaseki hots up with the commencement of consultations and political alignments and realignments across the three senatorial districts, pundits are of the view that those who recently withdrew their membership from the umbrella party have their eyes gazed on the executive seat of Edo State. Hence, their decision to seek refuge elsewhere and find a favourable platform to propel their respective ambitions.

Among the top members that dumped the PDP are Matthew Urhoghide, two-time senator who represented Edo South senatorial district at the National Assembly. Also on the list of those who had said goodbye to the party include Gideon Ikhine, former governorship aspirant; Kenneth Imansuangbon (fondly called “Riceman) frontline PDP governorship aspirant in 2020; and Adaeze Emwanta, former commissioner for Communications and Orientation, Amen Ogbemudia-Uhunmwangbo, one of the daughters of the governor of the defunct Bendel State, the late Samuel Ogbemudia.

In his submission, Urhoghide, who lost his bid to contest for the third time in the Senate during the party’s primary election conducted last year in Edo State, cited internal bickering within the PDP at both the national level and in Edo State as reasons for his resignation from the party.

Urhoghide, who was the chairman, Senate public accounts committee, however, expressed gratitude to the party for giving him the platform to achieve the mission of serving as a two-term senator and positively impacting his district.

He said: “I write to formally inform you, the executive and the entire members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), that I am resigning my membership of the party, effective immediately.

“The difficult decision arose out of the negative political energy emanating at the moment from the irreconciliable differences and squabbles within the PDP at the national level and, especially, my dear state, Edo State. These squabbles have spiked to levels that have made it impossible for someone like me who is a confirmed democrat to function and grow as I envisioned in my political journey.

“This letter is also to the purpose of fulfilling promise I made to the leaders of the PDP that I will consult and inform formally when and if I decide to take the steps set out herein.”

Similarly, Ikhine, who withdrew from the race for Governor Godwin Obaseki in the run-up to the 2020 governorship election, said his resignation of membership from the party on Saturday, July 8, was for personal reasons.

Read also: Nigeria’s new infrastructure fund faces legal hurdles

In the letter addressed to his ward chairman, the former governorship aspirant, said: “It has been a great honour to contribute to the growth and success of this party over the years, with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) recording outstanding results from my ward all through the 24 years of working with you.

“My commitment to the people of Ward 7, Esan West Local Government and Edo people remains firm and resolute to keep serving them in other capacity. I would like to personally thank you for the privileges, opportunities and leadership I enjoyed over the 24 years of my stewardship with you. I trust you will convey my deep gratitude to the party’s leadership of ward 7 Esan West LGA, senatorial, state and national levels.”

Kenneth Imansuangbon, former Edo State governorship aspirant, receiving his membership card from Kelly Ogbaloi, chairman of Labour Party (LP) in Benin City.

For Kenneth Imansuangbon, a serial governorship aspirant, who recently left PDP and embraced Labour Party alongside two other defectors, said: “I have decided to go to the people’s party which is the Labour Party and the ‘Obidient’ family. Let the people decide, let the people lead, let the people show the way, let the people’s voice count.

“My message is that for 20 years, I have sought to serve Edo people. I started my sojourn under Grace Group to ACD to AC to ACN and then to Labour Party. But with all my good heart for the people, very few people refused to allow the will of the people to stand.

“Now, my eyes are opened, I have decided to take my case in 2024 to God Almighty and to Edo people. I do not want to put my case in the hands of godfathers anymore. I am tired of the oppression of godfathers, I am tired of the pain of godfathers, I am tired of the godfathers’ deception and trick, I want to take my faith and my destiny and put into God’s hands as well as the hands of the people of Edo State.

“With God and Edo people, my 2024 is sure. So, I am not bothered what the godfathers are planning, I am bothered about where they have failed us in the past. I am bothered about the resolution of the people. The people will be on my side, hence the people are on my side, God is on my side.

“We can no longer allow one man out of 5 million people to decide our fate. It is not going to happen in 2024. I pray that LP will get it right, and if they do get it right and give me the ticket, Obaseki and Oshiomhole should know that their game is up. When I say their game is up, I mean it is over.”

Since Peter Obi rode on the Labour Party’s vehicle to the 2023 presidential poll, the party has obviously become the newfound love of the masses and a selling point for most persons aspiring for various political positions.

Despite the belief by the political class that LP did not have structures, the party was able to extend its tentacles beyond the nation’s capital, gained widespread support and won several seats in Benin metropolis at the legislative houses, including one senatorial district, two constituencies in the House of Representatives and a seat in the State House of Assembly.

Sequel to the general election, Labour Party has in the past few months, gained grounds with almost every governorship hopeful in the state looking to associate with the party, apparently because of its growing popularity and masses’ appeal.

No wonder, Ogbaloi Kelly, Edo State chairman, Labour Party (LP), while responding to the rationale behind those joining and taking shelter in the party, said: “It is a general acceptance that the people have seen that the Labour Party is changing the narrative of all political activities in Nigeria. Labour Party is the only party you can think of right now because we have the capacity to win election, we have the goodwill of Nigerians in our mind.

“For instance, the prosperity of the mother, child and the father is a core requirement; a core ambition of Labour Party to achieve for the people of this country. So, the drift is not accidental, it is just that people are now beginning to learn and take the real direction,” Ogbaloi explained.

“There are indications some persons have expressed interest to join us because any person of goodwill to Nigeria will join Labour Party today. This will consequently swell the ranks of the Labour Party. What this means is that the PDP and APC are sure to go into extinction in a moment. This is exactly what it will be.

“The Labour Party is a political party like any other, so, it is open to everyone. I think the reason why they are leaving their party and coming to us is because those parties, not the individuals, have not been able to deliver on their promises to the people of the country.

“So, however, when they come in, they will be settled with the operations of Labour Party such as the norms, dos and don’ts. So, whoever is able to accommodate our regulations and rules, we will take him. But I do not think anyone is coming with a selfish ambition to drive on the platform of Labour Party,” he added.

Considering the debate on which senatorial districts should produce a governorship candidate, the chairman said “zoning is not a policy in Labour Party. Even if that is going to be considered, we will look at the formation around it. But, at the moment, we are looking at people who can win election. As of now, our focus is not on zoning, but we are checking who can win election for us.”

Today, people are resigning from PDP. Even key members who held the fort are no longer showing interest in the party’s affairs in Edo State. With resignation of members from the party, will the umbrella party withstand opposition party in the forthcoming governorship election?

Speaking with BusinessDay on the state of affairs within the party, Hillary Otsu, Secretary, Edo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said: “I spoke with several of these members who are leaving the party, and the story is the same. Nobody feels any sense of belonging anymore. We cannot withstand opposition next year if we remain like this. The last Presidential election results clearly show this. So, you can see that as the PDP is stagnating, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Labour Party (LP) are gaining momentum.

“Of course, it is difficult for a divided house to stand. Many watchers have been expecting the governor to convene a meeting of a few political leaders to look into the issue of reconciliation. It must be noted that no serious effort has been made in this regard, and like I always say to the so-called mediators, the governor holds the key. He is empowered to summon any and everyone as he chooses.

“But he says he does not want to meet with leaders of the party. No political structure exists without leadership cadres. Issues flow from the top to the bottom and not the reverse. The governor has chosen the reverse and see what we have today.

“PDP has been unshakeable in Edo State since 1999. What you see today is not just a falling apart but a failing attempt to emasculate the political class in Edo State through a scripted conspiracy by political masqueraders. Their intent was to systematically eliminate the legacy members and structure of the party, and hand it to gangs of insensitive political jobbers.

“It all began when His Excellency, Governor Obaseki was disqualified and pushed out of the party that brought him to prominence, the All Progressives Congress (APC). To quickly arrest the fallout of his disqualification, he sought refuge in the PDP. Immediately, these political jobbers, both in the PDP and APC, swung into action. They encouraged him to join the PDP. What he didn’t realise is that these people sold him a dummy as they neither had the party structure nor followership structure to sell.

Sharing his opinion on efforts to address the perceived dispute within the party, Otsu said “At several interactions with the governor, he never ceased to express his desire for dissolution, to which we always responded with emphatic negative reactions. There is a memo where I stated a few options for a mutually beneficial working relationship between the State government and the party structure.

“I also emphasized the fact that a number of State Working Committee members were personally willing to take up cabinet positions and relinquish their party offices, so that he could fill their positions with his choices. As his first year came to an end, the rapproachment which we tried to bring about continued to evade us. By the start of 2022, I am sure you realised that the centre9 certainly couldn’t hold,” Otsu said.

He, however, stated that PDP isn’t going into extinction irrespective of what has transpired in the state, pointing out that the party’s structures from Ward to State are intact.

“A few people may have succumbed to pressures and jumped ship, but 90 percent of the structure is intact, and the State Working Committee is intact despite the isolation and marginalisation by the state government. The state deputy chairman is strongly committed to the preservation of the State Working Committee (SWC), as well as most members. All this is because we are faithful and believe in the leadership and the sanctity of our party’s constitution.

“Owing to the refusal of the governor to reach a compromise and incorporate the legacy PDP members into his government structure, most of those resigning do not believe they can exist in a party where the government is totally disconnected from the party, and does not consider party members when opportunities arise.