• Thursday, July 25, 2024
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Edo PDP: Is Obaseki’s victory an albatross?

Edo PDP: Is Obaseki’s victory an albatross?

Expectations are always rife when new sheriffs, who are perceived to be leading lights in their respective organisations, come to town. They exude confidence and superintend their assigned task while their acolytes cheer them on to accomplish the desired results.

It was a gathering of all sorts amid fanfare at the Edo State secretariat of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) situated in Benin City as party faithful, bystanders, including youths, women and men jubilated to welcome Governor Godwin Obaseki into the fold of the umbrella party.

The June 19, 2020 event, where Obaseki confidently stepped out of his car, lifted his fingers alongside his associates to indicate that he was set to be in the saddle for another four years; and parted ways with the All Progressives Congress (APC) by picking the PDP membership card, will remain indelible in the minds of supporters.

His name kept resounding, and with every step he made from his car to the hall, where he became officially affiliated with PDP, he received rousing cheers from a crowd of Edo residents, who kept on chanting “Torgba 4+4” (meaning it will complete), a Benin catchphrase to encapsulate their beliefs and motivate them to surmount any challenge that may truncate Obaseki’s re-election bid.

After the warm reception, Obaseki – whose eyes were gazed on another four-year tenure to consolidate on his first term achievements – said he decided to break ties with APC to join the main opposition party in the state due to his resolve to continue the battle to protect the resources of Edo people and sustain good governance in the state.

Some months after he took a ride for another four years to the Dennis Osadebey avenue, the Edo State seat of power, with the aid of PDP, that obviously salvaged his political career which was in jeopardy in 2020, some members are now tongue-tied as they grudgingly embrace the new trend within the party.

Prior to 2020, members of the PDP had been at the sidelines in terms of governance, biding their time till they got a redeemer who brought a refreshing change and vigour to the state chapter of the party and, to a great extent, the national level.

Going down memory lane, the governor, who was received by Tony Aziegbemi, the state chairman of the PDP, party chieftains, senators, including Matthew Urhoghide, Clifford Ordia, and the entire state executive committee, said the PDP has demonstrated and shown that it was a party rooted in democratic practices, a party that believes in justice and fairness, adding that he would provide leadership that would lead the party to victory.

“Members of the state executive committee of the PDP, teeming supporters and members of PDP, I am here this afternoon to inform you that, upon my resignation from the All Progressives Congress; I have now decided, having consulted very wisely within the state and across the country, to become a member of PDP,” he had said.

“Today, I am here to go through the formality of registering as a member of this great party. I understand fully well the implications of this decision. I know that upon taking up membership of this party, I automatically become the leader of this party; that is the constitution; I read it thoroughly last night,” he also said.

Assuring the party members, he said: “I am prepared to provide leadership that will not only put PDP in office in Edo State but I will ensure that the level of progress, level of participation in the political system by our people is unrivalled.

“I am very happy to be here, the reception I have received since I got in here has been ecstatic. The energy I see in this party is the kind of energy I require to take Edo to the level we should go to next. So, today, it is with great pleasure I have come to formally take membership of this party.

“If you think we have done anything in the last four years, you have not seen anything yet because with the quality of people I am seeing here, by the grace of God, I am committing to you that I will not only lead this party to victory in Edo State, I will also make sure that this party establishes an example of how things will be run in Africa.”

Following his defection and the subsequent appointment of Nyesom Wike, Rivers State governor, to steer the campaign council of the September 19, 2020 governorship poll as well as the decision to make Dan Orbih the chairman of Edo State Campaign Council, the party – that had been playing opposition politics in the state – became optimistic of victory because of the duos’ oratorical prowess in the political arena.

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Amazingly, in the wake of navigating through the tough terrain across the 192 wards in the state and the ensuing victorious election outcome, the governor attested to the campaign’s council dedication to duty, which he said accounted for the election victory and described them as “miracle workers”.

“You are all miracle workers as far this election is concerned. If you sit back and reflect on our journey so far, the time, resources and the victory that was finally achieved, you will agree with me that all those who contributed to the achievement are all miracle workers.

“I joined the PDP less than 100 days ago, put together this team and everyone went to work and got the result because we were all committed to our job. We moved round the 192 wards across the state and I am not surprised at the result we have achieved,” he stated after dissolving the campaign council.

The relationship between the governor and Orbih was going smoothly and devoid of any friction until the pair became involved in a battle of wits over internal party affairs, including the purported sharing of appointments and electing of delegates to participate in the national convention of the party.

Despite efforts to ensure there is a meeting of the minds between the two, the fight, which has lasted for more than a year with neither of them ready to sheathe their sword, has eventually divided the state chapter of the party into factions, the Obaseki-led faction and the Orbih-led group.

This bickering crept in, sown a seed of discord within the PDP family and apparently caused the emergence of the various candidates across the 24 legislative seats, nine constituencies of the House of Representatives and three senatorial districts at two different primary elections held in the state in May, 2022.

Ahead the forthcoming general election, the Obaseki-led faction of candidates vying for the various legislative positions in Edo State last Wednesday received their certificates of return.

Presenting the certificates of return to the candidates at the party’s secretariat in Benin City, Tony Aziegbemi, Edo state chairman of the party, said those who received the certificates were contenders that emerged from the various panels that were sent to Edo State.

“You will recall that the National Working Committee (NWC) set up various panels to come and conduct primaries for the House of Assembly, House of Representatives and to the Senate seats in Edo State.

“When the certificates of return were ready in Abuja, I was called to come and pick them up and, today, we have to hand them over, on behalf of the national chairman, the certificates of return to our candidates for the various elections coming up next year.

“What has happened today was the presentation of the certificates of return to all the elected candidates of the PDP to the various elective positions in the state. What that means is that these are the candidates of the party in Edo State,” Aziegbemi said.

Although seemingly unperturbed with the latest developments of the issuance of certificates, Hillary Otsu, state secretary of the party, told BusinessDay that the issue surrounding the emergence of candidates in Edo State for the general election was still at the Supreme Court and that “until that matter is decided, such acts are like empty vessels.”

He further said: “Considering the situation we have found ourselves in Edo PDP, you cannot ascribe candidacy to anybody by way of certificate of return. Only the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) can do that when a form is finally issued to a legitimate candidate who emerged from party primaries and authenticated by INEC.

“Anyone can print certificates of return and issue to me. Does that make me a candidate before INEC? Otsu queried, adding that “this matter is before the court. So, even if the certificates are genuine, it doesn’t change the fact that the matter is before the Supreme Court and a ruling will be given in the coming days. As lawyers would say, the matter is subjudice, so I won’t say more,” he added.

Dickson Imasogie, senatorial leader, Edo South senatorial district of PDP, while commenting on the internal squabbles, stressed that “The only way to know that someone is favouring a group is through recognition or benefit, but, at the moment, that is in the negative and I prefer not to comment further.”

According to the PDP chieftain, “during the formative stage of the party, I led the state contingents to Abuja to register this party, and I have never moved one inch from PDP to another since 1998. I have sacrificed a lot for the growth of our party.”

Reminiscing, he said: “Most of the legacy group, the group made up of members that were in the party before Obaseki joined, never wanted the governor before his primary election. We prevailed on Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, member representing Oredo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, to step down. Fortunately, it was that same evening that Governor Nyesom Wike sent for him that the whole governors wanted to see the two major governorship aspirants and they agreed that Obaseki should run.”

However, Angela Ojezua, one of the leaders of the party, in an interview with BusinessDay Sunday, said “Our expectations at the end of the move to PDP was that there was going to be an evolvement of the most formidable political machine that this state has ever experienced since it was created. And I think this was realised with the election of Obaseki.

“Unfortunately, the selfish commitment of some of those we met prior to Obaseki’s entering into the party would not allow them to come to terms with the realities of such a development.”

Ojezua added, “In my opinion, there is nothing to worry about. I noticed that the party has now spoken in accordance with the judicial pronouncement of the court. They have issued certificates to the successful candidates of the party. I believe that the next thing is to promote reconciliation such that we can resume what we started, achieve the desired results and if we continue with that alliance, then we are expecting nothing short of 100 percent results in next year’s general election”.

Some observers and loyal supporters seem to be watching as things unfold, but the question they are yet to find an answer to is, how the party, given its present health in the state, would organise itself well enough to face the battle in 2023.