Is this the end of era for two political titans in Edo?
...As crisis brews in Edo PDP
The news of the purported suspension last Thursday of Dan Orbih, the South-South national vice chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and close ally of Governor Nyesom Wike, came as a shock to politicians and residents of Edo State due to his influence in the political arena of the state.
Is this the end of era for another two big names in Edo politics? This and more questions were on the lips of observers who wondered how the plot was hatched and those who orchestrated the suspension. Suffice to say that he is the second most powerful politician in Edo State to be suspended after Adams Oshiomhole.
In the history of Edo politics, precisely post-military era, two prominent men of the PDP, namely Gabriel Igbinedion of Edo South senatorial district and the late Tony Anenih of Edo Central senatorial district ran the show in the decision-making process of electing political office holders in the state.
But with the appearance and subsequent domination of the political space by former governor Adams Oshiomhole, their political influence waned and the pendulum swung to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
While the APC-led government under the supervision of Oshiomhole and later Governor Godwin Obaseki took charge of the wheel for 12 years, the PDP became the main opposition party in the state with an outspoken and eloquent head in the person of Dan Orbih.
Interestingly, Oshiomhole and Orbih who are both from Edo North senatorial district have tasted power at their respective National party level and, no doubt contributed immensely to the victorious outcome that led to the emergence of Obaseki as governor of Edo State on two separate occasions.
Besides their similar stature and unique ability to persuade the electorate, both Oshiomhole, a former National Chairman of the APC, and Orbih, a former Edo State chairman of the party, have been faced with suspension.
Although there are issues surrounding the suspension of the latter, the temporary removal of the former by a member of his party in his ward was afterwards backed by the nation’s apex court and was ratified by the party. Sequel to the court’s verdict, he was removed as the National Chairman of the party.
Following the return of power to PDP in Edo State through Obaseki after more than a decade, the main opposition party seemingly lost its voice as one of their dogged fighters struggled to keep his position within the top ranks in APC.
It is worthy to note that the recent gale of suspension in the ruling party in the state started from the upper echelon of the party in the state. First, after a State Working Committee meeting in June 2021, the party resolved to suspend Tony Aziegbemi, the chairman of the party in the state, over alleged gross misconduct and for allegedly causing disunity among party members in the state.
“Amongst the allegations, Tony Aziegbemi was accused of gross misconduct by brewing unnecessary tension and disunity among party members in the state in a manner akin to bringing the party into disrepute.
“This decision hard as it is, is designed to bring sanity back to our party. It would be like ignoring the elephant in the room if we ignore this macabre dance as Edo people have watched in utter amazement and disappointment how Tony Aziegbemi has been roped and entangled by his actions and unfortunately too, his inactions in the management of the affairs of the party.
“We are a very disciplined party and pride ourselves as organised and focused on service delivery to our teeming supporters and of course Edo people. We urge our members and supporters to please remain calm as we embark on this self-cleansing exercise,” the party said in a statement issued by Chris Nehikhare, state press secretary of the party.
The party, thereafter, directed Harrison Omagbon, state deputy chairman to act in his place pending the determination of the allegations levelled against him.
Fortunately, a month later, the state working committee lifted the suspension after he was exonerated and acquitted by the investigative committee set up to probe him.
The recent alleged suspension came barely a week after the party met at an enlarged stakeholders’ meeting for harmonisation ahead of the party’s National convention slated to hold at the end of October 2021.
Speaking in Benin City after the meeting which had top party leaders in attendance excluding the now embattled national vice chairman of the party and some of his loyalists, Governor Obaseki said: “Naturally not all will be happy in a situation like this and we have tried to address some of the concerns of our people who feel unhappy as a result of certain things that may have happened.
“PDP is organising its convention at the end of October and this meeting is to prepare us for the convention. There were few housekeeping issues that we needed to discuss and clear, so it was important to get everybody across the divide to have a session like this, to get feedback and also take decisions on what to do and make progress in the state.”
The governor further said: “The key issue was that of harmonisation, seeing how to bring in all parties to the table to have an expanded party in the state. The commitment obtained from them is that within a week, those areas not cleared will be dealt with and they will come back to me with their resolution.”
The reported suspension of Orbih and his supporters may not be unconnected with the inner issues regarding political appointments in the state as there are perceived disagreements over the harmonisation of new members who defected alongside the governor.
Contrary to Saturday’s meeting arrangements, Hillary Otsu, Edo State PDP Secretary, claimed the list of invitees who attended the party stakeholders’ meeting was at variance with the former arrangement he had with Osarodion Ogie, Secretary to the State Government.
Otsu, in a statement signed on October 1, which was made public in Benin City, Sunday, said: “Some names were left out, despite belonging to the categories of invitees that were identified and their statuses and contributions to the party. Essentially, the final fist was not endorsed by me before it was circulated.”
Shockingly, the state party’s scribe who did not attend the meeting was also part of the list of political bigwigs in the state that were suspended on Thursday, last week.
The suspension of the duo was announced after the leaders of the People’s Democratic Party in Edo North Senatorial districts met in the zone in Auchi, the administrative headquarters of Etsako West Local Government Area of Edo State.
In addition, some PDP leaders/stakeholders from five local government areas in Edo North senatorial district suspended the five PDP chairmen in the region. The LGA include Akoko-Edo, Etsako Central, Etsako East, Owan East and Owan West as well as the Senatorial Leader of the district, Samuel Saiki.
Charles Erikhumhi, a leader of the party in the senatorial district, who read the suspension’s communiqué, said that Orbih and others were suspended for violating the party’s constitution and for participating in anti-party activities.
Erikhumhi noted that their suspension is to save the party from imminent collapse and instil discipline in its hierarchy.
“We also view with serious concerns all the moves by Dan Orbih, the senatorial chairman and the five party chairmen from Akoko-Edo, Etsako Central, Etsako East, Owan East and Owan West, to truncate all efforts being made by the governor to have a harmonised party structure across the state.
“For instance, an all-important stakeholders’ meeting called by the governor on Sunday, October 2, and Orbih boycotted the meeting including the senatorial chairmen and the five local government chairmen in Edo North.
“Orbih also went ahead to instigate other leaders/members of the party to boycott the same meeting.
“As leaders of the party in the zone, we view this as an act of gross misconduct and a violation of the party’s constitution and by extension, an act of anti-party activities.
“In view of the above, a vote of no confidence and suspension was passed on Chief Dan Orbih, the senatorial chairman and the five local government chairmen in Edo North,” the communiqué reads.
When contacted on the purported suspension, Orbih said he was in a National Executive Council (NEC) of the party in Abuja.
Chris Nehikhare, the state publicity secretary of the party, while reacting to the suspension, said it is null and void, adding that the “authors of the offensive press release or communiqué are trouble brewers sponsored by fifth columnists in what can only be described as a joke taken too far.
“Consequently, Nigerians, Edo people and especially PDP members and supporters are advised to ignore the post, press release or communiqué purporting that the National Vice Chairman, Chief Dan Osi Orbih and other elected officials of the party from Edo North Senatorial district have been suspended.
“Edo PDP is a peaceful, united and vibrant political party where dialogue is our watchword. We encourage political engagements and contestations which must be guided by the tenets of our constitution. We, however, frown at political indiscipline that brings disrepute to our brand.”
Also reacting, Edo north senatorial executive of the party urged Edo North people and citizens of the state in general to disregard the notice.
Babah Idenobemhe, senatorial secretary, Edo North Senatorial district, in a statement, said: “The senatorial chairman and executive have set up a disciplinary committee to deal decisively with the alleged signatories of the purported suspension notice, in line with the provisions of our party’s constitution.
“We are also aware that certain ‘big wigs’ in the party are behind these seditious acts. We shall not vitiate our rules of engagement (Constitution).”
Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, member representing Oredo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives and Oduwa Igbinosun, chairman, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Oredo Local Government Area (LGA) of Edo State were also suspended.
Ogbeide-Ihama, who was a major contender in the primary election during the run-up to the September 19 governorship election in Edo State, and Igbinosun were allegedly suspended from the party over alleged embezzlement and anti-party activities.
Omoregbe John from Oredo Ward 8, at an enlarged meeting at Oredo PDP secretariat, moved a motion for the suspension of Ogbiede-Ihama and Igbinosun for the alleged infractions.
The party leaders and members said the conduct of the suspended members was frustrating the growth of the PDP in Oredo LGA.
While residents are of the view that the “suspension” of big names is mere coincidence, it is pertinent to note that the numerous suspensions became pronounced during Obaseki’s reign in the seat of power in Edo State.