With less than a year to the governorship election in Edo state, there has begun an interplay of political forces as the dominant political parties – All Progressives Congress and Peoples Democratic Party – commence a much needed house cleaning for self re-positioning ahead of the election.
The ruling party in the state, the APC, is no doubt a house in chaos. There is currently no love lost between Governor Godwin Obaseki and his predecessor and national chairman Adams Oshiomhole. The pretense to the political romance was exposed last week when the governor was attacked while visiting the residence of Oshiomhole in Iyamho, following the landmark convocation ceremony of the Edo State University.
Jolted to the reality of the incident, Governor Obaseki expressed shock over the state of affairs, stating that it is unfortunate that he can’t feel safe in the residence of the national chairman of his party. The governor perhaps couldn’t find a better context to the shocking incident, saying he certainly would not have been subjected to such an embarrassing attack had he visited the home of the PDP chairman.
For the APC, things may not just be falling apart, but on the verge of collapse. Just two days ago, the state chapter of the party passed a vote of no confidence on the national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, openly admitting to the depth of the crack within its ranks.
How the APC intends to resolve this agonising affliction remains to be seen, especially with the PDP waiting in the wings. However, it is not also a rosy tale in the opposition party. Two days ago, a certain assemblage, which calls itself “PDP Integrity Group’ announced the suspension of top elder-statesmen of the party. On the list were former Foreign Affairs Minister High Chief Tom Ikimi, former Chief of Staff to President Goodluck Jonathan, Mike Ogiadomhe, and former minister of works Mike Onolememen. Also in the list were media magnate and political strategist, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, Senator Yisa Braimoh, Senator Victor Oyofo and former leader of the House of Representatives, Tunde Akogun.
Incidentally, the list represents the indispensable brain-box of PDP, not just in Edo state but nationally. Ikimi, for instance, was the engine room of the Action Congress, which metamophorsed into the Action Congress of Nigeria that, against all odds, ensured the defeat of the ruling PDP in the 2007 governorship election and later secured court victory in 2008, a feat repeated in 2012. Remarkably, all of these were achieved without the control of the government at the centre and access to the forces of state power.
Tom Ikimi was also a frontline thinker and mobiliser that crystalised into the All Progressives Congress (APC), his magic wand distinctly instrumental to the APC ousting the ruling PDP at the centre, and several other states in 2015. Before leaving PDP to help found the Action Congress, Ikimi was pivotal to PDP and the re-election of Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003.
Following disagreements over the leadership of APC, he returned to PDP four years ago, a homecoming that was an invaluable asset to PDP political armoury. With such depth of political dexterity and experience, High Chief Ikimi along with other dogged PDP elders in the state hold the key to galvanising the party to political glory. But first, they have to deal with the threat within. The so-called ‘Edo PDP Integrity Group’ which is clearly a front for the uninspiring Chief Dan Orbih-led State Executive. For 12 years since he held-sway, Orbih has been unable to change the fortunes of the party in the state, failing in 2008, 2012 and 2016. If PDP is to be taken seriously, it cannot afford to approach the 2020 election with the same lackluster EXCO.
This is the dilemma confronting the opposition in Edo state. The internal wrangling has already begun as the EXCO whose tenure expired in September 2019 hangs on desperately. In order to prepare the stable and re-strategise, elder statesmen of the party held a leadership stakeholders meeting in Abuja in August 2019, with High Chief Ikimi as host. In attendance were former Governor Lucky Igbinedion, Senator Victor Oyofo, Senator Yisa Braimoh, Rt. Honourable Tunde Akogun, Raymond Dokpesi and former works minister Mike Onolememen. In the meeting were also two serving senators – Clifford Ordia and Matthew Urhoghide.
The resolutions of the meeting included fostering collective leadership and responsibilities in the party in Edo state; foster reconciliation among aggrieved members in the state and strengthening other organs of the party, as well as engage the state EXCO of the party with a view to returning it to winning ways.
These leadership meetings formed the basis for a joint meeting between the leadership stakeholders and the state chairman and state working committee hosted by Lucky Igbinedion in Benin City. The meeting resolved to send a delegation to the national chairman and NWC to mutually work out modalities for smooth and early congress.
Consequently, on October 23, 2019, a 17-member delegation of PDP from Edo state led by Lucky Igbinedion, High Chief Ikimi and Raymond Dokpesi met with the National Chairman Uche Secondus and members of the NWC to discuss a winning roadmap for 2020 governorship elections and the looming expiration of the tenure of the state chairman of the party and working committee.
Other members at the meeting were Dr. Mike Onolememen, Chief Mike Oghiadomhe, Senator Matthew Urhoghide and Senator Clifford Ordia. Others were Senator Victor Oyofo, Senator Yisa Braimoh, Tunde Akogun, Elder Austin Agbonmeirele and Oni Edigin, as well as the deputy national woman leader Hadiza Umoru.
Present also were members of the state EXCO, led by Deputy State Chairman Emmanuel Ogbomo, state PDP Youth Leader Thaddeus Irabor, state woman leader Tes Sorae and state secretary Felix Imoisili.
At the end of the meeting, the national chairman assured the delegation that no caretaker committee will be set up for Edo state PDP and that the NWC will communicate on the timelines for the congresses and ensure they are free and fair.
The elders of the party from Edo state have shown leadership in quick thinking and foresight, an initiative the national body of the party should support. It should also be quick to condemn internecine interest tending to be a clog in the wheels. It is gratifying to note the immediate condemnation of the Jarrett Tenebe group by leaders of the party in all the local government councils of the state. Their warning is most timely. Allowing agents of chaos with no political capital or capacity to deliver any fortune for the party, to insult the elders and critical stakeholders of the party is a joke taken too far.
However subtle it may seem, such internal provocations must be swiftly nipped in the bud. The party cannot be scoring own goals or continue in its pattern of self inflicted injuries. The national leadership of PDP must openly applaud the elders of the party in Edo state for noble steps taken to help provide direction and guidance for the party.
It is unconscionable and grossly immoral that some of the elders have been purportedly suspended to the exclusion of the collective, including the leader of the delegation Lucky Igbinedion, Senator Clifford ordia, Senator Matthew Urhoghide and the members of the state working committee listed earlier who were all present at the meeting with the national chairman and the national working committee. PDP national leadership must be seen to have learnt from its past or forever be condemned to its inevitable consequences.
With APC house on fire and tethering towards mplosion, PDP cannot afford to light itself up as well. This is not a time to play Russian roulette. The implications will be ruinous!
Ude is a political activist and strong member of the PDP in Edo state.