Alleged underground moves by prominent chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) within and outside Edo State to pave the way for the emergence of Governor Godwin Obaseki as the party’s flag-bearer in this year’s governorship election in the state have sparked a fresh crisis in the troubled party.
Though the Governor and his close aides have continued to deny any plan to dump the All Progressives Congress (APC), feelers from the two leading political parties in the state suggest that contacts continue to be made and talks held. The situation meanwhile is causing serious division in the PDP in the state.
Several stakeholders, including a serving governor in the South-south state and the chairman of the party in Edo State, Dan Orbih, among others, are reportedly poised for a showdown with the national leadership of the party following reports that the Uche Secondus-led National Working Committee (NWC) may have been convinced by the pro-Obaseki group within the party, to support his rumoured candidature on the platform of the PDP.
Reliable sources at the PDP said that some prominent chieftains of the party, including serving governors, senators, members of the Board of Trustees as well as former presidential aspirants, are working to ensure that the Edo state chapter of the party fields Obaseki, who is said to be considering switching to the PDP because of the lingering face-off between him and the national chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, before the primary elections of the two parties.
A source close to the PDP national secretariat confided in The Nation that the Edo State governor has demanded that for him to join the party, the PDP must commit itself to giving him the Edo guber candidate unopposed.
“He has made it clear that he will not be ready to face other PDP governorship aspirants at the primaries. That is what is delaying his open identification with the PDP as we speak,” the source said. “Those canvassing for his candidature within the party are also of the opinion that as a seating governor, he is an immense asset to the party and stands the best chance to win the seat for the PDP once again in Edo State.
“So, he wants the party to hand him the ticket automatically if need be. Many of our leaders are already part of this plot. We have no fewer than two of our serving governors, many national assembly members and a good number of our Board of Trustee members aligning with Obaseki already.”
According to party sources, those working for Obaseki in the PDP may have succeeded in selling his candidature beyond the shores of the state.
“Within the state, I can tell you that most of our leaders are just waiting for him to declare before throwing their weight behind him. The Igbinedion political family in the state, for one, is solidly behind him. So are many other leaders. Senator Daisy Danjuma and the Tony Anenih camp will also go with him. “Of course, you know that Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi, who is one of our most respected governors, is in support of his candidacy. I can also tell you that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa too will go with him. Most chieftains of the Atiku camp see him as the best chance to defeat APC in Edo. Many NWC members are ready to push for his candidacy and with so much support even before joining the party, I know he will get the ticket when he does,” our source said.
The Nation also gathered that some other PDP chieftains across the country are not disposed to Obaseki flying the party’s flag. A source said: “some frontline party leaders, including some governors, NWC members as well as BoT members, would prefer the party to field one of its committed members who have shown interest in the governorship ticket, other than dashing Obaseki the party’s platform to seek re-election.”
The Nation gathered that despite efforts by pro-Obaseki elements in Edo State, alleged to be led by a former governor of the state, to convince Orbih and his supporters across the state of the need to take advantage of the APC crisis and field Obaseki, the Edo PDP boss has refused to be lured into the plot to give the governor an automatic ticket upon his joining the party. According to close allies of the state party chairman, Orbih is of the opinion that Obaseki will return to the APC after winning re-election if he is given the PDP ticket.
“Forget all the negative things they are saying about Orbih. He is the one that is acting in the interest of the party. Some of our leaders especially those supporting the agitation for automatic ticket for Obaseki are selfish and unrealistic. We know how some of them hobnobbed with Oshiomhole for many years while he was governor but tactically returned to the PDP when they couldn’t get what they wanted from him. They are at it again.
“They are the ones going about recruiting people outside Edo State, including governors and NWC members to endorse Obaseki. But we can assure you that the real members of PDP in Edo State do not want Obaseki. They know their leaders and that would soon be clear at the end of the ongoing congresses. Let those who think they can sell Edo PDP go out there and get the people to vote for their candidates right from the wards,” he said. Orbih has left nobody in doubt that he is opposed to Obaseki picking the ticket of the PDP. Reliable party sources even claimed he is strongly in support of the emergence of a serving senator as the candidate of the party. He has become very critical of the Edo State governor, describing his administration as a colossal failure and vowing to ensure that he is not re-elected at the gubernatorial election.
Orbih, during the week, asked Secondus to call some top members of the party to order over their endorsement of Obaseki’s re-election bid. Orbih’s concern is the endorsement of Obaseki by a member of the BoT of the PDP, Senator Daisy Danjuma and Governor Umahi. He described their action as “open treachery, condemnable and smacks of indiscipline and ingratitude” and a threat to the party’s chance to recapture the state from crisis-ridden ruling APC, after almost 12 years in opposition.
“As you are aware, Edo State is holding its governorship election later in the year. Edo PDP has been in opposition in the state since 2008 and from the opinion polls we conducted, this year, 2020, represents our brightest chance of winning the state back. The party in government is engrossed in a fierce battle of supremacy between the governor, Governor Obaseki and its national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole.
“They have polarized their party beyond recognition. There is a gale of suspension going on in their party as the National Chairman, State chairman and even the Governor, Deputy Governor and the Secretary to the State Government have all been suspended by the rival factions in their party. Their party is therefore now immersed in court cases across the federation. Your Excellency, this background was necessary so that you understand the pains we are going through in Edo when we hear leaders, members of the board of trustees and even some Governors’ uncharitable endorsement of APC’s embattled Governor Godwin Obaseki. The most recent of this is Governor David Umahi’s open endorsement of Godwin Obaseki for re-election.
“This practice, you will agree with us, is condemnable and smacks of indiscipline and ingratitude. It defeats the spirit of camaraderie that is supposed to exist within a political party. It is a morale-damper and it’s unacceptable. Your excellency, please use your office to call these leaders to order so that this open treachery doesn’t become a norm in our great party,” he said.
The Nation gathered that the battle for and against Governor Obaseki remains the main crux of the matter as the PDP commenced its elective congresses yesterday. The congresses, meant to elect party officials from the ward level to the state level ahead of the 2020 governorship election, are seen by the contending parties as the first step towards achieving their respective aims. Violence marred the exercises as supporters of the two camps openly engaged themselves in free for all fights at many of the voting units across the state.
A source said: “The ultimate is the election of the state PDP chairman and his executives. I can tell you that those opposed to Obaseki’s candidacy have settled for Elder Odion Ugbesia as their chairmanship candidate while those working hard for Obaseki want to stop Ugbesia or any other person favoured by Orbih from emerging as state chairman. This is because they want to install a chairman that will hand the ticket over to Obaseki unopposed.
“That is why the congresses, right from the wards, are fierce and tough. Some people have drawn up lists across the state. They have some national officers working with them. They want to have their ways at all cost. They are using state resources made available to them clandestinely to deceive our members. But they will fail. The people know their leaders and they are resolved not to be deceived again.”
But another source within the party faulted alleged moves by Orbih “and his backers to force their preferred governorship candidate on the good people of Edo. According to the source who is a state executive committee member, the state chairman and his people are working for the candidacy of Senator Matthew Urhoghide, the member representing Edo south senatorial district at the national assembly.
“They may deceive some of the people, but they cannot deceive everybody. We know their plot. We know their ambitions. We know that they are working for Urhogide to emerge as governorship candidate so that he can pick their leaders as deputy and the rest. They are the selfish ones who want to put personal interest over and above party interest. We have told them why Obaseki is a good bargain. Many of our national leaders have tried to convince them. But they won’t listen because of personal greed. But the party is greater than all of us.
“You can see the riotous charade they have turned our congresses to because of their plans. PDP in Edo today is under siege by people who see the party as their property and will not listen to wise counsels. How can any serious politician reject a sitting governor from joining his party? They have been told that the PDP in Edo will follow the Benue example and take advantage of the crisis in APC to return to government house either they like it or not,” he said.