As the crisis that had been rocking the Edo State chapter of the All Progressives, APC, for several months now appears intractable, Edo State chairman of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Dan Osi Orbih is upbeat that the party which lost the state to the Action Congress of Nigeria, (now APC) in 2008 through the court, would not only soon claim majority in the state House of Assembly, but would also take back the state in the 2020 governorship election. Emerging Tuesday from a well-attended meeting of leaders of the party, the first this year held at his Benin City residence, Orbih told journalists that “we once again restated our resolve to ensure that we win back Edo State. We expressed our disappointment at what is going on in the state (a veiled reference to the APC crisis). Today, it is no longer a story of 24 over 24; they only have 10 members in the House and I believe that PDP will claim the 14 seats in the statehouse of assembly and that will put us in the majority in the state House of Assembly”. Orbih who steps down in March as the state chairman of the PDP after over 10 years in the saddle, said all leaders and members were satisfied that a very comprehensive plan to win back the state had been put in place.
Reacting to an allegation by some members of the party of a clandestine plot to impose Odion Ugbesia, a senator who represented Edo Central senatorial district in the National Assembly as state chairman of the party, the out-going chairman noted that like in every political party, people would have interests. He was however quick to assure that “we will conduct congresses that will throw up a good leadership for the PDP and all hands are on deck to ensure that at the end of the day we have an exco that we all will be proud of; a very good leadership that will continue from where I would stop in March 2020”. Orbih, the erstwhile vice-chairman of the PDP, emerged state chairman of the party in June 2009 following the death in a ghastly motor accident of the then state chairman, Samson Ekhabafe. Ekhabafe’s first son, a lawyer like him, and his police orderly also lost their lives in the auto crash. Ugbesia and one Fred Okah, an engineer, are the two front-runners jostling to take over from him.
Present at Tuesday’s marathon meeting of stakeholders of the party were four governorship aspirants namely Kenneth Imasuangbon, popularly called Rice man, Gideon Ikhine, Ifaluyi Isibor, and Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, a second-term member of the House of Representatives. An inside source at the meeting hinted the magazine that Edo PDP leader and former governor of the state, Lucky Nosakhare Igbinedion, had indicated his preference for a candidate from the Owan axis but was opposed by some leaders who argued that the outgoing Chairman is from the same senatorial zone.
But unlike Orbih, some members of the party have their fears that things might go awry for the party if a chairmanship candidate is imposed on it by the out-going chairman. Only on Monday, a group which identified itself as PDP Youths for Justice threatened to hold parallel congresses and primaries should the processes of the party’s congresses which start January 15 are biased. In a seeming preemptive move to checkmate the out-going chairman, the PDP youths said they raised the alarm because the party might lose its chances to win the Edo governorship election. Coordinator of the group, Musa Kadiri, accused Orbih of positioning Ugbesia to take over from him as the state party chairman. Kadiri called on the party leader, Lucky Nosakhare Igbinedion to intervene to ensure that the earlier agreement of no-zoning principle was maintained.
Kadiri feared that if Orbih was allowed to have his way to install Ugbesia, aspirants like Kenneth Imasuangbon, Gideon Ikhine who sacrificed a lot for the party, would be schemed out of the race. According to him, “we are saddened at the reports of happenings within the Edo State chapter of the People’s Democratic Party as the party prepares for its congresses from January 15, 2020. The crisis bedeviling the All Progressives Congress in Edo State, coupled with the poor performance of Governor Godwin Obaseki, has given the party a good chance to win the governorship election. But the manner the outgoing Chairman, Chief Dan Orbih is carrying on is putting the PDP at risk”.
However, in his reaction, Orbih disowned the group, stating that the Edo PDP had no support group with such a name. Chris Nehikhare who spoke for the out-going chairman described the group and Kadiri as faceless and unknown to the party. According to Nehikhare, “they are a faceless organisation being sponsored by enemies of the party. I can tell you that in the past three of four days, party chairmen from Edo North and Edo South have gone to pledge support for Ugbesia”.
Also commenting on the outcome of Tuesday’s meeting and his chances of picking the party’s ticket given the fact that the top echelon of the party may have zeroed in on a chairmanship hopeful from Edo Central senatorial district where he comes from, Gideon Ikhine a governorship aspirant, said while everybody has his aspiration and a dream, “what the party’s position is today with the galvanized leadership we have in the PDP is to work hard to win the governorship election in Edo State”, stressing that “being in a political party is good, but being in government is what is important. That is the essence of politics”. Ikhine, however, insisted that “if the leadership thinks that is what they want to do, it doesn’t stop my aspiration”. Admitting that there are a lot of good candidates in PDP that are aspiring to be governor, the governorship hopeful believed that “at the end of the day, the people of the party, the leadership, and the people of the state will determine who rules them. But I can assure you that by the grace of God come November I’ll be the man in charge in government house in Edo State”.
Ikhine ruled out the possibility of a crisis hitting the PDP, arguing that the party did not have any symptoms that can crystallize into any crisis. “As you can see, we just had a meeting now and everyone came out smiling and they are happy. PDP is a party of leadership and everybody in the party knows exactly what to do and I think we are doing the right thing trying to unite everybody even people who had been out of the party, into the party. Whatever differences we may have, we’ve learnt to resolve it on the inside, not in the public place”, Ikhine posited.
Speaking in the same vein, Ogbeide-Ihama who represents Oredo Federal constituency in the lower chamber of the National Assembly said the party does not envisage any political crisis in its forthcoming congresses, adding that should one arise, the party had an internal mechanism of handling it. In his words, “you know that PDP, over the years, has been one family. Even when there is a little misunderstanding, we always settle behind closed doors. I do not think anything will be different just now. And if there is crisis in other political parties, obviously not in PDP, and we do not anticipate any”.
Ogbeide-Ihama used the opportunity to debunk speculations that had become rife that he was dumping the PDP for the APC because the embattled governor of the state, Godwin Obaseki, was making moves to defect to the PDP. Ogbeide-Ihama said he had been a PDP member since 1998 and that he had no plan of leaving his party for any other political party for any reason. According to him, “I am not sure where you heard that from. I have been in PDP since 1998, I am sure you are aware? So I do not even know how any other political party looks like just now”.