By Ozioruva Aliu
BENIN CITY – THIS is not the best of times for the Edo State Peoples Democratic, PDP, as the party prepares for the governorship election that it expects to end the controversial first term of Governor Godwin Obaseki.
Observers expected that with the crisis in the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, that has pitted Obaseki against his predecessor and National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the PDP would capitalize on that to snatch the state from the APC.
The party’s efforts in this regard are debatable. It has lost to the APC one of its pillars, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who was its candidate four years ago.
The party has tried to move on with its planned congresses scheduled to begin from the ward later this month. The congress would bring to an end the era of Chief Dan Orbih as state chairman of the party who has been there for almost 12 years.
There are tunes of protest already coming out of the party as regards zoning arrangement of party positions and ultimately the governorship candidate.
In an attempt to present a formidable front ahead of the governorship election, leader of the party and former governor of the state, Lucky Igbinedion, late last year convened a leadership caucus meeting at his residence in Benin City where it was agreed that all the positions particularly the state chairmanship should be thrown open. They also agreed that the ticket of the party for the governorship election should also enjoy the generosity status the chairmanship position has got.
Although, the position seemed to have enjoyed the acceptance of many members, there have been plots to see that some interests are served to ensure the party zones its governorship ticket to Edo South Senatorial District with the permutation that the ruling APC would bring its candidate from the area which controls more than half of the voting population in the state.
Zoning of positions
One of the strategies being deployed for this plot is to ensure that state chairmanship of the party comes from Edo Central Senatorial which even though is the smallest senatorial district, has remained the strongest hold of the PDP because of the influence of late Chief Tony Anenih.
As of today, two prominent persons from the area have indicated interest to contest the governorship ticket of the party. They are Barr ken Imansuagbon popularly called Rice Man and Mr Gideon Ikhine.
Zoning plots, counter-plots
In Edo South, the member representing Oredo Federal Constituency is eyeing the ticket too. Senator Matthew Uroghide even though it was gathered is being pressured in some quarters to contest seemed to be less interested.
The outgoing chairman, Orbih, it was gathered, wants his successor to come from Edo Central and if he has his way, it will automatically close the door to any of the aspirants from Edo Central getting the governorship ticket.
Apparently aware of this, the leaders of the party in Edo Central have been rallying round themselves to foil this plot and are already agitating that the PDP zones the governorship ticket to them. They insist they have been the flagship of the party in the state since 1999 and therefore should be given right of first refusal.
Some of the leaders met few days ago at Uromi with a demand for the post of the governor of Edo State in the coming primary of the party.
Notable leaders at the meeting included Hilary Ekhoye, Richard Okosun, Hon John Yakubu, Broderick Itua, Gideon Ikhine and Mrs. Julie Okosun among others. They said the agenda of the Esan people in Edo state is to become the next governor of PDP for the state because the post has eluded them for the past 22 years.
Ekhoye said: “What we resolved in that meeting is that Esan must produce the next governor of this state. That is our consensus decision, that is the position of Esan, we are not going for any other position. What we are asking now is that other senatorial districts should join us in our demand because Esan is the home of PDP in Edo State. We may not arrive there easily but we are going to continue to discuss with people in Edo North and Edo South to give us this opportunity because this is what we want. Yes there may be few people who may not agree with us because of their selfish ambition but that is our general agreement.”
On his part, a governorship aspirant, Gideon Ikhine said Edo State is made up of three senatorial districts, North, South and Central and “If you look at the PDP, Edo Central has always won elections for the party.
“We have resolved to discuss and negotiate with the two other senatorial districts that what we want is the governorship slot for the Esan. You will recall that Chief Lucky Igbinedion was governor for eight years and the still birth that happened in Osunbor time when it was zoned to Edo North. After that time, the Governorship position was supposed to come to the Central but it was again taken to the South. At that point in time we said no it was the turn of Edo Central but as faith had it, Ize Iyamu ran and we lost. Again before that time chance was given to Charles Airhiavbere but we also lost. In the past 22 years of the PDP the Esan man has not been given the chance to aspire to be governor of Edo state,” he said.
On his part, Broderick Itua said: “Without Esan vote you can’t get PDP governor in Edo State. So we can’t be relegated. We stand firmly that now we are going for the governorship position. Nobody can dictate to us because we are the one who determine politics in Edo State,” he said.
This meeting of leaders of the PDP from Edo Central came few days after leaders of the party from Edo North said they were demanding for the position of Deputy Governor of the state.
At a rally in Edo North to mobilise members for the party, a declaration was made tagged: ‘’Afemai Declaration 2020,’’ which has been adopted as a working document for the party in the area.
Reading the demands signed by a body known as Edo North PDP Leaders Assembly, ENPLA, to climax leaders tour to the six local government areas of the Senatorial District, the House of Representatives candidate for Akoko-Edo Federal Constituency, Hon Oladele Bankole Balogun, noted that to bring the government closer to the people, the PDP must consider the district by allocating the state Secretary of the party in the forthcoming congress of the party.
Bankole-Balogun also stressed that the people of Afemai deserve two slots in the Board of Trustees of the party in the forthcoming congress.
He said: “In furtherance of the above, the ENPLA hereby demand: that it produces the next state secretary of the party; that it will be given two slots on the Board of Trustees of the party; that the position of deputy governor of Edo State in the forthcoming 2020 governorship election be zoned to Edo North.”
He noted that leaders of the party have resolved to improve the lot of the people hence the demands.
Intrigues, self-survival plots
The position of the zones have sparked speculations, intrigues and allegations of plots for self survival.
For instance, it is rumoured that Orbih wants his successor to come from Edo Central so that he can work for the emergence of Ogeide-Ihama as the governorship candidate of the party and that would brighten the chances of an Edo North man being his running mate while on the other hand, former Governor Igbinedion wants another Edo North man to succeed Orbih.
Mr Patrick Eholor founder of One Love Foundation, has lampooned the party for not exploring the crisis in the APC to take over the state.
He said the PDP should have taken advantage of the APC crisis to strengthen itself and become a bride in the forthcoming governorship election in the state instead of its members busying themselves endorsing Governor Obaseki for a second term.
Eholor stated this while fielding questions from newsmen on the crises rocking the two major parties.
He said: “You can see that on December 19, a few days ago, a town hall meeting was held in Lagos, for example. When you are doing a summit, you attract people and business.
“And if Obaseki was a technocrat that he claimed he is, why will he take our business to Lagos? Has anybody asked that question? If you have a town hall meeting here in Edo State, the hotel will make money, the artisans and the people selling drinks will make money because there is something happening in the city.
“If PDP was on the ground and they know what they are doing, it would have been a sweep for the party. PDP should have capitalised on the failure of Obaseki’s administration because all that Obaseki is doing now is to fight godfatherism that brought him to power.
“So what I am saying is that PDP as a party, is in a life-support machine in Edo State,” he said.
More drama is expected in the major opposition party in the days ahead.