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Edo PDP plots return as APC reels over Obaseki, Oshiomhole faceoff

By Michael Egbejule, Benin City
08 November 2019   |   3:34 am
Pointers emerged recently indicating the preparedness of leaders of Edo State chapter of Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) to regain the Osadebay Government House in the forthcoming 2020 gubernatorial poll in the state.

Governor Godwin Obaseki. Photo: TWITTER/GOVERNOROBASEKI

Pointers emerged recently indicating the preparedness of leaders of Edo State chapter of Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) to regain the Osadebay Government House in the forthcoming 2020 gubernatorial poll in the state.

From the caliber of stakeholders that graced the reunification meeting held at the sprawling residence of former Governor Lucky Igbinedion, it was obvious that the frontline opposition party want to cash in on the lingering faceoff between Governor Godwin Obaseki and his estranged godfather, the APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole.

Apart from Igbinedion, the roll of heavyweights at the meeting included Igbinedion’s former deputy and former Chief of Staff to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Chief Mike Ogiadomhe, former Minister of Works, Arch. Mike Onolememen, Senators representing Edo South and Edo Central, Matthew Urhoghide and Clifford Ordia; member representing Oredo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, Media mogul, Chief Raymond Dokpesi; Pascal Ugbome, Oladele Bankole-Balogun, the Rice man, Kenneth Immasuagbon; 2016 governorship candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Senator Victor Oyofo, Samuel Saiki among other bigwigs.

If the unity and confidence exuded by the PDP chieftains after the strategic meeting is anything to go by, there is no doubt that the main opposition party would give the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) a run for their money in the 2020 governorship battle.

Edo State PDP has continued to witness declining performance since 2007, when a misunderstanding between former governor Igbinedion and late Chief Tony Anenih, forced the Igbinedion camp to support former governor Oshiomhole to defeat the party’s imposed candidate, Oserheimen Osunbor.

However, it seems the party’s stalwarts have recognized the need to join forces and forge a common front to dislodge the ruling APC, which cohesion is now troubled by choking crises on many flanks.

While the Edo Assembly, which ordinarily has an all-APC lawmakers is at war with a faction, which 14 members are yet to be sworn-in; the Governor is wrestling the national chairman and his predecessor in a supremacy contest, just as a splinter group in the party, Edo Peoples Movement (EPM) is arrayed in arms against the incumbent’s second term aspiration.

Therefore, with the PDP strong men coming together as a united family, they could pose a formidable team that may spring a surprise by overwhelming the APC and regaining the governorship.

Hinting that the strategic meeting was intended at drafting a road map “for the journey ahead,” Senator Victor Oyofo, who briefed journalists stated: “Edo people have seen what the All Progressives Congress (APC) represents. If you want to travel from here to my home at Auchi, you will spend more hours owing to the deplorable condition of the road. You can imagine also the security situation, such as kidnapping, as even farmers can no longer go to their farms for fear of herdsmen. So people are tired of APC.”

He noted that PDP leaders in the state were united to ensure a solid foundation ahead of next year’s showdown with the ruling party, adding that the whole idea of coming together was to define the future of the party and its preparedness to reclaim the governorship in 2020.

Candidate selection has always proved to be PDP’s undoing in Edo State. But a chieftain from Edo North Senatorial District, Oladele-Balogun said: “The best candidate, the best person to run will be chosen by the majority of party people.”

A former governorship aspirant, Kenneth Immasuagbon, disclosed that the meeting was to strengthen ties, unify the party and make it stronger, stressing, “We are stronger than ever, to make no mistake about 2020. PDP is coming; Immasuagbon is coming.

“This meeting is about the poverty in Edo State, the roads that are bad, the jobs that our children don’t have, the floods that have taken homes away. I can tell you that APC is gone and gone forever in Edo state.”

By steadfast in their coordinated move to recapture the state, the PDP leaders expressed the view that, “being the first major election after the 2019 general elections, we have taken the extra-ordinary step to start engaging with the stakeholders long before the elections.”

APC and fear of failure
But apparently not comfortable with the air of despondency swirling around the ruling party in his home state, the APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, has urged Obaseki to focus on delivering good governance to the people rather than engaging in petty personality squabbles.

Oshiomhole, who made his opinion public in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Simon Ebegbulem, was reacting to the alleged attack on his residence in Benin City by suspected hoodlums.

He said: “We have it on good authority that the governor (Obaseki) intends to create disaffection and crisis in the state, APC and probably dump the party for another party.

“That is why he has embarked on this brigandage, which Edo people will resist. So, he should stop blackmailing me and face governance, which was why Edo people voted him into power.

“We are even more scared now that the governor is making every effort to coerce me into giving him details of my movement in Edo State. Who knows what he is plotting again. But, every evil plot against me will fail.”

Not prepared to let the innuendo coalesce with public perception, Governor Obaseki denied that Oshiomhole was ever attacked in the state as being alleged, adding: “We have no knowledge of alleged attack on the residence of the APC National Chairman, based on a report we received from the State Commissioner of Police, DanMallam Muhammed.”

He said that the former governor did not inform his office, Commissioner of Police or State Director of the Department of State Service (DSS) for security, while on a visit to the state.

The governor, therefore, urged Oshiomhole, government functionaries and political office holders to observe protocols while visiting the state, since according to him; this would ensure their safety and guard against unjust attack.

On growing apprehensions that the incumbent may lose the APC ticket, Special Adviser to the governor on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, maintained that his principal has the structure of the party firmly under his control.

He stressed that since Governor Obaseki is providing effective leadership for APC in the state, allegations that he is planning to leave the party is totally false.

Reacting to comments credited to Oshiomhole’s aide, Mr. Simon Ebegbulem, Osagie said nothing could be farther from the truth, adding, “Governor Obaseki and APC leaders and members enjoy cordial and robust working relationships.”

Osagie contended that as far as Governor Obaseki remains the Vice Chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum (PGF), he also commands tremendous respect within the party at the national level and has a fabulous working relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari, who is the leader of the APC.

Dismissing the alleged plot to defect from APC the governor’s spokesman said: “Why would the governor leave a place of certainty for uncertainty? Is it not clear from these verifiable facts that all these allegations are completely false?

“We urge all well-meaning Nigerians to disregard these quibbling as noise from irrelevant entities trying hard to gain political relevance.”

Keeping the odds real
However, a frontline APC governorship aspirant, Maj-General Charles Airhiavbere (retd), who has been a strong critic of Obaseki, echoed Oshiomhole’s call on Obaseki to get to work so as to have something tangible to campaign with rather than blackmailing personalities because of his second term ambition.

Despite Osagie denials, Airhiavbere alleged that Governor Obaseki was plotting to abandon APC and pursue his second term bid in another platform, having reaslised that it would be difficult to get a second term ticket of the ruling party.

Adducing possible reasons why the party might lose the gubernatorial poll with Obaseki, Airhiavbere said: “Since after the last presidential election, there has not been governance in Edo State and if we allow him, the opposition will take over.

“It has been all over the place that he is trying to cross carpet, looking for soft-landing, but his main assets, which are APC leaders, he has left them in disarray.

“The last presidential election gave an account of APC’s political instability in the state. We lost in Edo South, we lost in Edo Central, only Edo North, which is the Senatorial District of the national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, produced the percentage required for the president to scale through Edo State and that was the beginning of the problems of APC.”

Airhiavbere disclosed that APC leaders in the state cannot afford to fold our arms and watch things go bad, stressing that “when you know the strength of your enemy, you must go back to the drawing table and make sure that the enemy does not overrun you.

“That is exactly what the leaders of APC in Edo State are doing. Don’t forget that Edo State is the only APC state in the South/South and we cannot afford to lose it to the opposition.”

Yet, despite the vehemence of his accusers on the alleged plan to change platform, Governor Obaseki maintained, “If a handful of individuals start misbehaving and feel we will leave the party for them; they will be the ones to leave.”

The governor has continued to prove his detractors wrong by not only showing that he is in charge, but has also dislodged perceived opponents within his administration, especially those against his second term bid.

This tough stance was seen in the recent suspension of several APC chieftains at the state and local government levels, including the State Secretary, Mr. Lawrence Okah.

However, Okah insists that he remains Edo APC Secretary, describing his purported suspension as illegal, since according to him, “all they have done so far regarding the party are illegal and cannot stand.”

“I remain the secretary of the party, while Comrade Adams Oshiomhole remains the leader of the party in Edo State,” he declared, arguing that Governor Obaseki and the state APC chairman, Anslem Ojezua, lack the powers to suspend him from office or the party. 

In line with the gale of suspensions rocking the party four Local Government Council bosses have been placed on suspension by the governor, alongside hundreds of Special Assistants and Senior Special Assistants from across the 192 wards in the state, who were sacked recently.

The suspension did not come as a surprise to many, because the ruling party had earlier threatened to take decisive and concrete actions against members of the estranged Edo Peoples Movement (EPM), describing them as an alien group, not known to the APC’s constitution.

The state chairman, Anselm Ojezua, who frowned at the emergence of EPM, explained that the decision to proscribe the group was to preserve and protect the party’s integrity, arguing that the group refused to desist from associating their nefarious activities with the state chapter of APC.

Ojezua, who is aligned to the governor, said: “Information reaching us indicates that rather than heed the legitimate directives of the party’s leadership, these elements have heightened their activities by holding meetings in some Local Government Areas within the state, purporting same to be meeting of APC.

“Consequently, we have decided that this is time to take concrete and decisive steps to preserve and protect the integrity of the party; we cannot allow the reckless antics of shameless and selfish individuals to dictate the fortunes of our party. We have a duty to instill party discipline within our ranks in Edo State and we shall do that.”

Also, the Obaseki/Shaibu Movement (OSM) cautioned Oshiomhole to rein in his followers from peddling falsehood with the intent to destabilise the state.

OSM’s leader, Damian Lawani, reminded loyalists of the national chairman to stop heating up the polity, saying that Obaseki has worked to create and sustain a peaceful and orderly state governed by the rule of law.

He noted that the state government’s position on the ban on thuggery remains sacrosanct, adding, “We are totally in support of the ban on thuggery. We are better off for such a decision because touts no longer harass and dispossess market women and business owners of their hard-earned incomes in the name of revenue collection. With the new electronic system, everything is seamless.”

However, as the crossfire continues, a distraught Tony Adun, popularly known as Kabaka, has vowed to die if the Edo State Government goes ahead to carry out its threat to demolish his hotel, following the government’s plan to demolish “illegal structures erected on government property, including public schools and waterways.”

Kabaka, who was engaged by Oshiomhole’s administration to collect taxes from commercial buses and taxi drivers in the state, alongside other private revenue contractors, was sacked by Governor Obaseki, who insisted that the state government has the capacity to collect its revenue.

But, the hotelier, who threatened to die after he was given seven days to remove his ‘illegal structure’ in a viral video, alleged that he was targeted because he refused to support Governor Obaseki’s second term bid.