Division In Edo PDP Over BoT Members

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By Bisi Olaniyi

Crisis is brewing in Edo State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) between Governor Godwing Obaseki and prominent chieftains over the choice of Board of Trustees (BoT) members and the control of the chapter. Southsouth Bureau Chief BISI OLANIYI reports

Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki, on June 19, last year defected from the then governing All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), after he was disqualified by the APC’s governorship screening panel in Abuja. Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was the National Chairman of the party (APC).

Leaders of PDP at the state, zonal and national levels welcomed Obaseki into the party, while they prevailed on the three frontline governorship aspirants, including the billionaire philanthropist, Kenneth Imansuangbon, an Abuja-based lawyer, to step down for the new “bride,” and as mark of respect for party leaders, they voluntarily did.

Obaseki got his re-election ticket in PDP, but he continued with his total war against his benefactor and immediate Edo governor (Oshiomhole), who appointed him, a Lagos-based investment banker, as the Chairman of his Economic Team for almost eight years, with the incumbent Edo governor prompting some leaders of Oshiomhole’s ward in Etsako West LGA in Edo North Senatorial District to suspend him, which dragged for many months in courts, but Oshiomhole was removed as the National Chairman of APC, though a court of competent jurisdiction later quashed the purported suspension.

Governorship candidates of all the political parties cleared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) immediately moved to the three senatorial districts of Edo for aggressive campaigns, but the September 19, 2020 governorship election was a straight fight between Obaseki and the more-experienced standard bearer of APC, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, a former Secretary to Edo State Government (SSG) and 2016 governorship candidate of PDP.

Ize-Iyamu would have floored Obaseki during the bloody governorship election of September 19 last year, but for the intervention of the Presidency, which sent some APC governors and top officials of the Federal Government (names withheld) to the Oba of Benin, Omo N’ Oba N’ Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, before the poll, to prevail on Ize-Iyamu and other leaders of the party (APC), to allow second term for Obaseki and accept the outcome of the poll.

Ize-Iyamu, as a mark of respect for APC leaders, decided not to challenge at the tribunal, the results of the massively-rigged September 19 last year’s governorship election, while presumably preparing for the 2024 battle, when Obaseki would have completed his constitutionally-approved two terms in office.

Obaseki and his deputy, Philip Shaibu, a former member of the House of Representatives, who hails from Edo North senatorial district and who is determined to succeed the incumbent Edo governor in 2024, thereby blocking the chances of indigenes of Edo Central senatorial district, were colourfully inaugurated for a second term on November 12, 2020 at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin.

Shortly after Obaseki’s second term inauguration, he had a fierce battle with members of the Dr. Tony Aziegbemi-led State Working Committee (SWC) of PDP in Edo, over his move to dissolve that ward, local government and state executives of the party in the state, in order to accommodate the defectors.

Members of Aziegbemi-led SWC of Edo PDP, however, kicked against Obaseki’s plot, and reported him to the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party, while declaring that the only condition for harmonisation would be the resignation of Edo deputy governor and his replacement by one of the old members of PDP.

The fierce battle eventually led to the suspension of Aziegbemi. The development further divided the party. But following interventions by party chieftains, who described Aziegbemi’s suspension unconstitutional and illegal, he was thereafter reinstated.

Last week, a socio-political group, the Edo PDP Integrity Group, declared that the appointment as members of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of PDP of two of its chieftains from the state: High Chief Raymond Dokpesi and Chief Mike Oghiadomhe, defeated the ideals of a united Edo, that ought to be rooted in equity, justice and fairplay.

It condemned in strongest terms, the appointment of Dokpesi and Oghiadomhe into the BoT of PDP, through the alleged influence of PDP’s National Vice Chairman, Southsouth, Chief Dan Orbih, the immediate Chairman of the party in Edo.

Obaseki recommended the reappointment of Oghiadomhe and another chieftain of PDP from Edo, Chief Tom Ikimi, for another three-year second term, but Orbih allegedly used his position to drop Ikimi, which the group described as gross injustice and totally against the spirit of fairplay.

Integrity group, with members across the 18 local government area of Edo state, in a press statement in Benin, the state capital, and signed by its Coordinator, Comrade Paul Kingsley, condemned the lopsided appointment into the BoT of the main opposition party, while calling on all well-meaning leaders of PDP to intervene and allow space for fairplay, justice and equity.

The tenure of members of BOT of PDP expired on September 6, this year, but Obaseki, who is the leader of the party in Edo state, approved the reappointment of the same members (Ikimi and Oghiadomhe) into the BoT, giving them a second term of another three years.

Members of the integrity group hinted that they were duly informed that Orbih greatly pushed to ensure that Ikimi was replaced by the founder of Africa Independent Television (AIT), High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, also an indigene of Edo State.

It said: “It will interest you to know that Orbih, Oghiadomhe and Dokpesi are all from one section of Edo State, Etsako, in Edo North Senatorial District.

“Even as we congratulate those who have been elevated to the PDP’s BoT (Dokpesi and Oghiadomhe), we must not shy away from the fact that the elevation is not only lopsided, it has defeated the ideals of a united Edo State, that ought to be rooted in equity, justice and fairplay.

“The composition of the BoT of PDP coming from Edo State is one-sided, as members are basically from the Etsako region. This does not conform to the format of using the federal character in all appointments in our heterogeneous state.

“We would have expected even spread of membership of the BoT of PDP, to ensure loyalty, thereby ensuring that there is no dominance of persons from a particular senatorial district or a particular ethnic group.

“If Chief Ikimi must be removed, why not replace him by another member of the PDP from Edo Central Senatorial District, where PDP has always won all elections since 1999?

The PDP’s group also called on Senator Bukola Saraki; a former Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar; ex-Senate President, Senator David Mark; Obaseki; members or PDP Governors Forum, led by Sokoto Governor, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal; members of PDP’s caucus in the National Assembly, led by Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe and Ndidi Elumelu; to urgently address the injustice in Edo.

Members of integrity group stated that urgently addressing the injustice would go a long way to avoid the crisis that would arise from the only senatorial district (Edo Central) that had consistently given PDP 100 per cent in all elections since 1999.

Some pundits claimed the Edo governor’s-initiated meeting of stakeholders of PDP at the New Festival Hall of Government House, Benin on October 2 this year, was not really for harmonisation, but it was a strategy for Obaseki to take charge of the affairs of the governing PDP in Edo.

Some critical stakeholders of Edo PDP, who spoke in confidence, wondered why Obaseki decided not to extend invitation of the meeting to Orbih and the party’s state Secretary, Hillary Otsu.

Orbih, Otsu and many other leaders of Edo PDP did not attend the stakeholders’ meeting, where impeccable sources revealed that Obaseki clearly stated that as the leader of the party in the state, he had taken charge of the affairs of PDP in Edo, giving one week ultimatum for leaders of the party across the state to integrate members of the APC, who defected to PDP with him.

Obaseki, according to sources at the meeting, also disclosed that integrating the new PDP members was the criterion to release the list of the remaining commissioners and special advisers, having on September 28 this year forwarded the names of 11 commissioner-nominees to the state’s House of Assembly for screening and confirmation, and also appointing “with immediate effect,” two special advisers: Crusoe Osagie and Sarah Esangbedo Ajose-Adeogun.

Otsu, later in a statement, disclosed that a list of the 233 PDP stakeholders invited to the October 2, 2021 meeting was compiled by himself and the Secretary to Edo State Government (SSG), Osarodion Ogie, a lawyer, based on defined categories, but expressed surprise that the list that was circulated before the meeting did not represent the full list, as compiled.

Edo secretary of PDP said: “Some names (of stakeholders) were left out, despite belonging to the categories of invitees that were identified. Essentially, the final list was not endorsed by me, before it was circulated.”

It became obvious that Orbih was not invited to the stakeholders’ meeting, in view of his face-off with Obaseki, over the state’s representatives on the BoT of PDP.

With 11 commissioners gone, seven more persons must join the list of commissioners, as each of the 18 local government areas must have a representative, as provided for by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.

With two special advisers appointed by Obaseki, 13 more would still be appointed, thereby making the PDP politicians in Edo to intensify efforts at lobbying, in order to be part of the team, either as commissioners or special advisers.

On April 12 this year, Obaseki forwarded for approval to 10 of the 24 members of Edo House of Assembly, a list of 15 nominees for appointment as special advisers, which was immediately approved by the lawmakers.

Edo speaker then directed the Clerk of the state’s House of Assembly, Yahaya Omogbai, to convey copies of the approval to Obaseki, for “immediate action,” after the legislators’ unanimous vote.

Still, some lobbying for political appointments are lamenting over the tortuous process of screening. It was learnt that, the applicants were also asked to get endorsements from political leaders in their domains, as committee’s report was subjected to another review committee said to be constituted by Obaseki.

Shortly after the October 2, 2021 stakeholders’ meeting, which was attended by Obaseki, his deputy and some top PDP leaders, Edo governor’s Special Adviser on Media Projects (Crusoe Osagie), in a statement, claimed that the forum was for harmonisation.

He said: “PDP is organising its convention at the end of October, 2021, and this meeting is to prepare us for the convention. There were few house-keeping issues that we needed to discuss and clear. So, it was important to get everybody across the divide to have a session like this, to get feedback and also take decisions on what to do and make progress in the state.

“The meeting went well, as our members are glad that PDP is back to Government House in Edo State and committed themselves to supporting the work of the government, this administration and leaders of the party. We want to ensure that we provide the services that we promised our people during the electioneering.

“Naturally, not all will be happy in a situation like this and we have tried to address some of the concerns of our people, who feel unhappy as a result of certain things that might have happened.

“The key issue was that of harmonisation, seeing how to bring in all parties to the table, to have an expanded party in the state.”

Edo governor also stated that the commitment he obtained from the stakeholders at the strategic meeting was that within a week, the areas not cleared would be dealt with, and they would come back to him with their resolutions.

Giving insight into the brewing crisis in Edo PDP, a chieftain of the party in a Southsouth state, Chief Charles Idahosa, in a recent

interview with reporters in his palatial home on Airport Road in Benin, to mark his 68th birthday, stated that Obaseki had a very big dream for Edo, but he hinted that a lot of people of the state, especially politicians, were not happy with him.

He declared that he and many politicians who defected last year with Obaseki from APC to PDP were currently stranded, as they were not being accommodated in the governing party (PDP) in Edo, with the state’s governor kicking against their return to the APC.

Idahosa, an ally of Obaseki, who was the Special Adviser on Political Matters to a former Edo governor (Oshiomhole), said: “The problem we have in Edo State and this country is that we have very weak leadership. People do not tell the truth. A man comes to you on a Monday. Please, help me. I want to be the governor, then when he becomes, suddenly the leadership will now become enslaved to him, because of personal gains.

“During the early days of Obaseki, I could see signs that he would be very difficult to manage and I called all the leaders, who are now stranded in Edo Peoples Movement (EPM) of APC. I do not want to embarrass them by mentioning their names. We sat here, in my house. I called three from Edo North Senatorial District, three from Edo South and three from Edo Central, and I said look at the way things are going, we are politicians, and this man (Obaseki) is not a core politician like us. We need to put our heads together so that we can advise him. Some of them got up to say they wanted to go to the toilet, but they went to adjust their phones to record me and they recorded me beautifully.

“Immediately they left, they went to Government House, Benin City to report that I wanted to fight Obaseki and naturally he reacted and we started having issues, but it became too much, I called the person and asked, why did you do this? All of them are now finished politically.

“After a while, myself and the governor (Obaseki) made up and we continued. My wants are very limited. If you wait for political patronage, you will be a slave. I have always tried to make my own little money. I am a farmer, I have had my cattle ranch for over twenty years. I have had my poultry for over twenty years, I sell chicken.

“Most of our leaders do not programme their lives. For instance, I have only three kids, all mothers and fathers taking care of

themselves and their families. So, when you are a politician and at the age of seventy five, you are still impregnating women, why won’t you lie, in order to survive? If you are not contented, they will take advantage of you.”

The PDP chieftain also expressed displeasure about a situation where overnight, the governor of a state would just come and give an instruction and everybody would be running around, while declaring that it was not how it should be, because on election day, the dictatorial helmsman would only be in his ward, and he would not know how the other results he got to win the crucial governorship election came.

The caretaker Chairman of APC in Edo state, Col. David Imuse (rtd.), however, stated that Obaseki was not sincere in his governance style, while alleging that he (Edo governor) did not have the interest of residents of the state at heart and he asked Obaseki to stop fooling himself, not the discerning Edo residents.

Imuse also pleaded with the peace-loving Edo residents to endure Obaseki’s misgovernance till November 12, 2024, when a more-competent, highly-experienced and better-focused member of APC would take over as governor, thereby bringing about the much-desired development and empowerment of the people across the 18 LGAs of the crude oil and gas-rich Niger Delta state.

Edo PDP, through its Spokesman, Chris Nehikhare, however, stated that Obaseki was putting in efforts to make Edo great again.

Nehikhare also urged Edo residents, especially members of the opposition political parties, to support and join Obaseki in his

commitment to transform the state.

Edo governor must always bear in mind that a house that is divided against itself cannot stand, thereby ensuring peace and unity among members of the PDP, as well as other residents of the state, in order to move Edo forward.

Imuse also pleaded with the peace-loving Edo residents to endure Obaseki’s misgovernance till November 12, 2024, when a more-competent, highly-experienced and better-focused member of APC would take over as governor, thereby bringing about the much-desired development and empowerment of the people across the 18 LGAs of the crude oil and gas-rich Niger Delta state.

Edo PDP, through its Spokesman, Chris Nehikhare, however, stated that Obaseki was putting in efforts to make Edo great again.

Nehikhare also urged Edo residents, especially members of the opposition political parties, to support and join Obaseki in his
commitment to transform the state.

Credit: The Nation.

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