With the words, “I am now the leader of the PDP in Edo State”, Governor Godwin Obaseki more than announced his entry into the party; he fired off a possible sign of things to come.
Coming off a long and turbulent journey in the All Progressives Congress (APC) where he was locked in a bitter struggle for supremacy with his erstwhile godfather, Adams Oshiomhole, the now-suspended chairman of the APC, Obaseki must have heaved a huge sigh of relief as he was given an almost royal welcome into the People’s Democratic Party, a party he had only weeks ago considered no-good for the people of the state.
Having been disqualified from contesting the governorship primaries of the APC ostensibly for discrepancies in his certificates, Obaseki’s re-election ambition was dealt a huge setback. His plan had been to prevent the direct primaries opted for by the party’s NWC and pave the way for an indirect primary preferred by most incumbents because of its obvious susceptibility to the dark arts of political control. He did everything. He ran to the famous Bourdillon he had once disparaged. He enlisted the support of his fellow governors. He defied the threat of COVID-19 as he criss-crossed the country seeking a solution. He even gazetted a law effectively foreclosing the possibility of a direct primary in the state. In the end, he failed to get past the screening phase.
But one thing was clear: Obaseki fought to the last ounce of his energy to fly the flag of APC in the coming election. That was his primary goal. In the long-drawn battle for control of Edo APC’s political reins, which derailed governance, he could have said ‘enough!’ at some point. He didn’t. He was an APC man to the core. Today he is now in the PDP, with the red carpet rolled out for hm. And herein lies the problem.
While Obaseki enjoyed the good graces of Oshiomhole and the APC at the expense of the PDP, and as he struggled to rebalance power after falling out with Oshiomhole, there were loyal, committed and dedicated PDP faithful in the state working to serve the party’s interests and position it for victory in the forthcoming governorship election.
These party men and women saw an opportunity in the APC crisis and built their election strategy around it. PDP governorship aspirants and other stalwarts of the party had invested greatly to take advantage of the disarray in the APC so as to finally return power to the PDP, and in a flash, Obaseki happened! PDP’s national leadership welcomed him with open arms and expressly granted he and his deputy waiver to contest on the party’s platform. This is the usual forerunner to the granting of an automatic ticket. But will this augur well?
As national leaders of the party fall over themselves to welcome Obaseki, they must remember that a top-bottom approach to the Obaseki acceptance into the PDP is not sustainable because it is both unjust and short-sighted. The men who have steadied the ship of the party and preserved its unity to be in shape for a crisis-free electoral bid, made the party the beautiful bride Obaseki admired and courted.
And they hold the key to the party’s success or failure. Their sacrifices and interests must not be discarded. This is why Obaseki should not have been granted a waiver to contest, and must not be considered for automatic ticket. The PDP in Edo is not on shaky ground. It is formidable. It should not be making such concessions, concessions typical of small, weak parties. It has withstood the federal might-driven onslaught of the ruling party and was in a great position for an ultimate state-wide triumph before this unfortunate string of events. It irks that the PDP, being in such a great position, would be selling itself short.
It must not be lost on all that in Edo, the PDP boasts two out of three senators and four House of Representatives members. About four years ago, the PDP had only narrowly lost out to the APC in the governorship election contested by Obaseki in what has been widely described as one of the grimmest examples of electoral theft in Nigeria’s political history. The strength of the PDP in Edo State, against all odds, has been the product of the great sacrifice, hardwork and strategic deployment of resources by leaders like Chief Dan Orbih, who as chairman, led the party to achieve these victories, braving the odds to not only win, but keep the party consistently relevant, united and forward-looking. Chief Orbih and his team have laboured to build a party that must not now be destroyed by the imposition of Obaseki. The party must act fast as the cracks are already appearing.
Just days ago, Kenneth Imasuangbon, one of the PDP governorship aspirants, publicly said it would not be acceptable to ask any of the aspirants to step down for Obaseki. This is a warning signal. The Obaseki gamble is more than likely to destroy the cohesion and good fortunes of the PDP in Edo. These warnings must not be ignored by the party’s national leadership. The teeming supporters of the party who have stood solidly behind the party all these years, and who rejected Obaseki in the past, are also worried that their support may have been taken for granted. To lose their support will spell only disaster for the party!
The PDP has a unique opportunity to be a party of principles. A party of ideals. A party that respects and honours the contributions of its longsuffering members. It is sad that Obaseki has already been granted a waiver to contest the forthcoming primaries of the party. It will be wise for the party to consider withdrawing this. But if it proves dishonorable to rescind this having agreed to it, then the party must ensure automatic ticket is not on the cards. And a level-playing ground must be ensured so that true PDP governorship aspirants in the party can be allowed to fairly contest. It is very likely that the outcome of such a fair contest will see one of the true PDP aspirants emerge as the party’s candidate because of the established structure and support base built over time.
The party leadership must not also ignore Obaseki’s certificate scandal. It must remember that it is not new as well. In 2016, the PDP had raised similar issues and even instituted a lawsuit that unfortunately failed over the technicality that it was filed beyond the stipulated time limit. This is a great legal threat so potent that it should alarm party leaders enough to steer clear of the thought of an Obaseki candidacy. This information is a gift that must not be squandered.
When Obaseki said “I am now the leader of the PDP in Edo State” during his announcement of his defection, it was pregnant. Here is a man who was only just magnanimously accepted onto a party platform boldly describing himself as the leader. Traditionally, that may be so. But given the unique circumstances, a more agreeable personality would have been solemn and humbled, grateful to the leaders of the party in the state for building what he has now so effortless inherited. That he didn’t, speaks to his character and approach. This must be seen as a warning to the PDP leadership. If Obaseki fought so disruptively in the APC, a party that gave him everything, what should make anyone think he would be less disruptive in the PDP?
The PDP has a golden opportunity to build a truly democratic party governed by great ideals, chief of which is the sanctity of the respect for loyalty and discipline
Author: Peters Osadolor…
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