The suspension of some Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftains in Delta State has reignited the battle ahead of 2023 governorship polls, INNEH BARTH reports.
What appears to be a major crack in the ranks of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Delta State emerged last week as the party’s state working committee issued a suspension letter to the immediate past deputy speaker of the state House of Assembly, Hon. Friday Osanebi and a warning letter to another serving lawmaker.
While the recent rumpus revolves around the battle for party control ahead of the 2023 governorship polls, it was triggered by the recent PDP congresses held in the state.
The intensity of the crisis comes into view against the backdrop that Osanebi is an ally of sitting senator, Peter Nwaoboshi, while the state governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, naturally heads the party in the state.
However, the publicity secretary of PDP in the state, Dr. Ifeanyi Osuoza, in a statement on behalf of the chairman, Barr. Kingsley Esiso and the State Working Committee (SWC) of the party, announced the suspension of Osanebi who represents Ndokwa-East State Constituency for an initial period of one month with immediate effect.
Osuoza in the statement, said the action became necessary as a result of reported allegations against Osanebi which are “potentially inimical to the peace and harmony of the party and tantamount to causing discord and disaffection among loyal party members.”
Besides Osanebi, the party also expressed deep displeasure and serious concern over the attitude of a member representing Sapele Constituency in the Delta State House of Assembly, Chief Felix Anirah, especially on his alleged use of provocative language and inciting vituperations in recent times on party matters.
The party maintained that Anirah was wrong in casting aspersion on the leadership of the party with regards to the forthcoming state congress of the party.
It threatened to suspend Anirah over what it described as the lawmaker’s provocative language and inciting vituperations against party members.
Anirah led a PDP bloc of chieftains in Sapele against the second term bid of the party’s state chairman, Kingsley Esiso. They had backed a former Sapele council chairman, Godwin Atose for the seat.
The party threatened to drag him before a disciplinary committee noting that the utterances of the lawmaker were complete disregard of the established structures and laid down appropriate channels for aggrieved and respectable members of the party in seeking clarification or redress on issues.
In keeping with the move to ensure discipline however, the PDP chairman while inaugurating the panel charged it to look into the issues arising from the Osanebi’s suspension, adding that a lot of events in the past by some leaders of the party have put the party in bad light.
He said “as a state working committee we decided to at all times apply the persuasive instrument in handling issues of the party relating to the entire working committee and members of the party and some of our members have decided to take our approach for granted.
“Because we believe that the instrument of persuasion is very important in our daily activities that’s why at every given time we have decided not to use the stick on members but have applied persuasion which does not give members the privilege to abuse the opportunity,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ogani Isu Ndokwa, a social cultural organisation of the Ndokwa, fumed over the suspension of the immediate-past deputy speaker, accentuating the intrigues in the party ahead of 2023.
Publicity secretary of the Ogani Isu Ndokwa, Dr. Ossai Sylvanus Annantram, said “The attention of the leadership of Ogani Isu Ndokwa has been drawn to the news making the rounds on social media that our visionary lawmaker, Hon. Friday Osanebi has been suspended from PDP for one month while a disciplinary committee has been put in place to investigate the allegations against him.
“The leadership of Ogani Isu Ndokwa is happy that the party has prepared the ground to give our articulate lawmaker a fair hearing as expected from modern democracy so all the allegations should be put before him to make his defense in person upon which the party will come up with a verdict which we are confident that Osanebi shall come out strong because he is on the side of justice.
“The committee should ensure that they are not being tele-guided to cover the truth as it will not speak well of the big umbrella family in Delta State as it is already on the street that a senior member of PDP outside Ndokwa is fighting for the fear of his 2023 political aspirations. The party belongs to all in line with the slogan of the party.”
Osanebi however met with the disciplinary panel to clear himself of a six-count charge contained in a petition levelled against him which led to his suspension for one month pending investigation.
Speaking with newsmen after the meeting which lasted for two hours, Osanebi said, “I have appeared before the committee in person today, they had invited me to hear my side of the allegations in the petition against me. I have addressed the committee and they have heard from me also. There is no cause for alarm, they are still doing their job, and I am optimistic, it will always come out for our good.”
However, LEADERSHIP gathered that the former deputy speaker may have been suspended following the fallout from the last PDP LGA and wards congresses in the state.
Following the outcome of the congress, the lawmaker was alleged to have been in a cold war with the Olorogun Kingsley Esiso-led State Working Committee (SWC) and some leaders of the party from his constituency over the manner he was schemed out of the congresses.
He was alleged to be secretly mobilising against the re-election of the embattled state chairman of the party, Olorogun Kingsley Esiso, ahead of the state’s congress of the party.
Several sources confirmed the cold war between Osanebi and some leaders of the party. “Former deputy speaker is angry over the manner the last congress of the party in the state was conducted. Despite his position, he completely lost out in the last congress from ward to LGA levels.
“Those he was rooting for to emerge as exco of the party both at the ward and LGA levels of the congress did not win. Almost all the leaders particularly from his Ndokwa East constituency worked against him.
“They knew he was quite popular among the people especially youths because of empowerment and philanthropic gestures. Many people can testify to his popularity on social media and how he built houses and bought cars for his aides. What played out during the congress was a grand plan for 2023 now that he is scheming for the House of Representatives,” a source stated.
But loyalists of the party under the leadership of Okowa, believe that what is playing out is party supremacy.
A loyalist who pleaded anonymity because he is not authorised to speak on the matter said, “The party is structured to be able to deal with issues of discipline when they arise; and then people must understand that the party has rules called Constitution and that the rules are meant to be obeyed. Governor Okowa is a disciplined man and I think that is what the party leadership wants to achieve.”
Still, Osanebi’s travails are just a scintilla of the bigger tussle within the party. Political analysts have equally argued that the lawmaker is plotting to dump the party over the way he was treated during the congresses for an opposition party where he is expected to build a formidable structure for 2023 ambition.
“Many party leaders are not comfortable with his popularity and his closeness with Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, representing Delta North in the Senate. Senator Nwaoboshi is still in PDP but his body language is that of the APC. He may be working with the deputy senate president, Ovie Omo-Agege who is eyeing the governorship seat in 2023 with Senator Nwaoboshi as his deputy.
“So the PDP in the state is jittery that is why they want to cripple Osanebi since he is a loyalist of Senator Nwaoboshi. So his suspension may just be the first move to ensure that his influence is whittled down,” a political analyst has argued.
So far, if the zoning arrangement is anything to go by, Delta Central is expected to produce the next governor of the state. Recall that since 1999, the three senatorial districts have occupied the position with James Ibori, (Delta Central); Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta South) and incumbent Sen Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta North) having occupied the seat.
Interestingly as the crisis brews, all eyes will be on the political godfather of all the actors, former governor James Ibori. Okowa, Omo-Agege and Nwaoboshi all served in Ibori’s administration just as he was instrumental to Okowa and Omo-Agege emerging governor and deputy senate president respectively.
As such, with the top seat likely to shift to Delta Central, where Omo-Agege hails from, it is interesting to see how the former governor intervenes in the crisis. For now, however, he is yet to take a stand on the issues it has gathered.
Nevertheless, how the current crisis within the PDP is handled will be an indication of the battles ahead.
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