In a bid to assert his leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State ahead of the national convention coming up later this month, a faction of the party in the state loyal to the Governor Godwin Obaseki suspended some party chieftains from the party.
The suspended party members include the South South national vice chairman, Chief Dan Orbih, the member representing Oredo Federal Constituency at the National Assembly, Hon Ogbeide Ihama and other party officials.
Orbih who was PDP chairman in Edo State for almost 12 years before he was elected the South South vice chairman is alleged to be the arrow head of those opposed to the governor in having his way in the party.
Orbih, a political foot soldier and protégé of late Chief Tony Anenih is also said to be in the good books of the national leadership of the PDP owing to the robust opposition and leadership he displayed while he was PDP chairman in Edo.
However, the suspension of these two key political leaders came one year after many failed attempts by the Obaseki-led camp to infuse its loyalists into the party’s leadership structure.
Obaseki loyalists had decamped with the governor from the APC into the PDP in the build up to the September 19, 2020 governorship election.
The governor had dumped APC after he fell out with his erstwhile political benefactor and former APC national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
His entry into PDP didn’t come easy as he had to strike a tough bargain with PDP leaders before he could get the party’s ticket on the one hand and ensure he runs with his deputy, Philip Shuaibu.
However, signs of the unfolding crisis emerged shortly after Obaseki won his second term as governor. His move to conduct a fresh congress that would accommodate members of the party who decamped with him into the PDP was vehemently resisted by old PDP leaders.
The fear by the old PDP members was that the governor was bent on having total control of the soul of the party.
The disagreement between Obaseki and the old party members was largely responsible for the delay in making appointments into the governor’s cabinet.
However, events of the past few days in the state indicate that the Obaseki-led camp is set for a political battle over control of the party structure. Obaseki and his loyalists presided over the suspension of Orbih, Ogbeide and others.
Party executives in Edo North senatorial district which Obaseki hails from, including the state vice chairman, Segun Saiki moved for Orbih and the lawmakers’ suspension over alleged anti-party activities.
Others whose suspension were ratified included the state secretary of Edo State PDP, Hilary Otsu; the PDP chairman in Oredo LGA, Oduwa Igbinosun, and the chairman of PDP in Oredo Ward Four, Mr Friday Enaruna at an enlarged meeting in Benin.
The motion for the ratification of the suspension was moved by Mike Nosa-Ehima, a leader of the PDP in Oredo local government area, and was seconded by Sylvanus Eruaga, a leader of the party from Etsako West LGA.
Addressing the large crowd, the party leaders, Nosa-Ehima said, “all those that have refused to allow the party to grow are being suspended in the interest of the PDP.
Speaking earlier, Obaseki said, “There are people who have continued to come and feed you with lies. That is the nature of their politics if there is no confusion they will not eat.
“Last year, when we joined you, we started a movement that has never happened in Edo before, not even in our politics. If we go to the election today, we will win by 85 per cent. It means we don’t have meaningful opposition and if this is the situation, we should not create opposition inside.
“I will not leave PDP. I am the leader of PDP and by the grace of God I will lead PDP well. Anybody that doesn’t want me to lead or want to accept my leadership will leave PDP for me.
“We are here to stay and invest in PDP. I’m the governor to join PDP last and was made chairman of our e-registration process so why should I leave the party. We came to meet PDP as a solid party, the only true party in this country while others are special purpose vehicles for elections.
“I said come let us harmonise and the harmonisation is to carry everybody along. We don’t need to lie in politics. Politics is a game of numbers. For one year I have been begging for us to harmonise. I went round when we wanted to make an appointment and the numbers of applications were almost the same as the petition we received; it shows we have not harmonised.
“We can’t escape from harmonisation if we want to go to the national convention. I have almost 300 to 400 Political appointments I want to make.”
Obaseki in an apparent reference to those opposed to him stated: “People are greedy; politics is all about give and take. I appreciate PDP, we came, we won, we are not leaving PDP, will not accept any opposition within PDP, if you are not happy with my leadership you can leave us. Let’s all of us Harmonise some local government areas have done their own while some are still far behind.
“By this weekend, please complete the harmonisation. I am here to assure you that there is something for everyone that has worked for us and continues to work for us. The important thing is for us to continue to grow our party”, he said.
The governor however enjoys the backing of party leaders from the other senatorial districts. Speaking for Edo Central Senatorial district, Mrs Philomena Ihenyen, assured that harmonisation in her area is almost ready just as she noted that all PDP leaders in the zone are with the governor.
In Edo North, the PDP leader, Mr Johnson Abolagba, said he is optimistic that all the local governments in his area are almost done with their harmonisation process, saying that they would submit their reports ahead of deadline.
On his part, representative of Edo South Senatorial district, Mr Osaze Jesuorobo, described the governor as the party leader adding that there is nothing anybody can do about it.
He added that having started the process of suspending members who have refused to recognise the governors, they will continue to suspend others until they have those who are ready to support him and accept him as the party leader.
A close source to Ihama said his principal has decided not to respond to the suspension describing it as baseless and of no effect. Similarly, Orbih’s camp has also refused to comment on the matter.
However, a Federal High Court in Abuja has restrained them from enforcing the ratification of the suspension of Chief Dan Orbih by the Edo state wing of the PDP.
This comes as the PDP NWC has faulted the suspension of Orbih as it was not in the power of the state executive to suspend him being a national officer. The party however pleaded with stakeholders to resolve their issues.
Observers of the development aver that if the unfolding scenario is not handled properly, it will affect the party in the state.
“The party cannot afford to have this kind of friction especially as it heads into a national convention in a matter of days,” said Mike Ibekwe, a political analyst.
“One would wonder why it took so long to resolve this issue, it is an issue of concern that the party cannot resolve issues like this timely,” he added.
But with the party national leadership occupied with the national convention it would seem like moves to resolve the matter will linger a while. However there is no telling the impact that delay would have on the party.