Sola Shittu examines the chances of the Peoples Democratic Party in the forthcoming governorship election holding in September and the landmines on the path of the opposition party ahead of the poll
Political parties have stepped up their preparations for the Edo State governorship election scheduled to hold in September. The race to the Osadebe Avenue seems to be a two-horse race between the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party, which is the main opposition party in the state.
Although the crisis rocking the ruling party has not been fully resolved, the PDP is not faring better because of the crisis and court cases trailing its ward, local government and state congresses.
Two weeks ago, the Edo State chapter of the PDP elected a new State Executive Committee in a debatable congress that ended the 11-year tenure of the immediate past chairman of the party, Mr Dan Orbih.
Trouble started immediately after the ward congresses in January when members cried foul over the way and manner the congresses were conducted with alleged impunity by the party leaders.
At the centre of the controversy was the former chairman, who was accused of submitting a fake list of various ward executive members to the Ward Congress Committee from Abuja, led by Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, through the back door at a hotel where all the lists were alleged to have been altered.
Immediately after the congresses, an order of interim injunction was obtained at an Ekpoma High Court, restraining the party from recognising the ward congress results.
But the PDP has continued to hold on to its winning streaks in certain areas of the state like Edo South and Edo Central to the extent of winning two senatorial seats and four House Representatives members for the state in the last general election, which is mostly attributed to the doggedness of the candidates that won, rather than the contribution of Orbih.
However, the party’s defeat in the last state House of Assembly election — the ruling APC won all the 24 seats in the house, leaving the PDP with nothing — is largely attributed to the imposition and supremacy fight between Orbih and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu to own the candidates without consulting the party leadership of various constituencies.
Now that the September 2019 governorship election is approaching, many believe that, though the PDP in Edo has bright chances of returning to the Government House, the opposition party may not be able to take over because of the lack of fairness being displayed in the zoning formula by the party leadership.
Some stakeholders believe the leadership of the PDP is deliberately ignoring Edo Central Senatorial District, which is the PDP’s stronghold in the state, from producing governor of the state since 1999 and the trouble which is already brewing may lead to the implosion of PDP in the coming days.
One of the PDP leaders from Akoko-Edo, Mr Oladele Bankole-Balogun, who recently announced his withdrawal from all PDP activities in the state, blamed Orbih, for the alleged woes of the party. Bankole-Balogun said he was particularly discouraged by the attempt of the former chairman to allegedly keep imposing his choice of candidates on the party.
He said, “I cannot continue to waste my time and money on a party where I do not see a hope in the future. I can tell you today that the PDP in Edo State has not learnt from its mistake. The party is not united; we are divided and if you cannot provide a united front as a party, how can your candidates win any election? That was why I stepped aside.”
Although the PDP chieftain said he had not decided on the next step to take, he said he would rather wait and watch the political situation before making any move.
Dr Isaiah Osifo, a former Chief of Staff to former Governor Lucky Igbinedion, admitted that the state congress was characterised by errors, which he said could affect the party’s fortunes, despite the bright chances of winning the coming governorship election by the opposition.
Osifo said, “Many people have complained that they are not satisfied with the conduct of the ward, local government and state congresses. I saw for myself too that the congresses in some wards were not credible, and I equally saw that there were some local government areas where the congresses were not transparent.
I was also a state delegate and I saw that there were some lapses in the conduct of the state congress but, in all, I expect the leadership of the party not to go and sit down but to try and address these grievances in the interest of the party.
“They should not gloss over it and say, ‘We have done it. They can go to hell.’ No. We cannot afford to lose members now. We are in the opposition, we are not in government. We have already lost many of our leaders and members and we cannot afford to lose more.
The only way to keep the people and to even attract more members to our party is for the national leaders to come and address this issue. Not necessarily by court — the internal mechanism can address the situation and allay our fears, pacify those that need to be pacified, harmonise those areas that should be harmonised and then move on as a party.
“In the last election, the PDP won the presidential election (in the state) and, in the National Assembly poll, we won two Senate seats out of three and four House of Representatives seats, which is a clear indication that the PDP is a very strong party in Edo.
This can still repeat itself in the September governorship election. But that is not to say the reconciliation of aggrieved members is not a necessary requirement. It is very necessary in order to have a good outing in the governorship election.
We must bring everybody together and address their areas of concern and pacify them. I think the PDP has the capacity to win the next governorship election in Edo but we have to pray that the election will be free and fair.”