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Trouble in Edo PDP over Obaseki

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Edo Governor Godwin Obaseki’s defection to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) last Friday was predictable. Once the All Progressives Congress (APC) disqualified him for possessing “defective qualifications”, it was clear Obaseki would need PDP’s platform to seek reelection.

All doubts about this disappeared when he visited Rivers Governor, Nyesom Wike, and his Akwa Ibom counterpart, Udom Emmanuel, for consultation. That accounted for the five-star treatment he got when he visited the secretariat of the party to register his membership.

On the surface, it seems Obaseki has been accepted into the PDP. His reelection, on the platform, is as good as sealed as far as National Working Committee (NWC) members and PDP Governors are concerned. But will such top-bottom approach serve the interest of the party in Edo?

On ground are formidable foot soldiers and stakeholders who fought tooth and nail to build the party in Edo. Their resources and structures went into making the party strong. These stakeholders, with army of supporters, are certainly no push-overs in the party. Through them the party has been able to offer formidable opposition in Edo.

In the 2019 general elections, the party led by Chief Dan Orbih won four of the nine House of Representatives slots. PDP grabbed two of the three senatorial seats in a move that shocked many pundits considering it was up against a ruling party whose National Chairman was immediate Governor.

Orbih, who party members describe as a warrior, also fought to install the PDP Governorship candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who lost with 253,173 votes to Obaseki’s 319,483. There are many of his likes with strong foot soldiers in Edo PDP.

There are indications many of them feel sidelined and shortchanged by the intrigues of Obaseki’s defection. One of them confided last night: “The national leaders and Governors thought they could just bring him on board without as little as our consultation. They described him as a big catch, forgetting a candidate is as strong as the structure.

“If we didn’t build the structure, how would he consider the platform strong enough to fulfill his ambition? It is because we have built the party that he can think of joining us and not another party.”

These stakeholders, according to indications, are displeased with Obaseki’s ‘grand’ entrance to the party. If anything, he too didn’t assuage their disenchantment. Immediately after he registered as a member of PDP, Obaseki said: “I know that upon taking up membership of this party, I automatically become the leader of the party in the state. That is the constitution; I read it thoroughly last night (Thursday).

“I want to assure all of you that I am prepared to provide leadership. I am prepared to provide a leadership that will lead this party to victory and I am prepared to provide a leadership that will not only put PDP in office in Edo State but as the ruling party in Edo State.”

Such messianic attitude, the stakeholders insisted, is annoyingly counter-productive for a party with a long term goal. Obaseki is facing stiff resistance from key stakeholders as well as aspirants. The three of them have vowed never to step down for the Governor under any condition.

One of them, Kenneth Imasuagbon, said: “The contemplation of me stepping down is preposterous. You can’t ask me to step down after my (political) struggle for the past 16 years.

“Why? How do I explain that to the people who laboured for me in the past 16 years? Even in the dream, I can’t have such a thought.

“Nobody should reach out to me. That is of no value to me. There is no advantage to him (Obaseki). Let there not be intimidation or any form of manipulation of the process by the leadership of the party at the national level.”

Another elder of the party said: “I am pained at the turn of things. The only way we can have sustainable peace is to ensure equity reigns. Those who built this party in the state must be acknowledged and given due respect and not made to look like errand boys. Until then, I am afraid the party is set for implosion.”

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