By Dayo Benson, Political Editor
Before its recent unity rally that produced a new executive, Edo State Peopleâ€™s Democratic Party PDP had been bogged down by multiple internal crises. But all that came to an end at the rally attended by stakeholders in the state .The new chairman, Mr Dan Orbih spoke on how the party plans to recapture the state from Action Congress AC. Excerpts:
In your new role, what do you foresee as a major task ahead?
I think my immediate challenge is to unite the party and ensure that the party forms the next government in Edo State, come 2012.
What will you say brought the party to the state in which it is now in Edo?
Well, we had avoidable crisis; avoidable conflict at a time but a I think majority of our members have come to realise that there is need for us to unite for the purpose of winning back the government of Edo State.
How has it gone so far?
So far, so good. The bulk of the people who were sworn in yesterday as members of the new executive of the party, came from both sides of the divide and Iâ€™m happy that we formed a united team that will inspire confidence in our members.
One of the key players, Dr Ogbemudia was not at the rally?
Well, I believe that he probably had some urgent issues to attend to and had to travel to Lagos. I was informed that he was not in Benin City. Iâ€™m of the opinion that if he were in Benin probably he would have attended.
Did he send any apology or was he not invited?
Iâ€™m very convinced that he was duly informed about the rally and apart from Dr Ogbemudia, there were few other members who did not attend. You know that in a rally you cannot have every person in attendance. To a large extent, we had a unity rally. You saw the former governor of the state, Prof Osunbor present at the rally.
HeÂ introduced me as the new chairman of the party. And you also noticed the presence of Barr. Sado who was a factional chairman of the party at a time. Having withdrawn his case, he has demonstrated his own support for the new spirit in the party and that was why he was present at the rally.
We heard that the withdrawal of the case was part of the preconditions given to really achieve a lasting peace. How true is this?
Well, Iâ€™m not aware of that but the presence of those who took the party to court at the rally today is a demonstration of the fact that the party has come together.
Some people also think that despite the excuses that the absence of Ogbemudia means that all is not well yet?
You would haveÂ noticed in the past that we had other rallies where Chief Anenih could not come for one reason or the other. I donâ€™t think that his (Ogbemudia) absence is any indication that there is a crack in the party. I believe he must have some reasons why he travelled.
It could have been a different thing if he were in Benin but refused to attend the rally. A man who travelled to Lagos could not have been expected to be in Benin at the same time. So, I believe that he has reasons for not being at the rally. But we have full confidence in his support for the party.
Would you say that your leadership is somehow affected despite the presence of those who were at the rally?
If you put a call to Dr Ogbemudia, he will tell that he has nothing against me leading the party. He told me so and I believe him and I believe he is in support of my emergence as the new chairman in Edo State.
Do you think that the crisis the PDP is trying to curtail now is responsible for the partyâ€™s loss ofÂ the last governorship election to the AC?
My answer to that is that the court gave reasons why we lost the election. Iâ€™m not in a position to talk about the crisis. I accept the verdict of the court.
The campaign PDP is carrying on now is to attribute the condition of the state, its development problems,Â to AC whereasÂ the party was the one in power in the last eight years?
Well, I want to say that when Osunbor was in power, in his 100 days, he commissioned projects for everybody to see. He did the Okpila township road, the Auchi township road, the road from Ekpoma to Ukpoji. There were so many things that I can point to that he commissioned within the same period that Oshiomohle has stayed in government.
Like I said in my speech, after one year in office, there was budgetary provision for the rehabilitation of some roads even in Benin City. He voted over N900 million for dualisation of airport road, saying he was going to make it six lanes. He talked about the dualisation of Ugbowo Road. To date, not a grader has been sent to the site.
You see, we cannot continue to accept the failure of the present government on the fact that some other persons who were in government too did not perform. We believe that he has a duty and a responsibility to the people of this state to perform in office. He is the only governor that Iâ€™ve seen who attends birthday parties, naming ceremonies, burial ceremonies, there is nowhere you invite him that heâ€™ll not go. He should learn to sit down to do the job that he was elected to do. That is the truth. Government is not showmanship. We should learn to tell this man the truth.
There is nothing to show for his being in government. He cannot explain his failure from what other people did. And for purpose of explanation, let me say that bulk of the people who are in his the government are the people who were in government in the past years that did not do well.
So, Iâ€™m not surprised that he is not doing well. So, we have a purified PDP, we have re-branded PDP, we have a new party that is ready to deliver. Those they c
omplain about are those who brought him to power and so it is sheer political ingratitude to keep telling us the things we already know that they did not do well when they were in government.
But it appears PDP is not prepared to allow him to do well considering the fact that the House is dominated by PDP members and there is virtually nothing he can do without the approval of the House?
All he has asked the House to do have been approved for him. He was making noise when they said, â€˜how are you going to dualise this road from the airport to the ring road considering the fact that you have the State House of Assembly on one side of the road and the Oba palace at the other side?â€™ He got people to demonstrate at the House of Assembly that he wants to work and the House was not ready to pass his budget for him to work. We sat down, we said, â€˜look, this is a man that is destined to fail.
It is better to approve it and let the people know that weâ€™ve seen that what he is planning will not be possible because of this handicap. And where are we today? One year after the approval he has not been able to mobilise a grader, instead, he is getting over N1.2 billion, first, N600 million and additional amount on a supplementary budget for beautification.
In a city where there is hunger and poverty, he is spending that amount of money on beautification. It is good we tell the people of the state that this man is a total mistake. That is where weâ€™re and that is why we have resolved to mobilise our members to ensure that people weâ€™ll not suffer more than four years in the hands of this man.
Itâ€™s like you have been tackling him from day one. Heâ€™s just going to be one year in office next month but PDP is already preparing for the next election in 2112?
In civilised democracy, after a hundred days you must be able to show what youâ€™ve been able to achieve and project what the people should expect from you in the years ahead. This is a man who after 100 years could not show anything to the people and he said there is nothing sacrosanct about 100 days in office. I tell you, give him fours and he will still not been able to show anything.
What does PDP want to do?
Well, we owe it a duty to the people of this state to continue to point out the ills of his government, believing that he may wake up from his slumber. We cannot fold our hands and allow him to mismanage our resources. We believe that constructive criticism from us may be able to spur him to action.
And what if that happens?
If that happens, fine. This state belongs to all of us, whether weâ€™re in government or weâ€™re out of government. We believe that our interest in politics is for the greater good of our people. So, if our criticism is able to bring the best out of him, and heâ€™s able to do something, the better for us and for the state.
Then what happens in 2112?
That will not stop us from challenging him. He doesnâ€™t need to wait for us to challenge him and criticise him before he would start doing anything. It means that from the first day the man was not prepared for this job. Government is not about â€˜oh shoo bayâ€™ or â€˜eb soo bayâ€™; it is not labour activism. Of course, that is a subject for another day because looking at his antecedent, one cannot say he made a success out of being the president of the labour union.
The greatest thing he keeps referring to was that he was resisting government when it comes to fuel increases. But records have shown that at the time he was elected president of the labour union, fuel was selling for less than N22. by the time he left, it became very expensive. So, people are beginning to say whether those agitations were genuine, whether they were not just showmanship.
But these are matters for another day. I donâ€™t think I want to border myself, all Iâ€™m interested in is his performance as governor of the State. His past is left for the labour leaders to judge him. You see, at the Ewohimi rally, I congratulated him on his new appointment to settle the crisis in ASUU but I also pointed out that he should not behave like the proverbial needle that was busy stitching torn clothing without attending to his backside.
The state university has been on strike before the ASUU strike and for one simple reason: because of his obnoxious tax policies. This man has brought a burden on the ordinary man in the street. There was a budgetary provision for N100 million for pensioners, if you watch, almost every week, pensioners are demonstrating. He has not still been able to pay this money that was allocated for that purpose.
And it is more painful that he is coming from the labour background. Well, people have said that even in Poland, examples abound about labour activists in government who have failed in the past. That was why on my part I had a lot of reservations when he came to government. But Iâ€™m beginning to feel that Iâ€™m being proved right because th
ere is nothing that shows that this man will succeed in the governance of this state.