The battle for the soul of Edo State by two main parties, the ruling Action Congress and the opposition PDP is heightening political tension in the state, as skirmishes are afoot for the governorship, with Governor oshiomhole barely one year in office. SIMON EBEGBULEM reports
The political tension in Edo state is heating up every day and as expected there is bitterness between the ruling Action Congress (AC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state.
After the Appeal Court verdict on November 11, 2008, which declared Comrade Adams Oshiomhole the rightful occupant of the state’s Government House at Osadebey Avenue, GRA, Benin City, there was fragile peace in the state and people were wondering if it was true that the former chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, Chief Tony Anenih actually influenced the appeal court judgment to kick out his estranged political son, Professor Oserhiemen Osunbor.
No opposition was coming for the PDP until recently; the only opposition then was the Coalition of Registered Political Parties (CRPP) in the state, whose chairman, Dr Samson Isibor vowed to continue to criticize the state government until he sees some thing different from it. The relationship was actually that of a father and son.
To buttress this fact, Chief Anenih described Oshiomhole as his son during a ceremony in Auchi, some time in June this year. He went on to declare that Oshiomhole meant well for the people and that he should be given the support to succeed.
Speaking at the same occasion, Oshiomhole described Chief Anenih as his father and asserted that he would continue to accord him respect as a â€œLeaderâ€ irrespective of the fact that they are not in the same political party.
Their open display of love for each other did not really go down well with their supporters, but the duo as it seems, asked them to go to hell.
Akoko-Edo re-run raises political ante
However, the relationship went sour after the August 22, 2009, Akoko-Edo re-run election, where the Action Congress (AC) overwhelmed the almighty PDP. The AC candidate, Mr Kabiru Adjoto defeated the PDP candidate, Anslem Agbabi.
Hell was let loose as the PDP cried foul in the election. But the faction of the party led by Dr Samuel Ogbemudia described Akoko-Edo election as â€œ battle between father and son, so it is a family affair. What do you want us to say,â€ Elder Sunny Uyugue told Vanguard.
It was alleged that the AC used government apparatus to ferry thugs to Akoko-Edo and unleashed mayhem on the PDP members in the area. But the AC countered that claim, saying that the PDP lost the election because they never believed in the principle of â€œone man one voteâ€ which was canvassed by Governor Oshiomhole before the election.
Leader of the House of Representatives, Col.Tunde Akogun, Senator Yisa Braimoh and other PDP leaders who were on ground on the day of that election, almost wept. They called for the cancellation of the election which Oshimhole described as the freest ever witnessed in the state. Oshiomhole who reacted to their outburst, stated that â€œthe PDP is crying because they were not allowed to rig by Akoko-Edo people.
His words: “They have deprived the people of the area and the entire state opportunity to cast their votes for a long time, but this time around people were given the opportunity to vote because we insisted that it must be one man, one vote; no rigging. But I said it from day one that we must change the ways we do things in this state.
It is no longer business as usualâ€. A chieftain of the PDP in the state, Owere Dickson-Imasogie told Vanguard that â€œwe are not happy because before the election, Chief Anenih called all the PDP leaders and told us that we must not be seen in Akoko-Edo unless you are from that area. He said he had agreed with Oshiomhole that everybody must stay out and allow those from the area handle it.
And we all abided by it. As you know, I am from Edo South, I decided not to go to Akoko-Edo on the day of the election based on the instruction from our leader. But surprisingly, we heard that the Governorâ€™s ADC, Chief of Staff and AC leaders from the South and others invaded Akoko Edo. But we have resolved that this will not happen againâ€.
Thus, the battle line was drawn between the AC and the PDP in Edo after the election. Ever since then, supporters of both parties have engaged themselves in a war of words, making the political situation in the state very tense.
Tension heightens with Imasuagbon’s defection
The tension further heightened on earlier last month, on October 3, 2009, after the Ewohinmi rally of the PDP, where a former governorship aspirant of the AC, Mr Ken Imasuagbon dumped the party, and with his supporters, defected to the PDP.
At that rally Chief Anenih and other PDP leaders took the Governor Oshiomhole-led government in the state to the cleaners and described the Action Congress as â€œAC without compressorâ€.
Chief Anenih went on to say â€œwho is even in the AC? Nobody! All the leaders are in the PDPâ€. He vowed that the party would take over government form the AC in the next governorship election. That was the first time Chief Anenih would criticize the government of Oshiomhole in the state.
But reacting few days after the rally, Special Adviser to the Governor on Political Matters, Mr Charles Idahosa, described the PDP rally as a charade, saying that though they have high regards for Chief Anenih, his statements against the governor was embarrassing and unacceptable.
Idahosa’s words: â€œ It is important to note that the people matter in the PDP when the despotic nature, the dictatorial tendency of Mr. Fix itÂ and the rest of them led to the formation of AC. So, most of the people that left for the AC are the people that matter in the PDP and today, we were able to wrest power from the PDP.
Having suffered such a defeat after the massive rigging, through the appeal court , they are yet to recover from what hit them. For the past 10 years, the PDP held Edo State by the jugular, we are aware that those 10 years were sleepy yearsâ€.
He insisted that what Oshiomhile had been able to achieve in less than one year, the PDP did not achieve in ten years that it ruled the state, asserting that â€œ they will never win the state again.” He continued: “The people have rejected them so they will be out of job for so longâ€.
AC’s claims laughable, says Imasuen
But the former deputy governor of the state, Mr Lucky Imasuen countered his claims, describing as laughable the claims by the AC that the PDP misruled the state for ten years when majority of the AC leaders today were PDP members. His words, â€œMind you, Charly Tempo was in the PDP until few months before the AC primaries.
First and foremost he was appointed by the Igbinedion administration as Director of Public Affairs. From there he became the Commissioner of Information, mouthpiece of the PDP. Then from there he became member of the NTA Board under a PDP administration.
The people in AC today are all PDP members. The Oshiomhole you are talking about was a PDP member; it was when it became clear that he was not going to get the nomination in PDP that he went to the AC from Labour.
Ize-Iyamu was secretary to government under Igbinedion for several years but today he is in the AC. Chief Tom Ikimi, a leader I respect was in the PDP, in fact he was the one who moderated the convention where Obasanjo emerged as PDP candidate. Then Omoaghe the state chairman of the AC was a leader of the PDP.
The Secretary of AC Gentleman Amegor was in PDP. So when they accuse the PDP I laugh, it is just the old wine in a new bottleâ€.
War of words
The war of words continued last Saturday, October 24, 2009, when the PDP held its unification rally at the NTA Pavillion in Benin City.
While Chief Anenih reiterated the readiness of the party to reclaim the state government house come 2012, while addressing party supporters, the new chairman of the party in the state, Chief Dan Orbih described the AC led administration as a â€œdemolition governmentâ€ that is not focused.(apparentlyÂ referring to the on-going demolition exercise in the state). Chief Orbih asserted that â€œ I want to say that the present PDP executive in Edo State will not tolerate any intimidation from the AC.
All we have seen so far in the state is demolition and beautification of the ring road. But we are aware that when Osunbor was there, he tarred a lot of roads in the three senatorial districts of the state within the short period he stayed in office.
Let me say that the people of the state will not accept attributing failure to the PDP-led government in the past. We are in the present and it will be absurd for anybody to be saying that after all, the PDP ruled the state for ten years. We will continue to give constructive criticism to the government and we urge the state House of Assembly not to be intimidated with assault on them by the AC led governmentâ€.
Also speaking at the rally, Mr Ken Imasuagbon who defected to the PDP from the AC recently, described the AC-led government as a disappointment and declared that the PDP has all it takes to go back to state’s Government House in 2012â€.
But in a reaction, AC spokesman in the state, Retti Uzzi lampooned the unity rally of the PDP, saying â€œOgbemudia and other respected leaders of the party were not there, so how come you call it a unity rally,â€ he queried.
Uzzi went on â€œ at that rally we will be receiving the top leaders and elected officers of the PDP, which included about five local government chairmen, House of Assembly members and some leaders of the PDP from the 18 local government councils of the state. It is tagged political earthquake because of the magnitude of PDP members that will be dumping the party that day. This is going to be mother of all rallies and after that it will be bye-bye to PDP in Edo.”
According to Uzzi, the rally was being organized in honour of top leaders and elected political office holders on the platform of the PDP in the state, who were expected to use the occasion to formalize their cross-over to the AC.
Addressing newsmen in Benin City yesterday, Uzzi, who said the rally scheduled to hold at the Samuel Ogbemudia stadium, would draw people away from the PDP to the extent that only a few persons would remain in the PDP after the rally. Majority of them said they are tired of the tyranny, injustice, high-handedness of the leaders of the party.
The rally is historic because it marks the final burial rites of the PDP in Edo state. The cross over of PDP members in the state to the Action Congress is unprecedented. We are practically harvesting members of the PDP from the 18 local government areas,â€adding that â€œour National chairman, and other leaders of the party will come to assist out action governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole in receiving them.
PDP raises alarm
But the PDP raised alarm, alleging that the AC had imported thugs from neighporing states to parade at the rally as PDP decampees. The PDP statement said â€œmillions of naira of Edo State money has been geared to mobilize and finance this unnecessary evil agenda, which is nothing but a politically miscalculated endeavour to create the wrong impression that the Action Congress is gaining ground in Edo State.
It should be noted that the government is about a year in office with most of the roads in Benin City not motorable, hospitals turned into mere consulting centers and schools non functional and lacking in necessary facilitiesâ€ .
The party further urged the Police and other law enforcement agencies to â€œtake prompt action to stop these thugs and criminals and thereby prevent their invasion of the state and the possible dangerous outcome their evil activities may spark off against the peace loving people of Edo State. Again we have sounded the warningâ€.
And from all indications, this is just a tip of the iceberg because there are still three House of Assembly elections that are yet to be decided by the appeal court and if a re-run is declared, the state would definitely experience fierce political warfare.
Oshiomhole had earlier promised to see to the final burial rites of the PDP in Edo but how Chief Anenih, Chief Orbih and other leaders of the party rise to his challenge would determine the fate of the PDP in future elections in the state.