By Tony Momoh
GONE are the days when it was claimed that pictures do not lie. Even in my time as a sub-editor in the Daily Times, and that was at the height of the Action Group crisis in the early 60s, pictures lied.
There was this photograph of a rally of the party which the Premier of the Western Region, Chief Ladoke Akintola, had formed to confront Awolowoâ€™s Action Group of which Akintola had been a frontline leader.Â What was being proved by the photograph I had to publish was that Akintolaâ€™s NNDP had mass following in the West.
There he was, the highly-acclaimed orator, telling it to the people of his region in an open field, why they should desert the Action Group.
Well the chief sub-editor, Mac Alabi (God bless his soul, he passed on recently) asked for the picture before it was cropped. That means removing areas you did not need for the space allotted to the picture. His eagle eyes spotted what we, the trainee subeditors, would never have seen. At the corner of the field was a goal post and someone holding a football!
So the crowd that had been captured as party men at a political rally was in fact a football crowd in a football field! Oh yes, we were being done in with a photo trick!
So when recently I read in the papers that there was going to be an Action Congress rally in Benin City and the PDP warned all and sundry that thugs would be imported into that arena and that the police should stop what might degenerate to a breakdown of law and order, I called my sister-in-law Safu who is a woman leader and told her what I had read in the papers.
She said not to worry, that I should watch out for what even the PDP itself would not believe could happen. I laughed when she told me the old crap about pictures not lying.
I was even not much impressed when I met Tom Ikimi at Abuja three days before the rally and he told me that the rally would witness the death and burial of the godfather. If you do not know, I should tell you that the godfather under reference is Chief Tony Anenih.
He is also known as the Leader. Between 1999 and 2003, he called all the shots in the politics of the South-South. When before the 2003 elections he told everybody that there was no vacancy in Aso Rock or any of the government houses in the South-South, many did not know what magic wand he had to make his predictions come true. But donâ€™t ask me how he did it.
The truth of the matter is that all those endorsed by Tony Anenih, even where they lost nominations at the primaries, found themselves in power! His pronouncements about what will come in 2011 are gaining grounds, but his home state was struck by a political tsunami last Saturday, October 31, when the Action Congress held the much advertised rally at Ogbe Stadium. My reading of that outing is more than many people are telling me.
I saw with my own eyes, watching Channels TV which was one of the stations that carried the event live, many well-known PDP leaders from all the 18 local government areas of Edo State moving into AC!Â The roll call was unbelievable – chairmen of councils; present and former leaders of the party from the three senatorial districts; loud and active women leaders of the party from Edo North and Central senatorial districts!
I ask who must have been the brain behind this massive disenchantment with the PDP in Edo State? Definitely not Omo Nâ€™Oba Nâ€™Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, the Oba of Benin whom people are crediting with the massive move of Edo South from the PDP.
The story is that Comrade Governor Oshiomhole had been sending to the Oba his correct entitlement of deductions from the allocations of local governments in Edo South, what the former administrations had manipulated. The Obaâ€™s heart had then been won, and he had asked his people to support the governor!
This cannot be true for the simple reason that the Omo Nâ€™Oba is not a politician and no one should drag him into politics, the rotten and dirty politics of Edo State.
We outside Edo South have always pleaded that if there is anyone who will restore the pride of Benin City to its pre-colonial status when European explorers in the 15th century said the city compared with the best in Europe of the time because of its buildings and roads, that person would be an Edo son outside Edo South. I expected Senator Osunbor to have undertaken that task if he had been retained but that chore is left to Governor Oshiomhole.
The difference between Oshiomhole and previous administrations, however, is that if what we of Edo stock in Lagos saw when he briefed us on his agenda is translated into action, then in the next two years, we will be singing the type of songs Lagosians are singing today in praise of Raji Fashola.
Edo State does not have the volume of funds Lagos accesses through heavy taxation, but we did see where we are in Edo State and where the governor wants us to be at the end of the day.
And the emphasis on giving us a befitting capital should be a first port of call. Every other area will have to be attended to later, but first things first. All this boils to one thing – that the Benin monarch should not be dragged into the politics of the mass defection from PDP.
If he can call some shots in Benin Kingdom, what of Afenmai and what of Esanland where even people from Chief Anenihâ€™s Uromi abandoned the PDP ship?
The two other causes people are touting for the defections can be looked at as our now familiar two sides of the same coin – the side of discipline that results in order, and the side of indiscipline that can only breed chaos. Chief Anenih seems to be more comfortable assessing his success on the outcome of his lone-ranging. And he has unbelievable energy for sustaining the lone-ranger role.
He does not seem to bother about what others may think of the decisions he makes and how they were arrived at. Bones may be broken, but the Leaderâ€™s routeing must not be questioned! Many have lost their places and clout within the PDP since 1999 when he got into the good books of Obasanjo.
With various alignments being worked out now, he seems to be on the side of Yarâ€™Adua who may not now fully appreciate the danger that the continued absence of internal democracy in the party poses to him as an individual; and also to the party as a democratic organisation.
Those who must work with the Uromi chief are no longer ready to accept impositions, and that is the other side of the coin in the PDP saga in Edo State.
But who should be fingered in this scenario? I looked at the audience at Ogbemudia Stadium and saw in all the moves, the hand of General (Dr) Samuel Osaigbovbo Ogbemudia, the man with whom Chief Anenih is supposed to have been running the PDP in Edo State, but who seems to have been undermined and humiliated. In my study of Ogbemudia for more than 20 years, he is not a man to be ignored in Edo State politics without dire consequences.
I hear he, with some other leaders of the party, was to have picked the chairman of the PDP in the State, but that Anenih upstaged him, held a rally and announced my friend Dan Orbih as chairman instead of Gen Abu (rtd) that the Ogbemudia group wanted and the national party executive was supposed to have endorsed! So in reaction to the Anenih rally in Benin the previous week, another by AC was organised and Adams Oshiomhole excelled in drumming home the death of godfatherism in Edo politics.
I heard loud and clear the voice of Adam Jacob Oshiomhole, but saw clearly on television the ruthless hand of Samuel Esau Ogbemudia! The battle lines are drawn.Yes, they are.