By Simon Ebegbulem, Benin City
Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State will be one year in office this November 11, and he has a lot to celebrate in terms of laying solid foundation for infrastructural development and asserting his political superiority over the almighty PDP in the state.
He reaffirmed his superiority in the politics of Edo State last weekend, when six serving Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chairmen dumped the party for the Action Congress (AC).
But prior to the weekend rally held at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, the signal that the PDP was going to receive a shocker was when the Vice-Chairman of the PDP (Edo Central), Chief Henry Okoror defected to the Action Congress (AC). Okoror was a strong political ally to the former Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, Chief Tony Anenih.
On that occasion, decampees from Uromi, the homestead of Chief Anenih were also received into the AC. It would be recalled that the governor and his Action Congress had also crushed the PDP in the Akoko Edo re-run House of Assembly in election in August, to the chagrin of those who claimed he did not know politics but a labour man.
Those who have been monitoring the politics of the state in the past few months will not be surprised about the sudden craze by former members of the PDP to dump the party for the ruling Action Congress, due to the unresolved crisis between Chief Anenih and the former two-time governor of old Bendel State, Chief Samuel Ogbemudia.
The duo had been solidly behind each other since the inception of democracy in 1999. They fought on the same side during the crisis that engulfed the party when Chief Lucky Igbinedion was in power.
The duo fought Igbinedion to a standstill during his second tenure in as governor, forcing Igbinedionâ€™s men, led by the then Secretary to the State Government, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who eventually dumped the party for the Action Congress.
Unfortunately for the party, the duo parted ways at the early stage of the administration of Governor Oserhiemen Osunbor, when the raging PDP crisis started. It would be recalled that Dr Ogbemudia had backed then Governor Osunborâ€™s resolve to hold control of the party in the state which ran contrary to the belief of Chief Anenih and his followers who claimed that they installed Osunbor, therefore he should concentrate on governance and allow them to control the party.
But Ogbemudia said no, and the battle line was drawn. Several efforts were made to reconcile the two leaders but they yielded no fruit. Ogbemudia is from the South senatorial district, which has the highest population while Anenih is from Central senatorial district with lowest population. Ogbemudia was at the Ewohinmi rally of the PDP after pleadings from a former governorship aspirant of the AC, Mr Ken Imasuagbon, who defected to the PDP at the rally.
But Ogbemudia and his group were conspicuously absent during the unity rally of the PDP held at the NTA Pavilion,penultimate week after they disagreed on who should be the Vice-Chairman of the party in the South district where Ogbemudia hails from.
Anenih insisted in producing somebody for the position but the Ogbemdia forces regarded that as an insult and so backed out of the unity rally where Chief Dan Orbih was introduced as Chairman of the party after he was sworn in by the Vice-Chairman of the party, South South Chief Edet Nkpubre.
Ogbemudia had always insisted that leaders in the three senatorial districts must be given the opportunity to fill political positions in their areas. The relationship between the duo collapsed totally when Dr Ogbemudia declared, prior to the NTA rally of the PDP that, â€œI and Chief Anenih have no personal quarrel. He is my friend and he still remains my friend.
But politically, we disagreed because the way he is playing his politics is too sophisticated for me now. We started this struggle not because we are trouble makers but because we want the right thing to be done. We do not want PDP to continue to lose on the field.
Therefore, we have been seeking for reconciliation. I received a text message from Chief Anenih, informing me about a rally this weekend. I am not opposed to a rally but I told him that a state rally at this stage was premature and could not serve the purpose. If it is a one sided rally, I am not opposed to it but those who believe in what we are doing must not attend that rally.
What we said is that when a chairman is sworn in, the chairman will now organise the rally where we all will welcome him. The issue of reconciliation should have been done since June but they are the ones dragging it on. They held a rally at Ewohinmi and all through the programme, none of our names was mentioned. Reconciliation is of the mind.
Our people who left the party now for the AC did so out of frustration but I know that they will all come back if the right thing is done.â€
While all these were happening, Governor Oshiomhole and his AC were watching keenly and waiting for the kill. Edo South is where Dr Ogbemudia hails from commands the highest voters during elections due to its population.
Therefore, you cannot be a governor of the state without the support of the people from the area. And to make matters worse for the PDP, about 60 per cent of projects in the 2009 budget of Governor Oshiomhole was centered
on the South and that is why today, Benin City, the state capital has taken a new look due to on going beautification projects embarked upon by the governor.
Apart from the beautification project, the flood problem in Benin City is being tackled head on and the governor is poised to return the state to its original master plan, hence the demolition of illegal structures particularly in Benin City.Â The people seem to pleased with Oshiomhole who is from the North senatorial district than even when their son, Chief Lucky Igbinedion was governor of the state.
Consequently, due to Oshiomholeâ€™s developmental strides in the area and what they perceived as Anenihâ€™s dictatorial tendencies in the PDP, it became inevitable that the PDP would suffer serious casualties in the South. And that was displayed at the rally of the AC last weekend where five out of the six Local Government Chairmen from the PDP, who decamped to the AC were all from the South.
Others were Crosby Eribor (Egor), Mrs Itohan Osahon (Ikpoba Okhai), Barr. John Obaze (Uhumnwode), Faustin Ovienroba (Ovia North East), Chief Stanley Odidi (Etsako East) and Omorogieva Gbajumo (Oredo). Other leaders of the PDP who decamped at the rally included two Benin based transporters, Godwin Edosa, John Osamede Adun aka Bob Izua, former state Chairman of the defunct Social Demcratic Party (SDP), Chief Michael Obomese, former State Deputy Chairman of the PDP (Edo Central, Chief Henry Okoror, the Obiyan brothers, Dr Jacob and Willy Obiyan, Chief Mrs Evelyn Igbafe and a host of others and their supporters.
The rally tagged â€œoperation political earthquakeâ€, was regarded as a tsunami as notable PDP leaders dumped the party, citing imposition of candidates and alleged dictatorial tendencies of Chief Anenih as reason for their action.
The carnival like rally was witnessed by Senator Ben Obi, who represented the National Chairman of the AC, Chief Bisi Akande and the National Secretary of the party, Usman Bugaji. Other notable state party leaders at the occasion included the state chairman of the party, Prince Tony Omoaghe, State Leader, Senator Roland Owie, former Secretary to the state Government, Pastor Osagie-Ize Iyamu and the entire members of the State Executive Council.
Speaking at the rally, elated Governor Oshiomhole who had earlier vowed to end the politics of godfatherism in the state was happy to receive the decampees. It was a day Oshiomhole banished Chief Anenih to Anambra state,
saying that he has no space in the state any more. The decampees, who spoke one after the other, confirmed their liberation from the political stranglehold of Chief Anenih and the PDP and vowed to assist the Comrade Governor to sink the party in the state.Â Â National leader of the party, Chief Tom Ikimi also expressed joy over what he described as the liberation of his people in the Central, adding that, â€œ I have taken over the leadership of my people, the Esan people who have been under siege, under the leadership of the maximum leader of the PDP.â€
Ikimi and Anenih are both from Central district. Addressing the mammoth crowd, Oshiomhole asserted that â€œFor some time now, there have been all kinds of statements by godfathers who have refused to accept that their days are over. I remember when I joined politics two years ago.
I said we were going to fight against godfatherism because in a democracy, there is no place for godfathers. When I sad so, they said I was only a labour activist. They said I did not know politics that I would soon know the difference between politics and labour. But they have already found out who knows the politics.â€
Addressing Chief Anenih, Oshiomhole said, â€œThree weeks ago, I was watching the television, and I saw the godfather merely looking for children, went to the village to run his mouth. On that occasion, he said that Oshiomhole would soon know that there is a difference between Labour and governance and the man who was speaking have had the opportunity of being a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with a mandate to fix our roads. They call him Mr Fix but he could not fix Lagos- Benin Road. He could not fix the roads in Uromi where he comes from.
They call him Mr Fix. He could not fix water for his people. They call him Mr Fix , he could not fix water for Uromi people. You call him Mr Fix, he could not fix the dual carriage way from Abuja that ends in Kogi State. He could not extend the dual carriage way to his own state.
They call him Mr Fix and he could fix his family in PDP. And I now said to him, how come that he is a professor of governance. I am proud today that under one year, we have restored the principles of democracy and open participation. We have demonstrated that in a democracy, it is only the people that matter. And I do not have two gods.
I have only one God. And today, right from Uromi, the party of the godfather, all his key men and women came here, one after the other, just to renounce god fatherism and to express that they have seen the light.Â I assure you that together, we will preside over the political funeral of the godfather. His time is up! His time is up!â€ he declared.
Oshiomhole recalled further that, â€œPeople tell me that at one time, they said he was my leader, my father and I was his son.
But any father who refuses to accept that his children have grown up is not a good father. Any leader who does not know when to retire, we have the collective responsibility…. if he cannot see the political exit gat…. we have the collective responsibility to take him to the exit gate.
The reason why we are here is to celebrate the end of the godfather. Last week, they went to NTA Pavillon and they said they were installing a chairman. Did you ask the question, where was the election held? He was elected in the bedroom of the former godfather right there in Uromi.Â If Nigerian democracy must grow, the starting point is internal democracy .
A man who will not allow members of his party to elect the chairman of the party, will such person such person submit to the rules of INEC? So, when we said we are celebrating the end of godfatherism, we are actually celebrating the birth of genuine popular democracy.