By Gabriel Enogholase, Benin City
COL. Paul Ogbebor (rtd), a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Edo State, in this interview, explains how the differences between top PDP chieftains in the state, Chief Tony Anenih and Dr Sam Ogbemudia, were resolved.
He advances reasons Ogbemudia should vacate his leadership of the party in Edo South Senatorial District for a younger man. He also gives reasons his group believes in the September 5 unity meeting called by Ogbemudia. Ogbebor thinks former Vice President Atiku Abubakar should not have left the PDP.
What is your reaction to the recent advertisement by a group alleging a plot to remove Dr. Sam Ogbemudia as leader of the PDP in Edo South Senatorial District?
I think there is a little bit of political rascality there, because Dr. Ogbemudia, in his sincerity and as a father, decided to invite all stakeholders in the PDP in Edo South Senatorial Zone to a meeting and there he told us that, if he had made any mistake, we should forgive him and those of us that had also make mistakes, we should forgive ourselves, we should embrace ourselves.
He told us he would be travelling abroad for treatment and put a committee in place Hon. Uyigue is a member of that committee. But that advertisement shows many people did not agree with Ogbemudia. And it is because they didn’t agree with him that they went to court on 9 September.
A few days after, there was another state headquarters being set up. So, this is why we decided to do a publication to put in proper perspectives the 5 September meeting and the decisions taken. We stand by the decisions.
There are some people in Edo South Senatorial District who believe that because of old age, Ogbemudia should give way to a younger man to take over from him the leadership of the party in the area. What is your reaction to this?
It is not the first time such thing is happening. I remember in 1978 when NPN was formed, Enahoro was made the leader or the chairman but when the people discovered that he was no longer as strong as he used to be, he was advised to step down and a younger person took over from him.
But till today, Enahoro remains the father, in fact, of all the political parties, the father of the nation. So it doesn’t mean that he should not continue to be the father and adviser.
If you want to run for elections, if you want to go for campaigns and you were in that meeting of 5 September, you will find out that Daddy Ogbemudia is not as strong as he used to be. So if people are thinking like that, I think they are thinking in the right direction.
The opening of another PDP secretariat in Edo State seems to have deepened the crisis in the state chapter of the party and it seems to be against the spirit of the (September 5) meeting.
Some of us came out to do a publication, the heading of that publication is, “Repositioning Edo State PDP: Edo South Senatorial, The 5th September 2010 Unity Meeting”.
And we said there that we condemned the setting up of such headquarters because we had a meeting where our father spoke to us only a few weeks before. We believe that if anything had transpired, our father, Dr. Ogbemudia, should have called all of us to say, `for so, so and so reasons, this is what had happened, could you advice me? ‘
He would have discussed with us and we would all have taken a decision together. But majority of us did not know that an alternative headquarters was being set up. Not only that, where did they get the money? We were told that both hiring of the property and furnishing cost N10 million, where did they get the money?
I thought that if such a thing was going to be done in Edo South, all of us would have had to put hands together and tax ourselves to do such a thing. So we believe that it is not in the interest of the party and then the “papers” started insinuating that Ogbemudia was involved and we thought we should do damage control; that is why we did this publication to say that we don’t believe he should be involved because he held a meeting with all of us.
There is this insinuation that the Edo PDP crisis begins and ends in Edo South.
From the publication we did, we gave instances. If any problem should start in Edo South, it is because of the population. However, we believe that whatever the problem is, it is a family thing, it is a problem in the family and we should be able to handle it.
Now the issue is, is Gen. Ogbemudia still the leader in Edo South?
What we said here is that, what we set in our agenda to pursue with all commitment is the realization of the September 5 meeting in all its ramifications. So that’s where we stand.
We said here that we support the leaders and Ogbemudia’s declaration to voluntarily step aside and handover to a successor while he continually plays a fatherly and advisory role; we said we support this.
Looking at the PDP crisis, what’s the way forward because elections are almost around the corner and a party that is divided against itself cannot actually do well in the polls not to talk of recapturing the state?
Within political parties, politics is science of conflict and resolution; so there is never a time you can ever remove conflict, as we see in Benin.
A party is like washing clothes; every time you wash it, till it gets clean, you continue to fine tune. But what is important to a party is winning election, and I think the quality of a candidate matters a lot. So, I think that is what we are now aiming at, to make sure we get the right candidates who will appeal to the people so that they can win election.
And the second thing is organization and mobilization. We have been hearing that PDP did not perform when they were here for eight years. It is not PDP that didn’t perform. It’s the personalities, the human beings that didn’t perform. So, we are out to dispel that erroneous impression by showing example and the most important thing is to make sure that there is internal democracy, so confidence will be restored.
Ogbemudia and Anenih are alleged to be the arrowheads of the crisis in the state. What are you doing to call the gentlemen together and tell them enough is enough?
I am happy to let you know that I, Paul Ogbebor was the one given the mandate to ensure that the two friends who have divergent opinions when it comes to politics are brought together.
The day I was given that mandate in Abuja, the first person I went to was Tony Anenih to say, ‘this is the mandate I was given, how do we do it?’ He contributed and I contributed.
When I left there and came to Benin (because Ogbemudia was not in Nigeria), I went straight to Uyigue that I spoke to Tony Anenih that this is the mandate I was given. After speaking with him also, he asked me to contact Ogbemudia, and I contacted him.
I told him the mandate I was given and he agreed. What he agreed on is that leaders are not the owners of the party but the people, the grassroots, the sovereign are the ones that choose the leaders and if there is any problem, they should always fall back to the grassroots.
So that one gave way to this senatorial meeting that was held in the north and _central in Edo State, the September 5, meeting and then, as far as I know, Ogbemudia and Anenih agreed that this meeting should be held.
And they agreed that the grassroots, the owners, the common man in the party, what they decided on we will use it. I think we have decided that the contentious points of Tony Anenih group and Osunbor’s group should be dead and Ogbemudia mentioned it here in his paper that they are dead and they remain dead.
And also that the issue of senatorial autonomy is paramount and also that it should be encouraged and practised and that’s why each senatorial district have their own meetings. Otherwise, it could have been together.
The one we had in Edo South, people from A-group came, people from O-group came; we all had a meeting and there, our father Ogbemudia, announced that the issue of A and O groups is dead. So I think, politically, the differences between Ogbemudia and Tony Anenih have been resolved.
So, with effect from 5 September, there are no such differences.
What are the chances of President Jonathan in the PDP primaries with the nomination of Abubakar Atiku by some northern leaders for the presidential ticket of the party?
It is true that Atiku is a good politician especially judging by the role he played in the third term ambition of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. But how I wish he never left the PDP and say so many uncomplimentary things about the PDP. And I wish he had made his reconciliation with Obasanjo public. ‘
In effect, I think Jonathan should be given a chance because he belongs to the generation of young world leaders today, namely Barack Obama, David Cameron of U.K., Russian leader, Putin. I believe he could interact with the world leaders to achieve Vision 2020 goals.
In addition, Atiku should tone down his campaign on zoning because it is not in the interest of the nation, where you have teeming population that is interested in a united and progressive Nigeria.