SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN CITY
The appointment of Arch.Mike Onolenmenmen as the Minister representing Edo state may have come and gone, but the appointment which is supposed to be a blessing to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, may turn out to be a disaster for the party as the rampaging Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the state, led by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, has concluded plans to receive the avalanche of aggrieved PDP members into the ACN.
Onolemenmen was handed the Minister of Works portfolio by President Goodluck Jonathan last Monday, as earlier predicted by the former Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the PDP, Chief Tony Anenih. After it was made clear to party members that he was the one anointed by Anenih for the position, a lot of the PDP members gave up hope. Saturday Vanguard learnt that the leadership of the ACN foresaw the possibility of harvesting more members of the PDP into their fold.
As a result, they advised their two senators, Ehigie Uzamere and Domingo Obende to clear Onolemenmen so as to further create confusion and crisis in the state PDP. Saturday Vanguard gathered that the initial idea was to use the two ACN senators to stop Onolemnemen as a continuation of the political warfare between Governor Adams Oshiomhole and Anenih, since Onolemenmen was Anenih’s anointed. But they beat a retreat when they found out that the action would help the PDP.
Apart from that, it was said that Oshiomhole was not really interested in who becomes the Minister since it is purely a PDP affair. However, one of the ACN senators, Ehigie Uzamere (Edo South), told Saturday Vanguard that “ Onolemenmen came as a Presidential nominee and when he came, we found him worthy because of his good CV. There was no petition against him. So, the three senators from our state decided that he should be cleared. And he was cleared.
So if there are problems in their party in the state, it is left for them to sort it out. I am not a PDP member, so I have no business with their internal problem. Some of us left that party due to what some of them are complaining today and we were criticized. But today, we have seen that no man is God. Those of them complaining now should come out openly and talk and stop crying in their bedrooms. As long as we are concerned, Onolemenmen is qualified and that was why he was cleared.”
It would be recalled that Saturday Vanguard had penultimate week predicted that key leaders of the PDP in the state may dump the party for the ACN if Onolemenmen was cleared by the senate. It started last weekend when the National Vice Chairman of the PDP and the Senatorial leader of the party in Edo Central, Chief Simeon Omofuma and one-time Speaker of the State House of Assembly and prominent PDP leader in Edo Central, Rt Hon David Iyoha decamped from the PDP to the ACN.
Those who also decamped at a huge rally held at the open field of Eguare Primary School, Ekpoma, included Pastor Sam Odigie, Professor Ighalo, Barrister Ehigie Ehimua, son of a popular grassroots politician in Esanland known as Omosco and over 3000 of their members. The movement of these leaders was a major blow for the PDP because Edo Central is where Chief Anenih and Onolemenmen hail from.The former Speaker said they were tired of the “dictatorship” in the state PDP, and had decided to join the ACN to be part of the development train going on in the state. According to him, “without any equivocation, we are being persuaded to move to ACN because of the developmental and people-oriented strides of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
There is no one here or around the state that is not aware of the transformation going on in public schools and other areas across the state. Look at this school where we are, is it not a wonder? A school like this will naturally transform the intellectual capacity of any child to excel academically. Again, we are tired of imposition. We all are human beings and must be allowed to exercise our rights.”
While receiving them into the ACN fold, Oshiomhole chided the PDP for blaming their loss at the last general elections on traditional rulers, saying they lost because of the poor legacy they left behind. According to him, “It is the legacy they left behind that made the people punish them with their votes. When you go to Ekpoma, near the market where we dug a borehole, that tank has been there for 20-25 years without water.
They told us we can get no water in Ekpoma, but we told them if there is water at Nova Hotel, the God that made it possible for them to get water at Nova Hotel could not be wicked to deny Ekpoma water. We struck water at 1,500ft and we installed water treatment, the first in Edo State and today, that water is clean and good. We took the same machine to Iruekpen and after drilling for 1,300 ft, we struck water and we are going to install water treatment plant there.
Esan has produced sons who were Ministers before but they never did anything for the people of Edo state. But we are happy that they have turned to community leaders today in Uromi.” It is also being rumoured that a PDP governorship aspirant from Edo Central, Barr. Ken Imasuagbon, may also dump the party for the ACN. But one of his close aides described it as untrue, asserting that “whatever happens, we will fight to the last in the PDP”.
In Edo South, there are also strong rumours that the ex-officio of the party at the national level, Barr Henry Idahagbon, may dump the party for the ACN. But Idahagbon who reacted to that rumour to Saturday Vanguard, asserted that “as of now, I am a member of the PDP. I can only move if my people say we should leave the PDP. And we are consulting and whatever my people say I will do. If they decide that we should remain in the PDP and fight it out, we will remain but if they say we should move then we will leave.”
Two time chairman of Owan West Local Government Council, Barr.Richard Ofemo, who also lamented the problem bedeviling the party in the state, asserted that “with the situation we have found ourselves, the party needs to pacify members who are aggrieved if it is to make any impact in the state. People feel short changed on how political appointments were shared in the state, even when they have remained loyal to the party. We need to bring members together if it will make any impact in the state. There is need to bring other positions that are equally viable to other districts that did not benefit from this process. A lot of people are leaving this party. The party needs a total over haul as in Edo North.
How do you expect these old hands to lead the party? They should leave the party for the younger ones so that the party will progress. People want to see new faces running the party so that people will see it as a new PDP. The elderly ones should stay at the background and advise. The party needs reformation. Some of us have better credibility than those they have been recycling and giving appointments. So it is really sad, it is a very serious problem in the party in the state and the earlier we work things out the better for the party.”
On his part, former Deputy Governor of the state, Rev (Dr) Peter Obadan, pointed out that “nobody has anything against Mike Onolemenmen except that he is from a minority faction of PDP in the state. He is from a senatorial district that has always produced ministers. He will be the 5th in the line. Our father Chief Anenih was a Minister, late Dr Itoto, Ugbesia was a Minister, this same Onolemenmen was a Minister before.
And considering the fact that the senatorial area is just 15 per cent of the entire state. Considering the fact that by zoning, which was operative before the crisis, the south ought to produce the Minister. And considering the fact also that even looking at their own list, you can justifiably ask why not Prof.Julius Ihonvbere, who had worked tirelessly also for the party. Then you want to look at it, considering the fact that our group gave the highest number of vote to Mr President, you can say why not our group.”
However, two-time member of the House of Representatives, Mr Anthony Aziegbeni countered the claim that the PDP may go into extinction in Edo state, just as he defended the choice of Onolemenmen and the decisons of Anenih.
However, the next few weeks will determine whether the PDP in the state will be able to muscle the number to challenge the ACN in the state in the forthcoming 2012 Guber polls. The party may as well go into oblivion like the ANPP did in the state if the leadership of the party failed to face the political realities in the state.