By SIMON EBEGBULEM, Benin-City
Anyone who entered the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium Benin-City, last Thursday, for the rally of Edo State All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of yesterday’s local government elections, will know that the party, under the leadership of the immediate past governor of the state, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, is not taking anything for granted. The stadium was filled to capacity by party members across the 18 local government areas of Edo.
The success of the event did not come as a surprise following the painstaking efforts made by the Secretary to the State Government, Osarodion Ogie (aka Field Marshal), to ensure a successful outing. It is believed in the politics of the state that whatever the former governorship candidate of the PDP, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, can fix politically, Ogie will unfix. Ogie and the Chief of Staff to the governor, Taiwo Akerele, were said to have temporarily relocated to the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, two days before the event, to get things right. The event witnessed the defection of estimated 10,000 members of the PDP into the APC. The defection, according to analysts, was a big blow to the PDP particularly with the exit of a former National Chairman of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), Mr Felix Akhabue, who is a top figure of the opposition party in the state. They were received into the party by the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie Oyegun.
In his opening remarks, the state chairman of the APC, Barr. Anslem Ojezua, explained, “I have told the remaining members of the PDP that since their leaders have abandoned them on the high seas, we are ready to accommodate them. We are receiving over 10, 000 PDP members today and, by 2019, there will be no PDP anymore in Edo”. Also speaking, Oyegun told the defectors, ¨APC is not a lazy party or party for cowards. I congratulate Obaseki for his silent works in the state and Comrade Oshiomhole for laying the foundation for the development that we are enjoying today. APC is a party passionate about the destiny of our nation and we are going to move this nation forward come 2019 and beyond. This is just a local government elections rally and look at the crowd here. I wonder what we are going to see by February next year. By next year we are going to deliver another APC President and governors. Let me assure all of you, the APC is a party that welcomes people and a party that is passionate about the pressing needs of the people. And we will continue to deliver the promises made by the party to Nigerians”.
Governor Godwin Obaseki, who commended the defectors for joining the party, declared that the APC will deliver 1.2 million votes in the 2019 general elections. According to him, the chairmen and councillors of the party expected to emerge at the local government elections will replicate the developmental strides of his administration in the 18 local government areas of Edo. His words: “I am not sure that there is any state where they have had a rally like this to finalize campaigns for local government elections The reason we do this is because we want our people to see ‘the wake and see chairmen and councillors’ in your local governments. What we are seeing in the state is now what we want to replicate in your local governments and wards. Because we want to make sure that infrastructural development, which we have started in Benin City, gets to every ward and local government in Edo State. Our candidates are men and women of integrity, these are people who are well grounded. I am promising you that the local government councillors and chairmen will extend all what we have been doing at the state level to the villages. Let us show Nigerians that Edo is an APC state. Let us tell our President (Muhammadu Buhari) that he has 1.2million votes in Edo. We want to show that we have numerical strength in Edo APC”.
There was thunderous ovation when the master of ceremony and former House of Represnetatives member, Patrick Obahiagbon (Igodomigodo), introduced Oshiomhole to address the rally.
Addressing the crowd, the former governor said, “The broom (APC symbol) is just getting better and stronger. Not many of you understand how I feel today. On this ground in this stadium, we launched ‘one man one vote’. On December 16, 2007, in the name of local government, PDP roll out the armed forces, they rolled out the police, to ruthlessly rig local government elections. We fought them but with the power of the armed forces, they stole the election in the 18 local government areas. And I said, in this state, in the name of God and our ancestors, we will work to liquidate and banish the system that oppressed our people. For me it is a thing of joy that that machine that deployed those forces on December 16, 2007, today with their leaders alive and all of us alive, that party called PDP is dead. The point now is that in our life time, the party of the godfathers surrendered without a punch. I can see everything turning around. It will interest Nigerians to know that Edo PDP surrendered. I can see the power of the people”. Urging the people of the state to shun PDP in the general election since the party decided to boycott the Local Government election, Oshiomhole noted that “the burial of PDP was done when after my election they said, ok this will be the last one. Then we brought Obaseki they said it will not work but he won.
“For PDP, local government is for local people, chairman and councillors are not their business. But when it gets to National Assembly polls, they will expect people to vote for them. Meanwhile they are not interested in local government elections. So I want to tell Edo people, whoever refused to support you to be a councillor or local government chairman, you cannot support him to become a senator. We will stand on our feet and we will make this nation greater. Nobody thought in their life time that PDP will chicken out of election even before the election, Halleluiah! And we give God the glory that they are down and out”.