By Tony Edobor, reporting from Benin-city.
The epic battle between Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State and Chief Dan Orbih as to who controls the soul of the party in the state came to a head last Saturday as visiting PDP presidential candidate Alhaji Atiku Ababakar met a virtually empty field. The turnout was not only poor but the grim message was clear: your political house was in shambles! The Edo State PDP rally to sell the Atiku candidacy had ended in a huge flop. “I expected Godwin Obaseki to settle his quarrel with Chief Dan Orbih; I never expected it to drag to this absurd extent, and now affecting the chances of the party ahead the 2023 elections” said Bruno Asephokhai, a staunch party faithful, who spoke to our correspondent in Benin.
Bruno was worried that the lingering crisis was not about the progress of the party but more on ego and muscle flexing. “Obaseki came and met the PDP; they gave him the opportunity to escape Oshiomole’s brutal hammer, but his greed and lust for power overwhelmed him”, disclosed Mr. Asophokhai. He went on to praise the resilience of Chief Dan Osi Orbih for resisting what he called “oppressor trait” of the Edo State governor. “Chief Dan Orbih campaigned for him, supported him all through his APC travails. “You can’t eat your cake and have it” Bruno voiced out stressing that his political career is on fire.
On the rift between Atiku Ababakar and Governor Nyesom Wike, he explained that what is at stake was karma. Wike who was in Benin during the reelection of Godwin Obaseki had spent three days working with all his might to rescue Obaseki. Wike was also said to have single handedly sustained the PDP since the defeat of Jonathan and thought he was on the same level with his colleagues. But Tambuwal, Saraki, Okowa and Obaseki betrayed him. Wike had once called Obaseki a “serial betrayer”’. They said unprintable things about him and called him names; but the man pushed on.
Then came Atiku who abandoned him for Okowa as his choice for running mate. “Wike is a veteran, he is not a man to be pushed around”, said Chief Collins Adolor, a trader in Benin. “This tells you that both Obaseki and Atiku all have tendentious motives”, Adolor declared. He went on to narrate how Atiku derailed the chances of former president Jonathan when he tacitly created the now famous new PDP members in 2015. “Tambuwal, Saraki and Adamu Muazu were encouraged to ditch Jonathan in his critical moment””, explained Chief Collins. But, today, it is as though karma has caught up with him.
Atiku has long nursed the idea of becoming president of Nigeria, but the way he is going about it seems unlikely to fetch him the desire. In 2003, Obasanjo literally went on his knew to beg him for his second term; and in 2011, Jonathan had barely served one term when Atiku rose up against him and demanded he stepped down. Now, against the odds, he is siding with Iyorchia Ayu, his main man to step down as party chairman—a major demand of the Wike camp. ‘You don’t run a party like that, more so a national one”, says Chief Collins, who is visibly disturbed that the PDP can’t put their house together, because of petty differences. “That’s what caused them the crown in 2015 when, for the first time an incumbent was defeated by an outsider”, claims Chief Collins, warning that, this time the fate of PDP hangs in the balance.
According to grapevine sources, Iyorchia Ayu is already being penciled down as the next Secretary to the Government of the Federation, should the PDP emerge winners at the polls! As for governor Obaseki, this may not be exciting times for him as he has allowed to many obstacles stand his way. “He should look back and see how many close friends he has disappointed, those who primed him with money, those who did leg work for him; Obaseki showed them the bitter side of life”, lamented chief Collins, adding that his case is one of nature fighting back! ‘You do not need any other sign to know that the PDP in Edo State is in turmoil; and from all indications it is but a matter of days before the main crash occurs.
Sources say, fearing this, governor Obaseki had quietly attempted to sneak into the camp of the labour party but met a brick wall; He had secretly sponsored some prominent Labour party aspirants into various positions; at the end, the same source, claim that they took his money and ditched him! The empty campaign rally ground in Benin is a pointer to the likely outcome in other states where Governors Makinde, Ortom and others holds sway. And the question now is: how long would the PDP last if states like Edo, Rivers, Ogun and Benue are out? Well, your answer is anybody’s guess! For now, it seems a hard road to travel.