Politics

Edo 2024: How party crises may shape gov’ship election

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Political parties in Edo State have inaugurated their campaign councils ahead of the September 21, 2024, governorship election. Although none of the parties has officially launched its campaign with the usual pageantry used to flag off campaign season in Nigeria, candidates from the various parties are already crisscrossing the 18 LGAs and presenting their programmes to prospective voters.

Seventeen political parties have registered with INEC for the election, but analysts believe only three will have significant impact: the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with Asue Ighodalo as its candidate, the All Progressives Congress (APC) with Senator Monday Okpebholo and the Labour Party (LP) with Barrister Olumide Akpata.

Interestingly, these three major political parties are plagued with crises, which, according to pundits, may affect their chances in the election.

PDP’s pronounced crisis

Although the three major parties face issues, the PDP’s problems are the most pronounced and deep-rooted, beginning after winning the 2020 governorship election. The unresolved crisis led to the factionalisation of the party in the state, with Governor Godwin Obaseki leading one faction christened “New PDP” and the party’s National Vice Chairman (South South), Chief Dan Orbih, leading the “Old PDP”.

The crisis continued unabated through the party’s primary election won by Governor Obaseki’s anointed candidate, Asue Ighodalo, and has since seen the party embroiled in a turmoil. As the crisis festers, the PDP faces resignations and anti-party activities as it prepares for the governorship election. Many party chieftains have resigned and joined opposition parties while others who stayed back are working against the party. Notable resignations include members from Edo South and Edo Central senatorial districts.

Chieftains who resigned include Charles Idahosa from Uwhunwode LGA, Frank Abass Momoh Jega from Etsako East LGA; Nosa Adams from Egor LGA; Prince Abubakar Felix Isuku from Owan East LGA; Dr Flex Akhabue from Esan West LGA; former Speaker, Frank Okiye, from Esan North East LGA; Benjamin Obaseki from Oredo LGA, and Senator Mathew Urhoghide from Oredo LGA.

APC’s primary election fallout

The APC is dealing with the fallout from its primary election which produced Senator Monday Okpepbholo as its candidate. Though not as intense as the PDP’s crisis, the APC’s issues include the resignation of notable chieftains like Dr Victoria Amu from Owan West LGA; Francis Inegbinoki, APC state vice chairman, from Esan Central LGA; and John Mayaki from Akoko-Edo LGA, who, although did not resign, is reportedly working against the party’s candidate.

Despite these challenges, pundits believe the APC may benefit from the PDP’s self-induced crisis, as about 95 per cent of those who resigned from the PDP have moved to the APC.

LP’s leadership crisis

The LP is grappling with a leadership crisis between the loyalists of its National Chairman, Julius Abure; and the state Chairman, Kelly Ogbaloi. Abure, who hails from Edo State, appointed former Speaker, Elizabeth Ativie, as caretaker chairman after sacking the Kelly Ogbaloi-led executive. However, the majority of the party members, including its governorship candidate, Barr Akpata, have passed a vote of confidence in the Ogbaloi-led state executive.

Akpata, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), last month, stated his stance on the leadership crisis, aligning with the Ogbaloi-led EXCO, saying, “I am aligning with legitimacy, and the law is with Ogbaloi. We have organs responsible for our party, and no letter has come to the state from these organs stating that Ogbaloi’s EXCO has been removed.

“My deputy and I are lawyers and we know that the law is on Ogbaloi’s side until the contrary. So, we stand by the law. As far as I am concerned, the chairman of the Labour Party in Edo today is Kelly Ogbaloi.

“Secondly, we know the procedure for changing the State Working Committee, and I have not seen that procedure being activated.”

Analysts note that conflict is not healthy for a party going into an election in less than three months, especially a party considered the dark horse in the race. The party, which only recently achieved national prominence, is hoping to add to its 2023 general elections’ successes, where it won the Abia State governorship election and its presidential candidate emerged third in the presidential election.

High-profile support for APC

Interestingly, the APC is benefiting from the crisis in the PDP, as some high-profile PDP chieftains who have not resigned from the party have aligned with the APC and its candidate, Senator Okpebholo. These include former Deputy Governor Philip Shaibu and former House of Representatives Member, Ogbeide Ihama.

Both Shaibu and Ihama, who were aspirants during the PDP governorship primary, have donated their campaign offices, vehicles, music trucks and other facilities to the APC candidate. Shaibu recently declared his support for the APC candidate, explaining that he could not support the PDP candidate as he viewed him as a product of “godfatherism” which had been eradicated in Edo State.

Shaibu stated that he joined Obaseki to fight against godfatherism during the 2020 election and learnt new political strategies from him, hence that he supported Okpebholo because he possessed the characteristics of a “homeboy” needed to take over governance in Edo State.

He said, “I will support a homeboy. I came into the contest to be Governor of Edo State because I needed governance to return to a homeboy; somebody that understands our plight and somebody that understands the feelings of the people.

“We don’t want an outsider. We have experimented with an outsider and it is not working. So, this time we want a homeboy. We have only two homeboys in the major political parties; one is in the Labour Party and one is in the All Progressives Congress.” He criticised the PDP candidate, saying, “The PDP candidate is the godson of Obaseki, and there is no way a godson can be Governor of Edo State again.”

Shaibu and Ihama’s support for the APC, it’s believed, is likely to galvanise other PDP members to reconsider their position, potentially leading to increased support for the APC.

According to analysts, the development marks a pivotal moment in Edo politics, reflecting the growing momentum for the APC. One political observer noted, “While the PDP grapples with resignations, the APC is capitalising on it, solidifying its position ahead of the election.”

PDP’s retaliation & internal criticisms

In retaliation, the PDP has suspended and expelled the National Vice Chairman (South South, Chief Orbih; Comrade Shaibu and Ihama for anti-party activities, with the party’s State Publicity Secretary, Ogie Vasco, stating that the State Working Committee upheld their suspension and expulsion.

Orbih, however, dismissed the actions as the work of idle people and busybodies, asserting that they lacked the power to suspend or expel anyone without strictly following the party’s constitution.

A former PDP governorship aspirant, Barr Anselm Ojezua, criticised the party’s handling of the situation, saying, “PDP has been having problems; we couldn’t manage our victory principally because the man in charge (Obaseki) wants to be the say-all and the be-all. Politics is about people, and that is why every party must be in a state of mobilisation at all times to get more people into its fold. But if rather than getting more people to your side you are pursuing them away, it will impact negatively on you and your party.”

Ojezua believes the APC is gaining and benefiting from the PDP’s crisis, and that if the APC wins the election, it will be due to the PDP’s deficiencies. He expressed doubt about the PDP’s ability to stop the “bleeding” of members from the party, noting that the damage has been ongoing for four years.

He explained that: “The foundation of the crisis in PDP was laid four years ago, and the result is what you are seeing today. To even talk of a solution now will be difficult. PDP is bleeding because people are moving out of the party, and it will take time to stop the bleeding so that the party will not die. But I don’t know whether they can stop the bleeding now.”

A resident, Momoh Itse, noted that while the three major parties were in crises, the magnitude of the PDP’s problems as the ruling party was unparalleled, pointing out that the ongoing resignations could severely impact its chances if the trend continued.

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