2015: Can PDP rise again in Edo?
THE Peoples Democratic Party in Edo State, once a strong political institution, has, in the last seven years, suffered a self-induced dwindling of fortunes both in terms of depleting membership and electoral defeats.
The July 14, 2012 governorship election defeat in all the 18 local government council areas may well have signalled the death of the party in Edo State.
The recent sorry tantrums of its leadership amount in the main to nothing better than the cry of a helpless, hapless baby beaten by an elder.
It would be helpful for a fuller and better understanding of how and why the party in Edo State came to this sorry state.
After the unfortunate and ill-advised annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election won by the late M.K.O Abiola of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Gen. Ibrahim Babangida put in place an Interim National Government, headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan.
The Interim Government had lasted barely three months when Gen. Sani Abacha, who was then the Chief of Defence Staff, overthrew it in November of the same year.
Gen. Abacha promptly dissolved all political structures in the country, including the two political parties (SDP and NRC (National Republican Convention)), the National Assembly, State Assemblies and governments.
His attempt at giving the nation a democratic government led to the formation of political parties that later became known as the ‘Five Leperous Fingers’ (apology to the late Chief Bola Ige).
The idea to transform self from military head of state to a democratically elected president reared its head at this time.
The subsequent death in 1998 of Gen. Abacha and the ascendancy to leadership by Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar thereafter paved the way for the resumption of full political activities with the announcement of a transition timetable programmed to end with presidential election in 1999.
It was, therefore, in 1998 that several political players, dubbed old and new breed politicians, held meetings that culminated in the formation and registration of several political parties, prominent amongst which are PDP, ANPP, AD, ACN, APGA and LP.
In Edo State, prominent political figures teamed up in Edo Solidarity Movement (ESM) to scout for a national party, which they believed could win elections and form the government both at the state and national levels.
These figures include Chief Tony Anenih, Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, Chief Tom Ikimi, Chief J.B. Momoh and a host of others.
One of such consultative meetings was held at the Saidi Centre in Benin City in August 1998. It was attended by notable political figures from outside the state, such as Dr. Joseph Wayas, former President of the Senate.
The alliances formed before and after this consultative meeting led to the three major political gladiators in the state, Chief Anenih, Dr. Ogbemudia and Chief Igbinedion, teaming up in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
This simple fact of these leaders, who had previously held sway in different parties, joining forces in the same party gave the PDP an edge over other parties in the state.
In the 1999 elections, the PDP performed so well that it appeared it was the only party that contested elections in the state.
However, it would be safe to say that the PDP stranglehold on the political landscape in Edo State ended with its victory at the 2003 governorship election.
In the heat of the 2004 diabolical plan of President Olusegun Obasanjo to secure an illegal third tenure, the then leadership of the party, with active support of then (and now) Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT), Chief Tony Anenih, hatched a membership re-registration scheme designed to deregister all those who were perceived not to support the self-perpetuation plan of President Obasanjo.
More than half of the members of the party were thus shut out, resulting in the depleted membership strength with which the party went into the 2007 gubernatorial poll in Edo State.
One other factor, which has torn things apart for the PDP in Edo State, is the fortuitous emergence of Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole as governor of the state, having won the gubernatorial election of April 2007 on the platform of the ACN (Action Congress of Nigeria), which mandate was hijacked by the PDP but eventually reclaimed in November 2008.
The woes of the PDP have since multiplied beyond manageable proportions with the Oshiomhole administration’s transparently committed and systematic application of state resources to better the lives of the people of the state.
Everywhere one goes in Edo State today, one is confronted with visible signs of transformation that is ongoing.
In a short space of six years, the Comrade Oshiomhole administration has done what two successive PDP governments could not do in the 10 years they were in power in the state. Every aspect of governance has been affected positively.
The present administration in Edo State has constructed, reconstructed and rehabilitated more than 50 inter and intra-city roads, most of them complete with covered side drains, walkways and streetlights; primary and secondary schools have been reconstructed and furnished; primary healthcare centres have been built and renovated and furnished; 100 new buses have been acquired and running; thousands of youths have been employed; the Sam Ogbemudia stadium has been renewed; the Kings Square is wearing a new look and has become a tourist delight; a new Central Hospital complex is being constructed; human capacity capital development is receiving priority attention; many communities now have potable water; electricity has reached hitherto forgotten communities while erosion control in Benin City is also receiving great attention.
There is no doubt that the average Edo man and woman has become proud once again that the state is working. This is why thousands of Edo people in other parties have decided to identify with Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and the All Progressives Party (APC).
Since visible signs of progress started to show in 2009 — that the state was working again, the ranks of other political parties, particularly the PDP, have continued to dwindle across the state.
From Agenebode and Anegbette to Okada; from Ewohimi to Ososo and Igarra; from Uromi and Irrua to Ologbo and Benin City, members of the PDP have dumped the party for the progressive, people-friendly, visionary and development-conscious APC in Edo State.
Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and the APC have shown to the satisfaction of Edo people what governance is all about: planning, mobilising and utilising state resources transparently for the uplift of the living standard of the majority of the people.
The woeful failure of the PDP at the 2012 governorship and 2013 local government council elections must be seen as punishment for its misrule of the past. It represents a rejection of dictatorship by one man and godfatherism.
The 2015 elections will not only be a repeat of 2012 but will signal the death of many political careers in Edo State and the nation at large. It is doubtful if the PDP can pick together all the pieces of its shattered old self again.
So, for the PDP in Edo State, it is till the next generation or, as we say it in Bini, airhiavbere.
• Comrade Jacobson, former Chairman of the Edo State Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists and political affairs analyst, lives in Benin City.