2015 POLLS AND LESSONS FROM EDO PDP
The 2015 general elections have come and gone. It is no longer news that the polls recorded one of the biggest political upsets in Africa. For the first time since it’s creation in 1998, Peoples Democratic Party, a party that prides itself as the largest party in Africa, suffered a crushing defeat and is now, as it were, barking from behind the fence. Since its nail-biting defeat, key PDP leaders have turned political analysts, and blaming everybody but themselves for the loss. A former governor from one of the South-east states has since the party’s loss turned into a political commentator. No other day passes without this former governor being in the news trying to give reasons why PDP lost. Ironically, the same now all-knowing former governor never got re-electted!
Daily, we are inundated with reports of some party leaders calling for the mass resignation of the National Working Committee (NWC) for failing to deliver President Goodluck Jonathan. The NWC members have fought back challenging their accusers to produce proof of how they sabotaged the party. The squabble goes on. And herein lies the problem. PDP members and leaders seem to have lost sight of the fact that a party’s loss at an election is not an automatic death sentence. In other words, a party can rise from the ashes of defeat to become a a political behemoth. A typical example is the Edo State chapter of PDP.
Having being in power from 1999 to 2007, PDP-elected governor Chief Lucky Igbinedion had little to boast of as achievements in office. After Igbinedion’s dismal outing came Prof Osunbor, who tried to change the impression that PDP was a party of bad candidates. Hard as Osunbor tried, the negative perception of PDP in Edo State persisted. In November 2009, after 18 months in office, the Court of Appeal swept Osunbor out of office, declaring All Congress of Nigeria (ACN) candidate Comrade Adams Oshiomhole winner of the April 2007 governorship election in Edo Sate.
Barely six months after PDP lost control of Government House, Benin, the party suffered another tragedy. Its chairman, Barrister Samson Ikhabafe, his son and police orderly died in an auto crash. To most state chapters of a party in opposition such double tragedy was sufficient to spell the death knell.
Added to this calamity was the mass exodus of PDP bigwigs like former presidential adviser Prof. Julius Ihonbvere, Senator Ezigie Uzamere, Honourables Patrick Obahiagbon, Samson Osagie, just to name a few. Given the unfortunate turn of events in PDP, these politicians found it convenient to dump the party.
It was at this low point that Chief Dan Orbih, scion of the famous First Republic parliamentarian, Chief MCK Orbih, accepted the enormous challenge of steering the ship of Edo PDP. No greenhorn in politics, this successful businessman from Ogbona, in Edo North, hit the ground running. When word got to the then ACN leadership in Edo State that Orbih was set to be the next PDP chairman, it sent several emmisaries and close friends of Orbih to dissuade him from accepting the challenge. “You know your brother is the governor and it won’t be good for us in Edo North to be fighting ourselves,” some of them had pleaded.
In no time, Orbih became the face of Edo PDP. With strategic researches into the weaknesses of the ACN-led government in the state, Orbih was able to prove to the people of Edo State, nay the world, that the ACN-led administration wasn’t what it purported to be. To Orbih’s credit, Nigerians were able to know the true age of the Edo State governor. To his credit, also, the truth about his educational qualifications came to light.
Very people know that Orbih brought to public attention the plight of teachers, civil servants, commercial motorcycle operators and traders under the Oshiomhole administration. But for Orbih’s doggedness, perhaps that widow Governor Oshiomhole advised to “go and die” would indeed have died. The PDP chairman was able to make the people see through the wool that was constantly pulled over their eyes.
Through constructive criticisms, the Orbih-led PDP executive was able to hold the government of the day responsible to teachers, civil servants, judicial workers, and even, market women whose stalls were demolished with impunity.
Very few know that Orbih was responsible for bringing to public attention the plight of the “go-and-die” widow. They also may not know that the Edo PDP chairman brought the plight of teachers, judicial workers.
With Orbih at the helm of affairs, the people of Edo State who had dismissed PDP as an assembly of never-do-wells, began to see the party in a different light. As a result, people who were frustrated out of PDP began to return in their thousands.
The taste of the pudding, they say, is in the eating. If there was any time to taste Orbih’s pudding, it was the last general elections. Prior to the election, Governor Adams Oshiomhole had boasted that he would repeat his 2012 feat where his party All Progressives’ Congress (APC) won all the 18 Local Government Areas. The governor had also boasted that President Goodluck Jonathan would not get five percent of the votes in Edo State.
Orbih’s response was to move in to the electorate in the nooks and cranies of Edo State. He led the party to campaign vigorously for PDP and President Jonathan. When the results came, things went terribly awry for APC. To Orbih’s credit, PDP won the presidential election in Edo State with a very wide margin, in addition to the two senate seats and five seats in the House of Representatives. Governor Oshiomhole was forced to eat his words.
Even in the state conducted Local Government elections, where nearly all the sitting governors across the 36 states swept all the seats. Orbih was able to resist the APC onslaught by retaining his Etsako Central Ward IV, one of the three PDP councillors in Edo North senatorial District.
Perhaps to demonstrate his political prowess, Orbih delivered his ward, Local Government Area in Federal House of Rep,senatorial, and presidential election to PDP.
Comparatively, Edo PDP can be said to have done better than most of the party’s chapters in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), given the fact that the party has no sitting governor in the state. What is more, Governor Oshiomhole is considered one of the hardest nuts in the current political arena.
It is known that PDP lost the presidential and National Assembly elections in several states with sitting PDP governors. Some sitting PDP governors even lost the bid to go to the senate.
While Governor Oshiomhole was throwing jabs and tantrums at Chief Tony Anenih, most reverrred chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT), Orbih was reaching out to the electorate.
Edo PDP presents a case study on how a party in opposition can rise from the ashes of defeat to stage an upset. Rather than bicker and resorting to name-calling, the PDP national leadership should take a cue from its Edo State chapter. Orbih’s feat is enough to sell him to the national leadership on how a party in opposition can regenerate. For, while persons who benefitted immensely from PDP jumped ship at the drop of a hat, Orbih has demonstrated total commitment and fidelity to PDP. What is more, at the expense of his family and business, the Edo PDP chairman is the perfect example of what a party leader should be.
On a final note, it is trite to say that our great party is not in short supply of dedicated members like Orbih. What the party needs at this time is to encourage such people to help rebuild the party at the centre. This way, PDP will rise from this temporary setback to, once again, pride itself as the largest party in Africa.
Written by Austin Omoriodion.