WE'LL RE-BRAND PDP IN EDO -URHOGHIDE
The Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State is undergoing cleansing and re-branding towards the July 14, 2012 gubernatorial polls in the state.
The party's publicity secretary, Mathew Urhoghide, who spoke with Daily Sun in Benin, says amongst others, that despite the fact that the ACN is in government, politicians that matter in the State and a chunk of the people are still with the PDP. According to the Pharmacist of repute, nobody thought the ACN could succeed in Edo state, adding that it was nothing but an experiment. He noted that it was Comrade Adams Oshiomhole who used his power and not the ACN to deny him the senatorial ticket for Edo South for the last April polls.
Are you in any way jittery about the rising profile of the party in government in the state, the ACN?
Not at all, if you are conversant with party dynamics, you will know that there are always movements of people from one party to the other, particularly persons who are not used to being in the opposition. They also get that psychological satisfaction when they say their party is in government, even where they do not get anything.
So, they are basically driven by issues that are platonic. That tells you the kind of people, their knowledge and depth in participation in partisan politics is shallow. There are also those I would call the food-is-ready politicians. They go to where there is something to gain and not bothered with building a platform.
Now that the PDP platform in Edo State is weak when compared with what it was in 1999 until 2007.
By 2008 there were a lot of movements, virtually everybody in the CAN today calling the shots were the ones that fought the ACN as a party from the elections up to the appeal court. They are now the leaders of the ACN. A very few of us left the ACN to join the PDP, that does not underscore the fact that there are still a huge number of persons who were originally in the AC as a party and are still there but very much disenchanted as they say this was not the platform we thought of, the party of our dream, that can champion the cause of our people, put a government in place and change things for the better in Edo State.
The chairman of the party, organizing secretary, state secretary, even the Labor Party that collaborated with the then ACN to put things in place have all been marginalized. Some of them are still there for one reason or the other not that they are happy, they are only looking for a breather to exercise what is on their minds. Those who had the contraption never thought it could succeed, it was just an experiment.
They needed the credibility of some of us to build it. We trusted them because we thought we could work to put a government in place that could chart a new course for the aspiration of our people in Edo state. Something different from what the PDP did, between 1999 and 2007. The AC was nothing but an experiment in Edo state, nobody thought it could succeed. The only big man we had then was actually the smallest man in size, Oshiomhole. We fought with him, sweated and took all the tear gas with him, at a point friends started to ask me, who is the big man in this party that you want to kill yourself?
Because all those that mattered in the state then were in the PDP. All these so-called big men in the PDP warmed themselves into the heart of the man who symbolizes leadership in the state today, I mean Oshiomhole and said they want to own the platform and they own the platform of the party as it is today.
So, the movements you see today are the same persons moving from the same PDP to the position of authority. They are moving not because Oshiomhole is doing extra-ordinary things or because they are getting some benefits, it's just the psychological feeling that they are in the ruling party. Watch out in the coming months you will see real movements, movement based on principle from ACN to PDP. Some have already started telling me that they will do what I have just done, dumping the ACN for the PDP. The pittance he is giving to them will take them nowhere and they know it. The PDP is like an octopus, despite the fact that we are not in government in the state, the number of federal appointments they will get is still 10 times more than what the ACN government will offer in the state. So, there are better prospects in the PDP and a big ocean to swim.
Our main focus is winning back the support and confidence of the people, in view of its dismal outing when it was entrusted with power sometime ago in the state. This is why we are trying to rebrand the party and give it a new face. So, the main challenge is bringing back the party to the fore where it will become acceptable again to the people of Edo State. What used to happen in the party where we held parallel congresses is no more. The problem of the party in the state started in 2007 when we had parallel state congresses with the emergence of two executives.
Your unity and reconciliation congress was held recently. Do you think the aim was fully achieved with the absence of one of your national leaders and a major player in the crises that engulfed the state since 2007, I mean Chief Samuel Ogbemudia?
Let me tell you, I was not there when it was held in 2007 but I was present in all the congresses from September 10-24 2011 and witnessed it from ward to the State. Before then, meetings were held by both sides, everybody was given notice and opportunity, as 'O' and 'A' groups.
The national leadership of our party gave all the locations where the congress held. So, there was no question of ignorance as they were duly published. Nobody has the right to stay in his house without subordinating himself to popular choices and think he will just be put there. That in itself is a negation of internal democracy.
I don't think anybody who means well for the party will stand up and challenge it because it was neither conducted by Anenih nor by Ogbemudia but by the national leadership of the party. None of these national leaders, Anenih and Ogbemudia can challenge those congresses.
INEC officials witnessed everything from beginning to the end. There were even instances where they rejected certain things, we had to do the proper thing, especially in the area of nomination.
The only thing which some people were clamoring for which I think will bring back the old feeling and dangerous to our party is to drop those elected to create room for some other persons to be brought in. If that happens, it then means a recognition of the old order, the 'A' and 'O' groups (Anenih & Ogbemudia groups).
That will render the whole exercise useless. So, if you had wanted any particular position, you should have come to the congress and contest it. Whoever attempts that is taking us back to what happened in 2007, which caused disharmony in the party. This is not possible in the year 2011. We held only one congress; the issue of harmonized list does not arise. At whatever level you find yourself you can contribute to the development of the party. As the state publicity secretary of the party, that does not make me superior to other members of the party, it's simply a call to service at a different level.
So, you do not foresee further cracks within the ranks of the party?
No, the party is more united now than before. As far as we are concerned, we are through with the congress from ward to state and everything is sacrosanct. Anybody who wants to fault it just want to create problems for no reason.
Yes, because the congresses from the ward to the state levels were held after due consultations, particularly between Chiefs Tony Anenih and Samuel Ogbemudia. Both groups came together to form the united front we have today. We are still going to build on this, the acrimony that existed in the past is not expected to be removed just one day, it's a gradual process.
The new executive went to Abuja to first announce ourselves to him and pay him a condolence visit because he was recently bereaved. In any political system, one should expect some kinds of acrimony, its normal, you see people leaving and coming into the party that makes it dynamic and is not peculiar to the PDP. The kind of acrimony we experienced in Edo State was not unexpected because the party was in power, there were a lot to struggle about and share. Now that we are no longer in power, we have come to terms with the reality and now we really know those who have the party at heart. We need a lot of ingenuity and commitment to turn around the party having been in power since 1999 and lost it in 2008. For those who have never experienced life outside power, you expect them to move but I know that very soon they will come back.
Why do you think the PDP lost the state in 2008?
We lost the state because things were not done rightly; even the last election was lost because of the division within the party. As a statement of fact, we have more viable persons in terms of leaders and human capital in the PDP than in any other party in Edo state. The membership base of the PDP is more than that of any other party in the state today. In fact, when the ACN took off, we did not have more than 20 people, we were still able to pull through. Every seasoned politician in Edo state today is a member of the PDP. If there was unity in the ranks, there was no way the governorship would have changed hands. Today, everybody has learnt his lessons.
You are based in Benin, with what is on ground, I mean performance on the part of the ACN government, do you still think the PDP has what it takes to uproot it?
Quit frankly, what the ACN is doing is a novelty on relative basis, because before now, there were no developments and the people were downcast. They are not bothered now about the projects and the monies spent, but they have seen something, which is novel to them in recent times. PDP as a party is like a church, is not the building, but the people who form the congregation that make up the church. It has its season.
When you say church it means the people. A bishops comes and gives his own kind of leadership, the pastor then comes, at different times with different kinds of leadership. A political party is also not about the name, but about people. We have started to draw the attention of the people, bringing back to their memory, the PDP that had a dismal outing, but who were the people? I was not there. I was in the ANPP and in the ACN. I am now in the PDP, the people should cast their memory back and know that the people who did the harm to our people are now in the ACN. Nobody can contravene the fact that the present ACN government is an offshoot of that government.
The people should know that 99 per cent of the present leadership of the PDP in Edo state today, was not part of that government. Dan Orbih, who is the chairman, was in ANPP, his deputy, Lucky Imasuen was also in ANPP, I was in the ANPP. Those who were there among us today were not in position to influence anything. So, it is not the PDP that did that disservice to our people but some people. It's shear mischief for any of them to mount the rostrum today pointing accusing fingers when they were the real architects of that destruction. The party still have to come out and apologize on their behalf whether we like it or not. At a point in time, we had these evil men in our midst, but today, the position has changed. We will tell our people in clear terms.
But some of these so-called evil men, who were in government then are still with you in the party?
Who are those who are still with us?
The former governor is still very much with you.
Section 222 of our constitution is very clear. Everybody is free to be a member of the party. But, to be a leader is another thing. Even if he is still in the PDP, he is free to be a member and the PDP is no longer in government in the state. No doubt, he is still highly revered in the party as our member. There are still some persons in the ACN government who claim to be members of the PDP. This is simply because it is convenient to give the PDP a bad name.
The PDP is compiling a new membership register across the states, do you intend to use this opportunity to weed out the bad eggs?
No, we can't do that because you will be violating their right as a free born Nigerian. But no one person can belong to two different parties.
If you discover that some of them are likely to pollute you, won't you deny them registration?
There are measures in place to deal with such cases. But we have not reached there. The party itself is undergoing some cleansing, membership auditing, some persons are equally exercising their own right of choice particularly at this time, they are willingly leaving the party, there is no way the party can hold them back, so we allow them to go.