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Hon. Hilary Otsu, the secretary of the Edo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in this interview reviews the state of the party in the context of the dissonance that enveloped the party following the reelection of Governor Godwin Obaseki and the recognition of candidates backed by him in the General Election.
Regards, the main structure of the PDP was said to be in the hands of the legacy PDP, but the governor’s camp got the nominations to contest the 2023 election. What really happened?
Otsu: It is common knowledge that some members of the National Working Committee were compromised in the processes that threw up those the Governor supported and their list drawn up in the Government house. The allegations of corruption levelled against the Dr. Iyorchia Ayu led NWC led to a long drawn bitter challenge all the way to the Supreme Court by the legacy PDP candidates. So, it was a battle won by Gov. Obaseki with the full support some members of the NWC. Some have alleged that funds were deployed to facilitate the political macabre dance.
Do you think the fact that the PDP fared badly in the 2023 General Election (Presidential and National Assembly) in Edo State was a consequence of this?
Otsu: Of course, I stand to be corrected but all the candidates fielded by Gov. Obaseki were unpopular and most voters in their various constituencies were also aware of the illegal processes which brought them. So many of the voters who followed all that transpired leading the emergence of Obaseki’s candidates worked and voted against them and most PDP supporters opted to work against the illegal candidates by supporting other candidates.
That’s why you see that in many places they gave support to APC candidates and in some, to Labour candidates, leading to unprecedented victories for those Parties. For example PDP has never lost Edo Central and South Senatorial seats before, while a Labour candidate swept the Edo South Senate seat, after leaving PDP for Labour just a few months to the election.
Furthermore, I believe there was an uncoordinated conspiracy by all to prove to the world that Obaseki wasn’t a popular governor. Many of us were pleased that the National body has come to realise that without the Legacy PDP, Obaseki cannot win Edo State for PDP. And so for the first time in history PDP also lost Edo in a Presidential election and did not win a single National Assembly seat. Compare that with previous years when we had no Obaseki in our party, when Chief Dan Orbih was leading PDP as a strong opposition party, we always won at least two Senate seats and a minimum of four or five House of Reps seats.
It isn’t rocket science to understand that Obaseki coming to PDP turned out to be a curse and not a blessing, both to PDP and to Edo people. This narrative of a curse can even be perceived on the streets of Benin City and major cities.
Is there any move presently to remedy the situation or reconcile?
Otsu: I am not aware of any moves to reconcile because I am sure that I would be asked to convene such a meeting. Reconciliation in any human endeavor can only be anchored on justice and equity. Is there any way those two principles can be achieved in Edo PDP today? I daresay no.
So, I believe that the conversation should be about going forward, meaning, how do we achieve equity, justice and finally peace and cooperation in the face of the impending decisive gubernatorial election. There is only one way: Just like Gov. Obaseki had the Party’s ticket and brought his Deputy, contested and won the election with support and efforts of Legacy PDP, the Party this time around must extend same privilege to Legacy PDP by letting them bring the next Guber candidate with the Deputy. This will guarantee peace and unity in Edo PDP.
The Legacy PDP recently held meetings in the state to supposedly energise the party ahead of the governorship election. How did the meetings go?
Otsu: The meetings were ecstatic in all ramifications. I personally felt very fulfilled. The energy that Legacy members brought to the meeting was so infectious that, by the end of the final state meeting, so many calls and visits were coming from hundreds of people who didn’t get invitations. Also a very large number of PDP members who had been cajoled by the Obaseki antics came calling and running to apologise for going astray. And I am speaking of even former government appointees and elected officials. They all want to be associated with the Chief Dan Orbih led Legacy PDP. You see, history will always vindicate the Just especially when you pursue a cause of Justice. When you suppress the truth and allow injustice to prevail, what you get is what we have now in Edo state.
Given the reported favour the governor has with the national secretariat what advice will you give to the national leadership in advancing the cause of the party in the forthcoming governorship election?
Otsu: I want to believe that Dr. Ayu left the office of National chairman with Obaseki’s unmerited favour that destroyed Edo PDP. As you are aware, the NWC as it stands today has been more diligent in its dealings and a good number of the members would probably do things differently, if given another opportunity.
However, my advice to them is that, we must all respect the maxim that “all politics is local”. They must therefore encourage the Party in the state to nominate a popular and homegrown candidate. This should also be carried out based on strict compliance with the Party constitution and the Electoral Act of 2022. We must not repeat the anomalies of the 2022 congresses and primaries, or else we allow APC or Labour to have a walkover.
Lastly, most Governors usually insist on playing a major role in who succeeds them and the Governor is rumoured to have fingered a Lagos based Lawyer as his successor. Is this supported by Legacy group?
Otsu: Capital NO. I already gave my answer to this above. Legacy will nominate a Governor and Deputy of our choice, and PDP will become much stronger. Trust me, most of Gov. Obaseki’s closest political allies have echoed it that Edo State will never accept another stranger to govern its people. If the person you mentioned now is the same person I have heard from some sources, then it’s dead on arrival. Gov. Obaseki does not have the kind of goodwill needed to promote an unknown stranger in Edo State. When Oshiomole did it with him, Oshiomole had optimal goodwill and acceptance. If Edo people are given a choice today, they will vote against any candidate that Gov. Obaseki supports. I am sure you can see it’s a bit of a dicey situation. We have exactly one year to the election, time to get serious.