Following the intrigues and internal wranglings in the Edo State chapter of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), an aftermath of the 2020 general election, the chances of the party in the forthcoming election may be slim.
The party has been embroiled in a supremacy battle over the leadership of the party in the state between the state governor, Godwin Obaseki and the South South national Vice chairman, Chief Dan Orbih.
Report has it that the crisis in the party started shortly after Governor Obaseki won his re-election through the PDP, following his disqualification by the then Adams Oshiomhole-led All Progressives Congress, APC.
However, the emergence of Obaseki as the governorship candidate of the PDP in Edo reawakened the grievance that heralded the PDP state chairmanship election as some aggrieved old PDP members teamed up with the governor and other defectors, with the intent to control the party hitherto believed to be controlled by Orbih.
After winning the governorship election, Gov Obaseki and his followers from the APC called for harmonization and reintegration as the PDP had conducted election to the state executive, prior to their defection. The state exco was led by Anthony Azeigbemi.
The development was resisted by those who felt that the new PDP government led by Governor Obaseki had sidelined them from governance, leading to the factionalization of the party into old and new PDP.
The old PDP complained that the new PDP (Obaseki and his followers) has the governor, deputy governor, Secretary to the state governor, and the chief of staff.
They also alleged that only three slots were given to them from the 19 commissioners appointed by Gov. Obaseki.
On their part, the new PDP called for harmonisation and reintegration of the new members into the mainstream of the party, saying they are yet to be accepted as members of the PDP after the governorship election.
As the crisis raged on, some aggrieved old PDP leaders and National Assembly members who were not happy with Orbih who outsmarted and produced a successor as chairman pitched tent with the governor in order to take control of the party.
Analysts believe that beyond the issue of the harmonisation, integration and political appointments, the issue of electing delegates for the just concluded party primaries also became a cancer that could render the party incapacitated during the 2023 elections.
The crisis culminated into meetings upon meetings, suspensions upon suspensions by both factions.
Shortly after the suspensions and counter suspensions, the party entered another crisis over electing ad-hoc delegates to participate in the party’s primary elections. The development snowballed into the two factions holding parallel congresses to elect the delegates.
After the parallel congresses, the aggrieved members of the party went shopping for court injunctions and publishing advertorials in national dailies to elicit sympathy from members of the public.
The order of interim injunctions came on the back of controversies that trailed the outcome of the ad hoc delegates who emerged from the party’s ward congress conducted on Saturday, April 30, 2022.
Dissatisfied with the outcome of the delegates congress for the state and National Assembly primaries, a faction of the party approached the High Court to seek for interim injunction to restrain the PDP; its National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu; Samuel Anyanwu; Umar Bature and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from allowing Edo State delegates to vote at the party’s national convention but the court declined the injunction.
Not satisfied with the judgement, the group approached the federal high Court seeking an ex-parte order, and claimed the suit was filed on behalf of the 576 ad hoc delegates elected on April 30, 2022.
The trial judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo, granted the order restraining PDP, others from allowing Edo delegates to vote at the national convention, unless such delegates were elected by the plaintiffs and the other 571 ad hoc delegates, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.
As the crisis of the ward congress continues unabated in the party, a three-man Electoral Appeal Panel was set up by the national leadership of the party to address the grievances that emanated from the congress and unite the party.
The panel led by Chukwuka Utazi visited the party’s secretariat on May 3, promising to resolve the lingering crisis in the party.
We want a united PDP in Edo, and that is why the PDP National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, on behalf of the National Working Committee, sent three of us here from different backgrounds and states to look at those issues. We are waiting to receive petitions, put it in writing, and bring them to the Edo PDP secretariat,” he said.
Despite the appeal panel visit, the party state secretary, Hilary Otsu, in a distress letter titled, ‘Save Edo State from becoming another Zamfara’, published in one of the national dailies and addressed to Iyorchia Ayu, the national chairman of the PDP, the State Working Committee members, claimed the committee was yet to sit and receive petitions from aggrieved delegates since the day they arrived.
He said the publication endorsed by the state working committee and the 18 local government party chairmen was to inform the national chairman as regards what had transpired so as to call relevant individuals to order and not to ruin the chances of the party.
We heard about the ad-hoc congress appeal committee that came to the secretariat, spent about five minutes, took photographs, and left. The petitioners wrote messages to the chairman on how to reach him, and after much pressure, he later sent a message that he would go back to the secretariat the following day to sit and receive petitions, but none of them showed up,” Otsu said.
He maintained that the list of delegates that must be used would be the one the party generated from the congresses that were organised.
Our congress was organised based on the Electoral Act. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) came, monitored the process and when we didn’t find the committee to collate the results, the legal adviser of the party and I collated them and I sent the results to Abuja.
All the delegates who are eligible to vote in the congresses/primaries are clearly spelt out in our constitution and guidelines. So, there is no reason for conflict or disagreements; the constitution of the party and the Electoral Act 2022 are there to use,” he said.
The crisis snowballed into Obaseki’s faction and Orbih’s faction conducting parallel primaries for the 24 seats in the state house of Assembly, House of Representatives and Senate.
The battle,has been shifted to the Court of Appeal as Orbih’s camp floored Obaseki’s camp at the Federal High Court in Abuja.
However, following the federal High Court’s judgement, it was gathered that the delegates produced from Orbih’s parallel Congress were allowed to participate in the party’s primaries in Abuja in which former vice president Atiku Abubakar emerged the PDP presidential candidate.
As the shopping for Court order has shifted to the Appeal Court, staff of the Court are apprehensive as suspected thugs supported by persons in security uniforms earlier invaded the courtroom, chased away court workers and carted away several documents suspected to be appeal documents.
Besides, it was gathered that the Obaseki’s faction, in order not to lose out of the intrigues in the event the court decision didn’t favour them, has pitched tent with the Labour Party.
It was learnt that Obaseki’s men who emerged from its parallel congress had already been given the Labour Party ticket while they vowed to fight till the Supreme Court.
Speaking on the development, a political observer, John Emesomi, noted that the crisis if not well handled may scuttle the PDP’s chances in the general election as the faction that loses out may work against the other.
Again, we may have a “Zamfara Episode” in Edo. If that happens, it would be disastrous for the PDP that climbed to power following Obaseki’s defection to the party after he was disqualified from the APC governorship primary. So, whichever way it goes, there is going to be protest vote, which is not going to be in the party interest,” he said
He however attributed the crisis to the greed of an average Nigerian politician who always likes to take it all.
As it is now, it seems there is no end in sight to the crisis rocking the party and it remains to be seen whether the Zamfara episode will not occur in Edo PDP.