Edo 2024: Growing into PDP Candidacy.
By Elempe Dele
This week, the National Working Committee, NWC, of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, approved a seven-man Screening Committee for the purpose of screening all the gubernatorial aspirants for the upcoming governorship primary election in Edo State. This will take place at the National Secretariat of the Party on Monday, January 29th, 2024.
This is significant because it will help the Party to discard aspirants that might have issues that could lead to litigation and disqualification. We cannot forget easily how the Supreme Court sacked David Lyon of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as governor-elect of Bayelsa State, barely 24 hours to his inauguration. Mr Lyon, who won the November 2019 governorship election, was to be sworn in as governor on Friday, but that was not to be as his deputy had certificate decrepancies, according to the apex court.
With the screening exercise soon to commence, it is obvious aspirants are in the process of growing into becoming candidates. However, only one of them will be elected to fly the flag of the party. As of today, those who have acquired the fifty million Naira Nomination and Expression of Interest forms are those who are the serious and near-serious contenders. Those who have so far paid and obtained the forms include: Mr Osaro Onaiwu; the first Director-General, PDP Governors Forum; Hon. Omosede Igbenedion; incumbent Deputy Governor of Edo State, Philip Shaibu; Boardroom Guru, Dr. Asue Ighodalo; Mr Felix Akhabue; former Edo State Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Mr. Anselm Ojezua and two-member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Ogbeide Ihama.
As anticipated, the NWC is not as much in a delimma as rumoured even with the obvious desperation to retain power in Edo State. First, the issue of zoning the ticket to Edo Central Senatorial District was raised at some point, but the NWC in its wisdom allowed the ticket to be open to all intending aspirants.
Secondly, it was argued during one of the stakeholders meetings in Abuja that Hon. Ogbeide Ihama should be ‘gifted’ the ticket since he relinquished his near-claimed ticket for Governor Obaseki in 2020. This also was seen as an impossible task because without a consensus, this will amount to impossition and an illegality, negating the idea of internal democracy, which the Electoral Act, 2022, accentuated deliberately.
What is left for the NWC to do now that these two issues have been resolved? Of course it is to ensure a free, fair and credible primary where delegates will vote for the candidates of their choices irrespective of who behind the political veil is urging them to do so.
It will be easier for the Party to pacify losers after the primaries than allow a situation where some of the aspirants will feel injustly treated based on zoning and or any other contradiction far flung from known democratic tenets.
The aspirants so far come in their measured steps with that political infactuation they will be able to win the primary and go on to win the election. Mr Osaro Onaiwu was among the first to obtain the forms with his usual bristling smile ardoning pages of newspapers and on social media platforms. However, not much is heard or seen of him physically meeting potential party delegates and party members before and after he obtained the form.
Barr Omosede Igbenedion is joining those who will soon be called serial contestants in the state. Omosede was elected as the youngest female member into the 8th Assembly of the House of Representatives (Nigeria) in 2015, where she represents the Ovia Federal constituency.
Since then, she has contested every possible election in sight and has lost all. In 2023, she lost again to Hon. Dennis Idahosa. Mr Felix Akhabue, also known as Joefel, is a local grassroot Ekpoma politician well known for his retailing business within the vicinity. His sphere of influence is not beyond that university town in my own estimation.
Whatever influence any of the aspirants from Edo Central Senatorial District is carrying as a magic wand has been subsumed by the former Chairman, Sterling Bank Plc, Asue Ighodalo Esq. From all indication, Asue has taken over the entire Esan land. The kingmakers, the stakeholders, the major grassroot politicians and who-is-who are with him. He seems the hardest working aspirants so far. Several potential aspirants discarded their nursed ambitions for him. These include Hon. John Yakubu, Hon. Friday Itula, Hon. Marcus, and Mr Kenneth Abhulemen. It is rumoured that Anselm Ojezua, Esq will also step down at some point because of the impossibility of the camel to pass through the eye of the needle.
The incumbent deputy governor of Edo State, Philip Shaibu has adopted a very combative and combustive approach to his campaigns. He is talking tough and ready to square it with the governor, his boss, at any given time. Within some quarter, it is being peddled that he is not altogother ready to win the primary, but to put a clog on the smooth sail of anyone annointed by Governor Obaseki. Whether after the primary, he will allow himself to be placated remains to be seen.
Hon. Ogbeide Ihama has that inherent sense of entitlement to the PDP ticket since he was the one who was annointed by the party leadership in 2020 to grab the ticket. On this basis, he seems less concerned about meeting members of the party outside his immediate Oredo constituency unlike he did in 2020 where he went round the 18 Local Governmemt Areas, LGAs, canvassing delegates for votes. The NWC and some stakeholders of the Party at the national level such as Governor Mohammed Bala of Bauchi State feel that position is impossible.
They argue that it will be difficult for the ticket to be ‘gifted’ to him while excluding all others who have shown interest in running. On this basis, the NWC have no other choice than to conduct a free, fair and credible indirect primary. This will be followed by instituting a strong mechanism for reconciliation from the foreseable fallout thereafter.