Honour they say should be given to whom it is due. There is no doubt that certain people deserve honour for flying the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) flag at the Dennis Osadebe Avenue, housing the Government house in Benin City, Edo State.
Since the exit of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from the Government House in 2007, as a result of the move by the people of Edo State to drop the party for non – performance after eight years of the Chief Lucky Nosakhare Igbinedion’s administration, the PDP remained in opposition in the state for twelve years.
After losing at the Edo State Election Petition Tribunal on Thursday, March 20, 2008, where the election of Professor Oserheimen Osunbor of the PDP was reversed and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole of the defunct Action Congress (AC) declared winner of the April 14, 2007 governorship election in Edo State, the PDP lost grip of the state and remained in opposition since November 12, 2008, when Adams Oshiomhole was sworn-in as governor after the final defeat of the party and its governorship candidate, Oserheimen Osunbor at the Appeal court in Benin City.
Comrade Adams Oshiomhole assumed office on November 12, 2008 and governed the state for eight years on the platform of the Action Congress which metamorphosed to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and later the All Progressives Congress (APC), a coalition of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) among other Parties that came together as APC to fight the then ruling PDP at the national level and wrestled power that brought in Muhammadu Buhari as President in 2015.
After the eight years rule of Adams Oshiomhole, the former President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) picked Mr. Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki as his successor who was then the Chairman of Edo State Economic and Strategy Team, a position that the current governor of Edo State held for eight years. Obaseki ruled the State for four years on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
As Obaseki’s first tenure drew to its conclusion, there was no more love lost between him and his former master Adams Oshiomhole for reasons advanced by both former best of friends and political associates which are now history. The crisis between the governor and his former boss who was then the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) deepened, which led to various interest groups in the state and at the national level rising to the challenge of bringing peace and settlement to the two warring parties, so as not to affect governance in Edo State and also not to destroy the party (APC) in Edo State.
The situation later got out of control, which attracted the attention of the Oba of Benin, Omo N’ Oba N’ Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare 11 who waded into the crisis and even took the matter to the Head of State, President Muhammadu Buhari for a peaceful resolution of the dispute. The Commander-in- Chief of the Armed forces intervened, but no solution was found. The Governors’ Forum made several attempts to bring Obaseki and Oshiomhole together, all to no avail. Like the Biblical Pharaoh of Egypt, with Moses, the hearts of men were hardened.
Various federal instruments including the Senate, Federal House of Representatives and even the Security Agencies were deployed by the powers in Abuja to overrun Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki and the State government. But the governor and government of Edo State relied on the Judiciary for protection and were resolved to fight to finish. All what transpired are also now history.
The last straw that broke the camel’s back was the disqualification of Godwin Obaseki from the APC Primary election, paving way for Pastor Osagie Ize–Iyamu, an anointed candidate of the powers that be, in Abuja.
What followed was the movement of Godwin Obaseki and his Deputy, Philip Shaibu to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), dumping the APC in the State. Having got the blessing of the National Executive Council of the PDP and the PDP governors in the country, the next step was to secure the governorship tickets of the PDP in Edo State for himself (Obaseki) and his Deputy, Rt. Hon. Comrade Philip Shaibu. This was not an easy task as the party already had an array of governorship aspirants like Chief Gideon Ikhine, Barr Kenneth Imasuagbon, the “Rice Man”, Hon. Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, a member of the Federal House of Representatives, amongst others.
A day to the Primary election of the PDP in Edo State, the tension had risen to a crescendo with Barr. Kenneth Imasuagbon and Hon. Ogbeide- Ihama threatening not to step down for Godwin Obaseki; Imasuagbon said stepping down was over his dead body, while Ogbeide-Ihama’s court case in Port Harcourt, Rivers State was an obstacle for Godwin Obaseki’s emergence as the PDP governorship candidate in the state. Whereas, other aspirants like Gideon Ikhine had already stepped down. However, the usual game was played on the eve before the PDP Primary election in the state and at a meeting presided over by top national leaders and governors of the PDP, the matter was resolved at Edo Government house, where the contending aspirants who threatened fire and brimstone stepped down for Godwin Obaseki, and his Deputy, Philip Shaibu.
The next day, Godwin Obaseki and his deputy, Philip Shaibu emerged as the PDP governorship and deputy governorship candidates for the September 19, 2020 election. That so much water may have passed under the bridge before the duo of Obaseki and Shaibu secured their tickets for the election is not an under-statement. From the political history of Nigeria, when it comes to seeking tickets in Primary elections, it is the candidates that normally suffer the financial burden.
That was how the “4+4, Torgba and Ogbane” campaign train of Obaseki, Shaibu and the PDP rolled out and moved round all the Wards in the Eighteen (18) Local Government areas of Edo State. Who also bore the financial burden of the PDP campaign across the state?. Your guess is as good as mine!. Now that the “Edo No Be Lagos” mantra has been established and the people of Edo State both at home and in the Diaspora gave their authority with the landslide victory of the governor over the opposition APC and its candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, there is need for honour to be given to Godwin Obaseki for breaking the jinx of governorship election failure of the PDP since April 14, 2007.
For twelve years, the PDP lost the governorship election in 2007, 2012, and 2016. But Godwin Obaseki came on September 19, 2020 to reverse the trend within few weeks of joining the Party. What an incredible feat against an opposition who believes in federal might, that had no need for rigorous campaign and that the votes of the people will not count.
However, September 19, 2020 was a day that the votes of the people in Edo State counted. It was a day the President and Commander-in- Chief of the Armed Forces, Muhammadu Buhari wrote his name in gold as an unbiased umpire. A day the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Security Agencies were not ready to drag their names in the mud. A day the State Returning Officer, the Professor, made a difference from past stomach infrastructure Returning Officers where anything goes. The people of Edo State said No, to election rigging, buying of votes, ballot box snatching and all election malpractices. Thugs who cause mayhem and maim voters were kept at bay by the Almighty God.
With Governor Obaseki and his Deputy, Shaibu flying the PDP flag at Dennis Osadebe Avenue after twelve years in opposition, it is expected that those who have been in the PDP these past twelve years should give honour to Godwin Obaseki and his Deputy Philip Shaibu as game changers who brought victory to the PDP in Edo State and returned the party to power in the state. The same honour should be given to all the former APC members who moved with Governor Obaseki and his Deputy, Shaibu to wrestle power from the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state.
Any contrary attempt by the hierarchy of the old PDP in the state to disregard and disrespect those that created the new PDP will not augur well for the progress, consolidation and preservation of the PDP’s hold to power in the state.
The old adage that “United, we stand, and divided, we fall,” must be the guiding principle for a sustainable and progressive Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State. Let us not forget that four years is like tomorrow, and 2024 like the “Day of Reckoning” is here already.
For returning the PDP to Osadebe Avenue, Godwin Obaseki deserves honour.
Edwin Odeh is a Publisher and Journalist based in Benin City, Edo State.