Written by Chris Osa Nehikhare.
He is the State Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Edo State.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lost the governorship seat in Edo State on November 11, 2008, following a judgment delivered by the Court of Appeal sitting in Benin City. The judgement, which was delivered by the then president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Umaru Farouk, ended the nine and half years reign of the PDP in Edo State.
At the beginning of the present republic in 1999, the candidate of the PDP, Lucky Igbinedion, won the governorship election. He won a re-election in 2003 and was succeeded in 2007 by the candidate of the party, Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor. Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who was declared winner of the 2007 governorship election by the Appeal Court on November 11, 2008, was sworn-in on November 12, 2008.
In his bid to establish a strong foothold for his party and government, Oshiomhole deployed extensive propaganda targeted at the PDP and her leaders. Among other things, Oshiomhole introduced a novel but corrupt policy of purchase of notable politicians with cash and SUVs. Simply put, he offered monetary rewards and SUVs to some PDP leaders so as to lure them to his party. He used this to decimate the rank and file of the Edo PDP.
The 2012 governorship election was particularly a poor outing for the Edo PDP despite the hard work put in by its leadership, members and State Working Committee. The huge loss suffered in the 2012 governorship election gave rise to a change in strategy, a reawakening and a reinvigorated party led by the state chairman, Chief Dan Orbih. The State Working Committee (SWC) returned to the drawing board to fashion out a winning way for the party.
In no time, the indefatigable Dan Orbih, members of the SWC and leaders of the Edo PDP settled down to play their role as the opposition party, critically looking into the policies, actions and inactions of the government of Governor Adams Oshiomhole. Orbih in particular headed the Edo PDP throughout the eight years administration of one of the most vocal politicians the country has ever seen, in Adams Oshiomhole.
With his constant appraisal of the actions and inactions of government and the ruling party, Orbih made a name for himself and succeeded in defining what it means to be an opposition party in any Nigerian state. He was a thorn in the flesh of the Oshiomhole administration owing to the way he brought to the open some “well-kept” corrupt practices of the administration.
Anytime Orbih gathered journalists for briefing, fear gripped the Edo Government house because they never fathomed how he got hold of vouchers detailing mismanagement and corruption in government. Orbih uncovered and exposed some mind-boggling corrupt practices of the Oshiomhole’s government. Despite being Oshiomhole’s kinsman and friend, he did not spare the former governor, exposing him at the slightest opportunity. How many opposition leaders in Nigeria gather experts to look into the budget proposal of the ruling parties? This, Orbih did throughout the 11years he headed the Edo PDP.
But for Orbih and Edo PDP, former Governor Adams Oshiomhole could have succeeded in pulling the wool over the eyes of Edo people on several occasions. In 2013, PDP frustrated an attempt by Oshiomhole to sell the Edo House in Lagos. He led some of his party members and Edolites on a protest march to the premises of the edifice in Lagos. He queried a clause in an advertorial placed in national dailies for the sale of the property which states that “the client has no obligation to accept the highest or any bid”, saying “if the reason is to get more money, why is the government not accepting the highest bid.” To this day, Edo House in Victoria Island Lagos remains a property of the Edo People.
But for Orbih and the PDP, the humilation and ridicule of a helpless woman former Governor Oshiomhole told to “go and die” would have gone unnoticed. What many people do not know about the infamous act is that the event had gone unnoticed for about two weeks before Orbih and PDP laid their hands on the facts of the act and exposed it to Edo people and the world.
The monumental fraud that is now in public domain concerning the Benin Central Hospital may not have come to light if not for the role played by PDP. Orbih first exposed the unprofessional conduct of the state government which led to the collapse of the building in 2012 based on the recommendation of the probe panel of enquiry constituted by the state government to look into the remote cause of the building collapse. Orbih further asked questions why medical equipment were never supplied to the hospital despite an award of a multi-billion naira contract for the supply of medical equipment to the hospital.
As party chairman, Orbih did not just stop at pointing out what government should do, but used his position to proffer solutions at times. Often, he reached out to the poor and indigents who were at the receiving end of harsh government policies, and helped their situation. He was particularly moved by the plight of widows in the state. For many years, he gathered them and gave out cash donations, food items and provided training for skill acquisition.
It took Orbih and party leaders time to give the PDP a rebirth in Edo State.
Gradually, a connection began to emerge. Edo people started to trust and believe in a party that Adams Oshiomhole once described as dead and buried in Edo.
The 2015 general election provided Edo PDP leaders an ample opportunity to see how much ground they had covered. At the end of the election, the PDP had supplanted the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the party of choice for majority of the Edo people. In that election, the PDP won two out of the three Senate seats and five out of nine House of Representatives seats.
Perhaps the 2016 Edo State governorship election came a little too soon for the PDP to wrestle power from the APC. However, unlike in 2012 when the party lost in all the 18 local government areas of the state, the party won in five local government areas and secured 42 per cents of the total votes cast. The election once again demonstrated and showed the rise in the fortunes of the PDP despite the loss.
In the 2016 governorship election All Progressives Congress (APC), candidate Godwin Obaseki, triumphed over the candidate of the PDP, Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
With a solid foundation laid by Dan Orbih and his executives, it wasn’t a surprise when the newly elected state executive led by Hon. Dr Tony Aziegbemi was approached by Governor Obaseki for the PDP gubernatorial ticket. As a strong and visionary leader, the incumbent chairman Hon. Dr. Tony Aziegbemi and the State Working Committee, agreed to the wishes of incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki to fly the flag of the party in the 2020 governorship election.
The movement of Governor Godwin Obaseki to the PDP could be described as a perfect marriage and the final move that sealed the victory for the PDP in Edo State. Here is a party that had found its way into the hearts of the Edo people through hard work and reforms and a governor, who earned the trust of his people through performance. So on September 19, 2020, the people of Edo State showed their love for the PDP and Governor Obaseki by voting for him to continue the good work he started.
The year 2020 will be remembered as the year PDP regained power in Edo State. It took the PDP 12 years to regain control of the power it lost in November, 2008.
On the road to Osadebey Avenue, we lost many leaders, whose contributions and commitment to the growth and development of PDP and Edo State cannot be ignored.
We pray for the repose of their souls.
Their labour has borne fruit.
Our Fallen but not forgotten Heroes
Chief Anthony Anenih
The history of the PDP in Edo State cannot be written without the contributions of Chief Anthony Anenih. As one of the founding fathers of the party in Nigeria, the late Iyasele of Esan land served as the backbone for the PDP in his home state. The former Minister of Works and Housing served as a rallying point for the PDP members in Edo State and provided the leadership that ensured that the party dominated Edo politics, winning successive governorship elections in 1999 and 2003. The PDP also won majority of the National Assembly and Edo State Assembly election during this period.
Chief Anenih did not shirk his responsibility as the leader of the party in the state even after the party lost the state via a Court of Appeal judgement in November, 2008. He also made sure that Edo State got her fair share of representation in terms of federal appointments.
For his sagacity, political structural engineering and impact, he was the first to earn sobriquet, “The Leader”. His contributions to the socio-economic development of Edo State as well as the political growth and development of Edo PDP was unparalleled. It is sad that he is not alive today to witness his last political ambition–the return of PDP to Osadebey Avenue.
Dr Samuel Ogbemudia (State Leader)
Dr Osaigbovo Ogbemudia was one of the founders of the Peoples Democratic Party in Edo State and a member of the party’s Board of Trustees.
He was committed to the success of the party as well as determined to groom and develop young men and women for leadership.
His antecedent as the most successful governor ever to rule Edo State made him a sort of magnet drawing ambitious men and women to him so they could benefit from his reservoir of knowledge and wisdom.
Dr Ogbemudia’s tenure as governor is the benchmark with which successful governors are measured.
Chief Barrister Samson Ekhabafe (Chairman PDP 2008-2009)
Chief Bruno Oshiokpekhai (State Deputy Chairman 1999-2007)
Rt. Hon. Zakawanu Garuba (Speaker, EDHA 2007-2010)
Adm. Augustus Aikhomu (Leader)
Alhaji Inu Umoru (Leader)
Adm Mike Akhigbe (Leader).
… Just to name a few!