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Edo: PDP’s delegate congress raises dust

The conduct of the ad-hoc delegate congress of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for the February 22 governorship primary in Edo State is raising dust…

The conduct of the ad-hoc delegate congress of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for the February 22 governorship primary in Edo State is raising dust as nine of the 10 aspirants have faulted the exercise and threatened to institute a legal action against the party.

The aggrieved aspirants described the congress as a charade and have approached the national leaders of the party to cancel it.

“We will take whatever steps available to us but at the moment we have internal dispute resolution mechanism of the party. We are taking the advantage of that, even though the party has not responded, but we will do our bit.

“If at the end the party didn’t listen to us, they will take any option available to them. It is when we exhaust all this that we can take legal action to protect our right,” Aslem Ojezua, one of the aspirants, said.

Daily Trust reports that the ad-hoc delegate congress has further polarised the state PDP which is made up of two factions – the new PDP led by Governor Godwin Obaseki and old PDP, or legacy group led by the national vice chairman, South South of the party, Chief Dan Orbih.

According to observers, the fallout of the primary, if not well managed, could be disastrous for the party, especially as similar infighting led to the loss of the party in the 2023 presidential and National Assembly election in the state.

How Gov. Makinde resigned as congress chair on election’s eve

The delegate congress initially slated for last week’s Saturday was moved to Sunday following the resignation of the chairman of the three-man congress committee, Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State.

The congress was to elect the 594 ad-hoc delegates, who will participate in the party’s governorship primary billed for February 22 to elect one of the 10 aspirants as the candidate of the party ahead of the September 21 governorship poll in the state.

It was gathered that the Oyo State governor, who is a member of the G-5 governors, who refused to support the PDP’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, in the 2023 poll, resigned because he was not comfortable with alleged manipulation of the delegates’ list for the exercise.

Governor of Enugu State, Peter Mbah, took over as the committee chairman following Makinde’s resignation.

Daily Trust learnt that between Friday and Sunday when the congress was held, three different ad-hoc electoral committee lists were approved for the congress.

The first list had Makinde as chairman and Senator Manu as secretary. A day after, another list surfaced with Makinde as chairman and Pascal Adigwe as secretary and on Sunday, another list with Mbah as chairman and Adigwe as secretary was sighted.

Our reporter who visited some of the venues observed a large turnout of voters during the exercise.

Sensing foul play, nine out of the 10 aspirants of the party petitioned the acting national chairman of PDP, Umar Damagum, and copied the national vice chairman South-South of the party, Chief Orbih, protesting the process and compositions of the committee and those to conduct the delegates election.

The petition was signed by the state’s current deputy governor, Philip Shaibu, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, Anselm U. Ojezua, Felix Akhabue, Martin Uhomoibhi, Hafia Hadizat Umoru, Omosede Igbinedion, Earl Osaro Onaiwu and Arthur Esene.

They alleged that the committee was working with Governor Obaseki to give an edge to his ‘anointed aspirant’ Asue Ighodalo.

Despite the protest by the nine aspirants and other stakeholders of the party, the Mbah-led electoral committee conducted the delegate congress.

Speaking during the exercise, Governor Mbah said PDP is a party known for fairness, equity and justice, noting the exercise was peaceful.

“People have been asked to come out and exercise their franchise. We are happy with what we have seen here at George Ida Primary School and hope it’s a reflection of what is going on across the state,” he said.

However, the nine aggrieved aspirants condemned the process, describing it as sham.

Addressing journalists on behalf of other aspirants, Aslem Ojezua, who was a former chairman of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, alleged that Governor Mbah of Enugu State carried out the impunity which Governor Makinde declined.

He alleged that Mbah called the deputy governor Shaibu that he had arrived in Benin and was awaiting the arrival of Governor Agbu Kefas of Taraba, so they could meet all the 10 aspirants for a briefing before the commencement of the congresses.

He, however, alleged that the meeting was not held but that Mbah and his team were in Edo State Government House.

Also speaking, the party’s national vice chairman South-South, Orbih, described the exercise as a futile one.

Orbih, who spoke to the aggrieved aspirants who protested to his residence in Benin, assured that they would not walk alone and that their protests would not go in vain.

Orbih, who served as the campaign manager for Obaseki during the 2020 governorship election, vowed that ‘a stranger would not fly the ticket of the party’.

He commended the aspirants for ‘standing against the might of Governor Obaseki’, noting that their struggle is for the party’s collective interest and a better Edo State.

The state secretary of the party, Hilary Otsu, also condemned the process and described it as a charade.

He alleged that the materials for the exercise were sent to the government house.

“That was why Makinde resigned from the committee; because he didn’t see any reason coming to Edo to preside over something he didn’t have control over,” he alleged.

Otsu had earlier warned the national leader of the party to be fair to all parties in the exercise or forget about winning the governorship poll.

“Edo is a PDP state but if you mishandle the process, then, they should forget about the Edo governorship election,” he said.

He said whatever the decision taken by the nine aspirants, the legacy group would help them achieve their goal.

Makinde’s resignation didn’t invalidate exercise – Obaseki

But Governor Obaseki, who commended the conduct of the exercise, said the withdrawal of Governor Makinde did not discredit the process, and that what makes the process credible is the quality of the participation.

He said, “For this delegate election, the laid-down rules are being followed. I am impressed with the conduct of this exercise.  Members of the working committee came on time with their materials.

“We have three governors involved in the exercise and one withdrawing doesn’t discredit the process. I hope that our efforts to unify the party continue and we ensure that the PDP plays its role in the politics of this country.”

He said the purported crisis in the PDP is hyped.

The Chief of Staff to Edo State Governor, Dr Osaigbovo Iyoha, said the successful conduct of the congress shows that PDP is a united party and a party to beat.

The state chairman of PDP, Tony Azeibemi, who described the exercise as the best ever conducted by the party in Nigeria, urged members who are dissatisfied with the outcome of congress to channel their grievances to the appeal panel of the party.

“The National Working Committee has set up an appeal panel headed by Sen. Seriake Dickson. So, whatever grievances or issues you have, I urge you to approach the panel,” he said.

He advised the aggrieved members to be more circumspect in granting press interviews, as the image of the party is being battered when they say negative things about it.

“Whatever grievances you have, bring them to the table and have a conversation. The governor is ready to have a conversation with anyone on the way forward for the party,” he said.

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