Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State has lost the battle to control his state’s chapter of the PDP after the electoral body, INEC, upheld candidates loyal to Dan Orbih, the party’s National Vice Chairman with whom he has been feuding, as the legal candidates in the forthcoming National Assembly elections.
The news came this week as INEC, in another confirmation, announced candidates who emerged from the primaries conducted by Orbih’s faction of the party in Edo State as the PDP’s recognized representatives in the Senate, Reps, and State Assembly elections slated for next month.
It was a major blow to the Governor who since his defection to the party has faced strong opposition from Orbih and other legacy members of the party.
They — Orbih and the Legacy PDP — accuse Obaseki of reneging on the promises he made to secure the party’s ticket in 2020, echoing the same allegations of betrayal which contributed to the Governor’s unceremonious exit from the APC.
Obaseki snatched the PDP’s governorship ticket to seek another term in office following a dramatic negotiation given that his entry was belated, having been disqualified from the APC’s primary contest over dubious academic credentials.
He reportedly benefited from a high-stake horse trading which saw other aspirants of the PDP, notably Ogbeide Ihama, abandon their governorship ambition to pave way for his emergence as candidate, despite making his entry long after sales of forms to intending aspirants had closed. Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State was part of those that led the negotiations and helped Obaseki achieve electoral victory.
However, no sooner than Obaseki won a second term on the PDP platform did he move against the ‘legacy members’ led by Orbih, demanding total control of the party’s structure and refusing to honour pre-election power-sharing agreements.
Orbih recently accused the Governor of duping his running mate and deputy, Mr Philip Shaibu, of up to $300,000 to purportedly settle aspirants who stepped down to allow their emergence as candidates of the party. The National Vice Chairman maintains that no aspirant was paid to step down.
The in-fighting has weakened the PDP in the state and threatened to thwart the ambitions of Philip Shaibu, the Deputy Governor who reportedly plans to succeed his boss.
INEC’s affirmation represents a key victory for Dan Orbih who remains undaunted in his quest to establish his superior political standing within the party over the Governor.
Obaseki, meanwhile, is left to lick his wounds after yet another humiliation which adds to his embarrassing record as the only governor in recent times who participated at his party’s national convention without delegates.
Orbih’s triumph has a wider impact, considering his allyship with Rivers Governor, Nyesom Wike, and Obaseki’s allegiance to the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
Both Wike and Atiku are equally slugging it out in the party for dominance, with the former leading a rebellion of five governors “G-5” within the PDP who are opposed to the latter’s presidential ambition.
Obaseki’s defeat, some say, is also Atiku’s — and a sign that the former Vice President is increasingly losing the battle to bend the party to his will.