Chief Dan Orbih, South-South zonal vice-chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), spoke to HENDRIX OLIOMOGBE on the recent defection of Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki to the party from the All Progressives Congress (APC), dynamics of the state politics, among other issues.
WHAT is your message to Edo people as they prepare for the September 19 governorship election?
My message to Edo people is to vote massively for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the forthcoming election so that we can take our place of pride in the politics of the nation. The South-South region should be the first zone in the country to be under the control of one party. That will place us at a pole position as we approach 2023. I want to add my voice to those who are of the view that under the present arrangement, that the South-South has been greatly marginalized by the federal government. The first step that we must take is to put the entire zone under the PDP so that come 2023 when we have a PDP president, there will be definitely give to us what we rightly deserved in this nation. There is no doubt that as a region, we contribute so much to the economy of this country but unfortunately what we get in return is total negligence in terms of giving us what is due to us as a people and there is a dearth of infrastructure in the region. I think the earlier position of the president was very clear when he said that he will only attend to those who voted for him. That is not the issue. The issue here is that the South-South will continue to play a very serious role in our nation’s economy. They deserved far better than what they get at the moment. I think we should as a zone, continue to show our support to the PDP so that when we have a PDP president, we will definitely get what we deserve.
After almost 12years in the opposition, the PDP is back in government in Edo State without swath so to speak. How do you feel?
It is an ideal which time has come. It is very obvious that Edo will not be lagging behind in the march towards 2023 to bring PDP back to the government at the centre. We must join our brothers and sisters in the South-South who are actually PDP states. I think the governor has done the proper thing. The South- South must be on one side as we approach 2023. The only state that was outside the PDP umbrella has been welcome back to the umbrella. It is good for as one zone so that we can all speak with one voice.
Governor Obaseki is almost four years in power and you were known to be very critical of him. How do you now assess his performance?
I think Edo people will give him a very fair assessment come September 19 . Irrespective of the unnecessary distractions by the leaders of his former party, he kept faith with the people. You could see the zeal and passion with which he was going about his programmes. That was why we didn’t have much problem in taking him in first as a member of our party and second giving the ticket of the party to run the election. If you look at everything, you will agree with me that there is a need for him to be given an opportunity to consolidate on the job that he started.
I am aware very soon the power plant will soon be commissioned. That will be about the first state project of that nature in the entire country. You can see that he is an uncommon silent performer. He looks beyond the immediate needs so that we can compete favourably with other states which are more endowed with more natural resources. I think it is this aspect of the governor’s focus that is making people determined to give him all the support.
We heard that there were lots of back deals, horse trading and so much money changed hands before he was given the ticket. What really happened behind the scene?
If you must go by what members of his former party are saying about him, you will know all these are lies. Have you taken pains to read what some of the prominent leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) are saying about him? That he doesn’t give them money to share. That he doesn’t give the state resources for their members to share. A man that can be accused of such level of financial discipline can never be accused of sharing state money for the purpose of joining another party. When I see these things on the social media, I just laugh. It means that a lot of people don’t even know what gave rise to his problems in APC. It appears that they don’t know him much because he is known to be very discipline when it comes to the management of state resources.
He joined the party when you were almost through with the nomination process. What necessitated the U-turn and the series of postponement of the primary to accommodate him?
We had other aspirants who showed interest. I think this question is better directed at them. Nobody forced them to step down. They voluntarily decided to step down to support and accommodate the governor.
How prepared is the PDP for the election?
We are very well prepared. The party is generally loved by Edo people. For these years we were out of power, we had two senators and members in the National Assembly. The only we didn’t have was that of the governor and now the governor is with us. It is now going to be PDP all the way. It is not a question of whether we are prepared or not prepared. This was the only position that we didn’t have in the past few years. Every other position, we were winning. We thank God that the coming of Governor Godwin Obaseki made us take the only missing position.
Are of optimistic of victory?
You can feel it. Go to the streets. The people are happy that the PDP have Governor Obaseki as their governor. They are happy that he is no longer under the control of a godfather.
Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, the APC governorship candidate was the PDP candidate in the last election and you passionately supported him. What his your relationship with him now?
My relation with Ize-Iyamu is a relationship of Ize-Iyamu as APC candidate and Chief Dan Orbih as vice-chairman, South-South of PDP. We are now in the field to canvass for votes for our different political parties.
Are you optimistic of a free and fair election?
It is in the interest of our democracy for those who are entrusted with conducting election to ensure that we have a free and fair election in Edo state and all future elections in the country. Gradually, we are going to get a situation where nobody will be able to stop the people from expressing their support to whoever they want. Anything stopping that is akin to bringing the entire democratic process down. We cannot afford to have elections were you don’t allow people to freely express their interest. The man who is at the helms of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is fully aware of the enormous expectations of Nigerians. We will be very watchful of whatever they are doing. We do must things in accordance with the electoral law and ensure that the results are declared as obtained from the various polling unit.
Part of the problems some of the actors in the APC had with Governor Obaseki was that he was not a good party man. They said he would retire them from politics. Are you not worried that the same problems will manifest themselves in the PDP, where he is now; that he may want to retire some of you from politics?
The problem is that APC is different from PDP. I have said it before that APC is not a political party but a collection of individuals whose sole aim was to force President Jonathan out of government. PDP on the other hand is a true political party. Their mission was to stop the former president. They didn’t have a programme in place to address the problems of the country. That is why we find ourselves where we are now. The governor said that his only regret was that he didn’t move to PDP earlier. Now he can see what it is to have a true democratic party. I think the problem was not with the governor not being a true party man but APC not being a good party.
Can you say that the governor has fully blended with the PDP?
Very well. It is like he has been in the party for many years because we have organs in place thast once you enter the party, it will be so smooth that you won’t know that you have not been in the party for a long time. The party is designed to work smoothly that any member joining us will be happy. The governor said recently that his only regret was that he should have taken this decision long ago. APC is an association of men and women with different objectives. The PDP members should remain focused and ensure that we win the governorship election in Edo State. I appeal to all our members to come out en masse and vote. They should mobilize support for the governor so that Edo State will complete the circle in the South-South so that we can take our place of pride. They should provide the PDP the platform for the leadership that we lack.
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