Honourable Babatunde Oduyoye, the Special Adviser to the governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, was the chairman/returning officer of the just-concluded congress of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State. The two-time member of the House of Representatives on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), who stood in for Governor Makinde in the congress, spoke to HENDRIX OLIOMOGBE on the outcome of the exercise and the prospects of the PDP in the forthcoming governorship poll.
HOW would you assess the just concluded congress of Edo State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)?
My governor, Seyi Makinde sent me. He had confidence in me. All I did was based on the background, orientation and integrity of the governor. Whatever achievements that were recorded go back to him and to the entire members of the committee who included a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Austin Opara; Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Sheriff Oborevwori and Professor Viola Onyewuliri. Without them, we couldn’t have achieved anything. Governor Makinde was on the phone throughout, calling and monitoring the exercise.
I must congratulate the Edo PDP members who cooperated throughout the exercise. There was so much enthusiasm on the part of the members. They conducted themselves very well in a civil manner at the centre. I think they are thirsty for government. They were very civil. I must thank the former executive committee under the leadership of Chief Dan Orbih for providing an enabling environment for us to conduct the congress.
Despite minor hitches, we were able to have a successful congress. We started by 7 am on Saturday and finished at about 7 pm on Sunday. By the time they left, everybody was happy. To crown it all, I was woken up the morning after by the chairmanship candidate who lost out, Mr. Felix Imoisili, who called to thank and congratulate us for the transparent manner the congress was conducted. I have never met him before. I never met the man who won before too, even though I knew him at the National Assembly where we were colleagues in the House of Representatives. He couldn’t even come to me because he knew my background as an (AD) member then. My governor is very impressed with him. The character and philosophy of the governor which we all imbibed helped a lot.
The opposition party had predicted that the congress will be the end of the PDP in Edo State because congress is alien to the PDP in the state. Former chairman, Board of Trustees of the PDP, the late Chief Anthony Anenih, had a way of fixing things and making them rancour-free. He never sat down for more than two hours to decide who gets what. For the first time in the history of the PDP in Edo State, they conducted the congress in the state. It is something they are not used to doing. Here, we came, conducted the congress and succeeded. The glory goes to all members of the committee.
What were the challenges?
The challenges had to do with getting appropriate venue. It is alien to the PDP to organise anything like a congress. We had problems with the materials. The greatest challenge I had was that some people could not write. The PDP, ordinarily at the national level, should have produced a normal ballot paper with the names of candidates, their photographs and space for thumb printing. In the absence of photographs and space for writing, those who could not write had problems. The ballot paper was designed in a way that the delegates have to write the names of the candidates they voted for. We had a problem with those who could not write as people had to help them. It became a problem as regards who they wanted to vote for. It became a problem to decipher as to who actually wants to help the man or woman or force his opinion on the delegate. It is part of the reports I am writing to the national headquarters of the PDP.
What were your fears?
I had fears because we started with ward and local government congresses. We had problems in some local government areas: Etsako West, Egor and Ovia North East. My fears were justified as we still had problems. We succeeded in Egor but in Ovia North East, we did not succeed. The delegates from Ovia North East could not vote as they had problems with the local government congress. In Etsako West, only 24 delegates were accredited and by the time they wanted to vote, they were delay but we succeeded in addressing the problem. The problem in Ovia North East had been there for long. In my recommendation, I advised the national headquarters in my report to look into the matter and find a way to resolve the issues
What are your expectations for the PDP in Edo State?
The PDP in Edo State is very lucky to have conducted a successful congress. The PDP is now better prepared. The disunity which is now inherent in the All progressive Congress (APC), gives the PDP an advantage to capitalise on the disunity. In the National Assembly, the PDP has an advantage. With the support of the governors in the South-South and other dynamic governors in other states and the national leadership of the party, it should succeed in capturing a state which is traditionally PDP right from the inception of democracy in 1999.
What is your message to the new executive committee?
My message to the new executive committee is to remain focused. Responsibilities has been thrust on them. They must represent those people that elected them. The election did not come with the state congress. The election is a product of consensus from the ward level. They must see to the victory of the party in Edo State. The executive committee must not allow rancor to take place. The committee must not encourage wrangling. The winners must be magnanimous in victory. Those who lost out in the congress must be carried along. They should be recommended to the national for assignments and responsibilities that would give them a sense of belonging. It is only when they do that the PDP family can be one and work towards ensuring victory in the forthcoming governorship election.
What was the secret of your success?
The secret is my background and the man who nominated me. He gave me confidence in my ability to conduct the congress. The secret is believing in transparency, fairness, equity and justice. The secret is to stand by the truth.