The local government election in Edo State has been scheduled for April 20, 2013. The election would provide the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), another opportunity to re-assert itself in the politics of the state. But How far can the party go? NDUBUISI ORJI writes.
Sometime ago, obtaining a ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), for any election in Edo State could be equated to winning the main election. But today, things have changed. The candidates of the party from being cocksure of victory in electoral contest, now contest elections in the state as the underdogs, without the swagger and bravado associated with the party in the past.
The PDP lost the governorship of the state in November 11, 2008, when the Appeal Court sitting in Benin, affirmed the verdict of the state Governorship Election Tribunal that sacked Professor Comrade Adams Osareheimen Osunbor, as governor of the state and ordered that Oshiomhole of the ACN be sworn in as governor having scored the highest number of lawful votes in the April 19, 2007 governorship election in the state.
Since then, the electoral fortunes of the party has been on a free fall. From being the dominant party in the state prior to the 2007 general election, the PDP is now struggling to remain relevant in the politics of the state.
In the 2011 general election, the ACN cleared all the National Assembly seats in Edo South and North senatorial zones, while the PDP managed to hold Edo Central where it won eight out of the nine seats in the state and National Assembly.
So, the party saw the July 14, 2011 governorship poll as an opportunity to launch a comeback in the politics of the state. It had boasted that it would win the governorship poll convincingly as a prelude to completely taking over the politics of the state in 2015. But alas, it was a disappointing outing for the party that once called the shots in the state. It recorded its most dismal performance in the politics of the state, as it could not win a single local government area during the governorship election.
The PDP governorship candidate in the last election, General Charles Airhiavbere also lost out in his bid to remove the governor through the courts.
Smarting from its lose at the last governorship election, the party sees the April 20, local government election as an opportunity to redeem its image and stage a comeback in the politics of the state.
Earlier in the year, the party’s Publicity Secretary, Matthew Urhoghide, in a statement in Benin City gave an indication that the party would be participating in the election.
He said, “One of our duties as a party includes providing a campaign platform for members who may be desirous of contesting the elections in pursuance of their fundamental and constitutional rights.
“We shall provide the platform and recognise, respect and support, legally and dutifully, the rights and desires of these party members to express themselves.
“We encourage all Edo PDP members who may be interested in contesting the elections to go ahead and pursue their ambitions without fear or hindrance,” the party’s publicity scribe advised.
But what impact can the PDP possibly make after its poor outing in the last year’s governorship election?
Analysts are hinging the success of the party in the council poll on the availability of a level playing field. Not a few members of the party believe that the election would afford the party an opportunity to win some council chairmanship and councillorship seats in the election if it is free and fair.
But a chieftain of the party, Mr Chris Nehikhare said without prejudice to the decision of the party to participate in the election, he does not believe that much would come out of the exercise. The PDP chieftain said this is because he cannot trust the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) to conduct a free and fair election.
He said at best, the party would sit in Government House and write names of its candidates as winners of the election.
According to him, “If the local government election is going to be supervised by INEC, I will say yes. But from the way this party operates, ACN we know is the most undemocratic party in the country. They do not believe in primaries. They do not believe in free and fair election, so they may just go to the Government House and write the names of people. I don’t believe in it. I don’t think anything good is going to come out of it.”
Nehikhare added that in the last four years, “they have refused to hold elections, they nominated people but because of pressure, they want to give it the face of legitimacy. I don’t see anything good coming out of local government election. It is a shame we are in this state. Those that want to contest, good luck to them. The only good thing about it is that there is going to be public holiday on that day; but not a day for election.”
True to the sentiments expressed by Nehikhare, local government election in the country has always been won by candidates of the parties in power. Even in Edo State, the last local government election in the state conducted in December 2007 during the tenure of Osunbor as governor was cleared by the PDP to the consternation of the present governor of the state, Adams Oshiomhole and ACN stalwarts.
Another PDP chieftain, Mr. Martins Sado, told newsmen recently, that already, there is apprehension that the council poll will not be free and fair. He said his apprehension on the council election stems from conduct of the ACN primaries for the poll.
“As you know, there was lots of public outcry amongst the governor’s party people over imposition of candidates.
“Aspirants who the people truly wanted were substituted for those with support from the governor.
“Though, this is no concern of ours (PDP), but my fear is that this desperate measures to have the governor’s men as their party candidates for the poll will tell on the election,” he stated.
There have been protests by stalwarts of the ACN in Edo State after the party’s primaries with a lot of party supporters accusing their leadership of imposition of candidates during the party primaries. However, Hon Charles Idahosa , Political Adviser to Governor Adams Oshiomhole in a recent interview with a national daily said it is not true that the governor and some political leaders of the ACN have anointed some aspirants ahead of the elections.
He said: “I want to say nobody has been anointed. We know what the comrade governor stands for.
“He is a man who built his reputation within and outside Nigeria as a fighter. He is the apostle of one- man-one-vote which interestingly I see the President use regularly and even Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stalwarts. So, the issue of anointing any person does not arise.”
Sado insists that the governor should allow the people the free-will to decide who govern them at the grass root level.
In his words, “Oshiomhole should replicate same free and fair election he has enjoyed from the federal level in the state local government election slated for April 20, 2013.
For him, the outcome of the poll would determine if Oshiomhole was truly an apostle of one man one vote.
He added; “Oshiomhole has been known to have unnecessarily accused people like Chief Tony Anenih and others of being of not allowing people to freely chose who to govern them.
“It is his turn now to show that he is not opposite of what he preaches. Let him show the world that the people and only the people deserve the right to choose their leaders.”