SIMON EBEGBULEM,BENIN CITY
Two-time former governor of the old Bendel State, Dr Samuel Ogbemudia, shocked many people, last week, particularly members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as he resigned from the party. Ever since his resignation, his New Lagos Road, Benin-City residence has become a Mecca of sort for politicians from both the PDP and the All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of the 2016 governorship election in Edo State. Ogbemudia commands respect, especially from Edo and Delta states, due to his numerous achievements as governor of old Bendel.
It was actually due to the pedigree that Governor Adams Oshiomhole appealed to the elder statesman during his 83 birthday, in October last year, to quit partisan politics so that he can be father of all. At that occasion, the governor faulted the idea by Ogbemudia to participate in the e-registration of the PDP and stressed that, at 83, he should be a father to both PDP and APC members.
Three months after Oshiomhole’s advice, Ogbemudia quit the PDP, describing the revelations on how security money was expended by party leaders during President Jonathan’s election as shocking. In his resignation letter, dated January 20, 2016, addressed to the national leadership of the party, Ogbemudia recalled that the PDP was formed with the intention to provide welfare for Nigerians but a powerful minority held the party hostage for 16 years.
The resignation, for sure, dealt a blow to the hope of the PDP to win the forthcoming governorship election in Edo.
The elder statesman has not hidden his love for Oshiomhole’s developmental projects in the state as a result of which he has always thrown his support for the governor. The elder statesman, through his Edo Mass Movement (EMM), commenced the search for Oshiomhole’s successor since early last year after he vowed to ensure that the next governor sustains Oshiomhole’s projects and even performs better than Oshiomhole. Of the three political leaders in the state, namely: Ogbemudia, Chief Tony Anenih and the Esama of Benin, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, Ogbemudia is the only one the Comrade Governor relates with.
So, there is no doubt he will have an input in who succeeds Oshiomhole. There was a time it was rumoured that the elder statesman was backing a former Minister of State, Works, Dr Chris Ogienwonyi, for the governorship, but he debunked the insinuation. “EMM is searching for a credible successor to Oshiomhole from any of the political parties and has not zeroed-in on any particular aspirant”, he had said. “EMM is not being funded by any of the aspirants; if we do that, then we will not get the best. We will only go for the best candidate and, when we get that person, we will tell Edo people to support the person. We equally recognize that the governor must have a say in who succeeds him because you will not expect him to allow a thief succeed him. So, we are going to dialogue with the governor, to put heads together because I know he loves Edo and he will give the best advice. Oshiomhole is so intelligent that he will not want to make mistakes on the choice of his successor. So, I believe we all will get the best person for our people”.
Sunday Vanguard learnt that most of the governorship aspirants, particularly from the APC, are scrambling to get the elder statesman’s endorsement.
Those of them in the PDP, apart from Solomon Edebiri, have been far from Ogbemudia for obvious reasons. The two-time governor was blunt when he informed the PDP leaders that it would be difficult to defeat whoever the Comrade Governor decides to project as his successor, due to Oshiomhole’s achievements. On one occasion that the PDP leaders visited him, he told them: “Which road did you people pass to get to my house?” The leaders were said to have explained to him that it was the road built by Oshiomhole.
He informed them that it would be irresponsible on his part not to support the progress of the state at his age, warning that unless the state PDP got its acts together and be progressive-minded, they should forget the governorship of Edo in the nearest future.
That comment did not go down well with the PDP leaders in the state and that is why some of its governorship aspirants have failed to solicit his support since they know what his answer will be.
At it seems, while Ogbemudia’s resignation will further dwindle the chances of the PDP in the forthcoming governorship election, it will boost APC chances. After consultations with the Comrade Governor and other leaders from the state, he is expected to endorse a candidate that the majority of the people of the state may vote for.