By Emmanuel Aziken
Chief Dan Orbih, was recently appointed the national vice-chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP after an eventful two-term tour of duty as chairman of the party in Edo State.
Orbih in that time led the party against one of the most animated governors of the Fourth Republic, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. The fights between the two former friends were about the most dynamic engagements that enlivened the Edo political landscape in the last decade. Oshiomhole won some, Orbih won some.
Though in opposition, Orbih articulated policies and points that inevitably put the Oshiomhole and subsequently the Obaseki administrations on edge at all times.
Significant in the victories of Orbih were the two consecutive National Assembly and presidential election victories while he held sway.
Following his tour of duty, an appreciative PDP appointed him the National Vice-Chairman, South-South of the party.
Orbih formally took charge of the party in Port-Harcourt earlier this week and following that, spoke to Saturday Vanguard on his experience in Edo, the challenges ahead of the governorship election among others.
How do you react to your elevation as the National Vice-Chairman of the PDP in the South-South Zone?
My elevation came as a pleasant surprise. In politics, sometimes you work very hard, and it may go unnoticed. But here we are, the National Working Committee (NWC) after extensive consultation with critical stake holders in the South-South announced me as the National Vice Chairman South-South. I am highly honoured.
How would you first describe your experience as chairman of the PDP in Edo State?
I thank God for divine guidance in my years as Chairman PDP, Edo State. I enjoyed massive support from our late leader Chief Tony Anenih and also from our genuine party leaders and members who believed in the Party. I took over the Party at its lowest ebb. At a time Adams Oshiomole used his propaganda weapon to vilify eight years of Lucky Igbenedion’s PDP government.
What baffled political watchers was that Chief Lucky Igbenedion supported him to power and became the first victim of his vicious attacks. That was the first thing that brought out the character issue with Oshiomhole
Unfortunately those who served with Chief Lucky Igbenedion in his government were prominent members of Adams Oshiomole’s Kitchen cabinet and they enjoyed the drama of their former principal constantly disgraced and abused.
Some later got a fair dose of their own Adams Oshiomole’s poisonous attack. So the stigma was there that Lucky Igbenedion’s government fell short of people’s expectations and those who ought to speak kept quiet for some strange reasons.
It was from this point we started the process of rebuilding the maliciously battered image of the party by Oshiomole.
Thank God we have won back voters’ confidence. The people have seen the deceit of Oshiomole’s propaganda and the abysmal failure of turning himself to a political godfather. Today through hard work and perseverance, we thank God we now have a party that is now the beautiful bride of Edo Politics.
What would you describe as your legacy in Edo?
Well researched criticism and the realisation of the people of APC not doing what they preached helped in turning around the fortunes of our party. We fought against the sale of Edo House, exposed Oshiomole’s humiliation of the helpless widow who he condemned “to go and die”. We also exposed the monumental fraud of Oshiomole’s APC government, Central Hospital fraud etc.
My legacy is that I handed over the party on a very strong footing. Added to that was that we won the last two presidential elections in Edo State despite having sitting governments aligned to the APC.
We also won two of the three Senate seats back to back and also majority of the seats in the House of Representatives.
We by our efforts were able to scatter and demystify the broom and what it represents. In fact, in Edo we scattered the broom!
How do you feel presenting a man you had in the past condemned as your party’s candidate?
The interesting thing about the coming State Guber election is that our party’s candidate in the last Guber election is now the APC’s candidate while the governor who is now a full member of our party is now our candidate.
The campaign for the re-election of the governor has been done already by Adams Oshiomole who did fatal and colossal damage to the image of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, the APC candidate when he was in PDP.
On our part, we have a candidate who can point to things he has done despite the distractions from the Abuja “Godfather “.
I commend the maturity of the PDP aspirants who gave up their aspirations to have the governor emerge as the party’s candidate.
I look forward to robust issues driven campaign in the coming weeks. I urge our leaders and members to go out to ensure our victory at the election. I am glad to have all the South-South states under the PDP umbrella.
I want to call other APC serving governors who are dissatisfied with what is going on in the country to follow the bold and courageous footsteps of Governor Godwin Obaseki and join the PDP. The time for patriotic Nigerians to come under the PDP to rescue Nigeria is now.
The nauseating security challenges coupled with the harsh economic crisis we are facing in the country make it imperative. The decay in infrastructure, roads, schools, hospitals, are worrisome.
No doubt we are living in hard times. Many people are out of work. The purchasing power of the Naira is at an all time low. It is becoming more and more obvious that the current APC Government has no solution to Nigeria’s legion of problems. Just like COVID-19, the government has no solutions to the problems of the country.
How would you react to the tension ahead of the primaries?
All that has been overtaken by events. What appeared to be tension was amicably resolved. You could see the united spirit displayed by the aspirants including the governor at our primaries and I think that took care of the tension you are referring to.
A number of people have alleged that money was involved in resolving the tension. So for the records and you being the National Vice Chairman, South-South, was money involved and how much was it?
The answer is no, to the best of my knowledge.
I think there is a concerted effort on the part of the APC leadership and the opponents of the governor to make people believe that money was involved in getting him come over to our party.
And the question I will ask is this, we are in opposition, can we give money to the governor to come and join us? The answer is no!
If it is alleged that the governor is the one giving money to people to accept him as the candidate of the party, I will also say no, it doesn’t make sense.
Don’t forget that the whole crisis in APC is the allegation that the man was not giving out money and that is why they started this problem with the man.
And I can tell you that what made APC to lose Obaseki is the very reason PDP accepted him – his financial discipline.
Against the widely held view by leaders of APC that he was not bringing money for them to share after they worked for him.
So, the same people who said that he would not allow state money to be shared are the people now saying that he shared money and that is why PDP accepted him.
So, you can see that there is a lot of insincerity in this attempt to want to taint him in very bad light.
A man that they said would not bring state money for him to share and that that was why they quarreled with him, is the same man that they are now accusing of sharing state money for PDP to accept him. Does that make any sense? The answer is no.
In fact, what has endeared him to many of the leaders and members of the PDP is his celebrated financial discipline and we believe that if he is given the right support, with his financial discipline, the citizens of the state will benefit more than a few individuals who feel that all they do in politics is corner the man and make him share state resources.
A number of PDP activists including Prince Kassim Afegbua have complained that the governor has brought in his structure to displace PDP activists who have been in the trenches. Is this not demoralizing?
Well, the issue of Kassim Afegbua is the matter of him expressing his democratic right of free expression. He has expressed his views, others have seen it differently and they have also expressed theirs.
The beauty of it all is that in PDP we don’t muzzle people who want to express their views because they are entitled to their views and that is what people enjoy in PDP.
I think at the end of the day, the party took decisions and at the time those decisions were taken, we had limitations in terms of time and a lot of things that probably would have accommodated the issues that Kassim raised. But in a democracy, every person will have his say but the majority will have their way.
I think the acceptability of most of the leaders and members of the party is what has given rise to what we have today as the ticket of PDP in Edo State.
Some have expressed fears that the governor after winning the election may go back to APC. Do you have that fear?
There is no reason to have that fear, the governor has even expressed the fact that his greatest regret was not coming to PDP very early. He has experienced life in APC and experienced life in PDP and there is no better party for the people of this country than the PDP. He feels proudly that the future of this nation lies in the leaders of PDP to rescue the nation from the present situation we find ourselves.
So, for a man who is already looking beyond Edo State, who is already looking at the prospect of PDP making life better again for Nigerians, the issue of going back to APC is totally out of the question.
He is going to collaborate with other governors of the PDP and leaders to ensure that come 2023 that this nation will embrace the umbrella of comfort that will bring back the good things of life to Nigerians.
Sir, can you remember how you scored Governor Godwin Obaseki in your last assessment of his stewardship while you were chairman of the Edo State chapter of the PDP?
Whether I remember?
Yes, the score you gave to him!
We don’t start talking about past scores when we have an exam ahead of us!
You are talking about past scores; we have an exam coming up on the 19th of September, 2020. In that exam, Godwin Obaseki will be scored by the good people of Edo State, not one individual scoring him.
But I remember you scoring him F9 in several sectors?
That was a long time ago! I have now seen him do wonderful things in the past few months and I have taken great pains to actually evaluate his performance side by side with the challenges he was faced with by an overbearing godfather who wanted to take over the reins of government either directly or otherwise.
With these challenges, you will score the man very high; there were a lot of distractions, attempts to impeach him with members who were yet to report at their duty post at the State House of Assembly.
All these and a combination of factors; and in spite of all these distractions, the man kept faith with the people of Edo State.
I understand that not too long ago that Edo State will be the first state to generate power to augment the power problems facing the state.
It is unprecedented. These and many more positive things he has been able to achieve will make it inevitable for Edo people to give him the chance to continue the good programmes he has initiated.