The 60th birthday of Chief Dan Orbih, national vice-chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP on October 27, 2021, happening within the period of the national convention of the PDP obviously did not give enough time for an appropriate exposition of the political icon.
It is, however, remarkable that for a man who has seamlessly manouvered through many political landmines, that at a time when he should have been celebrated on his Diamond degree, that political opportunism by the top hierarchy of the Edo State Government unfolded itself.
No mistake, whatever celebrations the Orbih family would have had was rudely pockmarked by the indentation of what many now describe as the political ingratitude of his political benefaction of Governor Godwin Obaseki. Orbih was Obaseki’s campaign manager in the 2020 governorship election and upon persuasion, had sacrificed his desire to have one of the men who endured the years in the opposition emerge as governor in 2020.
Orbih who should have entered the national convention ground with the adulation of having for the first time an Edo governor of the PDP with him was enveloped by the intrigues, backstab, and animosities from the governor and his foot soldiers.
In a last-ditch attempt at obfuscating the political ascendancy of Orbih, agents of the governor in Edo State had surreptitiously moved to bar him from attending the National Convention of the party.
But the pictures of Orbih welcomed and participating in the convention would have underscored the minuscule impact of the torrents that were poured on him. Orbih had not only survived Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the man who threw Governor Obaseki out of the All Progressives Congress, APC, but had become something like a dreaded sceptre within the inner reaches of the Oshiomhole administration.
As one of the key officials of the Oshiomhole administration said recently, the fear of Orbih was always a fear that kept the administration officials on their toes. They were always astounded as to how Orbih got his vouchers, discussions and plots.
So, when allies of Governor Obaseki made their move to sack Orbih as the national vice-chairman of the PDP, they probably rehearsed the script they used in evicting Oshiomhole as national chairman of the APC. However, in Orbih, they met a superior force who had by sheer political camaraderie among others built a political structure not around himself, but around the principle of fairness, justice and equity.
That was the structure that withstood eight years of Oshiomhole as governor and made the PDP in Edo State about the most vibrant opposition party in the country. It was reflective of this political doggedness that through the Oshiomhole years that the party continued to win the majority of National Assembly seats and the presidential elections. Even with the APC in power, the PDP under Orbih’s tutelage prevailed against the headwinds to again prevail in both the National Assembly and presidential elections.
Obaseki’s entanglement with Orbih came as a shock to many. Especially so to this correspondent. For the first few days as news of the development was reported it bounced off this correspondent as fake news given the assumption that gratitude sown by Orbih into Obaseki’s political survival in 2020 would not be so easily repaid with such an imperious act of ingratitude.
It was not until the day that Obaseki was seen in a gathering last October, affirming and upholding the ‘suspension’ of Orbih and some other PDP chieftains that reality sank in. Orbih was not the only object of that political charade. Ogbiede Ihama, the Oredo Federal Constituency representative who surrendered his political ascendancy to Obaseki was also another object for political chastisement of the Obaseki entourage.
It was sufficient that the act of political roguery was immediately dispelled by men of good conscience and even by some even frolicking around Obaseki’s dinner table.
The national PDP was quick to dismiss the act of political deviltry. A resort to the courts was another approach by the Obaseki foot-soldiers who in any case underrated the capacity of Orbih for thoroughness. The judicial move was lost in motion and one of the lawyers involved narrowly escaped being jailed for contempt of court.
The adversaries also underrated Orbih’s political sagacity. The solidarity the political class showed Orbih in his faceoff with Obaseki goes a long way to estimate the political sophistication of the PDP in Edo State. They almost with one voice told the governor to take his government and leave their party for them.
In Zamfara State when the governor defected to the APC, the whole political structure with the notable exception of the deputy governor swam with him. But not in Edo. A people who had survived and thrived under one of Nigeria’s most accomplished political players, that is Oshiomhole – they were well prepared to sit out the remaining three years of Obaseki.
Nigerians of all goodwill may have overlooked the achievements and strides of Dan Orbih on account of the unnecessary political missiles thrown his way by the Obaseki camp in Edo State. but the fact that Orbih survived all the plots with aplomb is itself a fitting crown of political splendour to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the political icon.