By Simeon OSAJIE
The Edo State chapter of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has not known peace since the commencement of the nomination process ahead the 2023 general elections. The party has since been bifurcated into two factions, the old PDP also known as the Legacy PDP and the new PDP consisting of all those who came into the party alongside Governor Godwin Obaseki in 2020.
It is a matter of public knowledge that the two sides have been at daggers drawn since the commencement of the process leading to the congress of the party for the nomination of candidates for the 2023 general elections. The two factions went ahead to organize separate primaries and submitted results to the party national secretariat. However, the Legacy PDP went to court to seek an order validating their factional primary as the authentic primary, a prayer that was granted by an Abuja Federal High Court. The court also ordered the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to accept the candidates from that factional primary as the candidates of the Edo State chapter of the party.
However, the new PDP also went to court seeking an order to validate their own primary as the validly conducted primary election of the party. That case went up the Court of Appeal in Benin with a declaration that nomination of candidates is an internal affair of the party.
The new PDP also appealed the Abuja Federal High Court ruling at the Abuja Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal in Abuja also declared that the nomination of candidates for elections is the internal affairs of the party.
Several political pundits and analysts view the Appeal Court judgments as hunk judgments, just as it is being rumoured that some of those laying claims to the party candidacy have gone to the Supreme Court praying for a declarative order on their candidacy.
The matter even degenerated to the extent that the party has to petition the Edo State Resident Electoral Commission (REC) to the police, accusing him of forging results of the primary election and availing same to a faction of the party to file suits at the law courts.
It should be noted that Edo people who wholeheartedly voted the PDP back to power in 2020 via Governor Godwin Obaseki after more than a decade are not happy. The party should be sincere with itself and call all the claimants to the candidacy to a round table with a view to resolving all the issues in contention, settle out of court and withdraw all pending litigations.
As a first step towards the realization of this out of court settlement, the Edo State PDP State Working Committee (SWC) should immediately convene a meeting, sincerely purge themselves of any vestige of bias against any of the claimants to the party candidacy and make an appeal to the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki who is the leader of the party to intervene to pave way for out of court resolution of the crisis.
The party should leverage on the provisions of Sections 31 and 33 of the Electoral Act, 2022 dealing on the withdrawal of candidates from the election to share the elective positions between the Legacy PDP members and the new PDP members. It is against the grain for the Legacy PDP members to corner all the elective positions to their members and expect support from the new PDP members who came to the party with Governor Obaseki. By the same token, it will be unfair of the new PDP members to appropriate all the elective positions to their members alone leaving the Legacy PDP members in the cold.
The party should invoke the provisions of Section 33 of the Electoral Act, 2022 which states that, “a political party shall not be allowed to change or substitute its candidate whose name has been submitted under Section 29 of this Act, except in the case of death or withdrawal by the candidate; provided that in the case of such withdrawal or death of candidate, the political party affected shall within 14 days of the occurrence of the event, hold a fresh primary election to produce and submit a fresh candidate to the Commission for the election concerned.”
Section 31 provides that all these should be done not later than 90 days to the date of the election.
Members of the Edo State PDP should make a passionate appeal to the Governor and leaders of the party to explore the provisions of these Sections of the Electoral Act to resolve the crisis rocking the party and withdraw all pending litigations which outcome will further divide the party.
This proposed reconciliation encapsulated in the spirit of give and take, sacrifice for the party’s interest and the interests of the Nigerian masses suffering under the yoke of the ruling All Progressives Congress, (APC); will surely assist to bat dawn all electoral hurdles for the candidates and the Edo State chapter of the PDP and enhance their chances of registering victory in the forthcoming 2023 general elections.
May I caution with all the equivocally that I can muster that if this crisis rocking the Edo State chapter of the party continue beyond the next two months, it will make the party strength become as lean as a rake and wasted to skeleton in the run up to the 2023 general elections and what becomes of its electoral fortunes can only be imagined than experienced.
All those laying claims to the party tickets at various levels and their supporters vide the various court pronouncements should stop giving an impression of settled and irreversible conquest of the situation.
They should stop equating their perceived previous success with ability to neutralize obstacles as it would be near fatal for them to approach the general elections with a divided house. The candidates need the cohesion of the party and support of every member to face their major opponent, which is the nation’s ruling party in the general elections.