For Chief Dan Osi Orbih, Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in Edo State, it has been more than ten years of steadfast opposition to the authorities in Edo State. The election of his onetime childhood friend, Adams Oshiomhole as governor should have translated into a time of cosy comfort in the corridors of power, but not for Orbih. A scion of one of the state’s leading political families, Orbih continues to abide in the trenches in pursuit of the “good governance,” he claims has eluded Edo State since 1999 even when his own PDP governed the state.
Orbih, however, asserts that he is leading a new PDP which he claims has been purged of its bad elements who according to him, are the strongmen of the Oshiomhole administration. In two interview sessions with Vanguard in Benin-City, Orbih raises issues on the style, structure and sins of the present administration in Edo State, saying that apperance is deceptive. Excerpts:
You put in much during the last gubernatorial election, but could not win one local government. Are you not disappointed?
Well the election has come and gone, but for us in the party, we have put behind all that transpired during the election. We are looking forward to building a stronger platform for future elections. If you do remember, immediately after the election, I did come out with a statement that every genuine member of our party in the state worked hard enough to secure victory for our party at the election. But unfortunately, while our party worked and abided by the principle of one man- one vote, our main opponent engaged in intimidation. They obstructed voter’s registration by going to demonstrate in front of the INEC office, climbed a table, and just for that reason, INEC denied eligible voters in Edo state the opportunity to register and to vote at that election. By that action alone in our last record, over 300,000 people were denied the opportunity to be registered to vote in that election.
Just for the simple reason that Adams Oshiomhole was complaining that he was not going to allow voter’s registration, because he was scared that PDP will have an edge if that exercise was allowed to take place. I am fully aware that those who were denied the right to vote at the election, some of them have taken their cases to court; because the time has come when people should at least challenge some of these issues. From what I can see today, it has become an idea that is growing, that for any election to be seen as free and fair and credible, all you need to do is to make PDP lose an election, every person will start clapping for you, that you have conducted a free and fair election.
Is that not a reflection of the performance of the PDP administration at the federal level?
Not necessarily so, that is a different ball game.
Are you saying you lost the election because Oshiomhole intimidated INEC to stop voter’s registration?
Well, in a football match, when a team loses a match; sometimes it could be as a result of bad officiating, sometimes a player will be off-side, and the referee, you cannot expect him to see everything, he probably will not see that the player was off-side at the time the ball got in.
Why then did you decide not to contest the result?
Our decision, not to contest the result at the tribunal was taken after wide consultation with the leadership of the party, both in and outside the state.
Does that include the presidency?
In an outside the state, I said leadership consultation. The presidency may be part of the wider spectrum of party leadership.
Did the president tell you not to appeal it?
I did not have any discussion with the president.
What about Chief Anenih? Did he tell you not to appeal?
(cuts in) I said there was wide consultation with the leadership of the party.
Including with Chief Tony Anenih?
At the highest level, we had wide consultations both at the national and state levels.
Some said that even nature welcomed Oshiomhole’s victory given the rainfall that swept through Benin the day the result was announced?
Again, you see, I’m not a footballer, neither have I played in a competitive football. You will agree with me, even after a football match, whoever wins will celebrate. If PDP was declared as the winner of that election, I can assure you there would have been greater celebration than what you saw that day. So it’s like a football match, any team that’s declared the winner of a match will certainly celebrate.
There have been reports of a division between the party leadership and your gubernatorial candidate over his decision to contest the result. How true is that?
The party is an umbrella and an institution. It is expected that every member of the party must submit to the party. There is a difference between working to realize personal interest and party’s interest. The moment you start giving the impression that in driving your personal ambition, you are ready to destroy the party as an institution; the party will certainly call you to order. The party took a position; it is for journalists to find out why the person still went to court despite the party’s position.
You complain about Oshiomhole but we had your PDP before in power and they were not able to do the roads and schools Oshiomhole is putting in place now?
We are having a new phase of PDP with men of character and sincerity of purpose who are focused. No matter how long it will take, we will get there and PDP will be back in power.
But is it not the same PDP platform that didn’t allow Igbinendion to work?
…Cuts in) Which platform? Is it not the same PDP that you have in Akwa Ibom where you have an Akpabio who has done so well for all to see? Is it not the same PDP that you have Uduaghan, our neighbour here who is performing in terms of positive programmes? Is it not the same PDP that you have Liyel Imoke? Or is Amaechi not part of the PDP family? All these are PDP governors? Don’t forget that even the great Shakespeare said the fault is not in our stars but in ourselves. So, those who have failed should know why they failed, they should not blame it on the party.
So, how do you asses four years of Oshiomhole’s government?
I can tell you quite frankly that four years of Oshiomhole have been four years of propaganda. Four years of noise making with very little to show the good people of Edo State.
I find it extremely difficult why the comparison of Oshiomhole’s four years or so called performance is always with that of Lucky Igbinendion, a man who left office, far, far before Oshiomhole came to office. I will like to see a situation where you comparing four years of Oshiomhole with four years of Akpabio, Uduaghan, Fashola, Amaechi and other governors who are in government at the same time with Oshiomhole.
When you want to compare a government, don’t compare it with an era where the economic indices are not the same. So, let us start looking at Oshiomhole side by side with other governors who are in government at the same time with him. It is not a mark of statesmanship for men to look at those they perceive to have failed, because he is the one who keeps referring to his friend’s time in government as a failure. Why can he not compare himself with those who are succeeding in other states?
It is only when we start doing that that we can actually know whether he is doing well or not. There are people who will say one thing and do the opposite. We have seen the complaints from members of ACN and it is not a question of one man one vote, it is now one man, no vote. What they did was at complete variance with the provisions of the electoral law for the conduct of local government elections in Edo State.
There were no primaries conducted by ACN, they just sat down and wrote the names of people who will stand for the election in the various wards and local governments. So, my happiness is that today in Edo State, people actually know who is a godfather, people know those who are the very opposite of what they claim to be and within a very short time, we now know who is the devil and who is the saint. He is doing worse things now that he is in government. It’s been quite interesting and I believe that few years from now, people will have a completely different view of what they thought he stood for.
But have you not seen the roads, schools and other things done by the government?
You know Governor Uduaghan said that the decision for the Good Governance team to go round was taken at the Council of States but Oshiomhole refused and the reason he refused is because he has nothing to show. They wanted to come and see whether all the things that they have been reading in the press whether they were true. That was the day of reckoning. Airport road, it has taken him more than 5 years and he has not completed it and people make noise that he is doing roads. Which road? It takes a man more than 5 years to complete a 6.7 kilometer road? Look at the Central Hospital in Benin.
This job was left at the mercy of a quantity surveyor and the contractor which made the job to be riddled with poor supervision and the contractor in order to maximise profit erected a very poor foundation. The resultant effect was the collapse of the building while undergoing construction. It has since been discovered that the consultant architect, wrote letters to the government complaining and insisting on the need for proper supervision of that project saying that it was a disaster waiting to happen if government was not prepared to take immediate action to ensure that the job was properly supervised by competent people.
However, government did nothing about it and the result was that the building collapsed killing innocent people and today, the government is faced with the option of pulling down the entire structure and in the alternative erecting columns that will support the existing structure. Either of these options will double the original cost price. This is one of many examples of what is going on in Edo State. I challenge the government to come out with a white paper on the findings of the committee that was set up to look into the collapse of the building!