Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki, yesterday, joined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) after weeks of speculations that he was shopping for a political party ahead of the September 19, this year’s governorship election.
Also, his Deputy, Philip Shaibu, obtained his membership card of the party shortly after his principal obtained his PDP membership card to contest the party’s primary election.
In its reaction, the APC said Obaseki’s decision to defect to PDP did not come to it as a surprise.
Its spokesperson, Lanre Issa-Onilu, stated: “It has not come to us as a surprise. We knew he had defected long ago because he resigned his membership of the party, which we have accepted.
Read More: Edo 2020: PDP grants waiver to Obaseki, shifts primaries to June 25
“You can’t defect twice. So, if he is defecting again, we don’t know whether what he has just done now is news any longer.”
But the national secretariat of the PDP welcomed Obaseki and all returning and new members accompanying him into its fold.
The PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, described the governor’s decision as courageous and patriotic, commending “the commitment, dedication and sacrifices of PDP leaders, critical stakeholders and teeming members in Edo State, who had continued to work hard to keep the party alive and made it attractive to the people of the state”
The party stressed that Edo had always been home to the PDP, adding that a PDP government would always put the interest of the people first, in line with the party’s manifesto and guiding principles.
The PDP reassured all members of strict adherence to the principles of internal democracy in all its activities.
Obaseki and Shaibu had earlier resigned their membership of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) after Obaseki was disqualified by the screening committee from contesting the party’s June 22 primary election over alleged discrepancies in his academic qualifications.
The Guardian sighted the PDP register, which has the name of governor registered in Oredo Council with State Code 12, Ward 3.
He arrived the PDP state secretariat in Benin City exactly 2.30 pm, where he formally defected to the opposition party. In his speech, Obaseki said: “I am here this afternoon to inform you that following my resignation from the APC, I have now decided, having consulted very widely, within the state and across the country, to become a member of PDP.
“The PDP in my view has demonstrated and has shown that it is a party rooted in democratic practices, a party that believes in justice and fairness, and a party that respects.
“Today is not a day I will make the speech. You will hear from me soon. Today, I am here to go through the formalities of registering as a member of this great party. I know and understand fully well the implications of this decision. I know that upon taking on the membership of the great party, I now automatically become the leader of the party in the state; that is the constitution.
“I want to assure all of you that I am prepared to provide leadership that will lead this party to victory. I am prepared to provide the leadership that will put PDP in the office in Edo State.
“As the ruling party in Edo State, I will make sure that the level of progress and participation in the political system by our people will be unrivaled.
“I am very happy with the reception I have received since I got in here. This is the kind of energy I require to go to the level. If you think we have done it in the last four years, you haven’t seen anything yet, because with the quality of the people I have seen here, those running this party and the energy of the youth I see, by the grace of God who made today possible, I am committing to you that I will not only lift the party to victory in Edo State but will also now make sure that this party is an example of how states should be run in Africa.
“Today, it is with great pleasure that I have come to formally take my membership card of this great party,” Obaseki said.
Receiving the governor, the state PDP Chairman, Tony Azegbemi, said his defection is a big harvest to the party, adding that members were delighted to have him as a member.
“Let me welcome the newest member of PDP in the state, Governor Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki.
“Let me say this unequivocally, as he has rightly said, the leader of the party in the state is the governor of the state, so we are all on the same page in this.
“Your Excellency, just know that as the leader of the party in the state, we look up to you for direction, for what you want us to do and we are ready to follow you,” Azegbemi said.
PDP supporters trooped out in large numbers to receive the former APC governor. Hundreds of youths from both the APC and PDP stormed the party secretariat to give the governor a rousing welcome, chanting solidarity songs, amid cheers from the governor.
The PDP secretariat located on the busy 1st East Circular road witnessed a large turnout of PDP leaders, include its National Vice Chairman, South-South, Emmanuel Ogidi, senator representing Edo South District, Matthew Urhoghide and his Edo Central counterpart, Clifford Ordia.
Urhoghide described the forthcoming governorship primaries as an open contest, stressing that all aspirants seeking its ticket should be accorded a level playing field during the primary election.
The PDP had earlier scheduled the primary election for yesterday and today, but postponed it to Tuesday, June 23, ostensibly to allow Obaseki defect and contest.
Some aides of the governor and council chairmen on the entourage of Shaibu accompanied him to receive his membership card.
In their reactions, Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, in a tweet, yesterday, via his verified Twitter handle, @IAOkowa, congratulated Obaseki, adding: “I welcome my brother, Obaseki, to our great party, the PDP.
“As you join us on this platform, we shall work to ensure that you continue the great work that you have started for the people of Edo State.”
His River State counterpart, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, also tweeted on @ GovWike: “Welcome to the @OfficialPDP.”
Meanwhile, some APC chieftains have expressed worry over Obaseki’s defection to PDP. A member of the House of Representatives, Chike Okafor, and Dr. Salihu Mohammed Lukman are at pains over the governor’s decision to dump the party.
Lukman, the Director-General of APC’s Progressive Governors Forum, said: “Nobody should contemplate leaving the party on account of the rascality going on in the party under Comrade Oshiomhole’s leadership.
“All members of the party and lovers of democracy in Nigeria must rise against what is going on in APC. It is a struggle for the soul of APC.
“Anyone with the small residue of conscience and integrity must have been jolted by what is going on. It doesn’t matter what our preferences are, every member must be concerned and worried about what is going on.
“It may be easy to pass judgment on leaders. We must, however, recognise that the failings or limitations of our leaders are equally ours as members of the party.
“Without any attempt to qualify electoral experiences since 2019, every member and leader of APC should be troubled. Being troubled should have spurred us into some sober reflections with the objective of remedying the situation.
“Unfortunately, it would appear that we are more determined to reproduce all the obdurate painful experiences every time we are faced with electoral contests.
“It was Rivers, Zamfara and Bayelsa. Now, Edo and Ondo are basically on a roller coaster, with perhaps emerging with the same predictable outcome that consumed our electoral victories in Zamfara and Bayelsa states. Why should this be allowed to happen?
“It is quite unfortunate that we found ourselves in this stagnant political water of brazen acts of the imposition of candidates through some applications of crude technicalities under the leadership of Adams Oshiomhole as National Chairman.”
For Okafor, it behoves President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene in the crisis rocking the party in the aftermath of the exit of Obaseki.
Okafor, representing Ehime Mbano/Ihitte Uboma/Obowo Federal Constituency of Imo State, said happenings in the last 48 hours was highly worrisome and deserving of presidential intervention, calling on party leaders, such as Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President Ahmed Lawan, Speaker of the House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila and members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to step in to save the party.
He blamed the crisis rocking the ruling party on the personal interests of some leaders of the party ahead of the 2023 general elections, saying failure to solve the problems currently confronting the party might lead to failure in 2023.