No thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, partisan political activities have been at their lowest ebb since the beginning of the year. Although it had almost concluded its Ward and Local Government Congresses before the COVID-19 fever struck, the largest opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has since been on recess in terms of open partisan political operations.
In the third week of last month, it announced a shutdown of activities at its secretariats and offices across the country. This was followed by the outright suspension of all activities bordering on congresses, rallies and other large gathering of members of the party across the federation. It is instructive to note that it was possibly from one such gathering in Ibadan that Oyo State Governor Seye Makinde contracted the virus that forced him into self-isolation from which he has since recovered.
National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, explained that the decision became imperative in respect to the need for continuous social distancing and other health safety measures against the spread of COVID-19 in the country. Ologbondiyan told The Guardian that the party was at peace and had not suffered any hitches because it had adhered strictly to its constitution in the conduct of its congresses before COVID-19 struck and political activities were suspended.
“We are a party of serious discipline and having been in power at the federal level for a long time would want to teach by example,” a member of the NWC said.
With regard to how the lull in political activities would affect the chances of PDP in Edo and Ondo States where the governorship elections coming up later this year, the party said whatever needed to be done was being done quietly with the right strategies in place. Part of the strategies, it was learnt, is the adoption of an internal mechanism that would weed out “any contestant with a baggage” capable of hurting the party in the polls.
In Edo State where the poll is scheduled for Saturday, September 19, 2020, PDP is hoping to make huge political profit from the ongoing feud between the National Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, and Governor Godwin Obaseki.
Ologbondiyan was of the view that PDP would present to the people alternative policies and programmes that would improve the quality of their lives given the manner the ruling party has fared in the past few years.
“In Edo and Ondo States, we are doing what needs to be done which is talking to the people. By people, I mean those who are nursing intention to vie for the ticket. They are not well known to the public yet but the party knows them,” another NWC member disclosed. “One of the things we are working on at the moment is that we have agreed on the need to present credible candidates, who apart from being strong characters, must also not have issues with their academic qualifications.”
When asked to clarify the emphasis on academic qualifications, he added: “You would recall recent events in the polity and how crisis of identity proved the difference between winners and losers. So, it is important that we guard against such eventualities because the nation is watching.”
On how the party is gearing up to make the most of the crisis in Edo State, the soft-spoken PDP chieftain noted that the party was too big to anchor its chances of winning on a rift in another party.
According to him: “Edo has always been the fortress of the PDP and even the APC national chairman knows that the state is not an easy one to manipulate. We are solidly on ground and we are doing our homework well. Yes, the issue between them (Obaseki and Oshiomhole) may weaken their party, but all we can tell our people is to wait for the outcome of our primary election to see the man that will fly our flag.”
A former two-time member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Tony Aziegbemi, who emerged as the new Chairman of Edo State chapter of PDP early last month, shared the same views with the party’s spokesman in Edo State, Mr. Chris Nehikhare.
They are of the belief that the election marked a new dawn for the party in the state, adding that the party would sit down to draw a strategy on how to move forward.
“The difference is that we are going to do things better, faster, sharper and more people-oriented and focused,” Nehikhare said. “It is a new dawn for the party and we are going to sit down and plan, but don’t forget, it is a new chairman; we are going to work according to his dictate.
“His style may be different from that of Dan Orbih, but we have to complement each other and make sure that Edo people respond to whatever message we give out”.
Meanwhile, the member representing Oredo Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives, Ogbeide Ihama, has called on all PDP faithful to work with the new leadership of the party to move it to greater heights especially now that the governorship election is fast approaching. He described the election, which saw the emergence of the new leadership of the party, as transparent and devoid of rancour.
Still on Ondo State chapter where the tenure of the party’s executive has since expired, PDP National Working Committee (NWC) approved the reconstitution of the current PDP Ondo State exco into the state caretaker committee with effect from April 5, 2020.
The party said the NWC’s decision is predicated on the party’s inability to conduct the state’s congress scheduled for Tuesday, March 24, 2020 due to the outbreak of COVID-19 leading to the stay-at-home and social distancing directives issued by the Federal Government to curtail the spread of the virus. The NWC accordingly approved the Ward and Local Government Congresses and consequently affirmed all the elected executive committee members of the party at those chapters in the state.
Consequently, the NWC has directed Ondo State PDP chairman to inaugurate the elected Ward and Local Government executive committee members, whose tenure in office, pursuant to section 47(1) of the PDP Constitution 2017 (as emended), shall be from March 30, 2020 to March 30, 2024 for the ward executives and April 2, 2020 to April 2, 2024 for LG executives respectively.