An era came to an end last weekend after the Edo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, elected a new state executive after ten years of Chief Dan Orbih holding sway as chairman.
Remarkably, for all of the ten years that Orbih was chairman, the party was practically in opposition in the state.
However, despite operating from the opposition flanks, it is an irony that as his term drew to an end that a feeling of nostalgia began to sweep through the ranks of the party over what many feared was a probable loss of momentum achieved by Orbih.
That feeling was not unconnected to what nearly all party stakeholders saw as his suave and successful stewardship in the years he held sway.
Orbih led the party to three General Elections in 2011, 2015, and 2019.
In the last election before his exit in 2019, the party won two of the three Senate seats and shared the federal constituencies with the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. Despite being in the opposition in the state, he remarkably led the PDP to success in all three presidential elections and qualified victories in the legislative elections.
Orbih also led the PDP to two heated governorship elections in 2012 and 2016. He has also set the frame for the party to compete very well in the forthcoming governorship election later this year.
Orbih provided strong opposition through articulating alternative programmes and policies
It is significant that while the Adams Oshiomhole era lasted in Edo State that the former governor, through his performance, persuasion and pummeling, was able to win over a significant number of leading PDP officials to his Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN and subsequently to the All Progressives Congress, APC.
Among those won over were his predecessor, Senator Oserihenmen Osunbor and his deputy, Lucky Imasuen, and even the PDP governorship candidate in the 2012 election, Gen. Charles Airhavbere (rtd.).
However, Orbih was unmoving in the face of the schemes of the Oshiomhole regime in Edo.
If Orbih remained only like a rock that did not impact the Oshiomhole phenomenon, he perhaps would have passed off unheralded. But he didn’t.
For the eight years that Oshiomhole was in power, Orbih tackled him and brought a different perspective of the Oshiomhole persona that Nigerians were unused to.
Orbih would memorably be remembered for bringing to the fore the unfortunate incident when the former governor tackled a widow selling her wares along the streets of Benin, albeit illegally; that was generally referred to as the ‘go and die,’ controversy.
Orbih, through his sources in the Oshiomhole entourage, got to know of the incident and, through his resources, got the tape and brought it to the public, practically bringing the governor to his knees with an apology and appointment for the woman.
That particular incident was said to have further solidified the mystique about Orbih around the Oshiomhole entourage.
Orbih changed the fortune of the widow after bringing her encounter with Oshiomhole to public light.
The ease with which Orbih got to know the inner operations of the Oshiomhole government obtaining duplicate vouchers and such secret documents was said to have amazed officials of the Oshiomhole government.
Some claimed at one time that the fear of Orbih was the beginning of wisdom for that government.
However, the success of Orbih in his years as chairman was not only in bringing the ruling administration to account but also in keeping party unity for most of the time he was chairman.Despite not having a governor to oversight, him, the outgoing chairman with tact and good traction was able to forge a unity that could only have been envied by contemporaries.
Orbih’s success in Edo State almost became an issue ahead of the last national convention of the PDP when some leading lights in the PDP sought to draft him as a candidate for the position of national chairman.
Orbih it was, however, gathered, removed himself from contention on the ground that his friend, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, was firmly backing the aspiration of Prince Uche Secondus, who eventually clinched the position.
By pulling back from contesting against Secondus, Orbih determined not to betray the trust of his friend who last year publicly lauded him as a faithful and committed friend.
Aziegbemi the new chairman is expected to carry on from where Orbih stopped
Speaking of his achievements in an interview with a national newspaper ahead of last weekend’s state congress, Orbih said:
“During (President Goodluck) Jonathan’s election even when Oshiomhole was a second-term governor when the presidential election was held, we won Edo state for the PDP. We also won two senators and won the majority members in the House of Representatives.
“In the recently concluded election when you now have the National Chairman of APC from Edo state, we won the presidential election for Atiku Abubakar, and we won again two Senate seats and four in the House of Representatives. I must also say that even at the state House of Assembly, as we speak today, APC can only boast of ten members out of 24.”
However, the fear for many ahead of the state congress was on whether the party would be able to sustain the momentum that was achieved by the Orbih leadership.
At the end of the congress, Dr. Tony Aziegbemi emerged as state chairman undoubtedly with the state party machine behind him.
A former member of the House of Representatives with firm roots in the Tony Anenih machine, Aziegbemi party sources has the support of Orbih and is expected to go with that momentum in taking the party to higher grounds.Despite not having a governor to oversight, him, the outgoing chairman with tact and good traction was able to forge a unity that could only have been envied by contemporaries.