Orbih@60: A rearguard in defence of a political fort, By Sufuyan Ojeifo


It is not for nothing that in the closely-knit political family of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State, associates gleefully refer to Chief Daniel Osikhena Orbih, who turned 60 on Wednesday, October 27, 2021, as Esama of Uromi, Gbenemene Tua Tua 1, the Kulukulu 1 of Ogoniland, Eze Oha 1 of Mburubu, Enakhaimhoi of Anegbete, Agbokhaivho the second of Avianwu clan, and Oduma of Uzairue. Whether in political or cultural sense, or even in a manner of speaking, these are all titles or badges that Orbih eminently earned. They either fit into his political pastimes of relentlessly haranguing and mercilessly punching the powers-that-be in Edo State or he fits into their vast interesting connotations and denotations by virtue of his sheer exertions on the state’s political turf.

I would like to engage with just two of these titles, more especially Esama of Uromi. Politically, this is a feather that perfectly fits in his cap, given his very rich and robust political exposure and experience.  I will come back to validate this assertion shortly. Again, the title of Oduma (Lion) exemplifies his leading role in politics as State Chairman of the PDP from the tenure of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as Edo State governor through the greater part of Governor Godwin Obaseki’s first term wherein he raised the standard of oppositional politics in Edo, persistently taking the battle straight into the government, running rings round the governors, exposing their wrongdoings and becoming something of a veritable bugaboo to them. I will also return to this later.

Shall we consider his Esama of Uromi designation, which associates have always expanded to Esama Gburugburu to underscore the growing extent of his political influence. Orbih is a thorough bred politician and chip off the old block, following in the footsteps of his father, the late Chief MCK Orbih, who was a frontline player in the politics of the old Bendel State. The pedigree is therefore writ large. But then, there was a deliberateness from the outset by Dan Orbih to connect with and sustain the father’s political memory and ethos, having understudied him. A Greek Middle Platonist philosopher, historian, biographer, essayist and priest at the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus, (Plutarch, for short) wrote in his “Plutarch Morals” (1871) that “it is indeed a desirable thing to be well-descended, but the glory belongs to our ancestors.” The glory of Orbih’s political indoctrination belongs to his father, but the grandeur of his immersion in the politics of leadership in party administration belongs to the inimitable political leader and strategist, the late Chief Anthony Akhakon Anenih, the Iyasele (Prime Minister) of Esanland.

Orbih’s ascendancy to the top of the ladder of political significance and relevance actually started circa 1999 when, in a strategic and, perhaps fortuitous move, he dumped the then All Peoples Party (APP) on whose platform he had sought the position of deputy governor in Edo State. PDP won the election. He had accepted Anenih’s invitation to join the PDP. And through the influence of Anenih, who had taken him as his political son, he was appointed into the Board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

In 2006, he was appointed into the PDP Presidential Electoral Panel and was chairman of the Edo State PDP Finance Committee between 2006 and 2007.  Orbih stepped in the saddle as Chairman of Edo PDP following the sudden death of Chief Samson Ekhabafe (aka Ogbiragbiri of Africa), another staunch loyalist of Anenih. He was a member of the Edo State PDP Campaign Committee for the 2007 elections and member of the PDP national convention conducted in in August 2013. It was in 2019 that he stepped aside as the Edo State Chairman of the PDP.

While in the saddle, Orbih gave the party in the state purposeful leadership. He served with commitment.  He was loyal to both leadership and followership. He distinguished himself in his assignments and became a political son in whom Anenih was well pleased. On several occasions, Anenih had expressed to this writer how well pleased he was with Orbih. Whereas, a vast majority of leaders of the party were persistently tied to the apron string of Anenih in the management of the PDP in Edo State, and even though Anenih was not complaining as he consistently provided the necessary funding, it is to the credit of Orbih that he was supporting Anenih in funding the party and not asking for money from him. There were occasions when we needed to do some interventions for Edo PDP in the media and I suggested that Orbih should be reached for the requisite funding, Anenih said: “No, no, no. I will take care of it. That young man, Dan Orbih has tried a whole lot, spending his money to run the party.

He needs to be assisted and encouraged.” On another occasion, Anenih had told me in a conversation about Edo PDP that he was well pleased in Orbih’s leadership. It was obvious that was the reason he supported him to chair Edo PDP for eleven years.

Today, Orbih, without a doubt, has become a formidable leader of the PDP in Edo, honchoing the activities of a closely-knit family that the death of Anenih has thrust on his shoulders. Having been well groomed by the late political icon, Orbih has become the natural leader of Edo PDP. Like Anenih, he is a pacifist and believes in party unity. Also, like Anenih, Orbih believes in “101 percent” loyalty to both leadership and followership. He gave it to Anenih and the Leader acted in reciprocity.  This is the tradition that has defined the administration of the PDP in Edo State.  When he stepped aside as State Chairman, the mantle of leadership fell on a former member of the House of Representatives, Dr Anthony Aiziegbemhi, another loyalist of the late Iyasele of Esanland.

The Esama Gburugburu, leveraging his wide political contacts in the South-south zone in 2020 emerged as the National Vice Chairman (South-South) of the PDP.  With that, he became the leader of the PDP in the zone. It was in that capacity that he deferred to the request of the party to accept and support the movement of Governor Godwin Obaseki and his deputy, Phillip Shaibu into the party and the emergence of their governorship ticket after they were barred from contesting the governorship primaries in the All Progressives Congress (APC).  As a new political father of the PDP, he overlooked the past and invested time and energy into the electioneering for Obaseki/Shaibu’s re-election.

Whereas, he is at home with political accommodation, believing that the constitution and guiding rules of the PDP would kick in to moderate all tendencies, the new entrants from the APC, led by Obaseki, have pulled all political stunts to upstage the applecart of Orbih’s overarching leadership in the PDP.  Obaseki was shown on a TV news channel, some time ago, where he was boasting to be the leader of the PDP and that anybody who was not comfortable with that would have to leave the party for him. That combative disposition by Obaseki has become characteristic of his self-seeking politics of survival. He fought Comrade Adams Oshiomhole who made him governor in the APC. At the point he was almost politically deuced, the PDP came to his rescue. See how he is paying the party back, wanting to edge out, midstream, leaders who had been constitutionally elected to serve for four years in the State Executive Committee of the party in the guise of harmonization of structures. The greed of the governor is accentuated by the fact that he had single-handed filled the critical positions in the government with his loyalists who came with him from the APC.

The scenario supra is what Dan Orbih and the original PDP family are working round the clock to stop. That is the sin, for which the governor had instigated a preposterous and outright illegal process of suspension of Orbih and ten other significant leaders of the party in the state. Obaseki is using the same method he deployed in terminating Oshiomhole’s chairmanship of the APC against Orbih.  Whereas, Oshiomhole did not initially take the move serious even after the group had proceeded against him in court, Orbih has launched a rearguard action to push back the “insurgents” and “bandits” in Edo PDP by quickly heading to court to stop the shenanigans.

This is where his fighting spirit as the Oduma (Lion) has crystallized. He would not sit back and watch the fort that was painstakingly built under the leadership of the Iyasele of Esanland and which was left in his hands be assailed unconscionably by desperate carpetbaggers whose sole aim is to take over existing PDP structure and expand their frontiers of control and manipulation. Orbih is certainly giving the battle to defend and secure the original PDP’s political heritage from slipping into the hands of stranger a good effort.  Orbih needs all the support by well-meaning Nigerians to ward off the predators. A win for him will be his best birthday gift as he has just hit “Diamond”. And from me, belated happy “buffday” to my dear brother.

▪︎Ojeifo contributed this piece via ojwonderngr@yahoo.com          

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