A former senator representing the Edo South Senatorial District, Matthew Urohghide, tells TOPE OMOGBOLAGUN about his defection from the Peoples Democratic Party and plans for the future
In your resignation letter, you stated that you were leaving the PDP based on some irreconcilable differences, what were they?
I first described it as negative political energy and then I went ahead to say irreconcilable differences both at the national and state levels, particularly at the state level. As a democrat, I cannot thrive in such a political environment. It’s not news to hear that the PDP has been split in Edo State since 2020, particularly from 2021 to 2023 and it has taken on different nomenclature; we have the legacy PDP, the APC PDP, the governor’s PDP and so on. And of course, we know what has been happening between the governor and Dan Orbih, who is the national vice chairman of the party in the South-South. Of course, with my maturity in politics and age, I tried as much as possible to pursue reconciliation. Yes, this is politics and there can be different interests at different times, but that does not mean we have to destroy the platform. While I was pursuing reconciliation, so many of them thought I was pursuing it because I wanted to profit from it. When I wasn’t given the ticket to return to the Senate, it should have been the end, but it wasn’t. However, even those who were struggling to get the ticket lost it to the Labour Party, which benefited from their bickering. Even after losing the ticket, they are still perpetuating that same division; such an environment cannot accommodate a mature person like me. I am a very principled person and this crop of leadership believes they are above the party and that they own the party. That is not a platform where I can thrive. That was why I resigned. I resigned my membership of the PDP and I came to the Senate to put my resignation across; I sent the same to the acting national chairman of the party. I equally sent copies to my state and ward chairmen because I don’t want anybody to feign ignorance. I wished them good luck and I thanked them for providing the platform for me to come to the Senate for two terms.
Which party are you moving to?
That is entirely my decision, which I am yet to take.
While the crises lingered in the Edo PDP, did you reach out to the national secretariat for intervention?
Let me state that the current national leadership, the ones before this present one, and the National Executive Council before this current one all knew of the crises in the Edo PDP. In fact, they allowed the crises to fester by taking sides, and I can assure you that members of NEC are divided over Edo State. While some of them are supporting the governor, others are supporting Dan Orbih. None of them has said let us nip the problem in the bud; they allowed it to fester. Anyways, the national leadership has not been able to address its own problems and that is why I said there is no unifying force. But like they say, politics is local and I am more concerned about my state. I made an effort to save the party in the state, but even my reconciliation move consumed my ambition to return to the Senate. Even when that happened, I didn’t quarrel with anyone, I took it as a party man, but they are still taking it as if the party is their personal property. Nobody can deny anyone membership of a party but you definitely cannot make yourself a leader; you cannot pronounce yourself as one. And the ones who are the leaders are running the party aground and they have not been able to draw lessons from the last elections. They haven’t even sat to say, ‘Yes, we have drawn a lesson from the last elections’, and I can assure you that if the PDP goes to an election now in Edo, it will fail.
Talking about the last elections, do you think it was the division that birthed the G-5 governors’ movement or the Peter Obi factor that made the PDP lose the presidential poll?
If there was cooperation in the party, maybe Peter Obi would not have left the PDP. Obi was still a bona fide member of the party when the convention was ongoing; it was after that convention that he left. Something must have prompted him to leave the party and I must tell you that one thing that prompted Obi to leave the party was that the governors were insisting that one of them must be the vice-presidential candidate. Meanwhile, in the 2019 presidential election, Obi was the vice-presidential candidate at that time and you can see what the South-East did to him then; they didn’t want him because the governors always feel that when there is any vacant position, it should go to them. I believe when Obi saw that his prospects in the PDP were not bright, he left. So, it was the overbearing tendencies of these governors that made Obi leave. And, of course, when he was leaving, whose votes did he leave with? He left with PDP votes. If the party’s presidential candidate got over six million and Obi got over four million, you know what that would have been? The All Progressives Congress presidential candidate got over eight million votes. Even Rabiu Kwankwaso left the PDP (and joined the New Nigeria Peoples Party). You can imagine what it would have looked like if Obi and Kwankwanso were still in the PDP. Then the G-5 also started saying they had issues with the chairman and the trouble started when Nyesom Wike couldn’t get the presidential and vice-presidential tickets; he decided to rend the party in the middle. You can see cases of a lot of intolerance and impunity, and when you are playing politics where only yours must come to pass; when people have power and are intoxicated, they don’t reason anymore until they fall.
What does this mean for the PDP?
You know that a political party is an assembly of different characters. The good, the bad, the ugly, the semi-illiterate and the illiterate; they are all there. As a leader, you must be able to manage yourself within the confines of the provisions of the party’s constitution. A party is not owned by an individual; when all sorts of people are in a political party and they are intolerant of other shade of opinions, this is what you see. I can tell you, there is no way the PDP in Edo can survive no matter how anyone tries to placate it, at least not in the next four years, because everybody has learned a bitter lesson. By the time the governor leaves next year, things will still not get settled because there are a lot of people who still feel aggrieved with the congresses even before the governor came. If the style is still going to be that you will manipulate the congress by imposing your people on others, it still won’t work. The PDP in Edo State will soon be a shadow of itself; it will soon become a minority party in the state if care is not taken. The PDP came third in the last election, same in Edo Central and Edo North. The party can never reconcile in Edo State; if you know the characters of the people involved, you will know that the issues can’t be resolved. I left alone, I didn’t even tell anyone to leave with me; it’s a personal decision, and by the time people experience and evaluate the decision, they will know whether to leave or not. About 90 per cent of the people in the PDP are not happy with the way things are going; it’s just that they haven’t been able to make a decision yet. The platform is very hostile the way it is. It is too divided and the things they are doing are very nauseating.
There are rumours that you are defecting to the Labour Party so as to get a ticket to run for governorship, how true is that?
What is wrong with that? My ambition is mine. When it is time, you will hear about it. I can aspire to be anything and I can go anywhere. I don’t think there is any exalted position that I am not qualified to contest. It is only left for the people to decide. The ultimate deciders of my fate in politics will be the people; the electorate, not any other human being. Of the three choices I have, I have deleted one permanently. If I want to run for governorship and the Labour Party platform is available, I will take it; and if it is the APC platform that is available, and if my district is considered, I will take it.
Some people have said that you are not on good terms with your senior legislative aide, Neda Imasuen, because he now represents your senatorial district. Some others say you sponsored him to the Senate. What exactly is the relationship between both of you?
Barrister Neda Imasuen, the senator representing Edo South Senatorial District, is very much with me and there is nothing that can change that. He has been with me for long even before I became a senator. We have lived together in my house, so politics didn’t really bring us together nor will it separate us. He has worked with me for a very long time and he is very experienced in the job. If people want to be fair, there is no one more qualified than him in the 10th Senate. He practised as a lawyer in the United States for 15 years; he was secretary to the PDP in the United States and worked as an expatriate for years in this country. He worked with me as a senior legislative aide, so I don’t think anyone can say we are having a fight. I have no fear that he will do well. He knows what to do. People can say all sorts of things.