Posted by By Tokunbo Adedoja on
In October, 2001, when some tendencies within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were shopping for a replacement for its then National Chairman, Chief Barnabas Gemade, who had fallen out of favour with the Presidency ahead of its national convention slated for the following month..
In October, 2001, when some tendencies within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were shopping for a replacement for its then National Chairman, Chief Barnabas Gemade, who had fallen out of favour with the Presidency ahead of its national convention slated for the following month, Chief Audu Innocent Ogbeh, one of the leading aspirants for the seat, while responding to a question on how he intends to maintain a balance between party supremacy and his relationship with the Presidency was quoted as saying "I do have views of my own and most people who know me know that I have never been able to very cheaply compromise on those views. I do not intend to bully the President and the Vice President, but I intend to reason with them and I believe that between all of them, at one time or the other, they will bow to superior argument".
Living up to his words, shortly after taking over the affairs of the party, Ogbeh and President Olusegun Obasanjo had a brief exchange of words as the President maintained that the party chairman cannot dictate to him, with Ogbeh warning the President against bullying the party executives.
Three years after, Ogbeh has not only been caught up in a ferocious powerplay at the presidency, he has also bowed to the forces at play.
But Ogbeh, though has been supportive of the Presidency on several occassions, especially on issues bordering on legislative- executive face-off, he has also expressed opposing views to those of the presidency on several other national issues.
It is on record that throughout the crisis between the executive and the legislature, Ogbeh though, played the role of an arbiter, did not hide his support for the President. But there were equally instances where he showed that he has his own mindset.
For instance, Ogbeh was one of the key supporters of the President when a state of emergency was declared on Plateau state following the ethno-religious crisis that nearly brought the North-central state to its kneels. It is equally on record that the return of Governor Joshua Dariye back to power at the expiration of the six month emergency rule last November, inspite of the opposition of the presidency to his return was largely as a result of the support Ogbeh gave the embattled governor.
Infact, at a stage, Obasanjo had to write a letter to Ogbeh intimating him of the need to intervene in the issue by impressing it on the PDP-controlled Plateau House of Assembly, the need to investigate the allegations leveled by the Attorney General of the federation against the governor and do what is right.
On the Anambra crisis for instance, it is a known truth that Ogbeh took a definite stand on the issue when Governor Chris Ngige was first abducted on July 10, 2003 by a detachment of Mobile Police led by Assistant Inspector General of Police, Rapheal Ige. He announced the suspension of Chief Chris Uba, an in-law of the President's wife and the acclaimed godfather of Anambra politics, who was believed to be the mastermind of the abduction of the governor. Though, the suspension was eventually lifted following a court order secured by Uba, Ogbeh never hid his displeasure with the series of untoward political events in the South-east state.
Ogbeh took the bull by the horn on December 6, 2004 and walked where angels feared to tread by forwarding a letter to President Obasanjo chronicling the Anambra crisis and the implications of the loud silence of the presidency on the matter. That was the last straw that broke the carmels back as the letter latter served as the catalyst for his exit from the chairmanship of the party.
Except for the period when the military held sway in the nation's political realm, since he emerged as the Minister of Communications in 1982 under the Shehu Shagari regime, Chief Ogbeh, has continued to be in national limelight. And when the names of personalities that made substantial impact on the present democratic dispensation would be reeled out, certainly, Ogbeh would be among.
Several factors would make this possible. Apart from the fact that he chaired the party that prides itself as the largest on the continent for about three years, Ogbeh also piloted the ruling party to 'monumental' victory in a general election, which results are still disputed almost two years after it was held. But these two factors may however be on the trail of the fact that he remains the only national chairman of a ruling party in the country who had a face-off with the President.
But the outgoing PDP national chairman was not an arch-enemy of President Olusegun Obasanjo at the beginning. Infact, due to his closeness to the President, he was appointed Special Adviser on Agriculture and was on several foreign trips with the President.
Though many believe that his current travail may have been as a result of his principled views and uncompromising attitude on several national issues, there are equally strong views that he was caught up in the middle of the powerplay over 2007 presidential election.
Born on July 28, 1947, in Otukpo, Benue state, Ogbeh, started his education at St. Francis Primary school, Otukpo in 1956 and proceeded to Mt St Micheal's Secondary School, Alaide in 1962 before moving to King's College, Lagos in 1967, where he spent a year. He had his tertiary education at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria between 1969 and 1972 and was at the University of Toulouse, France between 1973 and 1974. He was a lecturer at the Institute of Education, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria between 1972 and 1976. The outgoing PDP chairman also headed the Department of Humanities, Murtala College of Arts, Science and Technology(now Benue State Polytechnic) between 19977 and 1979 before taking a plunge into the murky water of politics in 1979 and emerged as the deputy speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly on the Platform of the defunct National Party of Nigeria(NPN). In 1982, he came into national limelight with his emergence as Federal Minister of Communications and later held the steel Development portfolio before the military struck on December 31, 1983
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