The jury is still out on whether Matthew Urhoghide has finished paying for his sins of radicalism. After years of unionist struggle that climaxed with his election as president of the Students Union in the University of Benin, his bid to enter mainstream politics in his native Edo State in 1999 was for 15 years laced with several disappointments.
In every election cycle he made all the waves, galvanised the electorate but when it mattered most, he was always left in the cold!
Urhoghide’s fate until his recent election to the Senate was essentially because of his own inclination to walk in the public arena. Many of his associates from his school days like the former journalist, Segun Babatope preferred to work behind the scenes. But not Urhoghide, a man who fought the system from outside as a student’s activist and decided to reform it from inside!
In his first outing in 1999 when he sought the governorship ticket of Edo State on the platform of the defunct All Peoples Party, APP, he was roundly routed despite a popular campaign that galvanised many youths.
He suffered the same stamp of defeat in 2003 in the hands of Senator Roland Owie, who had just left the former Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
He did not give up and in 2007 instead of seeking state wide office, he now sought the Edo South senatorial ticket of the opposition All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP. For the first time he was on ticket for a general election but was
overwhelmed by the PDP’s nationwide blitz that year.
Despite his own loss, his formidable political machine was helpful in gathering the election data with which Comrade Adams Oshiomhole used in prosecuting his election petition at the tribunal.
With the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN in power in Edo State it was believed that Urhoghide’s time had finally come in 2011 when he again sought the Senate ticket of the ACN.
He was surprisingly disappointed by the last minute intrigues that shadowed the emergence
of the ACN senatorial candidate in 2011.
Urhoghide’s unhidden bid was derailed after Comrade Oshiomhole joined forces with Senator Ehighie Uzamere as a quid pro quo for the latter’s own help. Uzamere had helped Oshiomhole to defeat the PDP’s forces as led by Chief Tony Anenih during the Senate confirmation hearings of the Edo State nominees for the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.
Some would have also suggested that Oshiomhole or the Benin electorate was also paying Uzamere a hand of gratitude for his own role in seeing to the first ever appointment of a Bini man as both vice-chancellor of the University of Benin and the Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research, NIFOR.
Willy-nilly, Uzamere”s reward became Urhoghide’s loss.
It was, however, a stinging loss for Urhoghide and forced him to leave the ACN. He was immediately welcomed into the PDP which waived away all rules to immediately give him a leading role in the party which was in opposition in Edo State.
It was a sort of irony. Urhoghide was now fighting his former comrades and allies and doing so from the camp of the former enemies.
Urhoghide’s appointment as the Publicity Secretary of the PDP immediately gave verve and vibe to the PDP which had virtually been discredited on account of the stewardship of the state between 1999 and 2007.
It was thus remarkable that in the period leading to the last National Assembly elections that the senatorial ticket of the PDP became his for the taking especially after Senator Uzamere declined a third successive stint.
Confronted with the Oshiomhole machine in the main elections, Urhoghide overcame and eventually banished the stigma.
Having overcome the demons with his Senate victory it is not surprising that those hoping to return the PDP to the Edo Government House would beckon on him. Is he falling for it, he was asked in an interview.
“I am not aware of that. I must say that everything is not about contest.” He, however, confesses the desperation of the PDP to win back the office, desperation that it is claimed has made the party to zone the office to his Edo South Senatorial Constituency.
“We are desperate in the sense that we are going to do everything legitimate and within the rules of the game to win the election.”
It would, however, seem that neither his stint in the Senate nor his membership of the PDP has lessened his inclination for political fights. A case in point is his stern posture on the campaign against Senator Ike Ekweremadu’s election as Deputy Senate President.
“It is very derogatory to accuse senators of forging the standing rules. It also calls into question the integrity of the Senate,” Senator Uroghidie said as he warns of dire actions against the senators that externalised the issue.
“The business and procedures of doing things are clearly stated. By the constitution, the Senate has the power to decide what it wants to do.
There is no other body that can interfere in the affairs of the Senate. So, if you are going to the police or the SSS to look at what we are doing, it then means you have not properly looked at the necessary laws and statutes. I believe ethics and privileges committee will look at it.”
Even more pointedly, the senator blasts the APC federal administration over its dithering procrastination in forming a government.
“What is more annoying is that they are trying to rationalize this ineptitude rather than apologizing to Nigerians that they have not been able to do certain things because they didn’t have a proper grasp of the workings of government. It is better to say we are understudying government in order to take off.
“By March 29, 2015, Mr. President knew he had won the election. He also knew that there was not going to be any legal tussle as the erstwhile president had capitulated to him completely. So, if after more than four months and he is still telling us that he will submit the list of ministers and make other appointments by September, I’m afraid a lot is wrong. That is six months, 180 days.”
Flaying the seeming stance of the president to run a government of saints as an impossibility, the senator said the administration’s dilly-dallying is hurting the government locally and internationally.
“They keep saying that they are taking their time when the president knew that he would take oath of allegiance two months before he was sworn-in. What are you planning? Are you waiting for agents to descend from heaven
before you can draw a list of ministers? Are you going to solve the problems of Nigeria in one day? Are you looking for people you think are too saintly that you want to appoint as secretary to the government or as chief of staff or ministers?”
Pointing at a major flaw in the president’s failure to constitute his cabinet he noted the recent state visit to America where the Nigerian team did not have a ministerial delegation to match that presented by President Barack Obama.
“You can see a betrayal of officialdom and bureaucracy in that. Our own Secretary of State should have met with the American Secretary of State, not the president jumping into a meeting with him. It is an embarrassment to the country.