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Edo 2016: Cat and mouse games

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The emerging contest in the two leading political parties in Edo State is laced with much intrigues, shadow boxing and conspiracy theories

Was there really an impeachment plot against Dr. Pius Odubu, the incumbent deputy governor of Edo State at the beginning of the year? A shadowy group known as Let the People Lead Vanguard, had asserted as such in paid newspaper advertorials blaming those it claimed were bent on frustrating Odubu’s years-long aspiration to succeed Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as governor as architects of the plot. Given the shadowy nature of those behind the allegation, it was not difficult for conspiracy theorists within and outside the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC in Edo State to allege a plot to hit the heads of the governor and the deputy governor together. The leadership of the APC and that of the State House of Assembly eventually came out to deny the plot. However, if it had ended at that, the assertions of a plot by vested political interests to derail all but one of the governorship aspirants in the APC in Edo State would have been swept away.
Following Odubu, it has now emerged that all those in the inner circle of the outgoing governor are coming under pressure to pull out of the governorship contest in favour of Mr. Godwin Obaseki, the chairman of the administration’s Economic Management Team. Mr. Osarodion Ogie, the state commissioner of works who is believed to have erected the most formidable political structure within the Oshiomhole camp, with support from many of the governor’s aides is also believed to be under pressure to step down his campaign. His campaign is still proceeding apace after the hush-hush attempt made at the beginning of the year to get him out. Those piling the pressure have largely ignored the about four other major aspirants in the race believing that they are of no threat, with the notable exception of Mr. Kenneth Imasuagbon, famed as the Rice Man or Ipad Man, who it is believed cannot be intimidated out of the race. Other contenders in still in the race are former Governor Osarhiemen Osunbor, former Minister of State (Works), Dr Chris Ogienwonyi and the immediate past candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, General Charles Airhiavbere, (retd). The authorities in the state are believed to be piling more pressure on Odubu and Ogie than the others who they believe could more easily damage the Obaseki project from within. Ize-Iyamu Ize-Iyamu Imasuagbon, on the other hand, is believed not to be banking on the governor’s support and is determined to slug it out irrespective of the governor’s wish. Imasuagbon’s sense of bravado it was learnt flows from the determination of the APC leadership in Abuja to use the party register as compiled during the registration of party members for the congresses.
Remarkably, recent attempts to alter the party register became an issue at a closed-door meeting between the aspirants and the national chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, who himself was the first civilian governor of the state. Odigie-Oyegun with his legacy in view was believed to have assured the aspirants of the integrity of the register. It is believed that such assurance may have provoked the backers of Obaseki to further put pressure on Odubu and Ogie to pull out to ensure that the Oshiomhole political camp enters the contest as a bloc against the competition largely fired by Imasuagbon and others who it is believed could take advantage of the division in the camp of the governor to push themselves through. Given the apprehension over the alleged discomfort by the palace in Benin over the aspiration of Obaseki, political stakeholders see the renewed pressures on the likes of Ogie, Imasuagbon and Odubu to get off the race as indicative of the governor’s camp to go for broke with Obaseki. The seeming single-mindedness of the Oshiomhole camp on Obaseki is contrary to earlier suggestions that the governor would come up with a last minute aspirant outside of the declared aspirants as a way of soothing the palace and royal enthusiasts who are said to be uncomfortable with Obaseki on account of incidents involving his family in Benin colonial history. The same sense of unease is also believed to be reigning in the PDP where it is generally alleged that the party leaders with the notable exception of Senator Roland Owie, have agreed on Pastor Osaze Ize-Iyamu. The other aspirants include Senator Ehigie Uzamere, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Osaro Onaiwu, Matthew Iduoriyekemwen and Solomon Edebiri. All of them with the notable exception of Senator Uzamere are believed to be appealing to the party leaders to reconsider their options. Ward for ward and street for street Uzamere, on the other hand, it was learnt, has largely left the party leaders guessing as he has reportedly kept aloof leaving them in a state of unease given his record as the only senator from Benin to have won re-election, albeit on two different political platforms. The focus on Ize-Iyamu, one of the very prominent PDP leaders, told Vanguard was on the basis of his ability to frontally confront Governor Oshiomhole in the field. “Ize-Iyamu is the only one among them who can match Oshiomhole ward for ward and street for street,” the PDP leader told Vanguard. But besides the issue of being dogged, party insiders say the choice of Ize-Iyamu is evidence of the full reconciliation between Chief Gabriel Igbinedion and Chief Tony Anenih, who fell out after the House of Igbinedion, as it is called, fell in love with Oshiomhole in 2006. The decision of the PDP leaders to focus on Ize-Iyamu is said to be delighting the Oshiomhole camp which is believed to be working out campaign materials to remind the electorate of Ize-Iyamu pre-eminence in whatever is regarded as the legacy of Chief Lucky Igbinendion’s eight years in office as governor. Ize-Iyamu served variously as chief of staff, Secretary to the State Government and at all times as political enforcer in the Igbinedion government. “Watch out, Oshiomhole will be so delighted with Ize-Iyamu and will put billboards of Igbinendion and Ize-Iyamu together throughout the state to remind them of the past,” a leading political figure in the state told Vanguard. The focus on Ize-Iyamu nonetheless, Senator Owie and his followers, including a sizeable proportion of the PDP apparatchik in Edo State, continue to project Edebiri, who made a big impression on the electorate when he contested the last time on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP. Many in Edo State today see the initial outlook in Edo State as an Obaseki vs. Ize-Iyamu showdown. But whether that will be the final outlook in September is another matter.

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