The second and last statutory governorship tenure of the Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, will end on November 12 next year. In view of this, a number of politicians have been indicating the interest to succeed him, both from his party, the ruling All Progressives Congress, and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party.
Although, there are other political parties apart from the PDP and APC, the battle is, no doubt, going to be between the two. Currently, the tempo of political activities in the ruling APC is still low owing to the ban placed by the governor on campaign activities by potential aspirants in the party. The ban, it was gathered, was to allow the governor concentrate on governance and prevent the electoral activities from arresting the government’s attention. Consequently, most of the campaign activities have been conducted secretly and in a hushed atmosphere.
However, in the PDP those aspiring to carry the party’s governorship flag in next year’s election have been canvassing for support openly among the members.
Aspirants in APC
There were eight governorship contenders in APC at the last count. They are the incumbent deputy governor, Dr. Pius Odubu, Osaridion Ogie, Dr. Chris Ogiemwonyi, Kenneth Imansuangbon, Gen. Charles Airhiavbere, Professor Oserhiemen Osunbor, Godwin Obaseki, and his cousin, Don Pedro Obaseki.
Odubu, the current deputy governor of Edo State, has a Ph.D. in law. He is not new to grassroots politics, as he once contested for the position of local government chairman in Orhionmwon Local Government Area. Before his assumption of office in November 2008, he was a member of the House of Representatives for eight years on the platform of PDP. Thereafter, he joined the Action Congress, which metamorphosed into Action Congress of Nigeria and now All Progressives Congress. Given this background, he has over the years built a strong network of political structures that may be difficult to dismantle at the primary election.
Odubu also enjoys reasonable support from the revered traditional institution in the state.
However, there is a groundswell of opinion that he has received a fairly adequate amount of patronage from his people and so should give others a chance to aspire. The contention is that in the last 16 years, he has been well favoured in the political circles, first, as a member of the House of Representatives for eight years, and now, as deputy governor for another eight years.
Ogie is the present Commissioner for Works. He is a lawyer by training, and a one-time Chief of Staff to Oshiomhole. Ogie has been a loyal party man, being a foundation member of the Action Congress, which became Action Congress of Nigeria, and now, All Progressives Congress. He is a close confidant of the governor and appears to be the only foundation member of the party in the race. While some of the aspirants came from other parties to join APC, some were foundation members of APC who had defected to other parties and come back. But Ogie has remained with the party.
He is believed to be the convener of “Edo in Safe Hand”, a political pressure group that is propagating the achievements of Oshiomhole. It is also common knowledge that given the closeness of Ogie’s ancestral home to Ogbe quarters, where the palace of the Benin monarch is situated, he enjoys the rare privilege of being close to the heir apparent to the Benin throne. Political watchers are of the belief that his chances are bright.
The man widely known as “Field Marshal” because of deft political moves that are usually devoid of noise making is, however, believed to derive his strength from Oshiomhole. He may be counting on the governor’s influence and capacity to determine his successor.
Imansuangbon is widely seen as a masses product. Little wonder he is called the “Rice Man” because of his annual rice distribution to the downtrodden in Edo State. This makes him one of the aspirants to watch in the countdown to the APC primary election.
From all indications, Imansungbon is a man who can be said to be without a political godfather. His attempt in the past to get one was met with stiff resistance by those who felt he wanted to reap where he did not sow. Since then, he has remained himself, doing his own things in his own way.
Imansuangbon ruffled a few feathers when he moved to APC from PDP. Recently, he gave out more than 200 mini iPads during a state-wide essay competition for students in secondary and tertiary institutions in the state. All these have made many among the masses to increasingly warm to him.
However, the first hurdle he has to cross is not a general election; it is a party primary where only accredited delegates of the party will make the choice of candidate. Another obstacle for Imansungbon is the impression party members tend to have about his ambition. Many are of the opinion that he is too desperate to rule Edo State. There are also worries that he may be seeking the APC governorship ticket too soon, being a new member of the party.
Osunbor, a professor of jurisprudence, was governor of the state between May 2007 and November 2008, when he was ousted by a ruling of the Court of Appeal, which affirmed the decision of the election petitions tribunal. He is currently staging a comeback and his ambition is been promoted by many of those who feel it is the turn of Edo Central senatorial district to produce the governor. Their argument is that since the Fourth Republic, Edo South has produced the governor in the person of Lucky Igbinedion, who served out eight years, and the incumbent governor, Oshiomhole, is from Edo North. Oshiomhole will leave in November next year, having spent eight years. Only Edo Central has not produced a governor since 1999.
From the alleged zoning arrangement, Osunbor is believed to be the one to benefit since an Edo South man has now been nominated as minister by President Muhammadu Buhari. The reasoning here is that Edo South cannot have minister and governor at the same time. What seems to lend credence to this belief is the growing cordiality between Oshiomhole and Osunbor in recent times, which was further cemented by Oshiomhole’s decision to restore all the rights and privileges of Osunbor as a former governor.
There is also a rumour that a former president of Nigeria is already pushing Osunbor’s case at the highest decision-making body of APC.
However, some in APC tend to believe that Osunbor cannot really be trusted because of where he is coming from, which is the PDP. They strongly believe he may return to his former party, where he had spent eight years as a senator and almost 18 months as governor before the court ended his tenure.
Airhiavbere’s entry into politics took many bookmakers by surprise. He was relatively unknown before he won the PDP primary to fly the party’s flag at the last governorship election in the state, which he lost to the incumbent, Oshiomhole. Since that first attempt, the retired two-star general of the Nigerian Army Corps of Finance has become a household name in Edo State. In a bid to launch again his governorship ambition, Airhiavbere is said to have established a political structure. The structure, as gathered, is made up mainly of his former supporters while he was the candidate of PDP in 2012.
But to get the trust of entrenched APC members may be the strongest challenge facing the retired army general. The old bloc within APC is not likely to favour his ambition, as he defected from PDP just after the defeat of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan by Buhari in the last presidential election.
Ogiemwonyi is an engineer by training and a technocrat who retired from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation as Executive Director, Exploration. He is a former Minister of State for Works. Over the years, Ogiemwonyi has used the platform of a non-governmental organisation, Kings Benefit Foundation, to empower the less privileged. With coordinators in all the 18 local government areas of the state, he is reputed to have trained and empowered a lot of people either through his NGO or when he was in service as Managing Director of NPDC and Executive Director of NNPC.
However, convincing delegates to cast their votes for him, having only recently left PDP for APC, may be a Herculean task for Ogiemwonyi.
Obaseki is the chairman of Edo State Economic Team, a body set up by Oshiomhole to fashion out economic policies for his administration. He is not known in political circles and is said not to be a card carrying member of APC. But many see him as the dark horse who may emerge if the political class in the party fail to get their act together.
He is believed to be a close friend of multi-billionaire and Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote. Oshiomhole is alleged to have introduced Obaseki to the national leaders of APC.
Nevertheless, Obaseki ‘s aspiration would be difficult to push, as he is not known in APC and any attempt to impose him on the party may cause an implosion that can lead to mass defection to other parties and mar the chances of APC at the forthcoming governorship election.
The PDP Aspirants
The opposition PDP currently has four aspirants. The party may be hoping to reap from possible disaffections in APC that could result in the choice of an unpopular candidate. Those in the race are Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Solomon Edebiri, Matthew Iduoriyekemwen, and Senator Ehigie Uzamere.
Iduoriyekemwen is a two-term member of Edo State House of Assembly and former Majority Leader of the Assembly, who was later drafted as the commissioner representing the state in the Niger Delta Development Commission. He is popular with the youth and is believed to have empowered many of them while in the commission. Iduoriyekemwen may have the overwhelming votes of the youth in the state should the PDP primary favour him.
In 2012, he contested the primary of the party and lost to Airhiavbere. It is gathered that some wealthy Niger Delta leaders have indicated their willingness to support his aspiration. However, the promissory notes, even if actualised, may not be enough for him to win the PDP primary.
Edebiri is a businessman and president, Nigeria Institute of Welders. He is a graduate of the Nigeria Institute of Petroleum, now Federal University of Petroleum, Effurun, Delta State. He also contested the 2012 governorship election in Edo State under the then All Nigeria Peoples Party. A palace chief of the Benin Kingdom, Edebiri is the founder of Responsibility, Integrity, Transparency and Accountability (RITA). He is believed to practise what he preaches. He is a holder of the national award of Member of the Order of the Niger (MON). Although, Edebiri is an apostle of politics without bitterness, he may find it difficult to emerge PDP candidate because of the activities of other aspirants within the party who are not as gentle as he is.
Ize-Iyamu is an ordained pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. Although, Ize-Iyamu started his political career during the transition midwifed by former military president Ibrahim Babangida as personal assistant to Chief Lucky Igbinedion, then as Oredo local council chairman, he came into political limelight in 1999 when Igbinedion became governor of Edo State. He played major roles throughout the lifespan of that administration, first, as Chief of Staff in the first term and, thereafter, Secretary to the State Government, a position he held for four years.
Ize-Iyamu is a political strategist of high repute. He has been instrumental to the electoral victories of many people in the state. He was among the founders of the political pressure group known as Grace Group, with the mantra “No Man is God”, which saw the emergence of Oshiomhole until the irreconcilable difference that caused him and others to part ways. The master strategist is said to be moving round all the wards and local government councils in the state to canvass support from his party members to actualise his governorship ambition.
But Ize-Iyamu’s ambition may not materialise. People still see him as a continuation of the maladministration that characterised the Igbinedion administration, where he played a prominent role. He has struggled, albeit unsuccessfully, to wriggle out of that administration. Besides, many PDP members still attribute the defeat of the party by APC the failure of the Igbinedion government. Again, he is seen as a disloyal party man who is inconsistent because of the way he has changed parties.
The two-term Senator of the Federal Republic is an architect by profession. He has occupied the senatorial seat both as a member of the PDP and APC. This has seemed to create problems for him, as many people find it difficult to place where he actually belongs.