OF recent, the Comrade Governor of Edo State has shown the activist spirit in him. He threatened to jail his predecessor, Lucky Igbinedion and his father, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion for fraudulent land deals. Not that alone, Governor Oshiomhole said his administration would publish details of sale of government assets during Igbinedion’s tenure. Most people who heard the governor’s latest declaration of war against established political figures in the state believe that the governor was up to something political.
Next year, Edo State would be going to the polls to elect Oshiomhole’s successor. Could it be that the governor wants to clear every likely obstacle on his path to ensure that he single-handedly enthrone his preferred candidate as governor? Some people say that former Governor Igbinedion smoothened Oshiomhole’s path to the electoral victory against the PDP candidate, Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor, believed to be Chief Tony Anenih’s candidate. Oshiomhole has always enjoyed close and friendly relationship with Lucky Igbinedion, especially after mounting the saddle as Edo State Governor in 2008.
However, the two parted ways in during the 2012 governorship election when Oshiomhole sought a second term in office. In that election, despite overtures by Oshiomhole towards Igbinedion to support his second term ambition, Igbinedion threw his weight behind Major General Charles Ahriavbere (rtd), the PDP candidate. It is therefore not surprising that after seven years, the incumbent should be making far-reaching accusations of impropriety against a man who left office nearly nine years ago.
Every indicator points to the likelihood that the Comrade Governor wants to be the new godfather of Edo politics, especially given the fact that his party, APC, now controls the levers at the federal government. How far the governor could fare in his latest gambit, especially the project of ensuring that his preferred candidate succeeds him, is yet to be seen. But signs that Oshiomhole could be embarking on his last political battle in Edo State emerged recently.
Last Thursday, November 12, the governor clocked seven years in office and what could be described as the last lap of his eight-year mandate in the state. Politics apart, the last seven years have seen some action in terms of infrastructure. Those years witnessed a mixture of applause, controversies, condemnations and outright rejection.
However, in the face of all that, the plan for who succeeds Oshiomhole has been on, albeit covertly. Aspirants in his APC have been working conscientiously to get his ears. At the last count, not less than eight persons have indicated interest to contest the governorship on the APC platform. They include his deputy, believed to be one of the most loyal deputy governors in Nigeria, Dr. Pius Odubu, his former Chief of Staff and current Commissioner of Works, Barrister Osarodion Ogie, the Chairman, Economic Management Team, Dr. Godwin Obaseki, former Minister of State Works, Dr. Chris Ogienmwonyi, former governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2012 governorship election in the state Major General Charles Ahriavbere (rtd), former governor of the state, Professor Oserheimen Osunbor, Barrister Ken Imansuagbon Professor Ebegue Amadasun and Don Pedro Obaseki.
On the PDP flank are such aspirants as Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Solomon Edebiri, former NDDC Commissioner, Matthew Iduorikenmwen and Senator Ehigie Uzamere. Judging by the caliber of those nursing ambition to succeed Oshiomhole, the battle for the tickets on the two dominant parties, APC and PDP, would be hot. Other parties are waiting on the wings as usual to harvest from the fallouts of the primary elections of the two parties. The Guardian gathered that one governorship aspirant in the APC has already planted his men in the Labour Party, ostensibly to help organise it in readiness for action should he lose out in APC. Also, a front-runner in the PDP is also considering flying the flag of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), if the PDP eventually denies him its ticket.
Analysts believe that the battle would be fiercer in the APC, considering that it is the ruling party, both at the state and national level. Unless in the event of a major upset, the chances of APC retaining the state seem high. There is also the challenge of which senatorial district APC would settle for in picking its candidate. Before now, it was almost certain that the party would look towards Edo South (Binis), but with the recent appointment of Dr. Ehigie Ehanire, who is Bini, as Minister from the state, the agitation for the party to go to Edo Central (Esan) is gaining momentum. PDP leaders from Edo Central had already agreed that the party would pick its candidate from Edo South.
The contest was believed to be between Odubu and Ogie, until the sudden emergence of Godwin Obaseki. This has caused quite a stir among members of the governor’s inner circle, since the governor is said to hold him in very high esteem. Obaseki is believed to be the brain behind the many successes of Oshiomhole in terms of policy formulation, programmes, planning and implementation. Seen as a technocrat with very little political experience and public relations, observers say the odds are stacked against him. In addition, he is said to be publicity shy, even as some people believe he may not be a sociable person unlike Odubu and Ogie, both of whom have been contesting to take over the public space through their various networks.
For instance, a socio-political organisation under the aegis of N’Edoghe ria’ few days ago called on Odubu to contest the 2016 governorship election, arguing that his political experience and record as one of the longest serving political office holders in the history of the state, places him on a “higher pedestal above other aspirants that have indicated interest in succeeding the Comrade Governor”.
Speaking to newsmen in Benin City, the group’s coordinator, Agene Patrick said Odubu, as a loyal chieftain of the APC, possesses the requisite criteria to run for the office of governor. “Odubu, is a lawyer and a two time member representing Orhionmwon/ Uhumwode federal constituency and current deputy Governor of the state.
“We believe and are convinced that the job of who to pilot the affairs of the state at this point in time requires that of a man who has been tested, a man with experience, and having looked round we found out that Dr. Odubu has the competence, exposure, education, wisdom, energy and experience”
But apparently referring to Ogie, who was Secretary of the Oshiomhole Campaign Organisation under late Professor Omo Omoruyi; a political pressure group, Edo Continuity Forum (ECF) called on Oshiomhole to narrow the choice of his successor to those who have worked closely with him in the last seven years in order to ensure the continuity of his policies and programmes. It could be recalled that Ogie coordinated the legal team of Oshiomhole that came with the now famous “Chat O” which the tribunal relied heavily on to get the valid and invalid votes that gave Oshiomhole the victory.
At a press briefing in Benin City Edo State, ECF commended Oshiomhole ahead of his administration’s 7th year anniversary, saying that the state could not afford anything contrary to the level of development the governor has brought to the state. Chairman of the group, Sunny Aguebor, explained that the group zeroed in on a fitting successor for Oshiomhole after a careful study of succession plans in the state and concluded that continuity is pertinent to sustain development.
“We have under studied the activities of this present government from its inception and we are pleased to announced to you that the government has done very well in the areas of infrastructural development, wealth creation, capacity building and prudent management of scare resources.
“The administration of Brig General Smauel Ogbemudia recorded a lot of
achievements in the then Bendel State. Between his administration and the coming of late Prof Ambrose Alli, there was a huge gap and downward trend in development because there was no continuity after the initial foundation laid by S. O Ogbemudia”
“After the exit of late Prof Ambrose Alli, the state suffered from total neglect and lack of direction in the comity of states in Nigeria.
However, another group which said it does not believe in zoning; Bethshan Youth Organisation, raised concerns over happenings in the state ahead of the 2016 gubernatorial election, insisting that political parties and politicians should focus on issues-based campaigns and eschew politics of ethnicity. They said the zoning arrangement being mooted by political parties to cede the governorship to Edo South was regrettable.
Chief Executive Officer of the Non-Governmental organisation (NGO), Reverend Humphrey Arhegan, argued that “the current position of political parties and the politicians zoning the governorship ticket to a certain geopolitical zone, and skewed in favour of a particular ethnic group is worrisome and unacceptable.” He urged politicians in the state and party leaders to provide a level playing ground for all, irrespective of ethnicity to contest and be voted for in the forth-coming gubernatorial election.
Arhegan faulted the idea of the two dominant parties allegedly zoning the governorship position to Edo South Senatorial district saying that no meaningful development can be achieved in a system where credibility of candidates is not a priority but zoning arrangement.
He added: “It is a sad story in Edo state that we run a democracy that is supposed to be run by a three tier of government. But we only hear of one tier of government, which is the Executive Arm. The judiciary is almost at the beck and call of the Executive and the legislature is almost absent.” While noting several abandoned projects, Arhegan noted that development has been stunted in the state. He lamented that the major political parties in the state lack ideologically driven politics, which he said paves way for the gale of defections by politicians. “No party in Nigeria has ideology; we have a situation where people with questionable character are defecting from one party to another and are welcomed without questioning.”
For PDP, perhaps the man to beat remains Ize-Iyamu. He is a grassroots politician who, over the years, has built structures across the state. Though a founding member of the APC, he left on the eve of APC’s membership registration after losing out in parts of Edo South to the “governor’s men”, alleging that the process was skewed to deny him his structures. He left and found space in the PDP.