Five governorship aspirants are battling for the Edo State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ticket. The issues that will shape the primary are zoning, godfatherism, financial strength and popularity of contenders.
Who will lead the Peoples Democratic Party to victory in Edo State in the governorship election? This will be determined by about 800 delegates who will pick the candidate at the primary election. The five aspirants are Senator Ehigie Uzamere, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Osaro Onaiwu, Matthew Iduoriyekemwen and Solomon Edebiri.
The PDP is the major opposition party in Edo. Since 2008, when it lost power to the progressive bloc, it has not bounced back. But, the party signaled to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the last general elections that it was dangerous to sleep on guard. Apart from mobilising people to vote for former President Goodluck Jonathan, it also won two senatorial seats and five seats in the House of Representatives. In the House of Assembly elections, there was regression again. The PDP could only win three seats, following the defeat of Dr.Jonathan.
Despite its loss of power at the centre, the PDP is still hopeful of routing the APC from Edo State. It has zoned the governorship slot to Edo South, the zone with the highest voting population. It has also zoned and deputy governorship slot to Edo Central. According to observers, whether the party will succeed at the poll depends largely on the choice of the flag bearer.
Of the five aspirants, only Edebiri is a tested politician. He contested for the governor on the platform of the PDP in 2007 and the All Progressives Congress (ANPP) in 2012. Iduoriyekemwen lost to Gen. Charles Airhiavbere during the primary in 2012.
Senator Uzamere once compared the PDP ticket to a Zimbabwean dollar that could not secure electoral victory for any candidate. He therefore, defected to the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). On that platform, he was re-elected into the Senate. Two years after, Uzamere returned to the PDP, saying its electoral value in Edo had appreciated under former President Jonathan. Uzamere has confirmed that he would be running for the governor, but it appears that he is still weighing his chances. His banner at the PDP secretariat is the only indication that he is running.
Uzamere was absent at a dinner organised by the Edo PDP social media group, the Unity League, where three aspirants pledged to work together. He was also not present at last month’s local government rallies of the party where aspirants unfolded their plans.
Onaiwu is fondly called the “solution” by admirers. He is a new comer. Sources said that he was encouraged to join the PDP Governors’ Forum. At the unity rally, he said he has experience to run the state, having worked closely with the governors. He said:”Edo requires a new pragmatism; a fresh insight devoid of those that have seen it as their God-given heritage to stay perpetually in power. We need a certain mix of the new and old and that is what I want to offer; a fresh impetus for us to harness the human and natural potential that abounds in our state.
“Those of us vying for the ticket of the PDP are better qualified than anybody the APC will be presenting to the people of the state to decide on. I look forward to a contest that is done in brotherliness, without acrimony and bad blood. I am not a proper establishment person. I am coming into the race with my focus intent on the Edo people, what I can do to change the status quo based on my broad contacts and reach to give meaning to our collective destiny in Edo state. I remain optimistic that our party will do what is right; that the days of lack of internal party democracy have been banished as we rebrand and that being so and with God on our side as well as my credibility and experience, I will be flying the party’s flag.”
He is a serial contestant. Edebiri did not garnered up to 5000 votes in the previous election. He warmed his way into the peoples’ heart when he participated in the governorship election debate. He joined the APC after the merger, but pulled out. He complained that the party congresses were not in order.
Edebiri has set up his campaign structure, the Solomon Edebiri Volunteers (SEV). He said he hoped to get 180,000 volunteers to help him spread his message to the grassroots. He has warned that the survival of the PDP in Edo would be determined by how the party conducts its primary.
He said: “I am looking forward to a free and fair primaries. And the only thing that can survive and regain the peoples’ confidence once again
in PDP in Edo state is for it to conduct a free and fair primaries, where whoever wins will be accepted and earn the respect and support of other aspirants. But not in a kangaro arrangment to ensure that some of the aspirants are ousted before hand.”
“We will not accept that and we will not tolerate it. We will certainly reject such act in its entirety and will continue to fight to pursue and promote the tenets of democracy that ensures that a candidate emerges through a free and fair contest from the primaries.’’
Iduoriyekemwen is a former Majority Leader of the House of Assembly and Commissioner in the Niger Delta Development Commission. He was a governorship aspirant in 2012. He scored only 94 votes. His campaign slogan is: ‘A greater Edo is possible.’ He has vowed not to step down for any aspirant.He believes his achievements as NDDC Commissioner would sway votes for him.
He said: “I hope that other aspirants will support me if I get the ticket as well. I have gone round the local government areas to see our party members and I can say that many of them see me as a very serious minded person, who knows what it takes to win and has an understanding of government. I want to belief that that confidence and knowledge will help me clinch the party’s ticket. Quite honestly, I’m interested in better governance in our state. If it is not me, then I will support whoever comes in but certainly not the person the present government is proposing because noting will change if they are allowed to continue.”
Pastor Ize-Iyamu is an astute politician. His admirers describe him as a bridge builder. He is the former Secretary to Government in the Igbinedion administration. His slogan is: ‘No man is God.’ Pastor Ize-Iyamu was the Southsouth Vice Chairman of the defunct ACN before he returned to the PDP. He is perceived as a front runner for the PDP ticket. He is very popular in the party. He has a strong followership in the party and sympathisers in the APC. Those who defected from the APC along with him have not wavered in their support for his ambition.
Ize-Iyamu has consistently explained that his role in the Igbinedion administration was advisory, adding that he should not be held responsible what the acts of the former governor. He has boasted that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) could not trace any fraud to him. The aspirant is a critic of the Oshiomhole administration.
He said: “Edo State in the past seven years has been mismanaged, plundered and our people have been so traumatized. We had seven years of plenty but the state governor has squandered all that came and that would have stabilised our future.
“If you look at the sectors, what you see is a government that thrives on propaganda. This government has collected over a trillion naira in the last seven years but has not created industry, no housing, no employment, no agriculture, no tourism, no sport. You begin to ask yourself: which area the governor has done well?”
By OSAGIE OTABOR, The Nation Newspaper