Sunday, September 20, 2015 12:42 am
With still 12 months left in office as governor, race for Adams Oshiomhole’s successor begins in Edo State
By Jethro Ibileke/Benin.
In a matter of weeks, precisely by 12 November, Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State will mark three years in office. That therefore means that he has just one more year to go to complete his second term in office. Interestingly, politicians are not even waiting for the release of election time table by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, before commencing lobbying and and tactful campaign in the grassroots and within their various political parties for the governorship election that might not hold earlier than July, 2016.
It does not come as a surprise then that the political atmosphere in the state is already heating up as politicians from across all the registered political parties are already dotting their ‘i’ s and crossing their ‘t’s, strategising to win their parties’ tickets and fight to succeed Governor Oshiomhole, come November 2016.
Factors that will influence the choice of who becomes Oshiomhole’s successor include the present condition of the structure of the party upon which the candidate emerges, his antecedents and most importantly, his ethnic background. For sure, no serious-minded political party contending for the position of the state governor in 2016 will not put the ethnic background of its candidate into consideration. The reason being that the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, which apparently has the upper hand, is most likely going to field a candidate from Edo south senatorial district, which has about 58 per cent of the voting population. And of course, the people might not be willing to leave one of their own and vote for candidates from other parts of the state. That goes to show that it will take the same miracle to get the fat out of a raging fire for politicians from other ethnic backgrounds other than from the south, to succeed Oshiomhole.
As usual, the major contenders to the plum job would be from the two dominant political parties, namely, the ruling APC and the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Aspirants from any other registered political parties would make up the numbers. So this report strictly x-rays likely candidates from APC and PDP.
The APC will have several factors at its advantage at the polls. These include the fact that incumbent governor Oshiomhole has performed well, a fact that even the honest ones among members of the opposition cannot deny. Secondly, tsunami of defection has hit the major and visible opposition party, the PDP, with the APC being the only beneficiary of the thousands of its leaders and members who defected.
Another factor at the disposal of the APC is power of incumbency. There is no gain saying that the party will not fail to use it to the full. Of course, Comrade Oshiomhole is a master strategist who will not fail to ensure that the party coasts to victory. The only problem envisaged by political analysts, one that could easily work against the party, if not properly managed is, picking a candidate from among the eminently qualified aspirants who have tacitly indicated interest in flying the party’s flag, as its governorship candidate; one that will be acceptable to the three senatorial districts. Of course, more could still come.
It is pertinent to state that Oshiomhole has never for once approved or anointed the candidacy of any of the aspirants on any occasion, leaving the race open to all who wish to test their popularity and acceptability.
The following are eminent members of the APC who are suspected to be interested in taking over from Oshiomhole, come 12 November, 2016.
The incumbent Commissioner for Works in the state, Engineer Osarodion Ogie, is believed to be secretly nursing ambition to take over from Oshiomhole. This soft-spoken Benin man is also believed to be close to the hearts of the who is who in the party, but we can’t be very sure how true that is for now. Time shall tell.
Charles Arhiavwere, a retired army general and former governorship candidate of the PDP, is believed to have dumped the party where he appeared to have lost all relevance, with the hope that he could still make it as governor of the state. His ethnic background (Edo south), is a factor that could likely work in his favor. We shall have to wait and see.
Former minister of state for Works, Engineer Chris Ogiemwonyi, also dumped his former party, the PDP, when it became apparent that he had lost all relevance in the party. And with the fact that the APC’s candidate might emerge from his base Edo south, Arhiavwere felt that he stands a good chance to contest for the ticket. His acceptability will however be put to the test whenever APC decides to conduct primary election.
Also in the race is Abuja-based educationist and philanthropist, Barrister Kenneth Imasuagbon, popularly known as “Rice Man.” Imasuangbon who has demonstrated his love for and desire to bring succour to the needy in the state through his annual rice distribution and other forms of philosophy, dumped the PDP where he had contested several times to fly the flag of the party at the governorship elections. Even though he is believed to be more popular and better than candidates presented by the PDP at the elections, the party leadership denied him for reasons known to them alone. Imasuagbon is believed to be in APC to try his “luck” again.
Perhaps most prominent among aspirants in APC is the deputy governor, Dr. Pius Odubu. The former two-term member of the House of Representatives has been loyal to his principal, governor Oshiomhole, which makes many think he most deserves to be rewarded with the party’s ticket. This great party man has never been known for noise making. But for sure, behind his quiet disposition lies the strength of steel. He certainly knows what he is doing. Hence he appears to be keeping his plans close to his chest.
There is also Pharmacist Chris Iyare, who some described as a green horn in politics, just as former governor of the state, Professor Oserimen Osunbor, is also speculated to be interested in going back to the Dennis Osadabe-government house.
Osunbor, a Professor of Law and former governor who was removed by the state elections petition tribunal when it restored the misplaced mandate to Oshiomhole, was once described by governor Oshiomhole as ‘a good man in the wrong party.’ Perhaps this ‘good man’ might be good enough to become second time lucky and win the APC ticket. The only fear is that the ethnic factor might not favor him, since he comes from the minority Edo central part of the state. The same goes for Kenneth Imasuangbon.
Among those jostling for governorship ticket on the platform of the PDP who have made their intention public so far are Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Chief Solomon Edebiri, a former candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Matthew Iduoriyekemwen, a former member of the state house of assembly and former state commissioner on NDDC board and Senator Ehigie Uzamere.
Chief Edebiri, one of the foundation members of the APC in the state but later joined the PDP for personal reasons, is seen by many as a very good material for the job. His chances of getting the PDP ticket could be rated as 50-50, considering his Edo south background.
Two-time Senator Ehigie Uzamere, was first elected Senator on the platform of PDP, which he dumped for the APC, where he rode to victory on the back of Oshiomhole. He was quoted that PDP ticket is as worthless as a Zimbabwen dollar then. But like the typical Nigerian politician, he dumped the APC for the PDP again when he began nursing governorship ambition. His exit from the APC is however seen as a big relief, because, to many, his was a burden and liability to the party. Insiders in the PDP who spoke to the magazine described his chances as “very slim,” because, according to them, “the man can no longer be trusted.”
The same goes for Matthew Iduoriyekemwne and a few others. Going by the well-laid down plan by the former PDP Board of Trustee Chairman, Chief Tony Anenih, which was put in place long ago, Edo Central senatorial district was to produce the governorship candidate of the party. In fact, it is widely speculated that former Minister of Works, Architect Mike Onolememen, was strategically being groomed to take over the job of Oshiomhole at the Dennis Osadabe Avenue Government House by the Uromi high chief. But it was reliably gathered that the party leadership was forced to zone it to Edo south. Of course, they have no option, as presenting a candidate from the Central will give the ruling APC which is most likely picking its candidate from the South which has about 58 per cent of the voting population in the state, an easy ride to victory.
Perhaps the most feasible aspirant in PDP is Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. This former Secretary to the State government during the administration of former Governor Lucky Igbinedion, has the most powerful structure of followers on ground and is most likely going to win the ticket. However, many see Ize-Iyamu as a double-edged sword and like a fish bone in the throat of the PDP, his emergence as candidate will tear party apart; and his not getting it will further polarise the party, as he is most likely going to pull out of the party with his throng of followers, which will most certainly affect the chances of whoever gets the party’s ticket, which will gladden and further brighten the chances of APC.
Other aspirants scheming to take over from Oshiomhole include Barrister Adaze Andrew Emwanta, a young, vibrant activist and federal university lecturer, who for the time being, is yet to decide the party on which he is aspiring.
Emwanta whose political ambition is seen by many to be daring and audacious told the magazine: “I’m eminently qualified and intellectually capable to govern the State.” He expressed regret that “Benin City is now reputed for lawlessness and deplorable inner-city roads,” just as he promised to consolidate on the infrastructural foundation of incumbent governor Adams Oshiomhole by “quickly arresting the dearth of industries and critical infrastructures across the State. In the past six years, I have served Edo people in government as a Media Assistant, a legislative Aide to the Speaker and now a Federal University lecturer. I know that if given the mandate to serve Edo masses as Governor, I will sincerely devote myself to the actualization of the dreams of our fathers and the legitimate hopes and aspirations of all Edo residents.”
There is also Adviser Nowamagbe, a Benin-based musician, who, to many, is a mere jester. He is said to be seeking to achieve his goal on the platform of Hope Democratic Party.
Man proposes, but conditions dispose. In the same vein, these politicians are proposing, but certain factors and the electorate will decide who governs them in the next political dispensation. Only time will tell who, among them, will be the luck one.