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EDO GUBER: THE LINE UP AGAINST OSHIOMHOLE

By NBF News
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BY SIMON EBEGBULEM
THE battle for the Edo State governorship intensified last week with the collection of the N5.5 million nomination form for the July 14, 2012 election by five aspirants of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Barr.Kenneth Imasuagbon (Edo Central), former Special Adviser to the President, Prof. Julius Ihonvbere (Edo North), former Governor of the state, Prof. Osarhiemen Osunbor (Edo Central), former Commander Army Finance and Corps, Gen.Charles Airhiavbere (Edo South) and the former State Representative on the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Barr. Mathew Iduoriyekenwen (Edo South) were the five who picked the PDP forms to battle for the party's ticket in the primary election coming up on February 25, 2012.

Endorsement of members
The incumbent governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole is expected to pick the ticket of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), following the endorsement he received from most of the top leadership of the ACN for a second term. Apart from receiving the endorsement of members of his party, Oshiomhole has also been endorsed by a large section of the traditional institution in the state.

Meanwhile, four aspirants of the PDP, former Police Commissioner Omoregieva Osarhuwense, Pastor Boniface Itoya, Kelvin Aigbe and Jacob Idinye who had indicated interest in the contest have reportedly pulled out following a meeting at the residence of the former chairman Board of Trustees of the party, Chief Tony Anenih last Thursday.

Anenih and other elders it was learnt prevailed on the quartet to withdraw in order to avoid a rancorous governorship primary. The five aspirants who picked the nomination forms it was learnt, however, refused to succumb to the pleas of the party elders vowing to take the battle to the primary ground.

It was initially speculated that the leadership of the party may have ceded the ticket to Edo South but that permutation was apparently reversed upon serious mutterings among some interested stakeholders.

The suggestion was built on the assumption that since Oshiomhole is from Edo North, the only way to oust him from Government House would be to present a popular candidate from the Bini speaking area (Edo South) which has more than half of the state population. The PDP chairman, Chief Dan Orbih had assured party members that the PDP strategy for the election will surely dethrone Oshiomhole from Government House.

Governor Oshiomhole
However, the rumour of imposing a particular aspirant from Edo South again resurfaced last week forcing a group in the PDP to raise alarm that the primary of the party is being skewed in the favour of a particular aspirant from the area. The group alleged further that the aspirant had purchased two bullet proof SUVs for two leaders of the party and that the leaders are working assiduously to ensure that the aspirant picks the PDP ticket.

However, while picking his governorship nomination form last Thursday, one of the leading aspirants, Imasuagbon expressed confidence that the primaries will be free and fair as promised by the leaders and admonished his fellow aspirants to run a campaign based on issues'.

Imasuagbon who is popularly known as the Rice Man, due to his annual custom of sharing rice to the people of the state, expressed optimism that he will win the PDP ticket and face Oshiomhole in the election.

Imasuagbon like Osunbor is from the same Central district with Anenih.

Coalition of political parties
Remarkably, it is not only the PDP that wants Oshiomhole's job. Penultimate week, a coalition of political parties under the aegis of Coalition of Progressive Political Parties (CPPP) comprising of the Progressive Peoples Party (PPP), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and Labour, came together to adopt the National Chairman of the PPP and the President of the Nigerian Welders Association, Chief Solomon Edebiri as its governorship candidate.

Some members of the CPC led by its Vice-Chairman, Comrade Ikonomwan Francis kicked against the adoption and suspended the state chairman of the party, Comrade Godwin Erhahon, over what they fumed was an unholy alliance he entered into. The suspension was, however, quickly lifted by the national leadership of  the party.

Meanwhile internal political dynamics within the ACN is also rising into a serious factor that could shape the PDP choice of a candidate.

A faction of the ACN in the state led by the South-South Vice Chairman of the party, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu bent on stopping the return of the incumbent deputy Governor, Dr. Pius Odubu for a second term is reportedly not unmindful of rocking the boat if only to achieve that objective.

When Oshiomhole met ACN stakeholders from Edo South penultimate week in Benin City the Odubu issue easily boiled over as all sides on the issue stuck to their guns.

Following this Vanguard learnt that there was another meeting between the Governor, Pastor Ize-Iyamu, Chief Tom Ikimi, Captain Hosa Okunbor and a former Governor of the state last week in Abuja.

The former Governor it was learnt had sought to prevail on Ize-Iyamu who is his long time political ally to allow Odubu to run leading to the first open disagreement between the long time political allies.

Disagreement between long time political allies
One condition allegedly given to the Deputy Governor was to make peace with leaders of the party in the South within two weeks. The development it was learnt is forcing more pressure on Captain Okunbor, a Benin born billionaire to join the gubernatorial race on the platform of the PDP. Okunbor like many in the Edo chapter of the ACN was originally a chieftain of the PDP but was allegedly instrumental to the emergence of Oshiomhole as Governor.

There are, however, insinuations that both men may have parted ways and that Okunbor is himself now interested in the governorship.

Vanguard has learnt of  ongoing talks between the top leadership of the PDP and a faction of the ACN directed at drafting the billionaire into the race in what some allege could be Anenih's last joker.