ECHOES OF EDO PDP GUBER PRIMARIES
Before the primaries, there were rumours making the round that the state party leadership in connivance with major party stakeholders in the state had secretly zoned the seat to Edo South senatorial zone and that Airhiavbere would be imposed on the party as their candidate, an allegation the party leadership denied then, insisting that there was no plan for zoning or imposition of any candidate from a particular zone. But after the exercise on February 25, it was obvious that the party leadership was economical with the truth as the outcome showed that the rumour was nothing but the truth with the emergence of Airhiavbere against the most popular aspirant, Barrister Kenneth Imansuangbon who finished in second position.
Surprisingly Imansuangbon, who hails from Edo Central zone with Anenih and Prof. Osereihmen Osunbor, defeated Airhiavbere in his own Edo South zone in the primaries. It is a development many see as a confirmation of Imansuangbon's popularity and acceptance among majority of party faithful in the state and a clear rejection of Airhiavbere by his own people.
It is obvious that PDP has got it wrong again in Edo State and it might take more than a miracle for the party to upstage the incumbent governor, Comrade Adams Oshiohmole in the election.
Unfortunately, Airvabare joined PDP after his abrupt retirement from the Nigerian Army in August last year, while Imansuangbon has been in the party since 2008, after parting ways with ACN in the state.
Before the primaries, majority of party members in the state saw Imansuangbon as the only aspirant with the charisma, acceptance, popularity and track record to challenge Governor Oshiomhole in the election and wrestle power from him. But with the outcome, members' morale seems to be down. The argument of the party leadership that Imansuangbon was denied the ticket because it was zoned to Edo South with majority of the population simply means that it relied on ethnicity and sentiment rather than merit and popularity to pick its candidate.
It seems PDP has forgotten
that Edo South zone is a cosmopolitan city with people from different backgrounds who might vote according to their conscience and not on ethnicity. Why should the party zone the seat to Edo South after Mr Lucky Igbinedon, who hails from the zone, occupied the office of governor in the state for eight years between 1999 and 2007.
Osunbor who hails from Central zone was governor of the state for some months before his removal by the Court of Appeal. Many had thought that the party would have allowed a candidate from the Central zone such as Imansuangbon with popularity and acceptance across the three zones to emerge as the party candidate, instead of going for an unpopular candidate from the South.
Even if the political differences between Chief Tony Anenih and Osunbor made the former not to support the latter in the primaries, it was expected that Anenih would have thrown his weight behind Imansuangbon, a man who took the bull by the horn to work with him to rebuild and reposition the party since 2008.
But it appeared that Anenih and his allies decided to throw away the baby and the bath water in what many in the state now see as a political miscalculation by the party leadership ahead of the election. Despite attempts to reconcile aggrieved members by party stakeholders after the primaries, acrimony, bickering, allegation and counter-allegation have continued to trail the outcome with aspirants who were shortchanged refusing to accept the result. Some of them have even threatened to approach the court to seek redress, while others have perfected plans to work against the party at the poll.
There is a clear indication that ahead of the election, many members of the party might decamp en masse to the ruling ACN to humiliate and retire Anenih from active politics after the election. Oshiomhole has consistently boasted that he will retire Anenih from politics after the election by defeating his party in the poll. Many in the state are already seeing the forthcoming election as a real battle of supremacy and popularity between Oshiomhole and Anenih, which outcome might define the politics of the state in the future.
One of the PDP chieftains in the State, Dr Samuel Ogbemudia, who was conspicuously absent at the primaries foresaw his party's miscalculation when he said in one of his interviews with The Sun newspaper before the party primaries that it will take more than a miracle for anybody to defeat Oshiomhole in the election.
The outcome of the primaries is a clear testimony that PDP leaders have made a costly mistake just as they did in 2007. Will history repeat itself again? Only time will tell.
Mr. JONATHAN OKOGHEMEN, a political analyst, wrote from Benin City, Edo State.