EDO GUBER RACE: THE TIGHT ROPE TO EDO'S SEAT OF POWER
On July 14th, Edo State will again attract global attention as opposing political parties including the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), All Nigeria People's Party (ANPP), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and others will attempt to unseat the incumbent, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole of the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). PATRICK OCHOGA takes a look at the contending issues that may decide the winner and loser.
The stakes in Edo State, the heartbeat of the nation, to occupy Dennis Osadebay's avenue, the seat of power in the next week governorship election is high as the two major contenders for the number one office in the state are leaving no stone unturned as politicking has become the order of the day since the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) blew the whistle to the commencement of campaigns.
The heat generated between the once dominant ruling party, PDP and the ACN, which has held sway in the last three and a half years, is leaving nobody in doubt that July14th election will be one that will go down in the political history of Edo State and indeed Nigeria considering more especially the political gladiators on the sides of the parties jostling for the soul of the state.
Since last year, as a build up towards what to expect, the media have been awash of high profile carpet-crossing of politi¬cians wishing to be part of Governor Adams Oshiomhole's success story in Edo on one the hand, and those that want to be part of history for returning the state back to the PDP that once ruled the state.
Analysts have posited that those who form the bulk of those that had pitched their tents with the ruling party are those who have created the crisis in the PDP.
For Edo State, the bitter rivalry between the ACN and PDP, the two major parties in the state, is worse than that of any other state. In the last few months, a good num¬ber of reports from Edo State have centred on the bickering over power between the two parties, in most cases uncouth languages were em¬ployed to score cheap political points.
Even more disturbing is the orgy of violence which has trailed the build up to next week's election which had raised serious security concern even though President Goodluck Jonathan's last governorship rally had promised to provide 100% security during the election still leaves fear in the minds of electorates following desperation among the major players for power.
No doubt, since the birth of democracy in 1999, no election has heated up the political landscape than that of Edo State. The reasons are not farfetched from the fact that the PDP, which controlled the state for over a decade, lost bitterly to the ACN through a court of appeal judgment.
A victory which the PDP till date still laid claims to the fact that their party actually won the election but lost the judgment due to internal squabble then within ranks of the party.
The July 14th election, to many analysts, will put to the test the political prowess wielded by the former board of Trustee Chairman of the PDP, Chief Tony Anenih as it may be the last political battle that must be won by the aged political war horse popularly referred to by his admirers and foe as the 'godfather' and preferably to others as 'Mr fix it' who often speaks less and believes more in action.
But for Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, whose quick mastering of political chess in the state since his assumption of power in 2008 has sent shockwaves to both his critics and foes alike, believes the Labour leaders are not good politicians and therefore, should not be allowed to occupy political offices.
However, be that as it may, six political parties have filed out to contest the governorship election against the incumbent, Adams Oshiomhole. These are Chief Solomon Edebiri, ANPP; Chief Roland Izevbuwa, CPC; Chief Andrew Igwemoh, LP; Chief Paul Orumwense, NCP; Gen. Charles Airhiavbere (Rtd), PDP and Frank Ukonga, SDMP.
It is noteworthy to critically examine and predict the likelihood of the voting pattern at the election considering the political strength among the three senatorial districts in the state.
For Edo North, which is considered to be one of the minority districts, is a zone where the incumbent governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole hails. The district comprises of six local governments including Owan West, Owan East, Akoko Edo, Etsako West, Etsako Central and Etsako North East Local Governments.
It also boasts of having very prominent political actors in the game. The running mate to the PDP Governorship candidate, Hon Johnson Abolagba comes from Owan West in this District, just as the chairman of the PDP, Chief Dan Orbih comes from Etsako Central in this District. The Chief of Staff to President Goodluck Jonathan, Chief Mike Oghiadomhe also hails from this senatorial district.
The election in the two Owan local governments would be a straight fight between the ACN and the PDP as the PDP Governorship running mate, Hon Abolagba, a two-term chairman of Owan West local government council and former member of the House of Representatives representing Owan Federal Constituency, may want to prove his mettle as a grassroots politician.
It should, however, be noted that the ACN, apart from producing the current members of the House of Representatives and State Assembly, has recently had its grip on the area strengthened with the defection of former Special Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo on project monitoring and implementation, Prof Julius Ihonvbere as well as former Deputy Governor of the State, Rev Peter Obada from the PDP to its fold.
Besides, the ACN held sway in the two Owan local government areas during 2011 April general elections.
In Akoko Edo local government, the ACN is in control as both the Senator representing Edo North, Deacon Domingo Obende and member representing the area at the House of Representative, Peter Akpatason, as well as the two members representing the local government in the State House of Assembly were elected on the platform of the party.
In the three Etsako local government areas, the ACN is also in control. Apart from Governor Oshiomhole coming from here (Etsako West), the party produced the member representing the Constituency at the Federal House of Representatives, Hon Abubakar Momoh and members representing the area in the State House of Assembly. However, the influence of the PDP stalwarts here cannot be wished away but critics give it to the ACN in this area.
In Edo Central, this Senatorial district which is popularly referred to as the very stronghold of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is made up of five local governments namely, Esan West, Esan Central, Igueben, Esan North East and Esan South East making up the six constituency at the state house of Assembly.
Esan central senatorial districts boast of a number of political juggernauts who have held their sway strongly at the national level.
Very notable ones now include the National Leader of the PDP, Chief Tony Anenih who hails from Uromi in Esan North East Local Government. National leader of the ACN, Chief Tom Ikimi who hails from Igueben is also from this District just as well as the Minister of Works, Architect Mike Onolememe.
A fact to attest to the claims by the PDP that it has the full support of the people was proven in the last national assembly elections where the party ran home to victory for the post of the senator representing the district and members of the house of representatives including winning five out of the six constituencies representing the district at the state house of assembly came to bear.
The only member representing Esan South East in the State House of Assembly and Deputy Speaker of the House, Festus Ebea, was elected on the platform of the ACN.
The election is expected to be a very fierce contest in this Senatorial District for obvious reasons; Chief Tony Anenih will seek total victory here to confirm his political dominance, while the Comrade Oshiomhole's led opposition ACN will seek to turn the tables and reaffirms its previous statements concerning the war on godfatherism.
This district, without mincing words is very dear to the governor and a must win for him. In what appears to be disappointed outings at the last April 2011 elections, the Governor in annoyance sacked most of the political appointees from the area for not delivery that region.
A major deciding factor here that could sway votes in the favour of the ACN, however, is the allegations levied against the PDP over claims by the minister of works that some major roads contracts that were said to have been awarded by the Federal government have been completed whereas they have not been completed and other controversies surrounding the Esan northern water project. In any case the contest here is solely that of the ACN and the PDP.
While Edo South is obviously where the battle for both the PDP and the ACN is, a district with seven local government areas and high rate of population according to Census figures, is a major factor in the polity of the state.
The following makes up the councils: Oredo, Egor, Ikpoba-Okha, Uhunmwode, Ovia-South West, Ovia North East and Orhionmwon local governments.
The PDP Governorship Candidate, Gen Charles Airhiavbere from Agbodo, Egor, Same goes for the ANPP Candidate Chief Solomon Edebiri who hails from Uhunmwode.
Among the various prominent politicians and statesman of Edo South extractions are Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, the Esama of Benin and father of former governor of the state, Chief Lucky Igbinedion who hails from Ovia North East, Dr. Sam Ogbemudia and Sen. Roland Owie both of Uhunmwode local government, all members of the PDP, come from this Senatorial District.
On the other hand, the Deputy Governor of the State, Dr Pius Odubu, from Orhionmwon local government area, the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon Uyi Igbe from Oredo local government area are two key Government officials from the South Senatorial District who are members of the ACN.
Besides, several key members of the PDP from this district including Hon Sunny Uyigue, former State Vice Chairman of the party and Mrs Lucy Omagbon, former Woman Leader of the party, both of whom are from Ovia North East, are among those who defected to the ACN, just as the Vice presidential running mate of the ANPP in the 2011 April election, Chief John Oyegun also defected from the ANPP to the ACN.
In the last April 2011 State and National Assembly elections, the ACN showed its dominance and superiority in these senatorial districts by producing the Senator, Sen Ehigie Uzamere representing the District, four House of Representatives members and 10 State House of Assembly members for the South Senatorial District.
Though the dominance of the ACN in this District is indisputable, going by the record of its performance in the last election, the emergence of Gen.\ Airhiavbere in particular, have changed the political calculation of the Senatorial District with many believing that the Governorship election in this District would be a big clash.
Also, the thinking in some quarters is that majority of the Binis may prefer to vote for a Benin candidate, but with the series of endorsement given to the incumbent governor even by the palace has indicated that there could be a paradigm shift in these views.
However, the presence of two Benin candidates in the race ordinarily could be seen as a disadvantage that may work against the electoral victory of a Benin man, as the two, both the PDP and the ANPP candidates would split the Benin votes.
Besides the many endorsements of Comrade Governor Adams Oshiomhole of the ACN for a second term of office by individuals and groups, including the elite members of Benin Forum, there is confidence in the ACN camp that the positive achievements of the ACN led Government in its urban renewal programme for Benin City, the state capital and other parts of the South Senatorial District would ensure victory for the party at the polls.