By Simon Ebegbulem, Benin City
That the Peoples Democratic Party,
PDP lost last weeks Etsako Central
Local Government Election is no longer news. But what will interestt readers is how the forces of Comrade Governor Adams OshiohmoleÂ Â crushedÂ the Chief Tony Anenih led PDP in Edo State.in an election adjudged to be free and fair.
Prior to the election, it was feared that the election would spark off violence with both parties not helping matters with their sabre rattling. The calibre of personalities on both sides of the political divide helped in stoking the tension that gripped the state in the run – up to the election.
The Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Dan Orbih, former Chief of General Staff, Admiral Mike Akhigbe, Principal Secretary to the Vice-President, Chief Mike Oghiadohme, former Deputy senate President, Senator Albert Legogie, former Chairman of the Council and also a former member of the House of Assembly, Barr.Paschal Ugbome, all hail from Etsako. With the presence of all these men, a lot of people heldÂ the view that Oshiomhole AC would suffer defeat in the hands of the PDP.Â Although the PDP was weakened by the factional crises that involved Mike Akhigbe.
Which made people fear that he will not work for the PDPÂ Â that was one of the reasons why the PDP candidate, Chris Umogbai, was defeated by the AC candidate, Johnson Ugheoke. The duo are from Fugar, and as a matter of fact, it was a battle of two cousins. After the Akoko Edo constituency 1, House of Assembly re-run election, whereÂ Oshiomhole started having the upper hand against Anenih, After the Akoko Edo Election the PDP accused the AC of using thugs to rig the election.
But After the Etsako election the question on the lips of everybody was whether theÂ the PDP also used thugs to win the election.Â .Â Â Â The AC candidate, Oghuma polled 7,884 to defeat his counterpart in the PDP, Chris Umogbai, who polled 3,712.
Oshiomhole and Anenih campaigned vigorously prior to the election. Oshiomhole wants to gain control of the state House of Assembly by ensuring that his party enjoys the majority in the House which has always been dominated by the PDP.
And with this win AC and PDP are now at par enjoying 12/12Â in the 24 member House of Assembly. There are three major factors that actually led to what AC supporters and Governor Oshiomhole described as the â€œfinal burial of the god fatherâ€.
One was the protracted political differences between Admiral Akhigbe and Chief Anenih. Vanguard recalled that during the administration of Professor Oserhiemen Osunbor, there was a meeting held at Government House by the PDP leaders, where Admiral Akhigbe was ordered to leave the meeting saying he is not PDP member.
Saturday Vanguard learnt after the meeting then that the retired Admiral almost punched almost punched a leading PDP memberÂ Â querying his records and achievements in the country that gave him the right to order him out of a meeting of the PDP leaders. Dr Samuel Ogbemudia, Elder Sunny Uyugue, Professor Osunbor, Admiral Aikhomu, were all at theÂ Â meeting.
It was gathered that if not for the quickÂ intervention of Osunbor and Ogbemudia, who appealed to Akhigbe to calm down so that the meeting could commence, the former marine officer would have punched the leading polititian after describing him as anÂ anti democrat.Â Â As result, after the Appeal Court sacked the PDP candidate, Umogbai and ordered for a re-run, Anenih met with all the PDP leaders in the area to strategies for the election, but he never met with Admiral.
The sidelining of the Admiral must have weighed heavily against the PDP at the election. Observers of the politics in the state wondered why suchÂ Â of man would be sidelined in such a crucial election, when it is obvious that the Admiral single handedly created the Local Government when he was in power. Apart from creating the Local Government, he brought development to the area.
Any one who visits Fugar will observe how all the roads in the area were tarred with solid erosion control system. BasedÂ on what he achieved for his people while in power, they love him and they showed appreciation last weekend when he asked them not to vote for Anenihâ€™s candidate.
Apart from garnering votes for the AC candidate, Akhigbe ensured that the result of the election was announced because tension heightened in the area when news went round that the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Ahmed Raji, who was brought from Abuja few days to the election, said he would not announce the result of the elections.
Vanguard observed that he took this decision after it became obvious from the results coming in, that the AC was winning the election. Following that rumour, Oshiomhole, Akhigbe, Electoral Officer (EO)Clem Okechukwu and the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG), Mr Felix Ogbaudu, stormed the INEC office at Fugar to trash it out with the REC.
There was tension in the air when the four went into the office to discuss the matter. Akhigbe asked the REC if that rumour was true, he answered in the affirmative. Admiral queried why he decided not to announceÂ Â Â the resultsÂ The REC who was visibly confused, like one who was dancing to an invisible tune , said the election was inconclusive.
But the EO and the AIG disagreed with him, warning that it would be dangerous not to announce the result of the election which is very free and fair and even peaceful. No gun shot was heard and no body was reported beaten. Admiral Akhigbe and Oshiomhole urged him to announced the results collated from the different wards so as to avoid unnecessary crisis in the area.
That was how the REC reluctantly allowed the INEC Electoral Officer to announce the results. A Chieftain of the PDP who does not want his name on print, expressed his views to Saturday Vanguard, saying that alleged dictatorial tendencies of some party chieftainsÂ Â cost the party the election. According to him, â€œyou will recall that the AC candidate was a member of the PDP before he was de-registered
Another factor that killed the PDP in the election is that Chief Oghiadohme was Deputy Governor for eight years and has been Principal Secretary to the Vice-President for the past two years but alledgedly does not have grass-roots support,Â The situation would have been remedied if the National leadership of the PDP had listened to Admiral Akhigbe who has always kicked against the imposition of candidates . . Admiral Akhigbe is the political leader of Etsako people but he has always been sidelinedÂ Â whenÂ Â decisions are being taken by the partyÂ .
So the election provided Akhigbe the opportunity to tell the PDP national leadership that heÂ controlsÂ his Local Government.
Another factor that led to the defeat of PDP in this election was the contractÂ award for the construction of the Ekperi/Anegbette road by Governor Oshiomhole about a month to the election. Four days to the election, Oshiomhole flagged off the road and you could see the sigh of relief in the eyes of the traditional rulers in the area and their subjects.
It was learnt that due to the very bad state of the road, the people of the area could not connectÂ the neighboring communities in the past fifteen years. Saturday Vanguard learnt that while Admiral Akhigbe was Chief of General Staff, he awarded the contract for the contruction of the roadÂ Â but unfortunately for the people of the area, after the exit of the military the contract was revokedÂ Â Oshiomhole whom the PDP had always said does not know politics,Â Â awarded the contract for the construction of the road to Setraco.
The contractor was mobilized and the project is on going. Oshiomhole campaigned seriously with the road and he took the campaign to all nooks and cranny of the Etsako.
Prior to the election, he told the people to either vote for â€œOshiomhole who gave you electricity and awarded the contract for the construction of the Anegbette/Ekperi road that was revokedÂ Â or you vote forÂ Â PDP that refused to give you road and electricity even even when an Edo son was theÂ Minister of Worksâ€. With this message, Oshiomhole conquered Anenih in Ekperi, Anegbette and Udaba, while Admiral Akhigbe secured Fugar for AC. Among the ten wards in the area, AC won eight while PDP got two.
The third factor that gave the AC victory was the earlier decampment of the state Auditor General of the PDP, Chief Z.Naboya and the Chairman of the Local Government and thousands of their supporters to the AC. Naboya was one of the founding members of the PDP in the state and close political associate to Chief Anenih before he dumped the party.
However, an excited Oshiomhole who spoke to newsmen, said he was glad that the â€œgod father has finally been buriedâ€. According to him, â€œthey made all sorts of noise about the election, but I told my people let us go and campaign and whoever wins, we will accept the result. In this election, I was not particularly concerned about who wins, but the process that brought up the winner.
You could see the joy on the faces of the people who came out to vote, some of them confessed that this was their first time of seeing ballot papers.Â What has been happeningÂ in the past ten years was to take ballot papers to Fugar and after thumb printing, they will send to INEC. But this time around, we have insisted that the peopleâ€™s vote must count.
It must be one man, one vote. The result has shown that no one individual or group owns the land. Edo people owns the land, not Anenih or any one else. But another thing that is giving me concern now, are certain things that we saw that the security agents must not go to sleep until those individuals are identified.
The one that will worry you is not the fact that there were some elements with INEC that replaced the authentic names of officials of INEC with fake ones and they gave them INEC uniforms to go and mount some polling booths where they had earlier inflated the voters register. Now, thank God we were able to confront INEC with this fact,and you have said that this election should be done only by INEC officials.