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Edo 2012: Osunbor as PDP’s winning formula

THE frontline leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, have been very reticent about the party’s criteria for nominating its flagbearer in the 2012 gubernatorial election in Edo State. This has given rise to a number of speculations amongst the people.

For example, the rumour making its round now is that only aspirants from Edo South Senatorial District of the state are eligible to vie for the party’s flag in the 2012 gubernatorial election.

Or, to water down the restrictive and undemocratic import of the rumour, the party’s flagbearer in the 2012 gubernatorial election has been zoned to Edo South Senatorial District. For obvious reasons, this rumour is the source of joy in the opposing Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, camp; because, if true, it effectively excludes Professor Osunbor from the 2012 gubernatorial race. And from the abiding faith of the overwhelming majority of Edo people in his leadership, Osunbor is the one who is sure to win the 2012 gubernatorial contest. So, it is easy to understand the jubilation by the main rival of the PDP in Edo State.

After all, which political goat would not be happy to be locked in an electoral duel with a far less formidable opponent than a political lion? However, I think that it is rather premature for anyone or group to celebrate. As at today, the PDP is yet to make a formal pronouncement on its criteria for nominating a flagbearer in the 2012 gubernatorial election. Perhaps as part of its strategy for the election, the delicate issue is still pending.

Although I cannot swear to it, I have a hunch that the rumour about zoning originates from the detractors of the PDP who are prepared to go to any length in their devious scheme to instigate acrimony amongst ranking leaders of the party.

There are hopeful signs that leaders of the PDP appreciate that, especially given the present circumstances of Edo people, the failure to lay emphasis on objective criteria, including proven competence, in choosing the party’s flag bearer in the 2012 gubernatorial election, translates to an advantage for its rival political party.

That is why I believe that those who are happy that the electoral strength of the PDP would be weakened by some of its leaders’ dubious interpretation of the party’s zoning formula to exclude Senator Osunbor from the 2012 gubernatorial race, are clearly mistaken. In any case, a deeper reflection into the PDP’s nomination of Osunbor as flag bearer in the 2007 gubernatorial election would confirm its leaders’ emphatic concern with the need to align their choice with the clamour of Edo people for a tested, trusted and responsive leader.

Except for those intent on mischief, this is the real explanation for the electoral success of the PDP in the 2007 gubernatorial election; and it would be naïve for anyone to expect leaders of the PDP to jettison this winning formular and replace it with a controversial and doubtful zoning formula in this critical 2012 gubernatorial election.

The 2007 gubernatorial election and Osunbor’s role in it is a good example of how the PDP’s winning formula works. Perhaps the electoral victory of the PDP in that election should also open up the eyes of some of the leaders of the party to the great risk involved in embarking on an air travel in difficult weather, and in a doubtful aircraft that is manned by a greenhorn pilot just because the inexperienced pilot has the resources to pay the travelling expenses of all passengers on board.

Osunbor’s nomination

It bears restating that Osunbor’s nomination as flagbearer of his PDP in that election took cognisance of the people’s clamour for a radical change in leadership style and governance – from the selfish ways of some of the past leaders of the state to a more caring, visionary and responsive leader. Osunbor met this important requirement fully. To begin with, Osunbor was different and untainted (and still is) by the decay and decadence associated with some of the old discredited leaders of Edo State at that time.

Two, his background, learning and experience ensure his keen understanding of the multifarious developmental problems of the people. Three, even by 2007, there was much in his antecedents to show his deep concern for the developmental aspirations of the people.

For example, during his eventful two terms as Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Osunbor played a key role in the preparation of the NEPAD document which is globally applauded for its efficacy in bringing the dividends of democracy to the doorsteps of the people.

Also, from that time up till this day, objective political commentators have never ceased eulogising Osunbor’s commitment to the entrenchment of internationally acceptable democratic norms in Nigeria. And four, the people knew as well that a renowned intellectual, one that is self-respecting, confident and imbued with the talents to analyse knotty social, economic and political issues, as the Prof. is, would not be easily swayed away from the over-riding interest of the people.

These factors proved decisive in swinging the people’s votes in favour of Osunbor’s PDP in that 2007 gubernatorial election. Without the slightest intention to denigrate the contributions of seasoned leaders of the PDP to the vigorous campaigns leading to that election, a deeper reflection over all the events at that time would show that these factors made Osunbor’s candidacy a soft sell.

As a matter of fact, given the resolve of Edo people on electing a creditable candidate as Governor in 2007, some of the other aspirants would have proven much more difficult to sell to the electorate than selling fishing nets to desert dwellers.

As it was in 2007, so it is now. As a matter of fact, Edo people even have more cogent reasons for clamouring for the return of Osunbor to Government House than they had in 2007. It is undeniable that the result of the successful prosecution of Osunbor’s mission of partnership with the people during the short period he spent in office as Governor, won converts or supporters for the overriding cause of the PDP. Or, to put it somewhat differently, against the background of the abysmal showing of the 1999 – 2007 government of the state, the publicly acknowledged performance of Osunbor’s government (May 2007 – November 2008) was an administrative masterstroke that redeemed the image of the Edo PDP.

Indeed, the major reason for the increasing support of the people for the PDP, and their resolve to continue to pitch their political tent on the side of the party is to be found in Osunbor’s breath-taking achievements in his less than 18 months in office as Governor.

To be sure, those that have been won over to the PDP by Osunbor’s care and concern for the developmental aspirations of the people cut across social, economic, ethnic, religious and administrative divides of Edo State: workers, especially teachers and civil servants, pensioners, traditional rulers, students, market women and traders, children, motorists and others that were touched with his healing balm.

This is why they are all clamouring for his return to Government House, Edo State in 2012. So, why would leaders of his party, the PDP, not take full advantage of the popular support of his political ambition this time as they did in 2007? Zoning, no matter its rumoured interpretation, will not be an acceptable excuse to the people who know what they stand to lose if, God forbid, the rumoured plan to scheme Osunbor out of the 2012 gubernatorial race, succeeds.

By the way, the fallacy in the argument of the apostles of the zoning formula is easy to notice. Consider the following: From amongst several candidates, Osunbor was considered by the PDP as most qualified for the party’s ticket in the 2007 gubernatorial election.

He won; and although, a dubious court verdict reversed his electoral victory, leaders of his PDP have never stopped to insist that their party won that election. And since the electoral victory of the PDP through Prof. Osunbor has not been consummated as it were, it stands to reason that Osunbor’s candidacy is tenable for the next gubernatorial election in 2012.

I think it follows that if at all thePDP needs to organize another primary election to nominate a flagbearer for the 2012 gubernatorial election, it should be aimed at a ormal renewal of Osunbor’s unused ticket.

This argument, in its elegant simplicity, vividly captures the position of the overwhelming majority of Edo people who certainly have good enough reasons to feel uncomfortable with this rumour about zoning and its weighty implication for Osunbor’s candidacy.

The whole thing smacks of a planned political ambush. That is why the people are thinking of the 2012 years with foreboding; and the PDP must act swiftly to douse their fear.

Mr. IDADA OMWANGHE, a political analyst, wrote from Benin City, Edo State.


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