By SIMON EBEGBULEM
…Edo LG polls signal 2016 guber race between Odubu, Ize-Iyamu camps
As Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State commenced his second term after defeating the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in the July 14, 2012 governorship election, Gen. Charles Airhiavbere at the election petition tribunal, on Wednesday, Oshiomhole is now faced with the burden of who succeeds him in 2016 which Sunday Vanguard reliably gathered is currently giving the former labour leader serious concern.
The reason for his concern is not far-fetched. Prior to his election in 2008, infrastructures in the state were in a state of decay while the politics of Edo was in the grip of a group in the PDP. But he has been able to liberate the people from political slavery and has turned the ancient city of Benin to a modern one. The state election petition tribunal, led by Justice Muazu Pindiga, affirmed the re-election of the governor and dismissed Airhiavbere’s petition, asserting: “If there is any petition starved of evidence, this is certainly one. Judges cannot perform miracles or conjure evidence. The petition is bereft of any evidence and devoid of substance”.
In his reaction, Oshiomhole said: “ It is very clear, Edo people spoke very loudly and I won 18 over 18. You have heard the judgment of the court, that this was just an exercise in futility. My friend, my brother, Airhiavbere, knew he lost and he lost clearly. But he made himself to think that he could manipulate the judicial process. And this is a case he has been made to swallow the bitter pill. That when people has spoken and the law is clear and the Nigeria people are unanimous that the Edo election was the best, it is not within the capacity of an individual to black to white.
And hearing the language of the tribunal, it was clear that this was an empty petition designed to waste the time of the court and also to waste the time of all of us who have had to be involved in the process. But I recognize that in this democracy, it will take time for people to realize that the ultimate sources of power in a democracy are the people and the people spoke clearly.
“I won 75 per cent of the votes and even we have said that every thing they complained about we agree, you led evidence in 52 units, out of 2,620 voting units, even if we dash those 52 units he knows that this would not have changed anything. Like I said before, Nigeria judiciary has always demonstrated courage, demonstrated rule of law and today they have again reinvigorated that. And I can only say we give thanks to God for having a panel made up of men of integrity.
“Lastly, we will remind Charles that we are friends and brothers; in a multi-party democracy only one person can win election, a lot of persons are free to contest, that is the beauty of multi-party democracy. We have to try to come to terms with this reality, that there is no way for two persons to win and therefore Edo people spoke loud and clear. But now it is all over, I ask him to join us as an Edo person so that together we can take the state to the next level”. The Esogban of Benin, Chief David Edebiri, asserted: “ The oracle has spoke again, no body fights with the oracle, not even Airhiavbere”.
Though the governor may have won at the tribunal, Sunday Vanguard learnt that Oshiomhole is worried about what will happen to the state after him. He has therefore commenced strategies that will enable him get a successor that shares the same vision with him. But in the state ACN, there are two powerful blocs which Oshiomhole has managed since he assumed office. One faction is led by the deputy Governor of the state, Dr Pius Odubu, while the other is led by the South South Vice-Chairman of the ACN, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
Oshiomhole does not belong to either of the groups, but he is very much aware of their existence because, apart from the governor’s personality which gave more life to the ACN in Edo State, members of the two groups, who are mainly former members of the PDP, provided the manpower and the expertise used in outsmarting the PDP in all the elections that the ACN won in the state.
Odubu and Ize-Iyamu are angling to succeed Oshiomhole. It would be recalled that the Ize-Iyamu faction opposed Odubu’s nomination as running mate to Oshiomhole prior to the July 14 governorship election, but, with the doggedness of the governor and the intervention of former Governor Lucky Igbinedion, the issue was resolved amicably. But there are indications that the 2016 governorship election in the state may tear the party apart and, as a result Oshiomhole, who is mindful of that and what happened to the PDP in the state, is trying to put a political structure in place to avert crisis.
The governor, it was learnt, is going to use the April 20, 2013 local government election to build a structure ahead of the 2016 governorship election. Since the announcement of the election date, members of the two powerful camps in the ACN have been strategizing on how to install their men in the 18 local governments. The battle for the souls of the councils by the group leaders is understandable because if they are able to install their loyalists at the grass roots, it will assist in projecting their governorship aspirations ahead of 2016.
However, in a recent meeting held at the residence of the former Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Tom Ikimi, in Benin City, the governor warned the leaders against factionalizing the party, just as he insisted that no leader will impose any candidate on the people.
The governor, who was obviously reacting to the agitation by some leaders that they should be allowed to produce candidates in the area, explained, at the meeting, that imposition of candidates destroys a party but rather admonished the party leaders to support candidates who are popular among their people that will eventually excel at the general election.
Special Adviser to the Governor on Political Matters, Chief Charles Idahosa, who disclosed the resolve of the governor to conduct free and fair election in the 18 local government, debunked the allegation of anointed candidates ahead of the election.
“The governor has pleaded that we should try as much as possible to ensure that everybody has a fair chance of winning and participating because if you are in a system and you lose fairly, you will participate with the winner to deliver because there are some local governments that we have up to ten to twelve aspirants; so all we are trying to do is to bring them together to let them know that, at the end of the day, only one man will become the chairman. So what we have been doing is to give them advice”, Idahosa stated.
“The governor said in one of our recent meetings and the thing made so much meaning to me that if you think you are the governor or godfather that you can impose or anoint a candidate, can you anoint the candidate for the voters? We just saw it in the outcome of the tribunal ruling.
The godfather in PDP imposed and anointed the candidate, you all saw the war in the PDP primaries, seasoned people were thrown out, the former and immediate past governor was thrown out and, at the end of the day, he imposed him on the PDP but could he impose him on the electorate? After imposing him on the party, he lost the 18 local governments, he lost all the wards in Edo south and that was what the Comrade Governor was making reference to. So the issue of anointing or imposing one person does not arise. There will be primaries, areas where we can decide and everybody agree, we go ahead and if one person out the aspirants from any council says no, we go for primaries”.
Whereas names such as Odubu, Ize-Iyamu, immediate past Chief of Staff, Barr Osarodion Ogie, incumbent Chief of Staff, Patrick Obahiagbon (Igodomigodo) and Senator Ehigie Uzamere are being mentioned as possible successor to Oshiomhole, the onus lies on the governor who will play a major role on who succeeds him.
The calculation is that whoever the governor anoints from Edo South may have to pick the incumbent Majority Leader in the state House of Assembly, Philip Shuaibu, who is from Etsako like Oshiomhole, as his running mate. Fortunate for Shuaibu, apart from the fact that he is Oshiomhole’s man-Friday, he is one of the lawmakers in the state who have done a lot for his people in terms of delivering the dividends of democracy to his people.
But the worry amongst members of the ACN in the state is what will happen to the party in the event that the governor failed to pick either Odubu or Ize-Iyamu and decide to pick some one who is not as popular as the duo due to the fear that the two camps may clash if he decides to pick either of them. But recalling how the governor handled the issue of his running mate in 2012, one may not have cause to worry. Oshiomhole was able to calm the nerves of supporters of both camps and, at the end, the party went into the gubernatorial election united.