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Anenih-Ogbemudia: Tales of an enduring political bond

AGAINST all man-made odds and political shenanigans, the run of history is about to extend further with the predictable victory that is beckoning on two political war horses, Chief Anthony Akhakon Anenih and Dr Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia, in the scheduled July 14, 2012 governorship election in Edo State.

Both iconic politicians are members of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, whose governorship candidate, General Charles Ehigie Airhiavbere (retd), is squaring up with the incumbent Governor, Comrade Adams Aliu Oshiomhole for the State’s topmost job.

Anenih and Ogbemudia have bestridden the Edo political landscape like a colossus and defined their eons with great accomplishments.  It is no doubt that it was by a stroke of divine arrangement that the political bond between the two of them was predetermined.

And through political affinity that has, over the years, pitched both leaders together, they have enjoyed a streak of victory in electoral battles that have been fought in the last 30 years or thereabout, the first being the governorship election in the old Bendel State which Ogbemudia won in 1983.

There were pieces of credible information that it was through the making of Ogbemudia that Anenih who had just retired as Commissioner of Police into business was drafted into politics to become the old Bendel State Chairman of the defunct National Party of Nigeria, NPN, at the expense of the then Chairman, Chief Tayo Akpata (a Bini man).

The political calculation was to identify a Bini man as governorship candidate on the NPN platform and Ogbemudia aptly fitted the bill: an Esan man, whose credibility could combine with Ogbemudia’s track record in public office for a well deserved victory, was to be identified as Chairman of the party to replace Akpata at a convention that held in Agbor and Anenih who had been convinced and drafted into the race fitted the bill.

Ogbemudia, who was well connected with the NPN leadership under President Shehu Usman Shagari, was said to have convinced the party leadership that the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, administration of the late Professor Ambrose Alli would be defeated with Anenih driving the NPN’s election machinery.

Indeed, Anenih, according to the tales, succeeded in driving the machinery of the NPN to defeat the incumbent Governor Alli in the 1983 election.  That was the first electoral victory that Anenih would record in the old Bendel State from where Edo State was carved out.

In the political experiment (diarchy) of 1990-93 by the regime of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, Anenih had, before becoming the National Chairman of the defunct Social Democratic Party, SDP, following the resignation of Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe who was interested in the presidential ticket of the party, led the party to victory in Edo State by producing Chief John Odigie-Oyegun as governor.

In the defunct Third Republic political experimentation, Ogbemudia participated peripherally as a member of the defunct National Republican Convention, NRC.  Having been affected by the ban imposed on some categories of former political office holders, he was not actively involved in the politicking.  He kept a low profile.  But his relationship with Anenih never waned.

It was not until 1998/99 when the political terrain stabilised with the release of a realistic political transition time-table by the General Abdulsalami Abubakar military regime that the relationship received a boost when both men gravitated towards the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, as founding leaders.

The PDP in Edo State crystallized from the coming together of Anenih’s Edo People’s Congress, EPC and Ogbemudia’s Edo Mass Movement, EMM.  It is to the credit of both leaders that a decision was reached that a Benin man should be chosen to fly the governorship flag of the PDP in 1999.

Luck went the way of Lucky Igbinedion who clinched the party’s ticket.  Igbinedion had performed excellently as Chairman of Oredo Local Government Area and his emergence as the governorship candidate was easily rationalised.  Anenih (leader of Edo Central), Ogbemudia (leader of Edo South) and the then leader of Edo North Senatorial (the late Alhaji Inu Umoru) worked in concert to ensure Igbinedion’s victory at the polls.

In 2002, ahead of the 2003 governorship election, Igbinedion, who was interested in seeking re-election, had taken a political gambit when he got Anenih, Ogbemudia, Inu Umoru and his father, Sir Gabriel Igbinedion, and his Deputy Governor, Mike Ogiadohme into a closed door meeting where he settled the issue of his second term.

Lucky Igbinedion was said to have told the meeting that they (himself and his deputy) had agreed that if allowed to complete a second term, Anenih would be backed to produce the next governor of the State from Edo Central.  That was how the deal was sealed and Edo Central Senatorial District produced the governorship candidate of the party in 2007.

Both Anenih and Ogbemudia worked assiduously for the victory of the party’s candidate, Professor Oserhiemen Osunbor, in the election.  However, after the victory, spineless followers of both leaders who did not have courage to tell the truth resorted to peddling dangerous rumours in a bid to set both leaders against each other.

They had succeeded to some extent in causing bad blood, but not to the full extent of destroying the political friendship and the kindred spirit between both leaders.  As far as Edo politics is concerned, Anenih and Ogbemudia have always been on the same page.  This disposition is what enemies had tried in vain to destroy.

A leader of PDP in Edo South who, like me,  believe in the political trajectories and relationship between the two leaders said: “The seeming problem or disagreement between Anenih and Ogbemudia is caused by their followership.  We send terrible text messages to these two leaders such that both of them began to treat each other with suspicion”.

But both leaders, despite some understandable misgivings, waded through the shenanigans of their followers, although it has taken political maturity for them to manage the tension that has been created by elements who stand to benefit selfishly from any disagreement between both of them.

Mr.  SAMUEL OSABUCHIEN, a political analyst, wrote from Benin City, Edo State.


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