By Gabriel Enogholase, Benin
ALTHOUGH the next governorship election in Edo State is expected to hold in 2016, preparations are already in top gear across the state’s three senatorial districts, as politicians search for Comrade Governor Oshiomhole’s successor.
However, going by the principle of zoning which has been entrenched into Nigeria’s political lexicon, Edo North Senatorial district would certainly be left out of the governorship race as the incumbent governor hails from the zone.
So the coast is now clear for Edo South and Edo Central Senatorial districts to produce the next governor, and both districts seem to have drawn a battle line as far as the issue is concerned.
Since the advent of the current political dispensation in the state in 1999, Edo-South has presided over affairs for eight years in the person of Chief Lucky Nosakhare Igbinedion (1999-2007) and his Deputy, Chief Mike Oghiadomhe from Edo North.
Edo Central held the reins of power for one and half years under Prof. Oserhiemen Osunbor (2007- Nov. 2008) with Mr. Lucky Imansuen from Edo South as his Deputy; while Edo North is currently having its eight years in office under Comrade Adams Oshiomhole with Rt. Hon (Dr.) Pius Odubu from Edo South as his Deputy.
Against this backdrop, zoning of political offices, ethnic sentiments and horse trading are expected to play a major role in determining which of the aforementioned zones would produce the next governor of the state.
Having had a bitter experience following its defeat by the ACN in the 2012 governorship election, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, would not play to the gallery this time around regarding the choice of who flies its flag in 2016. While the party would want to adhere to its zoning formula; its strength in each zone, voting population, contributions of individuals as well as party loyalty and discipline would also come into play as far as who turns out to be its flagbearer is concerned.
As for the Action Congress of Nigeria,if APC sails through the INEC registration, the question of who becomes its gubernatorial candidate after Comrade Adams Oshiomhole is already raising dust. While some would-be governorship aspirants are already warming up for the coveted seat, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole’s high-flying performance, acknowledged even by the World Bank, is expected to be one of the yard sticks that will determine the party’s choice.
According to the former Chief of General Staff, SSG, to the Lucky Igbinedion administration and currently the National Vice-Chairman (South- South) of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu at a recent lecture in Benin, “The fact is that the incumbent goveror, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, has taken Edo State to a higher pedestal in developmental indices that was even acknowledged by the World Bank. Definitely, Edo people cannot accept anything less in the political credentials of those aspiring to that exalted office, as retrogression in development and lethargy in governance is now antithetical to the expected quality of governance in Edo State.
“Edo needs a grassroots political leader with a compassionate heart to connect with the suffering citizens and the under-privileged; a youthful face to reach out to the teeming youngsters seeking hope for tomorrow; a deeply religious politician as righteousness exalts a people and brings down the blessings of God; experienced enough to wisely dissect the counsel of the elderly in the political class, and popular nationally in the party to attract economic investments to Edo State”
Among those speculated to be interested in the race so far are: Dr. Joseph E. Ebidamiagbon, a UK-based Medical Doctor; Prof. Sylvanus Isi Oriakhi, based in the United States; Pastor Osagie Ize- Iyamu, Barr. Osarodion Ogie, Senator Ehigie Uzamere and former Governor Oserhiemen Osunbor. Also rumoured to be interested in the race is Arch. Mike Onolemenmen, current Minister of Worksand so on. There are several others who may indicate their interest in the race in the future.
Meanwhile, political pundits in the state are of the view that emphasis should be placed on prudence going by the loss of political equation Edo Central has witnessed as a result of the Court of Appeal’s ruling in 2008 when deciding prospective candidates by the parties.
Political observers also reason that following the drawbacks Edo Central Senatorial zone has experienced in the politics of Edo State in recent years, a possible consensus could lead to a formidable candidate from the zone on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, even with the high-profile names that are being rumoured to have shown interest in the governorship race from the zone.
The rumour making the rounds is that Arc. Mike Onolememen is highly favoured by the political class in the PDP, given that he is currently a source of leadership inspiration in the party and has attracted so many people with his maturity as a Minister of State, Defense and Minister of Works. He is also said to be enjoying the full support of the political leadership in Edo cutting across various political divides. If that ‘permutation’ is anything to go by, then there could be hope for the PDP in the future politics of the state. This, no doubt, will be a major hurdle for would-be candidates from other political parties – especially the ACN which the PDP is waiting to take advantage of.
Onolememen is believed to command a positive influence among the general public and he has endeared to himself a mature leadership ever since he became a Minister in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He is also said to have displayed a high sense of leadership in the management of affairs even as a Minister of Works, and he could do better if given the opportunity as a Governor. In the words of the coordinator of Edo16 Network at the meeting, “Arc. Mike has shown enough competence right from when he was a Minister of State for Defense. Leadership is about vision and competence.”
In a position paper presented by a new pressure group, “Do 16 Network”, coordinated by Aihie Tom and Dr. Evans Uwadia at its inaugural meeting on Political Equation in Edo State recently, it posited that the emergence of any Governorship Candidate from the three Senatorial Districts should be of a great concern to every person that believes in the unity, fairness and progress of Edo State.
This, they believe, should be a lesson drawn from the crisis generated before, during and after the 2007 Governorship Election that eventually nosedived in 2008. The group, comprising members from the three senatorial districts in Edo, described Edo Central Senatorial Zone as the Political Wealth of Edo and wondered why a district with such a reputation should not be allowed to govern for two terms as experienced by the two Senatorial districts – Edo North and Edo South.
And for the ACN, Comrade Oshiomhole is very busy providing democratic dividends for the people of the state. For now, he is not thinking of grooming a possible successor although he has a major role to play in deciding who succeeds him.
The possible gladiators in the ACN are Oshiomhole’s deputy, Rt. Hon Dr. Pius Odubu, who is very loyal to his boss and has also paid his political dues in the state. Having served as a two-time lawmaker in the House of Representatives and another eight years as Deputy Governor, he has garnered enough experience and is well equipped for the governance of the state if given the nod by his party.
Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is not a stranger in the politics of the state. As a former Chief of Staff and SSG to the Lucky Igbinedion administration, he knows the workings of government in and out. And as one of those who promoted the Grace Group, he commands a lot of followership and has the political sagacity to perform in office if given the opportunity.
As for Barrister Osarodion Ogie, the current Commissioner for Works, many see in him another Babatunde Fashola who as former Chief of Staff to Ahmed Bola Tinubu, under-studied his master. Ogie, an unassuming and quintessential team player, is one man many should watch out for in the race for Osadebe Avenue.
Senator Ehigie Uzamere, the two-time lawmaker representing Edo South in the Senate, is not a pushover also. He has the capacity to do battle with others for the plum office when the right time comes.