By SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN CITY
Though the governorship election will not hold in Edo state this year but political gladiators in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state have commenced battle for the ticket of the party come 2016.
The battle, it seems, is between the Central district and the South senatorial district. From Edo Central you have the current Minister of Works, Mike Onolememen, former Governor Osarhiemen Osunbor and Educationists, Mr Ken Imasuagbon eyeing the Osadebey Avenue come 2016. In Edo South, you have the retired General Charles Airiavbere who ran against Governor Adams Oshiomhole in 2012, Senator Ehigie Uzamere, Matthew Iduoriyekemwen, Mr Lucky Imasuen and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. As these fellows campaign for President Goodluck Jonathan, their eyes are focused on 2016. Ize-Iyamu defected to the PDP in May 2014, with four House of Assembly members and some leaders of the party.
Their entrance into the PDP gave some hope to the party that after all, they might take over the state from APC but that hope waned when many of those who left with him returned to APC. Among them were Chief (Mrs) Evelyn Igbafe who is President Jonathan’s campaign coordinator, Hon Ehiogie West-Idahosa. Some of the leaders in Edo North who also left with him such as Alhaji Usman Shagadi and the House of Representatives member, Abubakar Momoh, dumped the PDP for the SDP. The entire episode was a defection that went awry.
It would be recalled that Governor Oshiomhole in 2012 made Ize-Iyamu his Campaign Director for his re-election to the chagrin of some of his loyalists in government. As a matter of fact, the governor’s Special Adviser on Political Matters, Charles Idahosa, a veteran politician, predicted that Oshiomhole’s so much trust in the Pastor would backfire sooner or later. However, Ize-Iyamu utilized that opportunity by using it to build a solid political structure in the APC.
So it was easier for him to bargain for a good deal in the PDP when he decided to jump ship. He left the APC after Oshiomhole denied him the opportunity of grabbing the political structure of the party, particularly as he saw himself as Oshiomhole’s natural successor in 2016. In order to avoid crisis in his APC then during the congresses of the party, Oshiomhole provided a level playing field to all the political gladiators in his party including his deputy, Dr Pius Odubu, but, Ize-Iyamu and his supporters lost the congresses and they decided to move to the PDP after they cried that the exercise was skewed against him and his followers. Despite the fact that the governor cancelled the first exercise to harken to his cry he still lost. Pastor’s forces were subdued by those of the deputy Governor, Dr Odubu. However, there was no doubt that Pastor had added value to the PDP since his entrance into the party.
However, the prevailing peace in the party broke down two weeks ago when youths of the PDP protested at the party’s secretariat in Benin City, accusing the Party of diverting the sum of N1.5billion meant for them. The youths threatened to continue the protest until the money was made available to them. Ize-Iyamu described the allegation as unfounded, accusing Governor Oshiomhole of masterminding the crisis so as to cause crisis in the party.
“No such amount was released for the presidential rally of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, so the allegation is false and laughable”, he said. Also, the State chairman of the PDP, Dan orbih while denying any largesse for the youths courtesy of the presidential campaign rally in Benin said,”a lot has been said about the PDP presidential rally in Benin. It is now obvious that the massive turnout by Edo people to receive Mr. President was still something that baffled the APC government in the state. They said we hired people from neighbouring states of Delta, Bayelsa and Anambra for the rally. Today it is another story of 1.5Billion naira. I am not aware of such money”.
However, Governor Oshiomhole who reacted to the allegation by Ize-Iyamu, that he masterminded the crisis this way:
“I watched on television the protest by PDP youths asking for their money. N3,000 was budgeted for each youth but they said that they were given N500 each. The youths now said nobody can be building new additional estate and leave them hungry. Rather than the PDP addressing the issue the boys raised they were saying that the allegation was an attempt by political opponents to discredit them and they were mentioning my name. Please, let them leave me out of this problem and go and settle the boys. They agreed that money came when I was watching on TV but they refused to disclose how much that they received.
These PDP people believe everybody is a fool. A party that can even defraud the poor has no conscience and that is why they cannot know peace because you cannot have peace without justice, without fairness”. As it seems, the battle for 2016 in the PDP has just begun and it has the tendency to be that of the survival of the fittest.