January 5, 2016

Edo 2016: The miracles of rice

Chief Dan Osi Orbih

The return of the rice man
PDP, APC face-off over rice sharing

The annual rice distribution exercise by Mr. Kenneth Imansuagbon, famed as the Rice Man in Edo State, takes another dimension in a faceoff between the PDP and the APC over seeming efforts by political rivals to follow the trend.

By Simon Ebegbulem

It was the time of sharing last December and Mr. Kenneth Imasuagbon, was at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, UBTH located in the western flank of the ancient city of Benin to in part thank the hospital authorities for helping save his life three years earlier when he suffered a motor accident.

In showing his appreciation, Mr Imasuagbon off-set the bills of some sick people including kidney and cancer patients before donating N1 million to the hospital authorities through the Chief Medical Director, CMD, Prof. Michael Ibadin.

While awe struck patient and staff were fixed on Mr. Imasuagbon’s narration of the goodness of God on him, a trailer load of rice drove into the hospital drawing the attention of staff and patients in different wards. A number of the seemingly bedridden patients temporarily got their healing in the struggle for the free rice.

The gesture pushed the CMD to hail Imansuagbon as the “most popular man in Edo streets”.

Accumulation of wealth

“If there is any Edo man that is popular it is Ken Imansuagbon. We pray that when the time comes Edo people will reciprocate,” Prof. Ibadin said.

“You are also sending a strong message on the need to extend help to others rather than primitive accumulation of wealth, what matters is what you share to your neighbours. When the time comes I believe people will reciprocate your kind gesture”.

The point made by the CMD to the people of Edo to reciprocate was indeed remarkable given Imasuagbon’s ongoing political expedition. Imasuagbon is one of the leading governorship aspirants in the state. Mr. Imasuagbon has gained fame in Edo State as the Rice Man and also as the Rice Armada on account of the yearly distribution of rice which he has done in the last ten years during the yuletide season.

Orbih, PDP chairman Edo

Though no political undercurrent was directly related to the distribution of rice, the distribution of rice as a currency in political ascendancy is becoming an issue.

It was as such no surprise that not long after Imasuagbon’s 2015 event, that controversy stirred its head over the move by another aspirant from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to distribute rice. Now the PDP and the APC are stuck in a face off over rice in the state.

At the centre of the controversy is the allegation that a PDP governorship aspirant (name withheld) held back part of the rice earmarked for distribution during the PDP presidential campaigns of 2015. The aspirant is also alleged to have superimposed his campaign insignia on the Goodluck Jonathan rice, an issue that has now drawn the two major parties in Edo State into a cross fire.

Controversy on the issue first arose after a chieftain of the PDP in the state, Mr Okharedia Ihimekpen, made the revelation about the alleged action of a governorship aspirant in the party.

He was quick to urge President Muhammadu Buhari to extend the ongoing probe on the funds expended during the former President Jonathan campaign to Edo State.

According to him, “it was shocking when we saw that the bag of rice was actually meant to be distributed during the Presidential campaign but this aspirant confiscated it. I want to appeal to the Federal Government to extend the Dasukigate probe to Edo state and if this aspirant is indicted he should be prosecuted disqualified in this governorship race.

“The PDP should rediscover themselves before talking about election so that we don’t run into another years of the holocaust” he stated.

The assertion was, however, subsequently denied by the PDP state executive which claimed to have investigated the report and discovered that the allegation was a fabrication by “agents of darkness” aimed at smearing the image of the party in the state.

Edo State Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Chris Nehikhare at a media briefing in Benin last Tuesday, said: “We would like to confirm that we have investigated it and are pleased to tell our party members that the story is not only false, it is sponsored and fabricated.

Deceit and petty rumour

“We wish to tell those that thrive on lies, deceit and petty rumour that there is no room for them in our party. We advised our party members to be wary of paid agents that are bent on destabilizing our very cohesive party.”

However, the APC in the state has tackled the PDP alleging that the defence put out by the opposition party was hollow as it claimed that there was something to it.

The Edo State Publicity Secretary of the APC, Godwin Erhahon, who displayed the rice to journalists said the PDP members who were allegedly denied of the rice brought the rice to him.

While displaying the rice to journalists, Erhahon said “you can see that originally, what was written in the sack was Feed Nigeria Campaign 2015. But the aspirant super-imposed his campaign sticker on it. Can somebody who is running for governorship write ‘Feed Nigeria Campaign’ in the rice he wants to share to his supporter? No. Rather it should be feed Edo state.

“We have the evidence and we are going to petition the EFCC and the presidency because we believe this is part of the Dasukigate, so they should probe. Look at how rice meant for people was diverted to private use, that is wicked and we shall get to the root of the matter. So when I see the PDP telling lies when the facts are so obvious I wonder. But we already know their antics and they will never change” he stated.

While the controversy was brewing, Imansuagbon continued his own rice distribution round the state. The seeming political hue to it was the involvement of some of the state’s formidable political warhorses in his latest effort.

At Okada, the administrative headquarter of Ovia North East local Area, for example, Imansuagbon was assisted by his Special Adviser on Political Matters, Mr Isaiah Osifo, a two-time council chairman and former chief of staff to the Edo State governor who urged the people to reciprocate the gesture of Imansuagbon.”

Remarkably, at Okada Imansuagbon was able to give an insight into his motivation.

He said: “I came from a very poor home where it was difficult to eat rice, in fact we ate rice once in a year because then, each time Christmas is approaching my heart beats.  One Christmas, I prayed to God that if I grow up I will share rice to the people of the state and in the last ten years I have been doing that even before I came into politics. It was a Benin Woman that gave us rice one particular Christmas, am here to say thank you to Ovia people today”

“I know that rice is not enough, schools need to be fixed, roads need to be tarred and the man who will remember you  and knows what you need, here I am in Ovia send me. They will tell you not to do the right thing and even threatened you. Nobody can remove you from the delegate list. When voting don’t vote tribe rather vote for the man that will remember you. If by the grace of God am given the ticket PDP is dead. When I went to Auchi I told the people that their son Oshiomhole has done well and I want to improve on it”.