By Simon Ebegbulem, Benin-City
Mr Okharedia Ihimekpen is a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and one of the political foot soldiers of a former Chairman, Board of Trustees of the party, Chief Tony Anenih. In this interview, he says the party will ensure that a credible governorship candidate emerges ahead of Edo 2016, just as he criticises an aspirant of the party, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, over his comment that he left the PDP when he was de-registered:
You are one of those who have remained in the PDP even when many left for the ruling APC in Edo. Do you think your party stands a chance in the forthcoming governorship election?
Yes, we stand a chance but winning the election will depend on the individual and not the party. Today we don’t need politicians who will promise you one hundred things and give you hundred reasons why these things are not possible. We need a technocrat, so all the parties must be careful. Any party who parades a politician as its candidate is taking a risk. Edo people have no confidence in politicians any more. They should bring technocrats, the technocrat cares more about the general well being of the people and not individuals. It is not the party that will win election in that person, it is the technocrat in him because Edo people will look critically at the antecedents of candidates. So, victory at the election depends of the quality of the candidate. If you look at the PDP, we have so many aspirants just like if you look at the APC, they have so many aspirants, the serious ones, the jokers and the teasers. You cannot say you will create employment when you don’t know how much that comes into the state how to generate funds. You cannot say you will industrialize the state when you don’t know the cost of cement, so you must prove to people that you are qualified and people tend to look at your promises with your antecedents. It is the content in you that will make you win election, not the political party any more. The electorate no longer believe in the politician, but technocrats.
But can we know how the PDP candidate will emerge and there is this strong rumour that Pastor Ize-Iyamu is being backed by the leadership of the party including Chief Tony Anenih?
That is a rumour. Some of the exco members are pro Ize-Iyamu but if they try to impose him, that will be a smooth ride for the APC. The state Chairman of the party, Chief Dan Orbih, is doing well for the party and I don’t think he will allow himself to be used. He is well respected and that is why he was re-elected, so he will do the right thing. And this rumour that Chief Tony Anenih is among those backing him is not true because, for some time now, chief has not been in the public glare. Some exco members are backing Ize-Iyamu but the good thing is that most of them don’t control the delegates. And if the governorship primary of the PDP is not transparent, is not free and fair, then that will spell doom for the party. I am sure the party leadership knows this too because there was an attempt to have a consensus candidate some time ago but they saw the resistance. They saw it that it would have destroyed the party. Before now you could see that people like Ize-Iyamu were boasting that they already have the ticket but you saw that today he moves around like other aspirants because he knows it is not going to be easy. If the party does not handle the primary well, it will be a sorry sight, but if they handle it well, they also stand a chance of winning.
When you talk about the rumour that Anenih is backing Ize-Iyamu, have you forgotten that this was the same pastor that started preaching ‘no man is God when he was with us in PDP. When he left PDP, he came back now to say that man is now God. Is that not complication? He said Anenih was not God then, so has Anenih become God now because he wants the PDP ticket? What we are saying is that his policies should reflect his belief. If man has now become God and no longer no man is God, he should define his own stand and tell the electorate what he wants to do for the people. Because the fact is that the people know every body’s antecedents, they don’t want to remember the locust years, they don’t want to remember those years of darkness they passed through. So PDP should be able to present its first eleven, hence we are clamouring that the best candidate emerges. I don’t think the PDP will present a nomadic politician as their candidate, otherwise we will not be able to defend it during campaigns. I am a frontline member of PDP, we always defend our party anywhere but if you now bring a bad product for us to market, it will be a problem marketing him.
And his continuous criticism of Oshiomhole is constituting an embarrassment to the PDP. Edo people have the record of how he praised Oshiomhole over the Airport Road and all other engagements Oshiomhole was doing. It is therefore irreconcilable that of the eight years things, Oshiomhole has spent in power, he was with him for seven years, praising him.. What has now changed in a journey of eight years after he spent seven, with the governor before coming back to the PDP? These is the type of game he played during Igbinedion’s time, that eventually degenerated into PDP years of the locust in Edo. PDP wants to win this year’s election but not with the likes of Ize-Iyamu in the forefront. I want to advise PDP leaders to intervene to avoid another disaster for the PDP. I want to invite him to a television debate, let us debate his role in Igbinedion’s years where he was a principal actor. With the present situation, the PDP can win the election with any other aspirant, not him. He is my personal friend but I will always tell him the truth because I was involved from the beginning and because I am involved from the beginning I can sense any danger coming to the party.