By Gabriel Enogholase, Benin-City
Edo State governorship election has been scheduled to take place on September 10.
The process to nominate the flag bearer of the former ruling party in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), now the opposition, has reached feverish pitch.
The four aspirants, itching to become the candidate of the party in the election, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Chief Solomon Edebiri, Hon. Matthew Iduoriyekwmwen and Earl Osaro Onaiwu, are eminently qualified to represent the PDP and govern the state, but only one of them will get the nod at the end of the day.
Against this backdrop, the aspirants, during a sensitization tour of the party across the state, earlier in the year, agreed to drop their personal ambition for the PDP’s interest.
They agreed that any of them that gets the ticket will have the support of the remaining three. They, like other PDP faithful in the state, agreed that the party must work to regain the governorship seat which it lost to Governor Comrade Adams Oshiomhole of the APC through the judicial process which annulled the election of Prof. Oserhieme Osunbor, then of the PDP.
As the countdown to the PDP governorship primary which is expected to be held in May or early June, can the four aspirants hold on to their promise not to jettison the party’s interest and support the flag bearer if they lose the ticket?
This is the question agitating the minds of the party faithful in the state as they pray that events of the past which worked against the party must be guarded against.
After Oshiomhole, he is about the most popular politician in Edo State today. He has a very rich political resume. A Benin politician of Orhionmwon Local Government Area extraction, he was both a former Chief of Staff and Secretary to Edo State government during the Lucky Igbinedion administration (1999-2007). After falling out with the then PDP leadership over the deregistration of some members of the party, he joined forces with others to form the Grace Group, a pressure group within the PDP which left the party to form the AD and the Action Congress in Edo State. He was Vice Chairman, South- South of the defunct ACN.
He, however, returned to the PDP, last year, after falling out with Oshiomhole. His defection to the PDP was followed by the defection of some APC lawmakers in the Edo State House of Assembly and leadership crisis in the assembly. He was the Edo State Coordinator of the Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Organization for the 2015 presidential election.
Though the Redeemed Church pastor is still an aspirant, many people already see him as the PDP governorship candidate. He has political structures within and outside of the PDP across the 18 local government areas of Edo State.
He is forceful and understands the politics of the state very well, and he has been reaching out to different groups, galvanizing support for his ambition. It seems politicians in the ruling APC see him as the likely PDP governorship candidate and are already focusing on him and planning how they will curtail him.
What the ruling APC had against him, which they can use to campaign against him if he picks the ticket of the PDP, is his closeness to former Governor Lucky Igbinedion when he was his Secretary to Government. But PDP faithful from his camp have countered this, saying that most of the hench men in the APC such as the state party Chairman, Mr. Anslem Ojezua, Commissioner for Works, Mr. Osarodion Ogie, and many others also served in the Igbinedion administration.
“As Chief of Staff and later Secretary to the Government, I never awarded or executed any contract. I only followed the directive of the state governor in executing government policies”, Ize-Iyamu once said.
On why he is in the race, he said, “Sometimes people tend to give the impression that it is a crime to have an ambition and prepare for an office. I think it is desirable that those, who aspire for an office, should not be those who were drafted in, had no plan and were not prepared for the office. It should not be a situation, whereby someone felt he could use them and conscript them into the race”.
He was the revelation during the 2012 governorship election debate organized for candidates. His policy plans and what he would do to bring the state out of the woods when elected then endeared him to the people of the state. But then, he had contested the election under the platform of the now defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), a party that was not so popular in Edo State. He however came third in the governorship election that was held that year on April 22.
He led the Edo ANPP group into the merger with the ACN and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) to form the APC. He joined the PDP in 2014 after complaining that only the ACN group was running the show in the new APC.
Edebiri has never occupied political office before; hence, he is seen as a “decent” politician.
Buoyed by the outcome of that election, Edebiri has once again thrown his hat into the Edo State governorship ring for the July, 2016 election. Asked why he decided to contest again, he had this to say, “I am a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), my first and primary assignment now is to convince leaders of the party and members of the party that I am best suited for the governorship position.
“Looking at the past where the PDP is coming from, the party certainly needs a man that can bring the unity of the party together, a man who can create hope for the people, a man that can re-build the party.
“If you look at the backdrop and where things are coming from, if you look at the backdrop that we are coming from the PDP, the party needs a great unifier. PDP does not need anybody that will divide the party into two factions.
“So, our primary focus now is to ensure that we go to the primaries successfully and we go to the field. I enjoy a lot of public support and I am very confident that the PDP can trust me with their mandate, Edo people will trust me with their larger mandate to govern the state. That informs my commitment to this struggle, that yes, the people have watched me over the years they have seen my antecedents, they have seen me and believe that this is the time”
Mathew Iduriyekemwen is a former Majority Leader, Edo State House of Assembly and also former Edo Commissioner, Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.
His ambition and acceptability cut across the three senatorial districts of Edo. He has the support of the youth and prominent party leaders like a former Minister of Works, Mike Onolemenmen.
He may pick the party’s ticket owing to his unflinching loyalty. He has the record of not decamping from the party amongst co-contesters since its inception in 1999. He recently said only the people and not the PDP Governors Forum will decide who the party governorship candidate in Edo becomes. His mission as governor borders on laying strong economic foundation for the state and creating an enabling environment for investors
Commenting on the quality of the next governor of the state, he said, “There are so many aspirants in the field and, as I have always said, it is nice and proper for everybody to aspire. The most important thing is that who is that person that can deliver the election to the party? Who is that person that can make the election easier for the party to claim back the seat of governance in this state? Who is that person that the electorate will feel more comfortable with electing him to govern the state? Who is that person that will best represent us against the opposing parties knowing that one of the major parties that we are going to fight against is the incumbent party not just at the state but at the federal level as it is. So, saying whether I think I will be the favourite, I honestly know that I have all it takes to win the primary.”
His major weakness, some people say, is that he may not have the capacity to lead a state like Edo. But there are those who countered this saying that a man who was the Majority Leader of the Edo State House of Assembly for two terms and an NDDC former Commissioner is not a political neophyte.
EARL Osaro Onaiwu was Director General of the Governors Forum in Nigeria. He later became the DG of the PDP Governors’ Forum. Oniawu cut his political teeth in 1983 when he was a member of the Youth Vanguard for Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia campaign team and was appointed as an adviser to Ogbemudia, one of the youngest to be so appointed.
He has promised to bring to Edo which he gave to other governors as the Director General of the Governors’ Forum and seems to draw his strength from this experience. Onaiwu believes in fair play and has told those who care to listen that who so ever wins the PDP ticket will have his support.
Maany see his absence from the main politics of the state when he served as DG to the Governors’ Forum as his greatest weakness as he may have not understood the dynamics of Edo politics.