By Simon Ebegbulem, Benin-City
As campaigns for the September 10, 2016 governorship election in Edo State hots up, the Benin Leaders of Thought (BTL), a socio-cultural and non-partisan political pressure group, saddled with the responsibility of fighting the interest of the Benin people, has taken a position on the poll. The group, led by the Enogie of Obazuwa, Prince Edun Akenzua, had, in 2007, anointed the current Political Adviser to Governor Adams Oshiomhole, Charles Idahosa, as the Benin candidate before a last-minute rejig in the politics of the state threw up Oshiomhole, who enjoyed the popularity and respect needed then to kick out the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)- led government.
Since the coming of Oshiomhole, the BLT has not failed to commend the governor’s developmental strides across Edo and has expressed concern about the need to ensure a suitable successor to Oshiomhole so that his developmental efforts will not be a waste. Consequently, the group set out the search for Oshiomhole’s successor by inviting all the aspirants of Benin extraction. The PDP zoned its governorship slot to Edo South, the domain of the Benin people while the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) kept its own open and that is why politicians like the former governor of the state, Prof. Osarhiemien Osunbor, and the Kenneth Imasuagbon, aka Nice Man, who are from Edo Central, are in the race. Though majority of the aspirants are from Edo South, the out-going governor, Oshiomhole, is from Edo North.
However, in a report presented to Oshiomhole by the BLT, signed by Akenzua and the Acting Secretary of the BLT, Dr Festus Imuetinya, the group reviewed the tenure of Oshiomhole and performance in office and expressed satisfaction. According to the report, “the BLT members decided that in order to retain and sustain the governor’s remarkable achievements, a competent and credible Benin person should be found to succeed him.
With this in mind, BLT sent out invitation letters to 15 persons, across party lines, who were said to be interested in the governorship position in 2016″. They named the aspirants as Adviser Nowamagbe (UPP), Barr. Osarodion Ogie (APC), Chief Solomon Iyobosa Edebiri (PDP), Col. Wisdom Ogbewekon (APC), Dr. Pius Egberamwen Odubu (APC), Dr. Tonnie Iredia (party unknown), Engr. Chris Ogiemwonyi (APC), Maj-Gen Charles Airhiavbere (APC), Mr. Godwin Obaseki (APC), Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu (PDP), Pharm Chris Iyare (APC), Prof. S.E. Orobator (APC), Prof. Ernest Izevbigie (APC), Prof. Osayuki Oshodin (party unknown) and Sen . Ehigie Uzamere (PDP).
According to the report, nine aspirants collected and returned the Expression of Interest form, from the BLT. The aspirants appeared before the group’s screening committee for questioning. The nine are Orobator, Iyare, Izevbigie, Odubu, Ogiemwonyi, Ogie, Obaseki, Airhiavbere and Ogbewekon. In view of the significance of this exercise, BLT decided that for any aspirant to be adjudged ready to continue from where the Comrade Governor stops, he must be prepared and should score at least 75% or above”. Sunday Vanguard learnt that all the nine aspirants were later invited for an interactive session on Sunday, February 14, 2016 and informed that all of them did well.
However, the BLT in their recommendation, said five of the aspirants “eminently satisfied the state 75 per cent cut off point”. The aspirants include Odubu, Ogiemwonyi, Ogie, Obaseki and Airhiavere. Sunday Vanguard learnt that all the aspirants who attended the interactive session promised to work with whoever emerges as candidate of their party after the primary, just as the BLT pledged that it would support any of the five aspirants who emerges as the candidate of their party in the September gubernatorial election.
Incidentally, the five Benin aspirants are all from the APC which is a major blow for the PDP in the state. Four of the PDP governorship aspirants are from Edo South and their absence in the anointed list of five is a clear indication that the party needs to work harder in the forthcoming governorship election. The four Benin PDP aspirants are Ize-Iyamu, Matthew Iduoriyekemwen, Osaro Onaiwu and Edebiri. However, the battle is clearly between the five persons selected by the BLT. The anxiety now is who among the five picks the APC ticket.
- Read details of the governorship battle next week.