By Gabriel Enogholase, Benin
AUCHI, the headquarters of Etsako West Local Government Area, was the first port of call for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate in the September 10 Edo State governorship election, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. The choice of Auchi, the senatorial district of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, which came few days after the party had, in Benin, flagged off its governorship campaign was strategic. The party could have moved to Edo Central to kick start the campaign, but it appeared the PDP chose to complete the most arduous of its tasks and settled for the local government many considered as a stronghold of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Many wanted to see the impact the PDP and its candidate, Ize-Iyamu, would make and the crowd they would pull in Oshiomhole’s base. Those who had thought the PDP and its candidate would go home disappointed that day may as well have gone home disappointed. The venue, the Ikelebe Sports Complex, was filled to the brim. Thousands of people thronged the venue of the flag off which had in attendance PDP leaders such as the Edo State Chairman, Dan Orbih, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, Chief Tom Ikimi, Senator Yisa Braimah, Chief Mike Ogiadomhe and Alhaji Kashitu Ozeto, Jaret Tenebe, among others.
The PDP went for Oshiomhole’s jugular the moment the noise, merriment and music gave way tp speeches. Ize-Iyamu told the enthusiastic crowd that he played the leading role in ensuring that an Etsako man in the person of Oshiomhole became governor of Edo for the first time, adding that it was time for the Etsako to repay him by helping him win the September 10 election. “Let me say that when Adams Oshiomhole came after going to PDP, ANPP and the Labour Party, he told us that we should allow him to become the first governor from Edo North. I challenge any Edo APC leader to say they influenced the governorship seat to Edo North. I stand among the first three, who said it must be Edo North.”
In his remark, Orbih, who accused Oshiomhole of dividing Edo North, noted that the governor was guilty of picking out Etsako West Local Government Area for development among the six local government areas in the area, even as he added that in Etsako West Council, the governor only focused on his native Iyamho village, which he said is just one of the 28 villages that make up the Uzaire clan. Senator Braimah, who also spoke, said denying the PDP the usage of the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium for its campaign flag off amounted to abuse of office.
After the zonal flag off, the PDP moved to the six local government areas in Edo North, highlighting the failures of the Oshiomhole administration and encouraging the people to “change the negative change” they said was imposed on the nation by the APC. At Agenebode, Imegbai and Okpella in Etsako East Local Government Area, Ize-Iyamu said the community, situated at the bank of the River Niger, ought to be a tourist centre and a rich commercial hub. He regretted that the only tertiary institution in the town, College of Agriculture, Agenebode, has been neglected, saying the state government had not developed the college in eight years.
At Ekperi, in Etsako Central Local Government Area, the PDP candidate spoke against the backdrop of an alleged refusal of Oshiomhole to honour a pledge made to Muslims in the state that he would nominate one of them as running mate to his party’s governorship candidate. He therefore assured the Muslims in Edo that their interest would be well taken care of if elected governor. He introduced his running mate, Hon. John Yakubu, to the crowd, saying under their leadership, local governments would function effectively in the provision of markets, renovation of schools and building of roads, “unlike the current situation whereby funds meant for councils are swallowed by the Government House”. The Ize-Iyamu campaign train also touched down at Anegbete and Fugar, the headquarters of the local government.
Perhaps PDP had little challenge delivering their message in Owan East, Owan West and Akoko-Edo local government areas. The message was that of neglect and abandonment by the Oshiomhole’s administration. The party particularly challenged the APC leadership and Oshiomhole to explain to the people of the local governments the reason it did not consider someone from Akoko-Edo, Owan East or Owan West running mate to its governorship candidate, Godwin Obaseki. According to the PDP, the governor has consistently showed disdain for other groups in Edo North apart from his kinsmen in Uzaire.
Orbih said Oshiomhole had boasted that he was working on a plan to perfect the rigging of the governorship election in conjunction with INEC officials, police, army and other security agencies. He said it was morally wrong for Oshiomhole to use state funds to build a university in his hometown, accusing the governor of spending over N18 billion on the university.