•As internal crisis deepens in ruling and opposition parties
By Ozioruva Aliu
BENIN CITY – WITH the insistence by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that it was bound by the constitution to conduct governorship election in Edo state in September despite the COVID-19 pandemic, four strong contenders have emerged from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP to slug it out with whoever emerges as the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. The primaries election of the APC has been fixed for June 23 while the PDP will hold its own on June 24.
Meanwhile, as the APC is polarized between the supporters of Governor Godwin Obaseki and the National Chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the PDP is contending with the legitimacy of its current state leadership led by Hon Tony Aziegbemi whose election is currently being challenged in court. Aziegbemi however assured that he was reaching out to all members and leaders of the party to come together as a family and move ahead.
One of the aspirants for the state chairmanship of the party, Engr Fred Okah told Saturday Vanguard that there were no serious efforts by the leadership of the party to reconcile all factions. “It is a simple thing, they need to reach out to all because we all belong to the same party so that the issues can be settled but I don’t think much is being done in that direction. The chairman called me once after the state congress and promised to visit me but I have not heard from him since then.”
One of the parties who went to court to stop the congress from being held, Hon Sylvanus Eruaga said the state congress was illegal since the court ruled that “status quo should be maintained until a ruling on the issue we brought before it was determined because the congress they did from the ward to the state was illegally, unconstitutionally and violently conducted. But they went ahead in disobedience of a court order. So, it is not about settlement, it is about the law, they did not obey the law. Yes, they sent the South-South Vice Chairman but that shouldn’t have stopped the law. We were in court on Tuesday (May 19th) and the next date for sitting is Wednesday next week so the case is still on”. The party is also faced with the challenge of whether the ticket should be zoned to a particular senatorial district.
Observers expected that with the crisis in the ruling APC that has pitched Governor Godwin Obaseki against his predecessor and the National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the PDP would capitalize on that to snatch the state from the APC but instead, it lost one of its pillars, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu who was its candidate four years ago.
As at today, there are four contenders for the ticket of the PDP; two from Edo South Senatorial District who are; the current member representing Oredo Federal Constituency, Hon Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama and a former member of the House of Representatives, Hon Ifaluyi Isibor while from Edo Central, there are Barr Kenneth Imansuagbon and Engineer George Ikhine.
The party had said it was not going to zone its offices to any senatorial district, hence it threw open the contest for the position of the state chairmanship which saw to the emergence of Aziegbeni who is from Edo Central. But some analysts argued that since the state chairman has emerged from the Central, the governorship ticket should be taken to the South or the North but others have insisted that the party should stick to its decision of not zoning its positions to any area. They cited the instance when Professor Oserheimen Osunbor was governor of the state and Prince Solomon Aguele was state chairman of the party with both of them coming from the same Edo Central Senatorial District.
Some interests in the party are of the opinion that Imansuagbon from Edo central senatorial district has the reach across the three senatorial districts of the state and could stand against any candidate of the APC. They argued that history has shown that no opposition party had ever dislodged the ruling party by fielding a candidate from the same senatorial district and urged the party to change its strategy.
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A chieftain of the party from Ovia South East, OsaroIdemudia noted that “Since 2012, the PDP has lost the governorship elections to the ruling party in the state twice. This time around, there is the need to rekindle the winning formula. From past records of events in Edo state, no opposition party has dislodged a ruling party by fielding a candidate from the same senatorial district with the ruling party. In 2003, the opposition ANPP (All Nigerian Peoples Party) fielded Senator Roland Owie against Governor Lucky Igbinedion of the PDP, both from Edo South and the ANPP lost.
In 2016, Pastor Ize-Iyamu of the PDP contested against Godwin Obaseki of the ruling party, both of them from Edo south and PDP lost. The only time that the power changed hands, was in 2007 when the opposition ACN fielded Adams Oshiomhole from Edo North against the ruling PDP’s Prof. Osunbor from Edo Central. It is therefore clear, that fielding a candidate from the same senatorial district with the APC come 2020, will not necessarily translate to a win and will not favour the PDP.
“In my view, since the governorship candidate of the APC will definitely come from Edo South, no matter who they decide on, the PDP should pick Imansuagbon as its candidate from Edo Central. We must not be deceived once more by the unproven voting population of Edo South against other senatorial districts. We need to check the statistics of votes from the last governorship elections in Edo state, the bulk of the winning votes came from Edo North.
The South is a cosmopolitan city with different tribes, they don’t vote one way. The number of Esan people and other tribes make up about 70 percent of the voting population in Edo South, unlike Edo Central that votes one way. A change of formula will favor the PDP in this election” He added that the current crisis in the state’s All Progressives Congress has provided the leeway for the PDP to regain the power it carelessly lost in 2008 saying “Edo APC is seriously battered”.
PDP governorship contenders Kenneth Imansuagbon
Kenneth Imansuagbon, popularly known as the ‘riceman’ owing to his yearly rice distribution joined active politics in 2004 and attempted to contest the governorship in 2007 under the defunct Action Congress describing it then as a party of the masses. The AC had no structure then but Imasuangbon gave it life by paying for its secretariat and providing furniture to be used by party members. He was however pressured to step down for Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
Despite seeing the party to victory, Imasuangbon, who was not happy with the manner the party was run, left for the opposition PDP when the party was at its lowest ebb. He helped to reconcile warring factions and put the party in strong shape. In 2012, Imasuangbon contested the PDP primaries but lost to General Charles Airhiavbere. Not satisfied with the manner the primaries was allegedly manipulated, Imasuangbon returned to the APC. In 2016, he was among the aspirants that contested against incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki.
Imasuangbon returned to the PDP in 2018 to help campaign for his friend, Governor Aminu Tambuwal, who was gunning for the presidential ticket of the party. He has been providing the necessary financial support to make the party strong in Edo. Across the state, Imansuangbon is a household name.
Engr Gideon Ikhine
Engr Gideon Ikhine also from Edo Central senatorial district resigned from Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in 1997 to establish Nugi Limited, an Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC) company. Ikhine’s pioneering role and contributions to society, has earned him the privilege of sitting as a Member of The Provisional Council of Foundation Faith Church and a Pioneer Member, Board of Trustees, Salem University, Lokoja, Kogi State. He has demonstrated commitment to the Party by supporting the aspirations of party members to the State House of Assembly and National Assembly on various occasions. He is believed to have the backing and support of former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo
Hon Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama
Hon Ogbeide Ihama, is said to be the preferred aspirant of some powerful PDP leaders including former governor of the state, Chief Lucky Igbinedion and the immediate past chairman of the party, Chief Dan Orbih. It is believed that it was because of his ambition that the party structure ensured the emergence of Aziegbeni as party chairman which would be used to convince delegates to vote for an Edo South aspirant since the state chairmanship of the party was already in Edo Central. Analysts are of the view that fielding him against any APC candidate may be counterproductive as the party should have a strong candidate whose popularity transcend his Oredo federal Constituency
Hon Ogbeide Ifaluyi-Isibor
Isibor was in the House of Representatives between 2007 and 2011. He later became the Edo State Commissioner at the Federal Character Commission (FCC) and the President Worldwide, University of Benin Alumni Association. He is seen as a grassroot politician who has maintained link with his people but his influence outside Edo South Senatorial District is debatable.