In spite of concerns that Governor Adams Oshiomohle of Edo State might have made up his mind on who succeeds him, an All Progressives Congress stalwart in the state, Mr. Kenneth Imansuagbon, still has his eyes on the party’s ticket. Shola Oyeyipo writes
As the build-up to the Edo State governorship election coming up later this year gets more interesting with every aspirant making necessary moves to ensure that they get their party tickets, the story of Governor Adams Oshiomhole, Mr. Kenneth Imansuagbon and the purportedly anointed candidate of the governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, is still one dominating political discourse.
The story has been that Imansuagbon was urged to drop his ambition by the party leaders for Governor Oshiomhole in 2007, when he came into the race as the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and because a good turn deserves another, it is expected that the governor would support his ambition too this time around.
Imansuagbon co-founded the former Action Congress (AC) in Edo State and came into political prominence in 2007. He became the party’s governorship candidate in the build-up to the 2007 election and left AC for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), feeling betrayed by those who benefited from his philosophy of politics without bitterness.
Still determined to actualise his ambition of becoming the governor of the state, he vied for the governorship ticket of the PDP in 2012, but emerged the runners up to General Charles Airhiavbere, the eventual winner of the PDP primaries.
While many of those who couldn’t stay in the opposition PDP were quick to realign with the Edo State APC, Imansuangbon stayed put in the PDP and did not yield to all entreaties from Governor Oshiomhole. According to him, his reason for doing so was because “anything that happens to a man is ordained by God and it is for his own good, one way or the other”.
So, when the likes of Professor Julius Ihonvbere defected to the ACN and was later compensated with the office of the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Imansuangbon remained in the PDP as party loyalist.
“Despite my reservations about how General Airhiavbere emerged as PDP candidate, I have to accept the situation as a party loyalist. For me, my party’s interest is of greater interest than any other consideration. Well, after due consultations with my supporters, coupled with the respect I have for the party leadership and my utmost belief in the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan, I made up my mind as a loyal party member to work for the party’s victory in the election.
“There is no doubt that I was not happy with the outcome of the primaries but there is no doubt about it also that because of the intervention of President Jonathan, Chief Tony Anenih and other party leaders, I had to fully campaign and back the party’s candidate. It was a party decision and as a loyal party man, I am obliged to back the choice of the party,” Imansuangbon said back then.
When he said he foresaw a change in the APC, he opted to return to the progressives camp in the state before the last general election of 2015 and also directed his loyalists to work for the success of the APC and President Muhammadu Buhari in the three senatorial districts of the state, part of which he attributed his support for the party.
“My decision paid off. I thank God that I contributed my quota in the emergence of President Buhari as president and members of National and State assemblies in the state,” he said.
He also has kind words for the outgoing Governor: “I can say it anywhere that Governor Oshiomhole is a good man and a good leader. I have a lot of respect for him. Before him, Edo State was a laughing stock as the least developed in the nation. But in the last five years, he has been able to turn things around for the better. He has touched every nook and cranny of the state with his developmental stride.
“He has introduced a lot of socio-political and economic changes in Edo State. His welfare programme is okay and has taken Edo beyond the rots of the past. He will forever be in the hearts of Edo people.”
Even at that, there is a growing concern among his political associates that Governor Oshiomhole may not be committed to walking his talk as regards giving the state a free and fair party primary that would enable the best aspirant emerge as the party candidate.
The major debate among the people now is whether or not Buhari, APC chieftains and national leaders of the party will allow Oshiomhole to impose a governorship candidate on the party. This concern is heightened by the suspicion that he is sponsoring delegates to favour his candidate. There have always been fears that the governor has been suspending and intimidating party chairmen and APC chieftains in the state as part of ploy to achieve his set goal.
The main anxiety now is that if there is no free and fair election in the primaries that will throw up a popular and acceptable candidate for the main election, PDP is likely to come out stronger against the APC and may even take over the state. Where that happens, it could be a further leverage for to PDP to wrest power at the center more formidably in 2019.
But on February 4, during a chat with journalists on his ambition, Imansuangbon said: “I’m the most popular candidate at the grass-roots level because I have regularly engaged the masses in the last 20 years. Even if you want to zone the ticket, my district, Edo Central – should occupy the post because we have not occupied the position before.
“Our National Chairman, Chief John Oyegun has promised that there would be no zoning. Our governor has said he wants somebody who can create jobs. Among all those contesting, I’m the only one coming from the private sector and who has a track record of creating employment.”
He therefore contended that “The emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari represents a new hope for Africa. It represents an opportunity for Nigeria to rebuild itself. The Buhari factor will not condone imposition,” he contended.
For the lawyer-turned politician and renowned philanthropist, who had won the hearts of the people in the state through his regular free distribution of food items to the less privileged, his major objective is to end poverty among the people of Edo State if voted into office as governor of the state.
“I have seen poverty and I have seen comfort now. I know that comfort is better than poverty. My own is that every Edo person must have comfort. So, my commitment is to the people. Edo State needs people with entrepreneurial antecedents; proven managers of human and material resources to co-operate so that Edo can be great again.
“It is possible for Edo State to become a model for other states in job creation, robust economy with solid public private partnership, meeting Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) target in health care delivery, becoming a food sufficient state, science-based 21st century education and human capital development, tourism, sports and above all, a secure state,” he said assuredly.
As things stand today in Edo State APC, nobody knows for sure who gets the party’s ticket but one thing is certain, every aspirant genuinely committed to pursuing his or her ambition in the race ahead is already doing serious leg works and how that helps the eventual winner remains to be seen.
Our National Chairman, Chief John Oyegun has promised that there would be no zoning. Our governor has said he wants somebody who can create jobs. Among all those contesting, I’m the only one coming from the private sector and who has a track record of creating employment