As the frenzy heightens over Edo State governorship, analysts see some of the antics of Governor Adams Oshiomhole in the desire to install a choice successor as what might undo him, writes Davidson Iriekpen
Five months from now, precisely in November, Governor Adams Oshiomhole will cease to be the occupant of Osadebey Avenue, Benin City, the seat of government in Edo State after administering the state for the mandatory two terms of eight years. As usual, a lot of aspirants are already jostling to succeed to him. It is therefore not a surprise that the political atmosphere in the state is already heating up as politicians in all the registered political parties are dotting their ‘Is’ and crossing their ‘Ts’, strategising to win their parties’ tickets and succeed the comrade governor.
In the state ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), those who have indicated interest in taking over from Oshiomhole are a two-time senator and former governor of the state, Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor, incumbent deputy governor, Pius Odubu, former Chief of Staff and current Commissioner for Works, Osarodion Ogie, former Minister of State for Works, Chris Ogienmwonyi, former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate in 2012, General Charles Airhiavbere (rtd), Chairman of the state trust fund, Godwin Obaseki and Kenneth Imansuagbon, among others.
On the part of the PDP, leading the pack of aspirants jostling to get the party’s flag is former Chief of Staff and Secretary to the State Government under Chief Lucky Igbinedion, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Solomon Edebiri, Senator Ehigie Uzamere and Matthew Iduoriyekemwen.
But for the victory of the APC in the presidential election, the intensity of the jostling to succeed Oshiomhole from his party would have been less because of the bandwagon effect of the PDP performance in the National Assembly elections, where it won two of the three senatorial seats and shared the 10 House of Representatives seats equally with the APC. The PDP had hoped to use the expected victory as a launch pad to take over the House of Assembly banking on expected bandwagon effect and thereafter begin an impeachment process against Oshiomhole.
However, this was not to be as the APC victory in the presidential election changed the tide that eventually led to the party winning an overwhelming majority in the state legislature to the extent that it won for the first time, two out of the five seats in Edo central.
Though to many analysts, the factors that will influence the choice of who becomes Oshiomhole’s successor would include the structure of the party upon which the candidate emerges, his antecedents and most importantly, his ethnic background, all these would depend on how the aspirants is able to play his cards. One thing that is sure is that no serious political party that is contesting the governorship of Edo in 2016, that will not consider the ethnic background of its candidate. The reason being that the ruling APC, which apparently has the upper hand, is most likely going to field a candidate from Edo South senatorial district, which has about 58 per cent of the voting population.
Oshiomhole is from Edo North, the second most populated of the three senatorial zones. He got into office through the massive support from Edo South (Binis) and their monarch, and is expected to lend his support for a Bini candidate. For those, who had thought that the incumbent governor would look into the direction of his incumbent deputy, the calculation had long failed as the relationship between the two gladiators has broken down irreconcilably.
Many now rate Odubu as a loner, who the governor cannot touch with a kilometre-long pole, when it comes to who will pick the governorship mantle of the APC and win the actual election. For him, the issue of Odubu, a Bini does not count because he does not fit into his specification of malleable person.
Osarodion Ogie, the current Commissioner for Works who was initially touted as a likely successor has equally fallen out of favour with his boss, who feels that he may not fit into his idea of a successor that will protect his rear, post-November 12, 2016. Insiders are of the view that the governor’s previous calculations that the Bini Royal Palace will support Ogie, in spite of himself, had been overtaken by some irreversible occurrences that might not favour a pro-Oshiomhole governorship in November 2016.
Rather than make the process of choosing his successor transparent, the governor is alleged to have secretly unveiled his preferred choice, which for all intents and purposes, is believed to bear a gaping historical wound on his best foot and which could prove tragic for the party, if he is allowed to run and fail. Many analysts therefore believe that taking such a decision would be Oshiomhole’s greatest undoing.
As the election approaches, it is becoming clearer that nobody is on the mind of the governor than Mr. Godwin Obaseki. But there are feelings that his foot soldiers might be finding it difficult to sell an Obaseki candidacy. The contention particularly in Edo South and other parts of the state now is that Obaseki, who is believed to have the backing of the mega-businessman, Aliko Dangote, is weighted down by a historical burden that might be his albatross.
Most party members also believe that if the Dangote/Oshiomhole/Obaseki governorship deal pulls through, Obaseki, as the governor of Edo State, will pander to Oshiomhole and concurrently Dangote, who is gradually extending his business empire into the political realm.
Sign that Oshiomhole might not make the process to choosing a successor transparent emanated when he was said to have pointedly told all who cared to listen that he would not be “neutral” on the matter of his successor, a hint that he would have a hand in picking the person to succeed him
In a meeting with leaders of the party from the three senatorial zones, Oshiomhole said it would be unnatural to expect him to keep a distance in the matter. According to him, he would expect his successor to carry on his legacy and diversify the revenue-generation base of the state with the aim of discouraging the unhealthy habit of depending on allocation from the federal government.
“Should I as a governor have no such right to have a voice and a say on the choice of my successor? I cannot be neutral in matters affecting my environment. Even people who are not from Edo State will always tell me to guide them so that Edo will not go back to the past. I will never be afraid to take a position and to explain my position on the basis of my conviction. In a democracy, whether matured or growing, endorsement is legitimate. What I owe Edo people is very clear to me.
“I have heard several things about my person, some said he has anointed one of the candidates, some now call me godfather. There is no question that the governorship candidate of this party will be produced through primaries. In the last elections, House of Assembly, National Assembly and presidential elections, we held primaries.
“So when people make those statements, I just laugh. So this governor has no powers to impose anybody on our party and certainly anybody on our state. I am proud to say that we have more than 60 political parties, why is it that everybody wants to run on APC platform? Why not Labour Party or PDP? It is on the strength of the performance of the government that I am privileged to head.”
For now, what a cross-section of the APC governorship aspirants and members are said to be waiting for before massively defect from the party is the emergence of a candidate by imposition or any stroke of it as the party’s standard bearer.
However, for the PDP, it is clear that Ize-Iyamu is the candidate to beat for the ticket ahead of the party’s primary election on June 18. Already, seeing his formidable grassroots support and mobilisation, some of his fellow aspirants are renouncing their bid to support him.
Many analysts believe that one thing that would work in favour of Ize-Iyamu should he secure the PDP ticket is the rancour in the APC between Oshiomhole and his deputy, Odubu on the one hand and the alleged plot by the governor to endorse any candidate against the wishes of the members of the APC on the other hand.