Planning to Pull the Carpet from Under Obaseki’s Feet

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Godwin Obaseki

Adibe Emenyonu writes that leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party from Edo central senatorial district have positioned themselves to dislodge the incumbent governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki in the 2020 governorship election

The central senatorial district appears the most marginalised among the three political bloc in Edo State. Apart from the four years governed by their son, Prof. Ambrose Alli of blessed memory (1979 – 1983), and the stint experienced during Prof. Osarhiemen Osunbor (2007 – 2008) before the election tribunal sacked him in November of that year, no Esan son as the district is notably known has had the opportunity to rule Edo State whether in the old Mid-west, defunct Bendel or present, Edo State.

The reason for this is not far-fetched. One, among the tripod, the area is the least in terms of numerical strength. The area has only five local governments, six state constituency seats, two federal constituency seats and of course the statutory senatorial seat allotted each senatorial zone.

In the North senatorial district, there are six local government areas, eight state constituency seats, three federal constituency seats and one senatorial seat.

While the South senatorial district has seven area councils, nine state constituency seats, four federal constituency seats and one senatorial seat.

Population wise, the south senatorial district is larger than the central and north districts combined with about 58 percent of the entire state population. The central has just 16 percent while the north has 26 percent.

Since the advent of the Rourth Republic which began in 1999, the area comprising Edo Central district has remained a stronghold of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) especially in the days of the revered political leader of area, late Chief Tony Anenih whose political wizardry has remained till date, a bond that has kept the people united with, of course, a minute dissenting voices.

It is this minority elements that joined forces with the north and south to form what is now called the All Progressives Congress (APC) that made it possible for the area to vote six over six in the last general elections, while the federal constituency seats and senatorial seat still remained a no-go area with the PDP firmly in control.

However, with the current political crisis within the ranks of the APC which has polarized the party into two: Oshiomhole group and Obaseki group over speakership and the alleged exclusion of some members-elect from the inauguration in the assembly, the Edo central elements within the PDP are said to be plotting to ensure governorship shifts to the area though the party.

The people as gathered are taking advantage of the fight within the APC to see if power could shift to them. The reason is that after all, those giving Obaseki the heat are from his kindred, the south senatorial district. Therefore, allowing them fight themselves will be to the advantage of the central.

In the quest to address this political imbalance and perceived marginalisation, the zone recently met and came to a conclusion that the time is ripe for them to come together and demand that they be given the opportunity by the two other senatorial districts (Edo south and Edo north) to produce the next governor of the state.

Among notable leaders of the PDP at the meeting from the zone includes, two-time governorship aspirant and proprietor of Abuja-based group of schools, Kenneth Imansuangbon; former Minister of Solid Minerals and two-time senator, Senator Odion Ugbesia; former Minister of Works, Mike Onolemenmen, former assembly speaker and member, former member representing Esan North East/Esan South East Federal Constituency; Friday Itulah, former state Commissioner for Education Chief Frank Erewele; Engineer Ikhine among host of others

One of the agreements at the meeting is the expectation of the leaders in Edo central to see that the PDP which appears to be a strong force in the area and to a reasonable extent in the south senatorial district going by the outcome of the last general elections cedes its governorship ticket to the zone.

By this, they reasoned that it may upset the unwritten arrangement that the powers that be may want Edo south to have the governorship ticket because of its advantageous numerical strength.

This time, leaders from the zone appear determined in their struggle to get the party’s ticket and that any attempt to deny them the chance of producing the party’s next governorship candidate, may well mean that the PDP may as well kiss the governorship seat goodbye for a long time to come.

Among the frontline aspirants said to be eyeing to the contest the 2020 governorship on the platform of the PDP are former governorship aspirants and educationist, Ken Imansuagbon, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, incumbent Senator Mathew Uroghide, Hon Ogbeide Ihama, currently representing Oredo federal constituency; and former Minister of Works, Mr. Mike Onolememen.

Of the five, only two are from Edo central senatorial zone while the rest three are from Edo south.

In APC, aside incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki who is having a running battle with the national chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, former deputy governor, Dr. Pius Odubu; former Minister of state Works, Dr. Chris Ogiemwonyi; Majo-Gen Charles Airhiavhere (rtd) and business Mogul, Capt Hosa Okunbo are said to be warming up to contest the Number One public office in the state. They are all from Edo south.

Nevertheless, among aspirants from the central senatorial district, Imansuagbon is seen as a unifying factor and one who, if given the ticket, can unite all the various contending forces within the PDP even in the APC having friends and associates that cut across the other two senatorial districts.

The philanthropist according to sources is reaching out and consulting with various stakeholders irrespective of party affiliations to get their nod before throwing his hat in the state political ring.

The Edo born politician on a yearly basis distributes rice to thousands of people during festive seasons. He also organises annual quiz competitions for secondary school students across the state where he distributes iPads and money to lucky winners. Medical bills for indigent patients are usually paid for, especially those that were held back for inability to pay.

In March 2009, Imasuangbon left the AC as it was then known and defected to a fractured PDP which was in ruin between those loyal to Chief Tony Anenih and Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia both of blessed memory. Then, Imasuangbon held a reconciliatory rally at his home town Ewohinmi which is still being referred to “Ewohinmi Declaration” where he brought both leaders together to bury their political differences.

Imasuangbon contested the PDP primaries ahead of the 2012 governorship primaries but lost to General Charles Airhiavbere by polling 178 votes. Other aspirants in the primaries including Prof. Julius Ihonvbere, Prof Oserheimen Osunbor and Matthew Iduoriyikemwen left the venue in protest. Imasuangbon rejected results of the primaries branding it scientifical and environmental rigging tailored by state party chairman, Chief Dan Orbih.

Apparently to demonstrate readiness not to be an onlooker in the 2020 governorship, Imasuangbon, a lawyer who is popularly known as the “Rice man”, in one of the meetings held had expressed his satisfaction over the manner leaders who attended the meeting discussed the interest of Esan.

The foremost educationist who used the opportunity to make his interest to run for the governorship seat known to his kinsmen insisted that the only position that is good for Esan in 2020 is the governor.

According to him, “Esan cannot continue to be marginalised and we say we are from the same state. I’m happy everyone is now pursuing the same agenda of having an Esan man or woman as the governor come 2020. This has been my agitation, so, it’s a good way to begin and we can take it up from there.”

Also Rt. Hon. Friday Itulah informed that the Esan Nation has been oppressed for far too long and it’s about time the district make her demand known.

The former state assembly speaker and two-term member of the House of Representatives said, “Since, 1991 when the state was created Esan had just one and a half year as governor. We have supported others to become governors in the past and the time for them to also support us has come.”

Lending his voice at the meeting hosted by Senator Magnus Odion Ugbesia, Onolememen said modern day politics has nothing to do with numerical strength but something anchored on negotiations, alignments and realignments.

Onolememen who was conferred with the chieftaincy title of Adolor of Uromi after the demise of the last title holder, Chief Anthony Enahoro, asserted, “Politics is all about negotiations, alignment and realignment. It is beyond numerical strength. The late Prof. Ambrose Ali, from Esan land was the Governor of the whole Bendel state.

“Then we had bigger and much more ethnic nationalities like Benin, Ijaw, Itsekiri, Urhobo, Anioma, Afemai, Esan, Owan and others living together. Don’t also forget that Prof. Osunbor, from Esan, the so called minority also contested and won in 2007, so it’s all about negotiations and what you can put on the table.”

However, one perceived obstacle to the aspiration of governorship hopeful from Edo Central senatorial district is the zoning arrangement though some political analysts have argued it is a disservice to the electorates.

Ighodalo Uwadiae, an advocate of equity and justice and a PDP member during an interactive session maintained that what the party needed in Edo state right now is to organise a free and fair primary for all aspirants and not zoning otherwise, the party will repeat the mistakes it made in 2012 and 2016.

According to him, “In 2012, PDP went for a majority tribe and picked Gen Charles Airhiahvere and Oshiomhole from a minority tribe won because he was popular.

“Again in 2015, the argument came up that you need the majority tribe to win and an unknown Obaseki though from a majority tribe, won and in line with the argument the party fielded popular Ize-Iyamu but unfortunately for Ize-Iyamu he was loved by the people and the voters but he lost to unknown Obaseki. So when you draw this historic analysis, PDP must do the right thing and listen to the people.

“You don’t do the same thing over and over and expect positive result. PDP must change tactics. Some people are saying PDP must change tactics from the old pattern, it must ensure free and fair congress that will produce free and fair primaries, which will eventually produce a popular and likable person rather than the old style of the godfather but thank God there is no godfather anymore in PDP.

“If you zone to a particular area, you are limiting the voters. The moment PDP zones and it is not free and fair let them forget 2020 governorship because they are in the opposition and the people are watching. Even if they were to zone let it go to the Esan speaking people that has not tasted the governorship for a long time.

Continuing he added, “The Binis are not tribalisti. They want a man who can put food on the table for their children. For fairness, and equity, it should be zoned to Edo central. The national leadership under Secondus must ensure that we get it right with primaries in Edo. This is the best chance for PDP especially with APC riddled with crisis, the people are fed up and that can be an advantage for the PDP,” he argued.

A source who craves anonymity equally argued that the Esans and Binis are one in terms of ancestral relationship, adding that there should not be any basis for discrimination in terms of political offices.

He said, “If a Bini man is a governor, the Esan man should be happy because they are all one and so if an Esan man is the governor it is the same as well.”

“It is also important to also remind our people that the constitution of our party goes against discrimination. The Governor of Edo can come from anywhere. What is important is for the person to have the mental sagacity to lead. I think it is only fair in the spirit of justice, equity and fair play that the people of Edo central should be given the opportunity to fly the PDP flag in the 2020 governorship election.”