Edo: PDP aspirants jostle for guber ticket tomorrow

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The die is cast as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State will tomorrow nominate a candidate who will fly the party’s governorship flag for the July governorship election in the state.

Everything has been put in place to ensure a hitch free primary which the PDP leadership said it had been preparing for the past one year. Actually, the party leadership said it is more than prepared to reclaim the seat at Government House, Benin from the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria.

The PDP had been in power for close to 10 years until it was sacked by the tribunal in 2008 to pave way for the incumbent governor, Adams Oshiomhole.

Five aspirants have indicated interest in contesting the governorship election: Major General Charles Ehigie Airhiavbere, Professor Oserheimen Osunbor, Professor Julius Ihonvbare, Barrister Ken Imasuangbon and Mathew Idonhenkeme.

The aspirants were screened by the Professor Soglo screening committee in Port Harcourt the Rivers State capital and all of them were cleared to participate in the primaries.

The aspirants have been doing their best to sell themselves and their programmes to the people and have made promises which they hope to fulfill if they get the party’s ticket. Suffice it to say that both the party and the aspirants are aware of the challenges ahead and the opposition they face from the incumbent, Adams Oshiomhole. In order to give all the aspirants equal opportunity and avoid accusations of favouritism, the party leadership took the aspirants on a campaign tour to all the 192 wards in the state, which gave them the opportunities to meet with the people and vice versa.

The question is, what are the chances of these aspirants in picking the PDP governorship ticket in Edo State? Perhaps, a brief assessment of their individual chances will suffice.

Major General Charles Airhiavbere: Maj-Gen. Charles Airhiavbere is the most feared of all the aspirants. This is because he is of Benin ethnic group that constitutes over 60 percent of the population of the state and it is believed that they will always vote for theirs any day.

Book makers are already putting their bets on General Airhiavbere. There are other things that will also work in his favour. He just retired from the Nigerian Army and joined partisan politics, so he has not yet been soiled by the non-performance in office factor like other contestants.

Perhaps the most important is that the people see Airhiavbere as an honest, detribalized and  hardworking man. In fact during the factional crisis that engulfed the party in the last three years, General Airhiavbere was not known to belong to any of the factions. In fact he was at the forefront  of the reconciliation effort of all the different factions and groups in the state.

A chieftain of the PDP in Edo state Chief Osaretin Emuza said General Airhiavbere is the man to beat in the PDP. He said with Airhiavbere in the fold of the PDP in the state, the party has come alive once again. In fact there had been lack of activities in the PDP in the last three years.  This was attributed to the crisis of interest in the party but the crisis is over now.

Chief Osarentin said the battle against Oshiomhole is war and only a general can lead such war. “He is our garrison commander”, he said.  Most party members and political watchers in the state believe that Airhiavbere is more likely to get the party’s ticket. Initially some opponents thought he would not be cleared by the screening committee because he retired from the army less than two years now. But he was cleared and given a waiver signed by the acting National Secretary of the PDP.

Barrister Ken Imasuangbon: This is another aspirant to watch as he might spring some surprises. A lawyer by training and the proprietor of a group of schools located in the Federal Capital Territory, most people, especially the youth, appreciate his courage. One major thing that will work in his favour is that he was always with the party even at a time it was regarded a pariah in the state. Also, people will always remember that he has distributed rice every Christmas in the last three years.  He is popularly called ‘Rice Amanda’. But there are issues that will work against him, too. First, he is from Ewohinmi in Edo central of the state, the same village where Oshiomhole’s wife comes from. Despite his wife’s death, Oshiomhole is still very popular in the village and they see him as their in-law. They have maintained many times that they will continue to support Oshiomhole any day. During the last National Assembly election, Imasuangbon could not deliver up to 20 votes for the PDP. He is not a grassroots man and many of his achievements in life are only appreciated in Abuja and not his village or the state. He is from the same Senatorial zone as the former governor of the state, Professor Oserheimen Osunbor and the people will not want their votes to be divided between him and Osunbor. They are likely to go for Osunbor.

Professor Oserheimen Osunbor: Professor Osunbor is the most hated of the aspirants by the members of the party in the state, but he is the most loved by Governor Adams Oshiomhole. He won the party’s ticket in the 2007 election and went ahead to win the governorship election. No sooner had he won the election that he started to nurse the ambition for a second term even when he had not completed two years in his first term in office. He did not actually win the party’s ticket but the ticket was given to him by former President Olusegun Obasanjo as a “parting gift to his in laws.”  He is from Ihenkpen in Edo central, the same place as the former first lady, late Stella Obasanjo. He started fighting everybody including the leader of the party in the state, Chief Tony Anenih. He could not defend the mandate given to him and lost the election at the election tribunal. Many people believe he can no longer be trusted with the people’s mandate. But Oshiomhole’s camp loved him so much because he could not use his incumbency factor to defend his election at the tribunal and the appeals tribunal. He may well get most of the votes from the delegates from Edo central but will certainly not be able to put up a good fight against Oshiomhole in the  July governorship election. This will no doubt work against him.

Professor Julius Ihonbare: Professor Ihonbare parades himself as the most educated of all the aspirants. He is a professor of political science. He was former president Obasanjo’s adviser on project implementation. He really did not campaign for this primary like other aspirants and there are speculations that he might soon withdraw from the governorship race. He is from Owan area of Edo North of the state. This is the strong hold of the governor of the state, Adams Oshiomhole. There is no way he can defeat Oshiomhole even in his home base.

Mathew Idonhekeme: He is a former member of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) where represented the state. He is known to be a trusted boy to the leader of the party in the state, Chief Tony Anenih, and his supporters have been claiming that he has the backing of President Goodluck Jonathan. But besides using these names, he is not really on the ground. He is also said to be making moves to withdraw from the governorship race before Saturday.

As these aspirants prepare to slug it out, the Peoples Democratic Party, Edo State branch says it is ready to conduct a credible primary this weekend to nominate its governorship candidate for the July 14th governorship election coming up later this year.

Addressing newsmen in Benin on Wednesday, the party’s Publicity Secretary, Mathew Urhoghide said 735 delegates will decide the fate of the five aspirants as to who will finally carry the party’s flag for the July governorship election.

According to him, the delegates are divided into two: Adhoc delegates and the statutory delegates.

The ad hoc delegates numbering 576 who will constitute electoral college were elected at the ward congress of the party which took place last Saturday in Benin.

The other 159 delegates known as the statutory delegates are made up of 5 members of the party from each of the 18 local government areas; members of the state working committee of the party; former working committee members of the party in the state; members of the Board of Trustees of the party (Chief Tony Anenih and Dr Sam Ogemudia); the three members of the National Assembly from the state and the five members of the state House of Assembly from the party.

Whatever the outcome of the PDP party primaries this Saturday the leader of the party Chief Tony Anenih and the state chairman, Chief Dan Orbih have promised a free, fair and credible election. All the aspirants have also given assurance that if the primary is credible , whoever emerged as the candidate will be supported by them.

 

In : Politics

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