The Ogbemudia search group By Simon Ebegbulem, Benin-City
The question on the lips of Edo people is, who succeeds Governor Adams Oshiomhole when his second term ends on November 12, 2016? For the people, this is very important so that the state will not go back to the years of under development and inactivity. However, the Comrade Governor has been very difficult to predict on who he has in mind to succeed him in his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
After the general elections, the governor invited all the party leaders to thank them for their support that gave the party victory in the polls in Edo, but used the opportunity to warn that since the race for who succeeds him was still a little bit far, he would not condone any aspirant calling meetings or trying to factionalize the party in the name of putting structures on ground. In that meeting, many of the people gunning to succeed him under the APC platform were all there seated. They include his deputy, Dr Pius Odubu, a former governor of the state, Prof. Osarhiemen Osunbor, a former governorship candidate of the PDP, Gen. Charles Airhiavbere, a former Minister of State, Works, Engr.Chris Ogienmwonyi, and Osarodion Ogie, the state Commissioner for Works. The governor informed them that he would not entertain any form of distraction to governance of the state arising from the 2016 race, stressing that when the time comes, he will, in consultation with the leaders of the state, ensure that a credible candidate emerges. Oshiomhole went on to proscribe all groups within the APC and threatened to sanction anybody involved in the formation of any political group within the party. Most of the aspirants who have been uncomfortable with the Edo in Safe Hands, a political pressure group led by his Commissioner for Works, Ogie, hailed the governor’s move. Ogie is seen as a big threat to the ambition of other APC aspirants due to his closeness to the Comrade Governor. It was not surprising therefore that most of the aspirants relocated to Abuja to face their private businesses while they work underground to avoid Oshiomhole’s wrath. From the results of elections so far in Edo, the aspirants are aware that without the support of the Comrade Governor, it will be difficult for any of them to fly. But the launching of the Edo Mass Movement (EMM) by the two-time former governor of the old Bendel State, Dr Samuel Ogbemudia, penultimate weekend, in Benin City, is a signal that searching for a credible successor for Oshiomhole will not be an easy task.
Following what he described as the superlative achievements of the governor, Ogbemudia had vowed that good governance will not be compromised in the search for Oshiomhole’s successor. As a result, he launched the EMM to search for a credible candidate that could even out perform Oshiomhole, asserting that whoever the EMM decides will be the candidate of the people irrespective of the political party the candidate may belong to. Before choosing the candidate, Ogbemudia disclosed that the group will meet with all the aspirants before the end of the year to tell the people of Edo on why they want to govern them. The EMM is made up of community leaders, youths and market women across the three senatorial district of the state. Ogbemudia enjoys a cordial relationship with the Comrade Governor; so it will not come as a surprise to many if he works with Oshiomhole to produce the next governor of the state. Super rich aspirants However, APC’s headache is how to manage some of the super rich aspirants who defected to the party from the PDP. As a matter of fact, the popular Rice Man, Kenneth Imasuagbon, is the latest to defect from the PDP to the APC. The educationist, who decamped only two weeks ago, is one of those with deep pockets coming into the party to battle for the governorship ticket of the APC. Ordinarily, Oshiomhole should have been happy to have them in the APC, but the governor seems worried knowing that crisis may engulf the party after the governorship primary, particularly since some of them are capable of using money to influence party leaders. The worry is expected particularly after the governor had fought his political battles over the years and brought the PDP to its knees, retiring the political god fathers. After the crisis that rocked the state APC that led to the exit of Pastor Osagie-Ize-Iyamu and Chief Tom Ikimi, Oshiomhole had emphasized his desire not to entertain further crisis in the party, especially, ahead of 2016. Before then, the major groups in the APC were the ones led by Ize-Iyamu, who later defected to the PDP, and the deputy governor, Odubu. But as it seems, the APC may have ceded the governorship to Edo South barring any last-minute change. If the party leadership agrees on that, it means that will end the ambition of Osunbor and Imasuagbon who are both from Edo Central. The people of the Central, known as the Esan, have argued that they are yet to enjoy the governorship after Osunbor’s tenure was truncated after one year in office by the Appeal Court ruling which ushered in the Oshiomhole administration. However, Oshiomhole will determine who becomes the APC candidate because, apart from being the leader of the party in the state, he has become the political leader of the state. And for the PDP, it seems they may have re-strategize on where to zone the governorship after the defeat of former President Goodluck Jonathan by President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC. Initially, a former Chairman, Board of Trustees of the PDP, Chief Tony Anenih, was said to have zeroed-in on a former Minister of Works, Arch.Mike Onolemenen, who is from Edo Central like Anenih, but Sunday Vanguard learnt that the former BOT Chairman may be looking towards Edo South knowing that the APC will cede its ticket to the district which has about 57 per cent of the population of the state. Onolemenmen,Ize-Iyamu, Matthew Iduoriyekemwen, Senator Ehigie Uzamere, Chief Solomon Edebiri, Lucky Imasuen are the governorship aspirants of the PDP expected to run for the primary.
The situation is causing unease in the party as some of the aspirants are calling for the removal of the state Chairman of the PDP, Chief Dan Orbih, who they fear may play a leader’s script. Sunday Vanguard learnt the former BoT Chair may be looking at Edebiri as a suitable candidate while his area (Edo Central) produces the deputy governor. But the problem is that this calculation may hit a brick wall if the primary is not allowed to be free and fair. April 2016 primaries Ize-Iyamu, Uzamere and Iduoriyekemwen might hit a hard one in the heart of the party rather than succumb to any form of dictation. There is no doubt that crisis may engulf the two dominant parties in the state after the governorship primaries, expected some time in April 2016, but the advantage the APC has is an Oshiomhole who will be prepared to tear whoever the PDP brings apart during the campaigns and his developmental projects which he will easily remind the people about. Besides, with the emergence of the APC at the federal level, the party will no longer suffer intimidation from security agencies as unleashed in the past on APC leaders. Though Edebiri will make a good candidate for the PDP, the party will need a strategic, rugged and masses-oriented candidate, ready to dismantle the political machinery of Oshiomhole, determined to install an APC candidate as his successor, to make an impact in the election. And that is where Ize-Iyamu and Iduoriyekemwen come in. But again anyone who underestimates the political experience and doggedness of Uzamere may be making a big mistake because he has all his political victories against all odds. He is one person among the PDP aspirants that must be feared by others if they don’t want their ambitions to be truncated by the old war horse.