About two weeks ago, leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from Edo Central senatorial district met and insisted on producing the successor to Governor Godwin Obaseki come 2020. PATRICK OCHOGA writes.
Edo Central senatorial district since 1999 has been known as the strong hold of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), especially when the late highly respected politician and former board of Trustee of the party, Chief Tony Anenih, held sway in the politics of the country.
Since the era of the late Ambrose Alli and Prof. Osarienmen Osunbor, who served as governors of the old Bendel and Edo state respectively no indigene of Esan land has been given the opportunity to serve as governor in the state, by the two other dominant districts, Edo South and Edo North.
The people of the zone in their quest to address what they consider as political imbalance and marginalization had penultimate week met and come to a conclusion that it is high time they came together and demand to be given the opportunity by the two other senatorial districts to produce the next governor come 2020.
Among notable PDP leaders at the meeting in the zone were governorship aspirant, Ken Imansuagbon; Senator Odion Ugbesia; former minister of Works, Engineer Mike Onolemenmen; Hon. Friday Itulah; Chief Frank Erewele; Engineer Ikhine, among host of others.
It was however, gathered that the expectation of PDP leaders in Edo Central to see that the party cedes its governorship ticket to the zone may upset an alleged unwritten arrangement that the powers that be may want Edo South to have the governorship ticket because of its numerical strength and advantage.
But leaders in Edo Central appear unanimous in their struggle to get the party’s ticket and are determined that any attempt to deny them the chance of producing the party’s next governorship candidate may as well make the PDP kiss the governorship seat goodbye for a very long time.
Frontline aspirant said to be eyeing to the contest the 2020 governorship on the platform of the PDP are former governorship aspirant and educationist, Ken Imansuagbon; Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Senator Mathew Uroghide, Hon Ogbeide Ihama, and former minister of works, Architect Mike Onolemenmen.
Meanwhile, in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), aside incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki who is having a running battle with his predecessor and national chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, former deputy governor, Pius Odubu, Engineer Chris Ogiemwonyi and Gen. Charles Airhiavhere are said to be warming up to contest for the seat.
Imansuagbon is said to be among one of the Edo Central governorship hopefuls that can unite all the various contending forces within the PDP owing to his popularity and acceptability across the three senatorial districts.
The philanthropist, it was gathered, is reaching out and consulting widely with stakeholders irrespective of party affiliation, and he’s said to be getting nod from political gladiators to throw his hat into the ring.
The Edo born politician on a yearly basis distributes of rice to thousands of people during festive seasons. He also organizes annual quiz competitions for secondary school students across the state where he distributes i-pads and money to lucky winners. Medical bills for indigent patients are also usually paid for, especially those that were held back on hospitals for inability to pay bills.
In March 2009, Imasuangbon left the then Action Congress (AC) and defected to a fractured PDP. The PDP then was in ruins as it was factionalised between those loyal to late Anenih and the late Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia. Imasuangbon held a reconciliatory rally at Ewohinmi where he brought both leaders together to shake hands but this did not last as the two leaders parted ways after the rally.
Imasuangbon contested the PDP primaries ahead of the 2012 governorship poll but he lost to General Charles Airhiavbere by polling 178 votes. Other aspirants in the primaries then including Prof. Julius Ihonvbere, Prof Oserheimen Osunbor and Matthew Iduoriyikemwen left the venue in protest. Imasuangbon rejected results of the primaries and described it as scientific and environmental rigging tailored by Chief Dan Orbih.
Apparently to demonstrate he was not going to be an onlooker in the 2020 governorship, in one of the meetings held about that period, he expressed his satisfaction over the manners leaders who attended the meeting discussed with the interest of Esan at heart.
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 that of the governor.
In his words: “Esan cannot continue to be marginalized 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”.
In the same vein, a former Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Itulah informed that the Esan Nation has been marginalized for far too long and it’s about time the region made her demand known.
The former lawmaker said: “since, 1991 when the state was created, Esan has had just a year an half as governor, we have supported others to become governors in the past and the time for them to also support us has come.”
When reminded of the numerical strength of other zones, the Adolor of Uromi kingdom, Dr. Onolemenmen, asserted that politics is all about negotiation, alignment and realignment, saying the late Prof. Ambrose Ali, from Esan land was the governor of the old Bendel state, that is now a combination of Edo and Delta states.
“Prof. Ambrose Ali was governor of old Bendel state when we had bigger and much more ethnic nationalities like Benin, Ijaw, Itsekiri, Urhobo, Ika, 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 negotiation and what you can put on the table”.
However, one obstacle that appears to be a clog to the aspiration of governorship hopefuls from Edo Central senatorial district is the zoning arrangement of which some political analysts are of the view that such argument is not in the interest of the electorates.
An advocate of equity and justice, Ighodalo Uwadiae, a PDP member however argued that what the party needs in Edo state right now is to organize a free and fair primary for all aspirants.
“What the PDP needs now is not to make the mistake of 2003, 2012, 2016. In 2003, ANPP fielded Roland Owie against Lucky Igbinedion and Lucky won because he was popular. In 2012, PDP went for a majority tribe and picked Gen. Charles Airhiahvere and Oshiomhole from a minority tribe won because he was popular.
“In 2015, the argument came up that you need the majority tribe to win and unknown Obaseki won and in line with the argument the party fielded popular Ize-Iyamu but unfortunately, he lost to unknown Obaseki. So, when you draw this history, PDP must do the right thing and listen to the people.
“You don’t do the same thing over and over and expect a different 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 say 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 area that has not had the governorship for a long time.
Continuing, he added: “You see, the Benins are not tribalistic, they want a man who can put food on the table of 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 PD”.
A source who craved anonymity equally argued that the Esan and Binins are one in term of ancestral relationship, adding that it should not be the basis for any discrimination in terms of political offices.
He said: “If a Benin 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’s the same as well. Look at when an Esan man was the governor, the legacies were remarkable and visible even in Edo South”.
“It is also important to remind our people that the constitution of our party goes against discrimination. The governor of Edo can come from anywhere. What is important is if the person has the mental sagacity to lead the people. If you ask me, I think it is only fair in the spirit of justice and equity that the people of Edo Central should be given the opportunity and chance to fly the PDP flag come 2020 governorship election.