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How Buhari’s victory changed tide of politics in Edo

By Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu, Benin City
13 May 2015   |   12:48 am
BUT for the victory of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the presidential election of March 28, which was won by Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), the race for who succeeds Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as the governor of Edo State, would not have been as hot as it is getting. The APC lost five out of…


BUT for the victory of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the presidential election of March 28, which was won by Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), the race for who succeeds Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as the governor of Edo State, would not have been as hot as it is getting.

The APC lost five out of the nine seats in the House of Representatives and two out of the Senate slots to the PDP, showing strength only in Edo North where it won all the National Assembly seats.

As the elections were going on and results started trickling in, there were huge preparations of victory by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which were however cut short with news of their loss of the Presidency.

Indeed a popular PDP leader who is believed to be romancing with the APC ahead of 2016 was already boasting that “we have dealt with them and Oshiomhole will be disgraced when we are finished with him” before the nationwide results were received.

The PDP had hoped to use the expected victory at the National Assembly and Presidential Election as a launch pad to take over the State House of Assembly banking on expected band wagon effect and thereafter, it was reliably gathered that an impeachment process against Oshiomhole would be the first major task of the new Assembly.

However, that was not to be as the APC victory in the presidential election changed the tide that eventually led to the party wining an overwhelming majority in the House of Assembly to the extent that it won for the first time, two out of the three seats in Edo Central Senatorial District where PDP big wigs like Chief Tony Anenih, Minister of Works, Mike Onolememen, Chief Tom Ikimi and several others hail from.

Since the APC victory, political activities suddenly changed and in less than one week, two bigwigs of the PDP joined the APC.

First was the PDP governorship candidate in 2012, Major-General Charles Airhiavbere (rtd) who contested Oshiomhole’s academic records and electoral victory even against his party’s decision not to go to court. He was publicly received and has accompanied the governor on a “Thank you” parade around Benin City.

This was followed few days later with former governor of the state Professor Oserhiemen Osunbor publicly joining the APC in his Iruekpen hometown. The Guardian gathered that more prominent leaders of the PDP were to follow if not for the APC’s public declaration that not everybody would be welcomed into the new government.

With the expected movement of more PDP bigwigs to the APC, the race for who succeeds Oshiomhole when he finishes his final term next year, has gathered momentum and all the interested persons, particularly from his party, have in the last few weeks been re-adjusting their strategies on how to win the heart of the governor.

It was gathered that a former PDP governorship aspirant, Ken Imansuagbon popularly called Riceman because of his yearly distribution of bags of rice to members of the public, may soon go and register in his Ward in Edo Central as a member of the APC. He has never hidden his intention of occupying Osadebey Avenue (Edo State Government House)

From all indication, the APC would cede the ticket to Edo South (Binis) obviously because of the numerical advantage and the support Oshiomhole got from the area during his first term and his re-election in 2012.

As at the time of this report, The Guardian gathered that Oshiomhole’s deputy, Pius Odubu, his former Chief of Staff and Current Commissioner for Works, Osarodion Ogie, former Minister of State for works, Dr Chris Ogiemwonyi and new entrants, Airhiavbere and Osunbor are strongly believed to be interested succeeding Oshiomhole.

Analyst believe that if Oshiomhole had thought that the exit of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu who is believed to have had an over-bearing presence in the system and also interested in the race to the PDP gave him a sigh of relief, the coming of Airhiavbere and probably Osunbor may have created a new challenge on who gets the APC ticket having increased the number of aspirants.

However, if permutations are anything to go by, Odubu, Ogie and Ogiemwonyi all have higher chances than the new entrants.

Odubu for instance is believed to be one of the most loyal Deputy-Governors in the country. There is no recorded disagreement between him and Oshiomhole since they came to power on November 12, 2008 and he has never been known to complain either privately or public since they came to power.

He is also believed to have the backing of the Crown Prince of Benin Kingdom, Ambassador Eheneden Erediauwa who has publicly stated in different fora that Oshiomhole would have to reward his loyal deputy with the ticket.

Odubu is said to have friends across political divides in the state and beyond having been a member of the House of Representatives for eight years and all these are believed could work for him when the time comes.

The governor’s first dilemma would be choosing between his Deputy and his former Chief of Staff, Ogie, who started as Secretary, Oshiomhole Campaign Organisation ahead of the 2007 governorship election and then became the Chief of Staff and now a Commissioner.

It is believed that he, with support staff from Oshiomhole’s secretariat, guarded the legal team with detailed documents and evidences that led to the famous “Chat O” that separated valid and invalid votes as exhibits, part of which the election tribunal relied on to give Oshiomhole victory in 2008.

He is seen as another loyal aide who is highly respected in many parts of Benin City where he has carved a niche for himself and beyond where people see him as the governor’s eye.

There is the factor of Ogiemwonyi, who has suddenly warmed himself into the hearts of the governor and some party faithful.

He is a technocrat who like Oshiomhole, would not blink an eye for a cause he believes in.  He has been very visible in APC activities since he joined the party last year.

However, observers believe that two factors would play a major role in who becomes Oshiomhole’s successor; the interest of the palace of the Oba of Benin and that of the governor’s mother, Hajia Aishetu Oshiomhole.

If not for the support the governor got from the palace, his urban renewal plans would have been frustrated as experienced in the “frustration” he got from the then PDP dominated House of Assembly in 2009 when the state’s budget was not passed.

It took the intervention of the Benin monarch, Oba Erediauwa who personally wrote to the Assembly that members should support the urban renewal plans of the governor for the project to succeed.

It is believed that Oshiomhole has never forgotten that support because that paved way for his programmes in the state. The Oba even volunteered to shift the centuries old palace walls if that would bring the much-needed development to the city.

With this and other several supports, Osiomhole got from the monarch, it would be difficult to wish away the interest of the palace on who succeeds him.

The governor is believed to have cut his radicalism from his mother who became his role model after his father’s death.

And with the role she has played, it will be difficult for the governor not to also be influenced by his mother’s preference and even if the governor would go against her wish, it would a herculean task doing that.

Observers and analysts are watching to see where the pendulum would swing at the end of the day.