Monday, 4th December 2023

Edo 2024: Gladiators plot as jostle for governorship gets intense

By Michael Egbejule, Benin City
09 July 2023   |   4:05 am
Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, Senator Adams Oshiomhole; former governor, Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor; Deputy Governor Philip Shaibu; former minister, Prince Clem Agba; Kenneth Imasuagbon, former Edo Deputy Governorship Candidate, John Yakubu, and ex-Minister of Works, Mr. Mike Onolememen. These are some of the gladiators who are already caught in the web of intrigues and politicking for Edo State’s number one seat.

Obaseki. Photo/facebook/godwinobasekiofficial

• Oshiomhole, Obaseki Rivalry Reignited
• Osunbor, Shaibu, Agba, Imasuagbon In Battle Of Heavyweights
• Politicians Seeking Alternative Platforms Flood Labour Party
• Labour Party’ll Humble Obaseki, Oshiomhole In 2024 -Imasuagbon

Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, Senator Adams Oshiomhole; former governor, Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor; Deputy Governor Philip Shaibu; former minister, Prince Clem Agba; Kenneth Imasuagbon, former Edo Deputy Governorship Candidate, John Yakubu, and ex-Minister of Works, Mr. Mike Onolememen. These are some of the gladiators who are already caught in the web of intrigues and politicking for Edo State’s number one seat.

The Edo 2024 governorship election is one of the nation’s off-cycle elections. With the election just a little over a year away, the jostle for Governor Obaseki’s replacement is not just gathering steam, the intrigues that are unfolding suggests that the election would hold residents spell-bound till the end.

No doubt, there have been political scheming with major political aspirants across party divides taking their game to the next level to court the electorate and seek support for a successful outing.

While the issue of which senatorial district in the state should produce the next governor would be at the heart of the discussions, the likely re-enactment of the rivalry between Obaseki and Oshiomhole in the battle for the soul of the state and in determining who becomes the governor this time around, promises to be more captivating.

Obaseki, who succeeded Adams Oshiomhole, is running the last lap of his second term and is expected to hand over next year November. And speculations are rife that Governor Obaseki has plans to support a candidate from Edo Central Senatorial district to succeed him in office.

But with the former national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Oshiomhole, who is now a Senator, the battle would be keenly fought. APC, which lost the state to the PDP in the previous election almost four years ago, has remained undaunted in its bid to reclaim the state and indeed, the governorship.

As such, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and other political parties in the state have remained on the edge. The first signs of what APC has up its sleeve was seen when the party won most seats during the just concluded Edo State House of Assembly elections.

The disaffection between Oshiomhole and Obaseki is no news as the duo have declared each other arch enemies following the supremacy battle that has raged over the past seven years. However, the duo remain brides aspirants would have to court as the battle for the governorship ticket intensifies.
How Obaseki, Oshiomhole’s Influence Might Affect Election Outcome

Oshiomhole. Photo/facebook/officialapcng

OSHIOMHOLE has reasonable control of the votes of Edo North Senatorial District, being his stronghold in the state. Indeed, he squarely took charge of Edo North having delivered it to the APC, to the disappointment of the PDP, led by its leaders and the state deputy governor, Philip Shaibu.

Also not to be taken for granted is Oshiomhole’s huge support base as well as followers across the three senatorial zones, which apparently is a clear indication that the battle ahead will be fierce.

Obaseki, on the other hand, has his friends cut across the south and a few friends from the central district. This is evident, going by the results polled by the governor’s party, the PDP during the state House of Assembly elections, in which the PDP swept majority of the seats in Edo South and Edo Central Senatorial districts.

However, Oshiomhole’s resurgence as senator representing Edo North has been of grave concern for the PDP, just as the renewed romance of the Deputy Governor, Shaibu with the former APC chairman’s camp, has been sending jitters down the spine of the PDP. In fact, Shaibu’s presence in some APC gatherings in recent time, has left many talking about his new friendship and what is to come ahead of the 2024 governorship election in the state.

The Guardian gathered that the immediate past Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Agba from Edo North and Prof. Oserhiemen Osunbor, a former governor of the state, who is from Edo Central, may both be favoured to clinch the APC governorship ticket.

But some observers were quick to note that if APC settles for Prince Agba and the PDP gives its governorship ticket to Edo Central Senatorial district, which has not produced the state governor in well over 14 years, it may put APC at a disadvantage. Such move, the observers further argued, may also cost the APC some support within the party rank.

Again, with Osunbor , whose pedigree as a professor of law speaks volumes, in the race, he is undoubtedly an asset for the APC. Osunbor will win the heart of the Edo South and Edo North people who will support his ambition of returning to Government House in 2024.

Oserheimen Osunbor

With a possible star-studded field, the concerns for political actors in the state as regards the permutations of the APC, is that should the party fail to give the rightful person its ticket, it may spell doom for it in the elections.

FOR PDP aspirants, Governor Obaseki would remain key in deciding who emerges the candidate of the party. This is based on the fact that he had since emerged the leader of the party in the state, since surmounting the crisis that engulfed it shortly after he dumped the APC for the PDP. With Obaseki now fully in control of the PDP in Edo, he would have the privilege of anointing a successor.

However, the top echelon of the party, particularly the anti-Obaseki faction, otherwise known as the legacy PDP, may be a clog in the wheel of the governor’s plans as events unfold. In addition to this, analysts have said that the governor’s camp will have to tread carefully, considering the weight the APC now pulls at the federal level and the massive support the Labour Party enjoys from the electorate.

However, concerns by stakeholders are that if the PDP fails to put their house in order by coming together ahead of the 2024 gubernatorial election, particularly in working towards resolving the issue of the old PDP (Legacy Group) and the new PDP in the state, the situation would leave aspirants with no option but for political activities to shift to the Labour Party.

In another development, while commenting on the defection of some politicians from the PDP to other political parties, Edo state PDP Chairman, Tony Aziegbemi said the members who defected were persons lacking integrity, and further described them as “perpetual decampees.”

Aziegbemi urged aspirants wanting to take over from the incumbent to slow down in their consultations for support, saying the electioneering is not anytime soon.

He further appealed to PDP aspirants for the governorship position to slow down their consultation, as the party is yet to release timeline for activities for the governorship election for 2024.

Warning political leaders that are fanning the embers of discord in the state to desist from such reprehensible acts, the Edo PDP Chairman said that nobody in the party could hold the PDP to ransom in the state.

Labour Party Waxing Strong
Meanwhile, the Labour Party in Edo has continued to wax strong, particularly following the influx of politicians seeking alternative platforms to ply their trade and profession.

It was gathered that the Labour Party membership is open to all, and as such politicians prefer to join the party, which obviously has become a place of refuge, giving solace to all. At the moment, the party is said to be without rancor, internal wrangling and political dictations by godfathers.

The exodus of aspirants to the LP has pitted many of the governorship aspirants against each other in the build-up to the race. The implication is that the contest for the LP governorship ticket would be also be keen.

Imperative Of Zoning
Stakeholders are divided on the rationale and need for zoning of the governorship to Edo Central, popularly known as ‘Esan people.’ They contend that the governorship should be thrown open to all, regardless of the gentleman agreement that the three senatorial districts of the state should rotate the governorship position.

The Esan people from Edo Central are, however, consulting widely, and anxiously waiting for power to return to the zone since the other two senatorial districts, comprising Edo South and North district, have had their share of eight years of two tenures. Edo North had its two terms with Governor Adams Oshiomhole as governor from 2008-2016, and Governor Godwin Obaseki would be finishing next year, having occupied the place of Edo South for two terms of eight years.

The daunting task before the Edo Central District is that of how to make the multitude of aspirants manage their aspirations so as not to jeopardise the chance of the district as a whole.

Deputy Governor Philip Shaibu

Some stakeholders pushing the Esan Agenda, which is interpreted to mean, “the turn of the Esan people for governorship” want a unified Esanland where all aspirants would work together to back a strong and qualified personality from the zone for governorship.

As it stands, Esanland seems to be crucial in the political calculations for 2024 as the region, comprising five local councils, teams up with other senatorial districts to determine where the pendulum would swing for the governorship seat.

The leading aspirants pushing from the Edo Central have started reaching out to other zones to support the next governor as the battle for the plumb job intensifies. Among the leading aspirants from Edo Central Senatorial is Prof. Osunbor, who was elected in April 2007 and sacked by the court on November 11, 2008, to pave the way for the emergence of Adams Oshiomhole. Osunbor hails from Iruekpen in Edo Central and was governor in 2007 for 18 months.

Other top contenders from Edo Central to watch out for include John Yakubu, who was a former Edo deputy governorship candidate on the platform of the PDP and former Chairman of Esan North East Local Council. Yakubu is a staunch political figure from the district.

Other kinsmen of Yakubu also jostling for the governorship are Kenneth Imasuagbon popularly called “Riceman.” According to Imasuagbon, his struggle to become governor started 20 years ago.

Imasuagbon who recently dumped the PDP for the Labour Party is, however, optimistic of victory, saying the strongmen of Edo politics, including Governor Obaseki of the PDP and Adams Oshiomhole of APC will no longer have a field day as the LP will not only humble the duo, but take over the state.

Imasuagbon said: “All that I need is a free and fair primary election. With that, I will get the ticket of the party. By the time I get the ticket, it is over for the PDP and the APC. PDP is dead. I have taken the glory away. By 2024, the Labour Party will form a government in Edo State.”

“My eyes are now opened and I have decided to take my case to God almighty and to Edo people. I don’t want to put my case in the hands of the godfathers anymore. I am tired of the oppression of the godfathers, tired of the pain and deception; I want to now take my faith and destiny into God’s hand and the good people of Edo state. With God and Edo people, my 2024 is sure.’

The Guardian also gathered that some other aspirants from Edo Central nursing the ambition of contesting the governorship include the Edo State APC Chairman, Col. David Imuse (rtd); ex-Minister of Works, Arch. Mike Onolememen, former Commissioner for Minerals, Oil and Gas in Edo, Dr. Joseph Ikpe; real estate magnate, Dr. Dorry Okojie, who boast of bringing into play his vast experience as an entrepreneur in the private sector with the aim of using it to drive investment opportunities to bring about wealth and job creation.

Endorsements For Edo Central’s Bid
MEANWHILE, various political support groups in the state have endorsed the Esan Agenda. The socio-political groups have insisted that there is no going back on the demand for Esanland to produce the next Governor of the state in 2024.

Among the groups is Esan Okpa Initiative. According to its Public Relations Officer, Tony Iyare, “In the bid to put forward the best hands for the forthcoming governorship election, the zone has listed criteria that aspirants must meet to enjoy overwhelming support. This is to ensure that only viable and capable aspirants, who will equally elicit the support of the northern and southern Senatorial zones of the state, will be endorsed for the number one seat of Edo State as Governor Godwin Obaseki’s eight-year term winds down in November 2024.”

Another group that corroborated the same position for a governor of Esan extraction was the Esan New Era (ENE). The leaders of Esan New Era (ENE) had also told The Guardian, that the group would be committed in the struggle and advanced reasons why the major political parties in Edo State should zone the 2024 governorship to Edo Central district.

Its leaders, who include General Secretary, Esan New Era (ENE), Pastor Christopher Onoye, and Executive Organising Secretary, Valentine Uduebor, called on the state governor, Mr. Obaseki to back the call as part of efforts to ensure equity, fairness and justice for peaceful co-existence in the state.

The ENE said the move for an Esan governor would foster sanity in the polity as well as enhance the overall development of the state.

“It is in light of these that we are appealing to major political parties in Edo to zone their 2024 governorship tickets to Edo Central. We have people with integrity, intellect and capacity to move our state forward as governor.”

In furtherance of the Esan Agenda, Esan traditional rulers and leaders of Esan Okpa Initiative (EOI) have also begun, in earnest, to garner support for one of their own. The Esan leaders took their campaign for an Esan person to be Governor to the Benin monarch, Oba Ewuare II, just as the Edo North traditional leaders are backing the state deputy governor, Philip Shaibu to take over in 2024.

While the Esan traditional rulers and leaders believe it is their turn, and want a balance of power rotation, their Edo North counterpart insist they have what it takes to outsmart their neighbours from Edo Central .

Speaking on behalf of a delegation from Edo Central, led by the Onojie of Uromi, Anselm Edenojie II, the President, Esan Okpa Initiative (EOI), Mathew Egbadon, who is a pioneer Speaker, Edo State House of Assembly, said the quest for a governor of Esan extraction is hinged on justice, equity and fairness, arguing that since the advent of Edo State in 1991, an Esan son, Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor, was governor for only 18 months.

He said: “We know this is a matter primarily within the purview of politicians and political parties. We have started engaging them across the political divide in the state on the need for Esan to produce the next governor. This will be in the interest of equity, fairness and justice, which Edo people are known for.

“To dispel deliberate misinformation being bandied by some mischievous people, we want to state that there is no ethnic sectarianism to this yearning.”

Apparently dismissing the position of the Esan leaders for the governorship election to go their way, some traditional rulers in Edo North also went on their own expedition and recently adopted the state’s Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu, ahead of the 2024 governorship election in the state.

The Edo North traditional rulers, who came together at the palace of the Ogieneni of Uzairue, Alhaji Kadiri Imhonikhe, Omogbai IV, pledged their unwavering support for Comrade Shaibu, when their counterparts from Edo Central Senatorial District, led by the Onogie of Uromi, HRH Anslem Aidonojie, visited them to seek their support in producing the next governor of the state.