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Undercurrents of Edo guber race

•Bini, Esan renew warfare •As odds favour dep gov
By Fred Itua

EDO state was created on August 27, 1991 by former military president, Ibrahim Babangida. It was created from the old Bendel state. The state is unique for a number of good reasons. Though there are at least 14 different indigenous lan­guages spoken by different ethnic groups, they however share almost the same culture. Accord­ing to 1991 national census, the population of the state is 2,159,848. But 2005 estimate puts it at 3,497,502. In 2014 however, the population of the state was put at 5 million. It is bounded in the north and east by Kogi state, in the south by Delta state and in the west by Ondo state.
There are three major ethnic groups in the state, namely, Bini (Benin), Esan (Ishan) and the Afemai. There are other small ethnic groups like the Yorubas, Ebiras, Ijaws, among others. But they are in the extreme minority. The Bini speaking people who occupy seven out of the 18 Local Government Areas of the state constitute the largest ethnic group, while Esan is next, with five local governments under its control. Afemai compirising of Etsako, Owan and Akoko Edo make up the other percentage of the state’s popu­lation. It has six local governments.
However, the Ebira speaking communities exist in Akoko Edo as well as Urhobos, Izons, Itsekiris communities in Ovia North East and South West Local Government Areas especially in the borderlands. Also, Ika speaking communi­ties exist in Igbanke in Orhionmwon LGA.
In Edo state, politics is a game of number and incidentally, the Binis which make up Edo South Senatorial District controls about half of the state’s voting population. This naturally gives the senatorial district an electoral advantage over others. This has also led to speculations that the other two senatorial districts are being margin­alized, especially folks from Edo Central flank.
For instance, since the creation of the state in 1991, the Binis have dominated the political space, followed by the Afemais. The current national chairman of the governing All Pro­gressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie Oyegun was elected the first civilian governor of the state in 1991. He defeated another candi­date from the same senatorial district and former governor of the state, Chief Lucky Igbinedion. Oyegun’s administration was cut short by the then military government.
Until 1999, military sole administrators pre­sided over the affairs of the state. Again, when it was time to return to the polls, the Binis, rely­ing on their numerical strength, got their own, Chief Igbinedion elected as governor of the state on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He was reelected in 2003. In 2007, going by an informal party arrangement, power was ceded to Edo Central Senatorial District (Esan) by the PDP. Under very controversial circum­stances, Professor Oserhiemen Osunbor from Iruekpen, Esan West Local Government Area, was declared winner by Professor Maurice Iwu-led Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
His victory was contested in court by Mr. Ad­ams Oshiomhole of the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), who was popularly believed to have won the election. Oshiomhole hails from Edo North Senatorial District (Afemai) of the state. Allegedly being backed by the powerful family of the Igbinedions, the Court of Appeal sacked Osunbor in November 2008, after almost one year and six months in office.
By November, 2016, Oshiomhole, having spent eight years in office, is expected to hand over power to a successor. And going by INEC’s calendar, elections might hold in July or August this year in Edo state. Already, political forces are aligning and it seen as a contest between the Binis and the Esans. But the present day political reality has naturally conceded the coveted num­ber one seat in the state to Edo South. But folks from Edo Central are not willing to give up. They are hinging their argument on the fact that nobody from the ethnic group has served out his or term as governor of the state since its creation.
The governing APC and the opposition PDP are not leaving anything to chance. While the APC, apparently relying on support from the central government, having lost a sizeable ‘amount’ of its goodwill in the state, the PDP on the other hand wants to field a candidate that has a natural appeal and is capable of securing support from voters in the three senatorial districts of the state.
There might not be an open declaration, but the two leading political parties in the race have secretly ceded power to the Binis. It wil therefore be suicidal for any serious political party to do otherwise. In the PDP, there appears to be one aspirant, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. He hails from Edo South Senatorial District and served as Secretary to State Government during Lucky Igbinedi­on’s administration. He also played a key role in the first election that brought Oshiomhole to office and again worked for his reelection.
He is seen as a major headache to the APC, hence they are not ready to leave anything to chance. Another aspirant who is not so serious hails from Edo Central Senatorial District. He is Architect Mike Onolememen. He served and Minister in former president Goodluck Jonathan’s administration and believed to have the financial muscle to slug it out with the eventual APC candidate. But his Senatorial District is seen as a major disadvantage.
Speaking on plans to unseat the APC-led government in the state, chairman of the state chapter of PDP, Chief Dan Obih said: “Edo people now know that they (APC) are los­ing the battle and we do not want to reveal our strategies. I can boldly say that 80 per cent of what we need to do on ou r side to bring back PDP into power in Edo State has been
completed and the days of the deceptive APC government in Edo State are numbered.
“The state government has made our job simpler with the repres­sive and dehumanising policies it has inflicted on the people of Edo State and we are prepared to face them. We are conscious of the fact that the state government has plunged Edo people into huge debt they have been guarding in secrecy and workers have never had it this bad in the state. We have seen that the Oshiomhole administration has lost focus.”
In the APC camp, there appears to a brewing cri­sis over plans by Governor Oshiomhole to endorse the candidacy of one of the aspirants, Dr. Godwin Obaseki. One of the aggrieved aspirants, Mr. Blessing Agbomhere who is seeking to fly the flag of the APC in the governorship election, said it was a mistake for Governor Oshiomhole to support Dr. Obaseki. wAgbomhere who spoke at a maiden town hall meeting with youths in the state recently, where he un­veiled his blueprint for developing the state, said Oshiomhole was “only testing the wa­ters” with the alleged support for Obaseki, adding that the people of state and not an individual, would decide who emerged the next governor and not an individual.
He said: “Governor Oshiomhole is an in­dividual. He can decide to support whomev­er he chooses. Remember in politics, there is deceit. A time will come when people will analyze the history, successes and failures of these aspirants. Obaseki is the biggest mis­take Oshiomhole can make in Edo State.
“Oshiomhole is only testing the waters. He is not supporting Obaseki and he will not support Obaseki. Obaseki does not have the quality and qualifications to govern Edo State. Dangote cannot produce the gover­nor of Edo State. As the chairman of Edo Economic team, Obaseki was given the re­sources and the finances to bring investment to Edo State. He said he worked for Dangote and brought him to Edo State. They were given land and spent billions on it only to abandon it to the detriment of Edo people.”
APC, unlike the PDP, parades some of the finest aspirants. Former governor of the state, Profes­sor Osunbor who hails from Edo Central is one of the frontrunners. Former president of Trade Congress of Nigeria (TUC), Mr. Peter Esele is an aspirant and hails from the Central flank. Mr. Kenneth Imasuagbon, popularly called ‘Rice Man’ is another well-known and serial contestant who recently defected to the APC from the PDP. He is popular and is believed to equally have the capacity to rival PDP’s standard bearer.
From Edo South Senatorial District comes two leading aspirants, the deputy governor of the state, Mr. Pius Odubu and the Oshiomhole’s favourite scribe, Dr. Obaseki. The odds may favour Obaseki, but the political bigwigs from the senatorial district are throw­ing their weight behind Odubu who many believe has remained loyal to the governor since their historic as­cension to power.
A group in Benin City, Edo state, N’Edoghe, has joined other political leaders, urging the deputy gover­nor, Odubu, to declare his intention. According to the group, the political experience and record of Odubu in the political history of the state places him on a higher pedestal above other aspirants that have, so far, indi­cated interest in succeeding the governor.
Coordinator of the group, Mr. Agene Patrick, said Odubu is a loyal chieftain of the APC who possesses the requisite criteria to run for the office of the gover­nor in the state, adding that they were throwing their weights behind him, if he declares his intention to run for the people to tap into his wealthy of expertise.
“It has come to the point where Odubu must declare his intention now to Edo people because his political history and antecedent in the state is one to reckon with. We are convinced and believe that the job of who will pilot the affairs of the state at this point in time requires that of a man who has been tested. We have looked around and found out that Dr Odubu has the competence, exposure, education, wisdom, energy and experience which are needed to pilot the affairs of the state at this crucial time,” the coordinator said.
If the permutations come into fruition and Edo South secures the governorship tickets for both the PDP and APC, Edo Central may again be compensat­ed with the deputy governorship slot. For now, all we can do is to sit back and enjoy the political interplay,