Sam Egburonu, Associate Editor and ‘Dare Odufowokan, Assistant Editor, report on the first set of aspirants for the governorship tickets of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ahead of next year’s elections in Edo State
AS Edo indigenes prepare for Christmas and New Year festivities, two major issues that would top the agenda in community and association meetings in the state are the candidates that would fly the governorship flags of the leading political parties in next year’s elections and who would eventually become the next governor of the South-south state.
In the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the two major political parties in the state, the issue of who would pick the governorship ticket has already become a hot contest.
TENSION OVER APC TICKET
As the ruling political party, analysts said the aspirant that clinches the governorship ticket of All Progressives Congress (APC) will eventually be the candidate to beat in the forthcoming governorship election in Edo State. Already, the incumbent Chief Executive of the state, Governor Godwin Obaseki, has declared interest for the party’s ticket in his bid for re-election. However, because of the current face-off between his loyalists and the loyalists of the APC National Chairman, former governor Adams Oshiomhole, analysts say the battle for the party’s ticket may be rather tricky.
For now, insiders have said some top chieftains in the party are making discreet arrangements to realise their ambition of contesting the 2020 governorship election on the ticket of APC.
Some of the political leaders currently identified as nursing this ambition include:
Since October, 2019, when Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, finally announced his intention to contest for reelection on the ticket of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), keen observers have expressed increased interest on what would be the final outcome of the race for APC’s governorship ticket in Edo.
Though as the sitting governor, many expected him to seek for reelection, his declaration of interest attracted special interest mainly because of the intrigues playing out in the state chapter of the party and his choice of words while making the declaration. He had said: “I have said it clearly and I told my cabinet members that the second term for me is non-negotiable. I am demanding it because I deserve it and I think I have earned it. We need to have it so we can continue what we are doing today. I want to assure you that this is a fight in which we will prevail. We will fight and succeed. If anybody thinks I will back out, he must be daydreaming because it is not my fight; it is a fight for the right purpose. I am not going to back off because I know victory is sure.”
A.nalysts said his diction is a confirmation of the fear that the party’s governorship ticket may not be as automatic as many would have thought. But as the governor said, it has become certain that he is poised to fight for the ticket.
One aspirant who has not hidden his interest to contest for APC’s governorship ticket is Maj-General Charles Arhiavbere (rtd). As a well-known chieftain and former governorship aspirant in the 2016 Edo gubernatorial election under the platform of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Arhiavbere is considered by his supporters as a serious aspirant.
He is evidently not a new comer in the politics of Edo State outside the APC as he had also contested the state governorship election as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2012 when he contested against former governor Adams Oshiomhole.
Given his long experience, observers said he is one of the aspirants to watch out for. But his ambition suffered some set back recently when the retired Army General was controversially suspended from the APC by some leaders and members of his ward in Oredo Ward 1. At that point, observers wondered if he would move over to another party to realise his ambition.
But in his defiant reaction, he said: “I will continue to run for governor of Edo State, until I get to Government House. No amount of intimidation will make me shy away from contesting the governorship election for 2020. Many friends and the APC have asked me to go for Senate position, but I think that will take me far away from my soil,” Airhiavbere said.
If he maintains this firm stance, he will be one of the powerful aspirants expected to contest with Governor Obaseke for the party’s governorship ticket.
Another top politician currently being identified as a likely powerful contender for APC governorship ticket is Pastor Ize-Iyamu, a pastor with The Redeemed Christian Church of God.
Until his defection from PDP to APC on November 21, Ize-Iyamu, the governorship candidate of PDP in 2016, was considered as a likely aspirant for PDP’s ticket, where his political career blossomed as he served both as Chief of Staff and Secretary of the State Government as a PDP chieftain.
But since his dramatic return to APC, a party he reportedly featured prominently as a foundation member both at the national level and in Edo State, some observers have alleged that he returned to the party to pursue his governorship ambition.
His political career in Edo State has been quite intriguing.
When he became PDP’s governorship candidate ahead of the 2016 General Election in Edo State, his critics said it was Chief Tony Anenih and Chief Dan Orbih, the late National Leader of PDP and Edo State PDP Chairman respectively then, that forced him on the party.
Such criticisms notwithstanding, Ize-Iyamu has certainly emerged a popular and entrenched politician in Edo State politics today. His interest to govern the South-south state is also not in doubt.
What is still in doubt is if he would actually come out to contest for the APC ticket in this election.
When he returned to APC, some insiders expressed fear that he may join one of the two factions of APC currently in a battle of wits over control of the party in the state. His open declaration that did not return to join any faction but to contribute his portion is instructive of his tact and political maturity.
If he finally declares interest for APC ticket, Ize-Iyamu will be another strong aspirant to watch.
RACE FOR EDO PDP TICKET
In the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), governorship aspirants started their mobilisation ahead of next year’s poll very early. We gathered that by July this year, about 10 aspirants have been linked to PDP platform.
They included well-known names like Mike Onolememen, a former Minister for Works, Kenneth Imasuangbon, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, Gideon Ikhine and Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama.
According to one of the leading aspirants on the platform of the PDP, contrary to speculations in some quarters, the opposition party is united, stronger and better focused on the coming election more than ever before. “In as much as we would have loved everyone to stay in the party, we must accept the fact that moving from one party to another is one phenomenon we will continue to deal with in our democracy until we begin to practice politics with ideology,” the source said adding, “Those who left our great party last week may have their reasons, but for us in the party, it means nothing, because the party is not perturbed, we remain resolute and committed to our desire to rescue Edo State from the hands of the two gangs that have held the stage hostage, struggling for the soul of the state and tearing it apart. We have met and resolved to set our eyes on the ball. Everyone in the party within and around the state should ensure that we come together, work harder and vote out APC next year,” he said.
Given the current activities of the major aspirants within the party, observers said the party is poised to take advantage of the seemingly unending crisis in Edo All Progressives Congress (APC). Steve Idewor, a PDP supporter in Benin told The Nation during the week that many aspirants will soon unveil their interests to vie for the governorship ticket on PDP platform. He said “this surge can be attributed to what is happening in the ruling APC. Many of us believe it is possible for PDP to win Edo now, not only because the party remains strong here but also because everybody knows the current crisis in APC is bound to weaken it,” he said.
Even before the expected new entrants into the race, some of the best known aspirants today include:
Some observers of the politics of the state described Ken Imasuangbon, not just party’s ticket, is one of the most prepared for the political battle ahead. “Apart from being the most experienced and better structured among the rest aspirants seeking the PDP ticket, Ken, popularly called ‘the rice man’ is a grassroots politician who is well loved by the people across the state,” our source, a state official of the PDP, said.
Imasuangbon began his quest to govern Edo in 2007 under the defunct AC. He stepped down for Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and later joined the PDP in 2008. His entrance to the PDP revived the party but he lost the party’s governorship primaries to General Charles Airhiavbere in 2012.
He joined the APC where he contested for the governorship primaries in 2016 and he lost to Godwin Obaseki. He later returned to the PDP to support the presidential ambition of his bosom friend, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State.
Speaking recently on his guber ambition, Imansuangbon, declared that he is the only PDP aspirant who can take the APC out of the Government House in 2020.
“I have made my mark in Edo State political terrain; I have structure all over the 18 local government areas of state, and my antecedents and track records are there to speak for me. So, I have the confident that I will have the ticket of my party PDP. Edo people are tired of the deceptive government in the state. Now that Oshiomhole and the incumbent Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, are at daggers draw, it is an open opportunity for us in the PDP to consolidate our plans and put all machineries in place so that we can achieve total victory in next year’s governorship election.”
Another aspirant is Gideon Ikhine. He was a trusted aide to the late Chief Tony Anenih. A highly respected PDP chieftain from Esanland, like Anenih, he has been with the party since inception and has worked with many notable party leaders across the country.
He is also reputed to maintain good relationship with eminent PDP leaders like former Vice President Abubakar Atiku and Governor Nyesom Wike. Observers say these contacts may work in his favour during the race for the ticket.
A graduate of Engineering from the University of Benin, Benin City, Ikhine is a businessman with interest in the oil and gas sector.
A source described him as a strong financier of the party especially in his Central Senatorial District. He is one of the aspirants from the zone challenging the current zoning arrangement, which is alleged to favour the Southern Senatorial Zone.
Though considered a new entrant into the governorship contest in the state, the member representing Oredo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, according to party sources, threw his hat in the ring early enough to make up for his newness.
“He has been consulting for a long time on the governorship project and we are very sure he will give it a shot. The responses are good according to those close to him and he is already putting some structures in place,” a source claimed.
Born on April 16th, 1974 to the family of late (Sir) Godfrey Ogbeide-Ihama and late (Mrs.) Foluke Ogbeide-Ihama, he holds a Bachelor degree in Civil Engineering bagging a Second Class Honours (Upper Division) in 1999 and is the brain behind Foluke Global Resources Ltd, a company named after his dear mum Foluke, with operations covering civil works, supply and installation of solar equipment.
His supporters are optimistic that he will translate his acceptance in Oredo into state-wide machinery that will win him the ticket and the election.
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