SIMON EBEGBULEM, Benin City
Edo Central senatorial district of Edo state has been known since 1999 as the strong hold of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The situation has been like that due to the presence of the former Chairman Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Tony Anenih.
The Esans as they are called, have five Local Government Councils and their voting style in the area is always regimental and that was why it has been difficult for the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) to penetrate the area during previous elections, even when they have the likes of the former Foreign Affairs Minister and national leader of the ACN, Chief Tom Ikimi, Frank Erewele,Prince Tony Omoaghe, Bright Omokhodion and others from that area.
In the April 2011 general election, Edo Central district was the only district where the PDP won four House of Assembly seats. As a matter of fact, the then Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Mr Bright Omokhodion lost his seat as the member representing Esan West constituency in the state House of Assembly after he was defeated by the PDP candidate.
In that same election, the ACN lost the senatorial seat after the PDP candidate Senator Odion Magnus Ugbesia defeated the ACN candidate Herbettar Okonofua.
Though, the ACN attributed the failure to the internal rancour that followed the primaries of the party and not because they were not on ground in the area;but observers of the politics of the state since 1999 know that the Iyasele (Chief Anenih) of Esan Land has a special way of capturing the votes of his people even when he lost elections in Edo South and North senatorial districts.
Gov Oshiomhole and Chief Anenih... But it will be recalled that following the abysmal failure of the ACN in the 2010 general elections, Governor Adams Oshiomhole decided to review his political strategy in Esanland when he sacked some serving Commissioners and some Special Advisers from the area over their failure to defeat Chief Anenih in his domain.
After he reviewed the results of the election in the state, Oshiomhole vowed to capture Esan Land from Chief Anenih and possibly restrict him to his ward come July 14, governorship election in the state. Fortunately for him, the February 25, 2012 governorship primary of the PDP, which two Esan sons, Prof.Oserhiemen Osunbor and Barr. Imasuangbon participated, gave him the leeway to raid Chief Anenih’s enclave ahead the governorship election. Both Osunbor and Imasuangbon condemned the PDP primary which was won by the former Commander of the Army Finance Corps, Gen.Charles Airhiavbere.
They accused Chief Anenih and the state leadership of the party of skewing the primary in favour of Gen.Airhiavbere who is from Edo South. Shortly after the duo rejected the result, Oshiomhole personally drove to the GRA residence of Imasuangbon, who is from Ewohinmi, where the governor’s late wife Clara hailed from.
The Governor reminded Imasuangbon how close they were when the latter was in the then Action Congress (AC) with him and urged him to work with him ahead the election so as to demystify the god father who ensured that “you did not win the primaries”. As if that was not enough, the Governor stormed the Iruekpen country home of the former governor of the state, Prof Osunbor Thursday March 8, 2012, to solicit his support ahead of the July 14, 2012 governorship election in the state.
After a close door meeting between Oshiomhole and the former Governor, Osunbor described the maiden visit of the governor and his entourage to his home as historic and symbolic, asserting that “if we have a governor who is developing the state, why should we complain”. According to him, “the reason I am in politics is to touch the people. My interest is service to the people and our people love you because that is what you are doing.
The governor has given me the opportunity by assuring me that those projects which I could not complete while I was in office will be completed. I am aware that you have said so many good things about me and I recall a publication in the Vanguard newspaper where you were quoted as saying that Osunbor is a good man but he is in the company of criminals. Our people love you as you can see them coming to welcome you.
We have a good relationship but politics has kept us at a distance. But I know that we have no personal differences. I hope that this relationship will be sustained and nurtured as from now on and may God give you the wisdom to complete all the projects you have started”.
Responding, Oshiomhole who was given a warm reception, said he was in Iruekpen to inspect the water project executed by the state government in the area. “Politics aside, you are a complete gentleman. I have always insisted that we are both united with a share commitment that this state must be developed.”
And few days after the visit, Saturday March 10, 2012 to be precise, Oshiomhole was given a rousing reception by Iruekpen people who are also in-law to former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
On that occasion, over two thousand loyalists of the former Governor, led by Monday Abulu decamped to the ACN. Their anger was that the leadership of the PDP humiliated their son Osunbor by ensuring that he came last with 22 votes during the primary. Therefore, they vowed to pay the PDP back in their own coin come July 14, governorship election.
The situation is a great threat to the PDP, because Iruekpen which use to be a PDP stronghold like other parts of Esanland, has eight thousand voters.
Abulu who addressed the crowd, declared that the entire people of Iruekpen cutting across all eleven quarters of the town have decided to join forces with Comrade Adams Oshiomhole to continue the developmental projects which Prof Osunbor started.
“We were formerly in the PDP where our votes were used to win elections for the party. But since they decided to pay us back with shame by manipulating the party primaries against our son, Prof Osunbor, to deprive him from going back to Government House, we have decided to join forces with Comrade Oshiomhole who also has good plans for our people.
The people of Iruekpen have said no to the PDP, and as long as Comrade Oshiomhole promises to continue what Prof Osunbor was doing for the state, we will support him. On his party, Oshiomhole told the mammoth crowd that the days of making promises and not keeping them were over, noting that even while Iruekpen people were still in the PDP, the ACN administration gave them water.“I have directed that a transformer should be provided for the water project to enable water to continue to run everyday and we will do another borehole. The Central Primary School has been built and now that you have joined us, we are now going to operate with double silencer and rebuild the secondary school”.
But as if to counter the Governor’s successful visit, the PDP stormed Iruekpen, Ekpoma and Irrua the next day and informed their supporters that the ACN government was a deceit. The state chairman of the party, Chief Dan Orbih and their governorship candidate Airhiavbere said the ACN government has marginalized the Esans since its inception and urged them to disregard what they described as ‘the carrot being dangled by Oshiomhole”.
But having resolved to snatch Esan land from the grip of the PDP, Oshiomhole and his entourage stormed, Irrua and Uromi, home soil of Chief Anenih and boasted that what he has achieved for Esan people is more than what Chief Anenih and his PDP has done for them and therefore urged them to join him to move the state forward. The Governor received over three thousand decampees from the PDP into the ACN.
According to him, “never again will the state have a governor who will say the state is too poor to construct roads, build schools and hospitals.” Comrade Oshiomhole pointed out that the present administration in the state has distinguished itself through developmental projects spread across the State, adding that the ACN has come to change the “face” of politics in Edo State for the better, and urged the people of Esan land, particularly the youths to resist those who have been oppressing them.
While assuring the inhabitants of Uromi that in no distance time, scarcity of pipe-borne water will be a thing of the past, Comrade Oshiomhole stated that all on-going projects in the areas of roads, schools, health and water in Esan land including Irrua and Uromi will be completed.
Leader of the decampees at Irrua, Chief John Obazele (ward 9) and Chief Lawrence Usman (ward4) who spoke on behalf of the decampees at Uromi, said they decided to join ACN in appreciation of what the Comrade Governor has done for the people of Esan land. They eulogized Comrade Oshiomhole for his developmental projects in Esan land and called on well-meaning sons and daughters of the area to vote for the performing Governor to enable him do more for them.
Oshiomhole made it clear to the ACN leaders that his battle to capture Esanland in the forthcoming guber election was not a joke when he summoned them to a meeting last Monday at his Government House residence and urged the party leaders from that district to inform the House why Chief Anenih has persistently floored them in the area during elections.
Saturday Vanguard was informed that the leaders who spoke attributed the 2011 election failure in the area to the failure by the leaders of the party to give the senatorial ticket to Theo Oko who is more popular in the area than Herbettar Okonofua who picked the ticket but had since gone back to the PDP shortly after she lost the general election.
It was learnt that ACN leaders worked against her during the general election and that cost the party the senatorial seat. The Governor was said to have appealed to them to forget the mistakes of the past and work hard ahead the forthcoming governorship election, as he had resolved to inflict defeat on Chief Anenih in his Uromi polling booth.
However, the PDP is not sleeping as Saturday Vanguard was reliably informed that the PDP governorship aspirant will cash in on his root in the palace to capture the hearts of the Binis where he hails from. Oshiomhole is enjoying tremendous support from the Binis where Oba of Benin has persistently endorsed his second term bid. And to break Oshiomhole’s monopoly in the South, the PDP candidate intends to use the influence of his late father, who was the Ezama of Benin kingdom, to win the hearts of his fellow Bini people.
Though Oshiomhole is enjoying the support of majority of the traditional rulers in the South but if Airhiavbere takes his father’s title which is expected, that may threaten the current support being enjoyed by Oshiomhole among the Chiefs. But the major focus in the forthcoming election, will be Esanland.
Will the rampaging Oshiomhole be able to confine Chief Anenih to his polling booth as he earlier boasted or will Anenih reinvent his Machiavellian political tactics to keep his Esanland intact and send his diminishing forces to Edo North and South to rattle Oshiomhole? The next few months will be more interesting particularly in this battle for the soul of Esanland which has been tagged by the forces of Oshiomhole as the “end of the god father”.Vanguard Nigeria