With less than two weeks to parties’ primaries to elect candidates for the September, 2024 Governorship Poll in Edo State, Adibe Emenyonu looks at the game plan around those eyeing the number one seat in the Hearbeat of the Nation among the three main parties vis the Peoples Democratic Party, All Progressives Congress and Labour Party.
In a short while, the primaries by political parties to choose candidates for the September 21, 2024 governorship election in Edo State would be conducted. Already, the aspirants and their supporters appear tensed up possibly due to the unpredictability of the outcome of the primaries.
Prominent among the parties that have thrown up aspirants for the gubernatorial race are the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the All Progressives Congress (APC), and the Labour Party (LP) and some other less popular parties.
On the platform of the PDP, notable names like OmosedeIgbinedion, AsueIghodalo, the state deputy governor, Mr. Philip Shaibu; OsaroOnaiwu, Anselm Ojezua, Felix Akhabue, Prof. Martin Ihomoibhi, OmoregieOgbeide-Ihama, Arthur Esene and UmoruHadizat are there to watch.
For the APC, the much criticized screening has been a blessing in disguise as it has reduced the number of aspirants from 30 who previously indicated interest to contest to 10 as at the last count.
The aspirants are Prof. OserhiemenOsunbor, Pastor OsagieIze-Iyamu, General Charles Airhiavbere (rtd), Mr. Lucky Imasuen, Dr. Ernest Umakhighe, Dr. David Imuse, Dennis Idahosa, Senator Monday Okpebholo, Prince Clem Agba, Gideon Ikhine and AnameroDekeri.
From the Labour Party angle, the contest for now has been reduced to four aspirants based on those who have bought the nomination form and include Kenneth Imansuangbon, OlumideAkpata, Dr. Angela AsonAburimen, and Sunny EremoseleEboh. The other 14 aspirants perhaps are still waiting for responses from the party’s National Working Committee over possible reduction in the amount requested for sale of interest and nomination forms for them.
Against this backdrop, arrangements are in top gear by the various parties to conduct their primaries. While the PDP has fixed the primary election for February 22, APC will have theirs on the 17th of February, and LP may likely conduct theirs within the same period.
Peoples Democratic Party
Except the ongoing reconciliation within the party is genuine and concrete, the sharp division within the party would be detrimental to who will emerge as candidate.
First is Governor Godwin Obaseki-led faction with AsueIghodalo as the preferred aspirant. Second is the Dan Orbih faction projecting Ogbeide-Ihama as its preferred aspirant. There is also the third arm, propelled by the deputy governor, and lastly, the non alligned; that is those who are neither affiliated to Orbih, Obaseki or Shaibu but have suddenly now formed a bloc simply because they all perceive a common adversary.
It was gathered that Sunday night before the Abuja screening, these aspirants with the exclusion of AsueIghodalo met to request for the disqualification a particular hopeful before the Monday screening.
At the meeting, the aspirants involved agreed that anyone among them that was favoured to fly the party flag will be supported by others. They were also said to have vehemently rejected Shaibu as, according to an insider at the meeting, it is neither the turn of Edo South not Edo North, but Edo Central.
During the screening, the panel’s Chairman and Governor of Plateau State, Caleb Mutfwang, while addressing aspirants in Abuja, reassured all aspirants that the party will ensure fairness for all contestants and emphasized the PDP’s commitment to winning the governorship poll.
Mutfwang who advised the governorship aspirants to have in mind that only one of them would ultimately become the opposition party’s candidate said: “I want to assure you that we will give all the support we can to ensure that PDP retains Edo State. Ultimately it is only one person that will emerge. If we believe that it is God that gives power, then it is not today neither is it on the election day that God is going to determine who will govern. He has already determined”.
Should the proposed reconciliation among the warring factions fail, it means the 10 that have picked nomination forms will go for the primary election. They include the state deputy governor, Mr. Philip Shaibu; former Chairman of Sterling Bank, AsueIghodalo; two-time member, representing Oredo federal constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon OmoregieOgbeide-Ihama; former Chairman of Esan West LGC, Felix Akhabue; former State Chairman of APC, Anselm Ojezua, former member representing Ovia federal constituency, OmosedeIgbinedion; Arthur Esene; a former diplomat, Prof Martin Uhomoibh; HadizatUmoru and OsaroOnaiwu.
However, nothing is cast in stone as some of the aspirants can possibly collapse their ambition before the day of primaries in support of a particular governorship hopeful depending on the offer proposed. The signs that this may happen are already there if the outcome of the party ward congresses is anything to go by. From the results so far, Obaseki’s preferred aspirant may have the upper hand on the day of primaries.
All Progressives Congress
In spite of the agitation by those who feel it’s their birth-right and entitlement to contest governorship primaries and possibly emerging as candidates of the party, even after they have tried severally, little or nothing would come out from their protests as the party heirachy at the national level is alleged to have made up its mind on those to contest the party primary. “It will be nothing short of those already pencilled down”, a party source told THISDAY in confidence.
THISDAY further gathered that the Prof. Julius Ihonvbere-led committee which initially prune down the crowd of 30 aspirants to four was a blessing in disguise and a smokescreen of what is expected at the end of the day.
It was also learnt that even those who were unsuccessful in that exercise were retained to give the upcoming primaries a semblance of free and fair contest as the party candidate is already known.
Be that as it may, should the leaders see reasons to bend their already perceived rules, everyone would go to the field to test their popularity, it means all the 11 aspirants of the party who had already purchased nomination forms will all contest.
They are Senator OserhiemenOsunbor; two-time governorship candidate of PDP and APC, Pastor OsagieIze-Iyamu; a former candidate of the PDP, General Charles Airhiavbere (rtd); former deputy governor of Edo State, Mr. Lucky Imasuen; retired Permanent Secretary, Dr. Ernest Umakhighe; immediate past Chairman of Edo APC, Dr. David Imuse; House of Representatives member, representing Ovia federal constituency, Mr. Dennis Idahosa; Senator representing Edo Central district at the National Assembly, Monday Okpebholo; immediate past Minister of Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Agba; former Chairman, Obaseki/Shaibu Campaign Organisation, Gideon Ikhine; and member representing Etsako federal constituency, AnameroDekeri.
“This too is a crowd capable of causing another intra-party squabble”, the source further noted, adding that it is only the party national leadership that has the right to choose those who should contest and those who should stay back.
According to him, “Even in a football team of 22 players, it is only 11 players that are allowed to be on the field of play. It does not mean that others are rejected but have to wait for their turn.”
The party is at a crossroad and yet to decide whether to zone the governorship or not, especially with the coming into the race by the immediate past President of the Nigeria Bar Association, OlumideAkpata with a big bang. It is said that the party is in a fix as to what to do after eaten the irresistible pie served by Akpata when he joined the party. With the ongoing building of a state party secretariat along Airport road, Benin, and the donation of Sienna Space Bus to each of the 18 local government party headquarters, including members of the SWC, the party is finding it difficult to sing a different song to disfavourAkpata.
As it stands presently, the governorship aspirants to look out for are Kenneth Imansuangbon, OlumideAkpata, Dr Angela Aburimen and EremoseleEboh based on their acceptability among party leaders and members.
Though the party had earlier ruled out zoning, it was however, gathered that the national chairman, Julius Abure, was scheming to ensure the candidate comes from the central district of the state just as Obaseki canvassed similar sentiment for the PDP.
Presently, with Akpata in the wings, such earlier arrangement may no longer be feasible as he is rated one of the strongest contestants. But should the party hierachy negotiate its way and convince members from the two other senatorial districts (Edo South and Edo North) to support the emergence of Edo Central candidate, it is expected that Imansuangbon will be the leading aspirant, followed by Aburimen, and Eboh.