The Edo state governorship election slated for 2016 is going to be direct fight between the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party. However, with the victory of the APC in the 2015 polls and the massive defections that have hit the PDP in Edo, the battle is now being fought with the governing party. ISESELE EZEKIEL in Benin reports

With barely a year to the governorship election in Edo State, the fierce battle for the Edo state seat of power otherwise known as Osadebey Avenue, has already polarized the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress, APC, along interest groups. Understandably, the APC in the state was able to win majority of the state House of Assembly seats in the just concluded general elections which makes the party the preferred platform for aspirants who want to succeed Comrade Governor Adams Oshiomhole.

Also very glaring is the alignment and re-alignment of famous politicians and party big wigs who where hitherto in the other side of political divide, and their supporters engaging in what could be regarded as political re-alignment under the APC platform.

But for the effects of the emergence of Muhammadu Buhari as the President-elect, the state governor, Comrade Oshiomhole probably should have by now counting his days in government house. This is because the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, would have got overwhelming majority at the April 11 governorship /state Houses of Assembly elections in their desperate quest to impeach the governor.

For Governor Oshiomhole of the APC and the leadership of the PDP, the 2015 general election was a non zero-sum outcome; the winner did not take it all.

The PDP did not only delivered the entire state for President Goodluck Jonathan, they equally won two of the three senatorial seats, secured five House of Representative seats, leaving the other three for APC in a state where the governor had earlier vowed that the President would not score 10 percent votes.

But for Oshiomhole, his consolation was not only that this was the first time an incumbent president would defeated, but that the March 28th general election marked the final defeat of godfatherism in the state.

‘’For me, the real import of this is that never again will anybody in this state look at any one and say who are you, because you don’t have a godfather. To now imagine that when we liquidated the godfathers in this state and somehow Abuja put them on life support in Abuja, they were still able to harass us and even intimidate us and even threatened us though they were not on ground but that life support was switched off on March 28th .‘’

For Chief Dan Orbih, the state PDP Chairman, the remarkable outcome recorded by the party in the election was a looming indication of the disaster that awaits Oshiomhole come 2016 . ‘’For me, I believe that Edo people have spoken very loudly too. They have come out to express their disappointment in the double taxation policy of this government and their readiness to ensure PDP takes over Osadebey Avenue come 2016.”

Although the leadership of the APC had since zoned the governor seat to Edo South Senatorial district, political analysts are yet to deduce from the body language of the governor who succeeds him. They are however of the opinion that only Oshiomhle and him alone can determine the next governor from the array of aspirants scrambling for the seat.

Meanwhile, a social critic has however cautioned against imposition of a Benin candidate on the people who is not republican, and rooted in Benin customary and political orientation. He warned that such attempt would not only be rejected but that the Benins would be forced to explore other political platforms for a more popular person, a development which he said almost cost APC the 2015 March 28th and April 11th elections.

Those who want Adams Oshiomhole’s job

Osarodion Ojie
He is a co-founder of the famous Grace Group, led by Pastor Ize Iyamu which later metamorphosed into Action Congress in the state, a platform which was equally used to confront the then Chief Tony Anenih’s dreaded political machine.

Also, a former Chief of Staff to Oshiomhole and now commissioner for works is otherwise known as the secret engine room of Oshiomhole. He hails from Ikpoba Okhae local government area.

The people may likely be reluctant to rally round him not only do they doubt his actual roots, but fear that he is a die-hard loyalist to a cabal that stereotype the interest of the Benins.

Also that his being subservient to the outgoing governor Oshiomhole, might undermine and sacrifice the Benins aspiration at the altar of political exigency, both at the state and national levels in terms of juicy political appointments and who gets what, when and how.

They equally fear that although he has a humble appearance, but beneath it lays the fear of his loyalty to anti-Benin cabal and has a penchant for rewarding thugs, mediocrity and also yet to make any significant impart in the ministry of works as commissioner. Observers argued that of all the candidates aspiring to be governor, his voice is the least to be heard, while he is also not popular like others.

Chris Ogiewonyi
A technocrat, Engineer Ogiewonyi retired meritoriously from the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation [NNPC] where he rose to the top cadre of management, as Group Managing Director. He was accorded a warm reception by his people and the Oba of Benin at retirement and was given traditional beads. Consequently, he joined the PDP to play active politics, and was later appointed minister of state for works. He eventually dumped the party PDP for the APC. Ogiewonyi hails from Orhionmwon local government area, Edo South senatorial district.
He however got a negative reception in a well televised courtesy call to the palace of the Oba of Benin over his lackluster handling of the Benin-Ore road as the minister of works.
He was also accused of undermining the Benins in terms of employment as the head of NAPIMS, a subsidiary of the NNPC before he became the GMD.

Dr Pius Odubu
He is the Deputy Governor to Governor Oshiomhole and hails from Orhionmwon local government area. He represented Orhionmwom/Unhunmwode federal constituency between 1999- 2007. A co-founder of the Action Congress in the state, he is humility personified. He has not only been a loyal, dedicated Deputy to the Comrade Governor, he has no record of insubordination or disagreement with his principal in co-piloting the affairs of the state in the last seven years, unlike what is obtainable in some states.

The people have unlimited access to him and he easily identified with them. Odubu in his passion and commitment to the development of the state and his local government in particular, has attracted a number of road projects, pipe borne water, electrification projects and the construction of the Ogan/ Ugo/Orhomikhe /Urghonigbe 57 kilometer stretch of road.

His major rival and political foe, Pastor Ize Iyamu Osagie, now a PDP chieftain, prior to the ACN primaries in 2011 was vehemently opposed to Odubu as running mate to the Comrade Governor for fear that he [Odubu] may assume such enormous influence and power when allowed for a second term as Deputy Governor.

Again, the Deputy Governor recently demonstrated his unwavering political influence when he delivered the APC federal House of Representatives candidate, Orhionmwon/Unhunmwode constituency including the two House of Assembly candidates from his local government for his party in the March 28th and April 11th 2015 elections.

Despite the fact that his critics have always alluded to his poor representation of his constituency throughout the eight years at the National Assembly as his greatest undoing, the state Deputy Governor still remains the most preferred, acceptable and popular aspirant at the moment for the state’s coveted seat.

His acceptability cuts across the three senatorial districts in the state, including in the famous and most respected Oba palace. The heir apparent to the Benin Monarch, the Edaiken of Uselu had consistently impressed it in the mind of the governor at nearly every fora why he should opt for Odubu in 2016.

Kenneth Imansuagbon
His greatest undoing is his inconsistency coupled with the fact that the APC has zoned the governorship seat to Edo South. He hails from minority ethnic group [Edo Central Senatorial District]. Imansuagbon was a founding member of the Action Congress in the state but left for the PDP and thereafter made a U-turn and returned to the APC soon after President Jonathan’s defeat.

Famously known as the ‘’Rice Man’’ Imansuagbon, a two time PDP governorship aspirant has since indicated interest to contest for the gubernatorial ticket of the APC come 2016. But the head of a camel would eventually pass through the eye of a needle for him to be able to convinced the Benins, Edo South senatorial district and woo the Edo North to concede the governorship seat to an Esan man [Edo Central] on the basis of fairness and equity.

He claimed to have left PDP since December 2014, when he foresaw a national revolution [change] coming and gave the reason why he shunned the President Jonathan campaign rally held at Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin City as well as worked against the PDP during the governorship/House of Assembly elections by deploying his personal resources to deliver his unit.

‘’It is the people that will zone the governorship by voting. The APC delegates are the ones that will decide who will fly the flag and God. The Benins are wonderful people. I’m first a Benin; I m an Ishan man. The Benins have had their turn, the Afeima’s are having their turn and by the Grace of God I know that the Benins and Afeima’s are our big brothers and that they will do what is fair and what is equitable to the system come 2016.’’

He equally has a historical penchant for deploying coercive means, and using armed thugs for recovering monies from party delegates whom he perceives did not vote in his favour.

Oserheimen Osunbor
Also from the Ishan ethic group with a total voting population of about 29 percent, although he has not indicated interest to join the governorship race, he was one of the pioneer defectors to the APC soon after Jonathan’s defeat.

He was a former governor and senator for Edo Central senatorial district between 1999 and 2007. Osunbor recorded indelible achievements in terms of rehabilitation and construction of roads, loans to civil servants, rehabilitation of schools across the three senatorial districts all within the eight months of his administration.

He was sent packing from Osadebey Avenue by an Appeal Court Judgment which invalidated his election as governor in November 2008, but he fell out of the good book of PDP Board of Trustees Chairman, Chief Tony Anehih when he decided to run a parallel party secretariat in his desperate quest to destroy and dismantled the political structure that brought him to power.

Architect Mike Onolememen
Onolememen is the current Minister for Works and hails from Chief Tony Anehih’s Senatorial District (Edo Central). There are indications that the PDP may settled for him as the governorship flag bearer of the party come 2016.

Should he eventually emerge as PDP standard bearer, political watchers opined that the party would not only search for a popular candidate as running mate from Edo South, which harbours more than 50 percent of the entire voting population in the state, but would also need to go the extra mile to split the Edo North votes, the ancestral home of the Governor Oshiomhole.

Although the fortunes of the PDP have continued to dwindle in the state following the mass exodus of party stalwarts and their supporters aftermath of Buhari’s victory, the party would require a miracle to make any significant impart in the governorship election come 2016.
As minister of works, he was instrumental to the reconstruction of the Benin/Ofosun/Ore dual carriage way and the ongoing reconstruction of the Benin/Okene/Abuja road dualization by the federal government.