Gov poll: Edo Central agenda under threat as parties throw race open
Gov poll: Edo Central agenda under threat as parties throw race open
BY: Lucky Kenedy
With the major political parties throwing their tickets open, the Edo Central, which has been calling for the zoning of the governorship ticket to the area, faces a stiff battle.
WHEN political calculations and permutations were being done eight months ago in Edo State, no one would have thought that the Esan agenda which gained prominence and was aimed at producing the next governor of the state from the Edo Central senatorial zone, would suffer a setback.
The call to zone the ticket to the senatorial district by all the leading political parties gained ground as a socio-cultural group, Esan Okpa Initiative, led the way. The call was not out of place considering that the zone had only tasted power for 18 months since the Fourth Republic began in 1999 when Professor Oserhimen Osunbor was booted out by the court to pave the way for the emergence of Comrade Adam Oshiomhole in 2008.
The call won many admirers who felt that for equity, justice, and fairness, the zone should produce the next governor. With this, many politicians from the zone threw their hats in the ring with some aspirants moving to other parties to boost their chances of emerging candidates and eventually becoming the governor.
The Public Relations Officer of Esan Okpa Initiative, Tony Iyare, a former Commissioner under Oshiomhole, had told the Press eight months ago that the zone was speaking to Edo South and Edo North people to ensure that they support the Edo Central’s bid to produce the next governor of the state. According to Iyare, a mobilization and contact committee made up of 24 members and headed by the President of the group and pioneer speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly, Mathew Egbadon, was also set up to meet with leaders of the major political parties, the Peoples Democratic Party, All Progressives Congress, Labour Party, traditional rulers, and women to actualize this dream.
In a strong move to put the best hands forward, the zone listed criteria that the aspirants must meet to enjoy overwhelming support to succeed Governor Godwin Obaseki who will complete his second term in 2024.
Despite this lofty idea by the group, Gideon Ikhine, who is also from the zone had a different view and should be credited as the man who saw tomorrow. In an interview with The Press after he ended his 24 years sojourn in the PDP and moved to the APC, he warned that the idea might not see the light of the day as the right thing to do was to have an Edo State agenda to make Esan man the next governor of the state.
He said, “I take exception to the Esan agenda clamour. There can never be anything like Esan agenda. I would rather go with Edo State’s agenda to make an Esan man the next governor of the state. Esan man does not have the power to say he wants to be the governor. It is the entire party structure that will decide that.
“The Edo South and Edo North will have to come together to give Edo Central (Esan) the chance to produce the next governor. For the Esan, it should be more like an appeal and lobby for other parts of the state to support candidates from the central part of the state. It should not be seen as a birthright. We will lobby and I know Edo North and South will walk towards that direction,” he added.
However, with the major political parties throwing the tickets open, the issue has caused acrimony among groups while some individuals are blaming others as the hope of an Esan man becoming the next governor dims.
The position of the Edo South leaders that every zone has the constitutional right to vie for governorship, has drawn the ire of other groups. The decision, which was reached at a meeting last week, had two former governors of the state, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and Chief Lucky Igbinedion in attendance, while Governor Obaseki and the LP governorship aspirant, Olumide Akpata were also in attendance among other notable names.
After the meeting, Odigie-Oyegun told
journalists that aspirants from every senatorial zone have the constitutional right to vie for the position of governor in the state’s 2024 election. Odigie-Oyegun, who is also a former national leader of the APC said, “We are looking at the Edo State unfolding political equation and at the end of the day we ask ourselves, what is in it for Edo South? The zone has the current governor, Godwin Obaseki and we are not complaining. But that the zone cannot afford to live the governor’s tenure will end this year. We have the governor, who will conclude his tenure in November this year, but nobody lives in the past.
“Nobody goes to bed and says the present is good and therefore he will not care about the day that will break tomorrow. We can’t be that stupid. We are looking at the immediate future and what we are seeing is not very interesting. So we are looking at how we can make amends, to be sure that we are not left behind in the scheme of things.”
He added, “Edo is noted for considering every zone and that is why we are the heartbeat of Nigeria. We will continue to show good examples and we pray that other parts of the country will learn from it. But that does not mean that we will not be realistic and assert our positions and our expectations. Constitutionally the door is open for everybody to contest for the position of governor, neither I nor the governor can foreclose what will happen or decide on the interest of others. The issue of zoning is the problem of political parties and not ours,” said.
He also said that the zone had not been favoured in the appointment of a minister which is dominated by other senatorial zones.
In reaction to the position of the Edo South leaders, a group under the auspices of Akoko-Edo/Owan Credible Alliance For Better Representation declared support for the zoning of governorship tickets to Edo Central by all political parties in the interest of equity, fairness and social justice. The body believed that zoning the office would promote peace, unity and cohesion amongst the Bini, Esan and Afemai people.
Alluding to the above in a statement, the spokesman of the group, Comrade Rolland Igbadun faulted the Edo South leaders for backing the idea of throwing the ticket open to all zones. The group vowed to mobilize Edo North voters against any political party that fields Edo South candidates.
He said, “For fairness and social justice, Edo Central should have the ticket of all political parties in next year’s governorship election. They have been abandoned for too long and such practice won’t make room for developments. Chief Oyegun, Chief Lucky Igbinedion and other leaders who were at a meeting on Sunday should serve as role models to the younger generation instead of preaching politics of dominance.
“The peace and security we enjoy in the state should not be taken for granted. Edo people are not pushovers. They must not be allowed to succeed with their intentions of allowing power to remain in Edo South. Edo is for all. So, no one section or tribe should be allowed to hold on to power forever. It will only cause more crises for the state. That is what we don’t want. All parties must zone their tickets to Edo Central.
“Declaring that retiring the ticket to Edo South after Governor Godwin Obaseki’s two-term eight-year tenure will instigate bad blood amongst Edo citizens. This move will not sit well with Edo North voters because this might cause voters to rethink their loyalty and support to the leading parties. Let the right thing be done so that everyone will be seen being carried along,” Igbadun noted.
Also, a chieftain of the APC in Edo Central Senatorial, Major General Cecil Esekhaigbe (retd) said only unity of purpose and selflessness would enable the district to get the governorship ticket of his party and go ahead to win the election. The retired general and some other leaders in the zone recently attempted to prune the number of aspirants but the move generated a backlash from aspirants who lost out.
Esekhaigbe said other senatorial zones were ganging up against them by discarding zoning and harping on capacity and competence, which he said was an attempt to undermine them. He noted that despite his genuine intentions for his party and the people of Esanland, he had been called unpalatable names.
Referring to some of the aspirants who willingly participated in the screening and suddenly turned against him, he said, “Why will a man deny he was not invited for an exercise which he deliberately skipped? “Why will a man who knows his constitutional limitations of tenure continue to deceive himself? Is Esan looking for a one-term Governor?
“Can a man who is still on active service of a corporate organisation come and take precedence over the men who have kept the party for years? Some known political scammers have assured them of the Daman miracle.
“Some Esan political leaders are deliberately sowing seeds of discord to the advantage of the other senatorial districts. Some are even positioning for deputy governorship. Let us have a conversation today about our best for the job. Tomorrow may be too late. Those calling me names today would remember this day tomorrow. Take the message and forget the messenger. We need only one man for the job. Edo Central needs the APC ticket, and so do other parties in Esanland. I repeat with emphasis that all the aspirants cannot get the ticket. Only one aspirant will get the ticket,” he added.