Posted by By Sufuyan Ojeifo and Umoru Henry on
The shape and texture of the battle for the soul of Edo State as typified by the plum governorship position are now emerging.
The shape and texture of the battle for the soul of Edo State as typified by the plum governorship position are now emerging. It is apparent that the troika of old political warhorses in the state, namely former military Governor of old Bendel State and one-time civilian Governor of Edo State, Dr. Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia, former Works and Housing Minister and incumbent Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Anthony Anenih and an influential leader of the party, Alhaji Inu Umoru are into some surefooted political synergy and syndication to produce Governor Lucky Nosakhare Igbinedion’s successor on the platform of the party in 2007. These political figures are the undisputed leaders of the senatorial zones in the state. Ogbemudia leads Edo South; Anenih leads Edo Central while Inu Umoru, the multi-billionaire businessman/politician, leads Edo North. They are the arrowheads and the political compasses that would define the flight route to the state House, at least, within the orbit of the PDP. Whoever gets their endorsement and solid backing has more than half of the job completed.
But that does not mean that the race would be easy if reports that have so far emanated from the state that the South Senatorial District is insisting on holding unto the governorship beyond 2007 are anything to go by. The South, through its representative, Governor Igbinedion, has occupied the position since 1999. However, recent developments have shown that the zone’s insistence has been by a few leaders and not an action that reflects the feelings of the generality of the people of the zone; otherwise Ogbemudia, who cannot be said to hate his Bini people, would not have differed with the group of leaders pushing for the perpetuation of the South in office perhaps, ad-ifinitum. The news is that Ogbemudia has spoken in favour of power shifting to either the Edo Central or Edo North. If for nothing, the declaration has fractured the spirit of the Bini agenda as it relates to the governorship. However, other positions could be captured on the platform of that agenda. If, however, these leaders want to desperately push through their plan, they could do that on the platform of another political party. But as far as the PDP is concerned, Ogbemudia has spoken and this tallies with the expectations of Anenih and Inu Umoru all of whom were at the November 2002 caucus meeting of the party in the state at which a decision was taken that Anenih should be supported in 2007 to produce the state governor from the Central Senatorial zone.
Instructive as this development is, it has been further bolstered by the announcement by Ogbemudia that Anenih has narrowed the choice of candidates from the Central zone for the governorship ticket to Solid Minerals Minister, Elder Odion Ugbesia and Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary and Legal Matters, Professor Oserhiemen Osunbor, both of whom are loyalists of Anenih. The duo representing the old Agbazillo division and the old Okpebho division (that make up the Ishan ethnic nationality) respectively will have to slug it out with each other. Who gets the ticket will be told by time. Indeed, events have been unfolding in quick succession in the camps of Ogbemudia, Anenih and Inu Umoru.
The camp has been dominated by political moves, which are combining to define the direction to 2007. Ogbemudia has not only said that the South should forget the governorship in 2007, he has also offered a significant peep into the usually guarded secrets in the mind of Anenih. At least, the bit by Ogbemudia on the aspirants to watch has ended the rash of speculations that he (Anenih) was grooming his son for the governorship position in 2007.
Not known to be flippant, Ogbemudia’s decision to let the cat out of the bag was strategic to the unfolding game plan. He made the disclosure when Osunbor signified his intention to run for the Edo State gubernatorial position. According to him, he (Anenih) would throw his weight "behind either these two (Ugbesia and Osunbor) who scales through the party primaries". This may be seen as very light for those who do not understand the political maneuvering in Edo State. Anenih’s political sagacity, strategic and tactical capacity can be appreciated against the backdrop of the two choices he has made.
He understands the scenario in the central zone like he understands the back of his hand. Although, there were suggestions from some quarters, that he may have favoured Ugbesia as the next governor of the state, yet he has carefully taken his position that his support for any of them will come at the end of the primaries. Analysts also contend that he may have decided to maintain this strategic balance between the old Agbazillo and old Okpebho divisions to accommodate the interest of the First Lady, Mrs. Stella Obasanjo who is from the old Okpebho division in the event that she shows more than a passing interest in her area producing the governor, even though the late Ambrose Alli, a former civilian Governor of the State, came from the old Okpebho division.
Now, considering the political weights of the duo of Anenih and Ogbemudia with both acting in concert, some political camps are bound to go into disarray, given the activation of the political terrain in the sate by Ogbemudia. Just like Anenih has spoken, Inu Umoru from Edo North is also expected to speak on the issue. But feelers are that Umoru is disposed to the caucus decision of November 2002. So, where do all these leave Edo South Senatorial District? It certainly will leave them without the Governorship position. However, through consensus, dialogue and resolutions that gave birth to the present Igbinedion led government, the zone could leverage for other important positions in the political arrangement and rearrangement in 2007. But is the zone ready for these? On May 21, the zone at a meeting, attended by the Enigie, high-ranking palace Chiefs, senior Clerics, top business men, market women, members of the academia and politicians, to review its participation in the politics of Edo state held in Benin, the State capital under the name, Benin Leaders Of Thought, a series of resolutions were reached in the effort to reposition the zone for another shot at the governorship in 2007, having produced a governor for two consecutive terms.
The Edo South senatorial district at the meeting resolved among others to resist any attempt by any person or group to disenfranchise Edo citizens in the general election; that it should be noted that Edo central and Edo Northern senatorial districts have produced sons who attained the position of Service of Chiefs, and the number Two man in the nation during the military era which Edo South has not attained.
Above all, the group resolved that all means, lawful and expedient, should be employed by Edo south to ensure the reversal, in accordancewith constitutional provisions, of the inequity whereby Edo south with its 58 percent population has minority representation in the House of Assembly 10seats out of 24]. That all Edo South sons and daughters, who aspire for any elective position in the state in 2007, including the gubernatorial position, should be encouraged to do so.
Analysts are of the view that the resolutions of the Benin meeting convened by Prince Edun Akenzua, the Enigie of Benin for the Benin people, have underscored clearly the political direction of the people of Edo South; they have put it point blank that other senatorial districts have produced number two citizens during the military era and what that means is that they should be given the opportunity to continue with the governance of the state, notwithstanding the inherent imbalance and deliberate relegation of other senatorial districts that make up the state.
The Benin meeting, which did not apply itself to the fact that political strategy can align, realign and meet minds to produce consensus, had gone further to state unequivocally that all means, any way lawful, must be employed to reverse the fact that Edo central and North have produced number two citizens during military regimes. Forces must necessarily enter into alignment, realignment, agreements and consensus, the kind that produced Igbinedion’s governorship in1999 and 2003.
But Chief Sunny Uyigue has reminded the Benin Prince and the gathering of how repeatedly sons and daughters of other senatorial districts particularly, Chief Anenih from Edo central helped Edo south senatorial district to produce the governor in the last twenty years. According to him, Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia, Chief John Odigie Oyegun and the incumbent, Chief Lucky Igbinedion benefited from this large-heartedness of Anenih. According to the Benin Chief, from Ovia Local Government (Igbinedion’s base), the South must identify with the concept of power shift in the interest of justice and fair play. He questioned the guarantee that the incumbent, their son, who has been there for the past six years and promoting the so-called Bini agenda as the South Senatorial candidate will perform the magic in 2007. According to him, "The districts, with the support of Anenih, throwing sentiments to the dustbin, rolled out all the political machineries, scattered his men all over the places along side his political bulldozers needed for any election to counter any obstacle and installed a man from the south.
It is only natural that the South should support other groups in fact there should be no dissenting voice from that quarter if equity must be exhibited in a state that belongs to all the senatorial districts and the south should know that one good turn deserves another, I think politics to my calculation is not hereditary and it will never be, so it is high time the Edo south realized same and pool resources with other districts especially with Anenih as it is time for the group to realise that power must shift from the district come 2007".
The contention of every Edo person in the political circle is that there is need for power shift if a peaceful transfer of power in 2007 must be guaranteed in the heartbeat of the nation. It is for this reason that someone like Ogbemudia, a Benin son, has come out openly to throw his weight behind power shift from the south as according to him "those seeking for the governorship in Edo South will soon find out that the constitution forbids any section to hold on to power more than Eight years". Ogbemudia said the people of Edo must go back to the beginning especially at that period of political alignments and realignment of forces before the emergence of the incumbent when the decision was taken by the leaders to recommend Chief Lucky Nosakhare Igbinedion to the electorate when the PDP, the party they belong took a decision that any senatorial district which has produced two governors, it does not matter if one person contested twice, such district cannot produce it next time.
Against the backdrop of what the elder statesman has said, and when juxtaposed with the November 2002 agreement of the Edo caucus, it appears that the coast is clear for the Central where Anenih comes to arrive at the governorship destination in 2007. With the backing of Ogbemudia (mobilizing Edo South), Inu Umoru (mobilizing Edo North) and both the Presidency and the National Leadership of the PDP, the governorship position would be swung from Edo South in 2007. But if reports of quiet on-going reconciliation between Anenih/Ogbemudia camp and Governor Igbinedion camp are anything to go by, will Igbinedion make a volte-face and support power shift and thus fulfill his promise to support Anenih to produce the Governor in 2007?
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