Friday, 13 July 2012

Edo D-Day: Oshiomhole battles PDP Goliaths

Today, seven candidates are contesting the Dennis Osadebay Government House seat as the electorate go to the polls in Edo State.

The seven candidates eyeing the coveted seat are Adams Oshiomhole of the Action Congress of Nigeria; Maj.-Gen.  Charles Airhiavbere (retd.) of the Peoples Democratic Party; Solomon Edebiri (All Nigeria Peoples Party); Izevbuwa Roland (Congress for Progressive Change); Andrew Igwemoh (Labour Party); Mr. Paul Orumwense (National Conscience Party);  and Frank Onaiv (Social Democratic Mega Party).

However, all eyes will be on three candidates: Oshiomhole, Airhiavbere and Edebiri because of their antecedents.

But practically, the race is between the incumbent governor and the PDP candidate. However, there is a man, whose name is not on the ballot paper, but has a lot at stake as far as the election is concerned.

To a former Chairman, PDP Board of Trustees, Chief Tony Anenih, the result of the poll will determine his political future. Although he is not a candidate, his heart beat will be very fast today.

Anenih: Struggling for political survival

The Uromi-born politician is not a stranger to Nigerian politics. He is not a man to quiver because of elections as he is a veteran, who has seen many polls in the country.

His sojourn into the Edo State politics started in 1981, when he was the state Chairman of the National Party of Nigeria. In 1983, he was instrumental to the victory of Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia, who defeated the Unity Party of Nigeria’s candidate, Prof. Ambrose Alli.

In 1993, the retired police officer was the National Chairman of the Social Democratic Party. He was hovering around the late Chief Moshood Abiola, who won the 1993 presidential poll that was annulled by former military dictator, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida.

Since the country’s return to democracy in 1999, Anenih has been in the limelight. The Esan chief was said to have masterminded former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s declaration for a second term in 2002 at the International Conference Centre, Abuja. He even served as deputy National Coordinator of  Obasanjo’s Campaign Organisation during the 1999 and 2003 elections.

Because of his penchant for delivering assignments that others consider unachievable in the PDP, Anenih was nicknamed, Mr. Fix It.

But since Oshiomhole’s advent into Edo politics, the ex-BOT chairman has been swallowing bitter pills of defeat. Four years ago, the governor he installed in Edo State, Prof. Oserhiemen Osunbor, was thrown out of the Government House by a court verdict. In the 2011 elections, his party lost many national and state assembly seats in Edo.

For today’s poll, Anenih has been very meticulous in his planning and he has deployed everything in his arsenal to ensure victory for PDP.

He was said to have single-handedly fished out Airhiavbere, who has just left the Army. Despite the bashings he and his party have been receiving, as well as the endorsements the governor has got, Anenih has remained confident. “As long as you mobilise and vote PDP, we will win. I am sure that come July 14, PDP will rule Edo,” he had boasted at a campaign. When Edo people queue to vote today, one thing will be at the back of Anenih’s mind: His political survival.

Airhiavbere:  Banking on godfathers’ backing

No doubt, Charles Airhiavbere is a good product and the PDP has been selling him to the Edo electorate.

The 57-year-old retired general served in the Nigeria Army for 35 years.

He was said to be the architect of electronic pay system (e-NAPS), which transformed the budgeting process in the Nigeria Army.

The permutation of the PDP and Anenih is that Airhiavbere, being a Benin man, will be able to win votes in Edo South (Benin), which controls the majority of votes in the state.

What analysts also consider as a plus for the PDP candidate is peace that has been restored to the party. Before the governorship race started, Anenih and a PDP chief and former governor of the old Bendel State, Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia, had been working at cross purposes.

But President Goodluck Jonathan has been able to settle the rift between the men, who are now struggling for the success of the PDP in the state.

Besides Anenih and Ogbemudia, many bigwigs in the PDP, including a multi-millionaire, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion; his son and former governor, Lucky, and Ugbesia, are supporting Airhiavbere.

All of them are political giants. So, Oshiomhole is not battling Airhiavbere today. The incumbent also has the retired general’s godfathers to contend with.

Oshiomhole: Counting on people’s power

As the PDP chiefs perfect their plans to win back Edo State, their major headache remains Oshiomhole. Their strategy on ethnic configuration seems to have hit the dead end.

If their plan succeeds, the Bini would vote against the governor. But the party members need no seer to tell them that the strategy will not work.

The most powerful traditional ruler in the state, Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba  Erediauwa, has not hidden his preference for the ex-labour leader.

He has publicly endorsed him. Also, a prominent chief and Esogban of Benin Kingdom, David Edebiri, has proclaimed Oshiomhole as the candidate of the Bini.

Traditional chiefs of Esan, where Mr. ‘Fix It’ comes from, have also declared their support for the governor. There have been torrents of endorsements for the candidature of the ex-labour leader.

Those who are backing the governor include an-ex governor of Edo State, Chief John Oyegun,  labour leaders, and Osunbor, who was displaced by Oshiomhole from the Government House four years ago.

“If we have a governor, who is developing the state, why should we complain? The reason I am in politics is to touch the people,” the PDP governorship candidate in the 2007 poll was reported to have said.

Oshiomhole has wormed himself into the hearts of Edo people with achievements. These achievements have been his most sellable points.

If the support he has got and achievements are anything to go by, Oshiomhole should be able to clinch his second term today.

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