After several months of painstaken campaigns by the different political parties, the die is cast as the people of Edo will today through the ballot box decide who their governor will be. Gabriel Enogholase writes that one factor that cannot be ignored is that of ethnic politics which has become a corner stone in Edo politics.
BARRING last minute hitches, Edo people go to the poll today to elect the governor of their choice who will pilot the affairs of the state for another four years. The race to the Chief Denis Osadebe Avenue, seat of the Edo state Government House is expected to be a three-horse affair.
The candidates for the election are the incumbent governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (A C N) , the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candiate, Major – General Charles Airhiavbere (rtd) and the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Chief Solomon Edebiri.
However, with the withdrawal of the candidate of the CPC, Mr. Roland Izevbuwa from the race, six political parties will contest the election for the most coveted seat in the state.
Judging from events in the state since the famous Court of Appeal judgment which restored Comrade Adams Oshiomhole’s mandate coupled with his performance in office and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) seeing itself as a party merely on leave from absence from the Government House, which it had occupied for over 10 years, a titanic battle is certainly underway as pundits see it as a straight battle between Oshiomhole and the PDP candidate, Gen. Charles Airhiavbere.
It is the believe of some observers of political events in Edo state that since the creation of the defunct Mid-West and Bendel state and now Edo state, no governor has been able to make any meaningful impact in the governance of the state than the incumbent governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, except the era of Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia, a retired Brigadier – General and Prof. Ambrose Alli of blessed memory during the Second Republic. .
Therefore, there is no doubt that the non-performance of the PDP government during its ten years at the helm of affairs in the state and the performance of the Oshiomhole in his three and half years in office has become the campaign issue ahead of today’s election.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party believes that the Comrade Governor’s performance could at best be described as cosmetic and a scratch on the surface and had accused him of financial recklessness and inflicting pains on the people of the state through the imposition of levies and taxation and the destruction of their houses.
Comrade Oshiomhole on the other hand, has continued to thumb up his chest like the proverbial lizard who praises himself after falling from an iroko tree. He has continued to tell the citizens of the state and the world at large that he met Edo state in a sorry state when he took over in 2008 and has since turned the fortunes of the state around.
He has cited the construction of roads across the state, hospitals and health centres, construction and renovation of schools, water, and employment of over 11,000 youths under its Youth Employment Scheme (YES), transportation and human capacity buildings as some of his greatest achievements in office.
Against this backdrop, who carries the day in today’s election? Will the pendulum swing once again in Oshiomhole’s favour or the PDP candidate, Gen. Charles Airhiavbere or will the dark horse in the race, Chief Solomon Edebiri of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) spring a surprise?
However, going into memory lane, the first acid test between the opposition PDP and the incumbent governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole in the Akoko-Edo state constituency 1 re-run election in which the A C N defeated the PDP to increase its strength in the State House of Assembly.
This was followed by various court verdicts which diminished the solid majority of the PDP with 16 memberships until both parties were put at par with 12 members each until the defection of Hon, Bright Omokhodion of the PDP to the A C N. This happened in 2010.
During the 2011 general elections in the state, the A C N won overwhelmingly in the State House of Assembly garnering 19 of the 24 seats. The party also won two of the senate seats and seven of the Federal House of Representatives seats allocated to the state.
In that election, A C N won overwhelmingly in Edo North and Edo South Senatorial zones while the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won five of the State House of Assembly seats, the Senatorial seat and the two House of Representatives seats, obviously due to the towering influence of the Iyasele of Esanland and former Chairman, Board of Trustees of the PDP.
The lost of the Edo Central Senatorial zone cost Esanland the position of the Speaker of the State House of Assembly now occupied by Mr. Uyi Igbe who comes from zone with the Deputy Governor, Dr. Pius Odubu, Edo South.
One of thing to expect in today’s election is the role of ethnicity in the contest. Vanguard investigation showed that the politics of ethnicity has been let loose, as some tribal demagogues believe that the Bini, with their numerical strength in population and land mass should produce the next governor of the state.
Their claim is that while the PDP years of Chief Lucky should be forgotten as the new PDP will re-produce the magic of Dr. Sam Ogbemudia (Bini) and Prof. Ambrose Alli (Esan) during the Second Republic.
They also recalled that despite the acclaimed performance of Prof. Alli. He was defeated by Dr. Ogbemudia of the NPN in 1983 Governorship election. While both the Chief Priest to the Benin Monarch and Chief David Edebiri, the Esogban of Benin have noted that performance in office do not have to depend on tribe of tongue, saying that Oshiomhole has done far more for the Bini people through his giant developmental strides compared to other Bini people that have occupied positions of authorities in the state.
On the other hand, the PDP has accused Oshiomhole of fanning the ember of tribalism when in one of , his political rallies, he listed some key political positions which his kinsmen have denied of in the past and would be redressed if re-elected.
The party also took exception to the remark by the Otaru of Auchi, Alhaji Hailru Momoh, Ikelebe 111 remark that Edo North will not accept anything short of the governorship position in the state. To them, that marks the introduction of ethnicity in Edo politics.
It is being envisioned that with the emergence of Bini governorship candidate in the camp of the PDP, what ordinarily looks as a comfortable ride for Governor Oshiomhole is now on the edge because of the voting strength of Edo South which stood at about 58 percent against 32 percent from the North and 16 percent from the Edo Central Senatorial zone,just as pundits say that with the Central zone being a strong PDP strong hold, a sway of votes from Edo South in favour of the PDP candicdate may spell trouble for Oshiomhole.
But others quickly pointed out that Benin- City which holds the population is a cosmopolitan city with no ethnic tribe dominating and would vote according to their conscience.
Another candidate who many said was the acclaimed winner of the governorship debate is Chief Solomon Edebiri, the ANPP governorship candidate. Although, he was the candidate of the PPP, he became the adopted candidate of the Coalition of political Parties in the state comprising the ANPP, CPC, CPP, LP,PPP and CPP.
Edebiri who ran for the governorship race in 2007 under the banner of PPP, said that he decided to join the race because of his passion to serve and would revive all the moribund industries in the state as well as tuning its fortune around if voted into office.
However, many observers are on the opinion that Edebiri is a future governorship material for Edo state and that his effort at winning the race may just be a flash in the pan. They reasoned that the coalitions are just feather weight with most of having no structures on ground across the state.
On the overall, Analysts posited that the incumbency factor may play a major role in the outcome of today’s election. They argued that the incumbent governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole with enormous political will, influence, reach and financial resources will carry the day.
They also look at the antecedent of the performance of the previous administration of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) vis-a-vis the performance of the Oshiomhole administration within its three and half years in office. Those who spoke with Vanguard said that the governor should be given a second chance to complete on-going projects that he has initiated.
According to Mr.Ehimehen Amhande, a Political analyst and public commentator, “one of the greatest problem facing governance in Nigeria, is the attitude of a succeeding government to complete projects initiated by its predecessor in office.
This is what is responsible for the numbers of white elephant projects scattered through the length and breadth of the country. I therefore advised that the Edo people should vote in Oshimhole to enable him complete the numerous projects that he has initiated”.
Again, there are those who say that it will be too early to access the character of the true Oshiomhole and what becomes of the A C N until the outcome of the July 14, election. According to Mr. Charles Oghuza, “the issue of who succeeds Oshiomhole should be left for now until after the governorship election. We may be putting the cart before the horse for now. That discourse can only come up if he is ere-elected for a second tenure in office”.
However, there are those who believe that the PDP should be overlooked as it also has the federal might and a huge financial chest to do battle with the A C N in the election.