The Edo governorship election is one day away and there is heightened expectations of how the exercise will turn out. The build-up to the poll has been dramatic and filled with fireworks. Some prominent Edo sons have pitched a tent with their preferred candidates, and here is a cursory gauge of their influence on the election.
Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole is not contesting the election on Saturday but he is the most talked about person ahead of the exercise. He sprang a surprise on everyone in Edo state when he suddenly turned around and declared support for Osagie Ize-Iyamu, a man he vilified in the run-up to the 2016 election. His tussle with Godwin Obaseki, governor of the state, cost him his job as national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Whoever wins between Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu on Saturday, the victory or loss will be attributed to the role Oshiomhole played in their political lives. Ironically, his rejection of Obaseki is a major reason why many in Edo are supporting the governor. Obaseki may even thank Oshiomhole for rejecting him if he wins on Saturday.
Many in Edo feel he is trying to play the role of God by angling to choose a governor for the state. They said he fought the godfathers of Edo politics only to turn himself to the new godfather. His combative political style has also pitched him against numerous politicians, who are now supporting Obaseki owing to the fact that they want to send him into political Siberia.
Hate him or you like him, the former Edo state governor is still a force to be reckoned with in the politics of Edo state. His Etsako west local government area remains impenetrable for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Many of the loyalists he made while he was governor are still supporting him and are in all the 18 local government areas working for Ize-Iyamu.
THE IGBINEDION FAMILY
No governorship election has ever taken place in Edo state without the popular Benin family of the Igbinedions playing a critical role. Gabriel Igbinedion, patriarch of the family and Esama of Benin, first helped to install his son, Lucky Igbinedion, as governor in 1999. The junior Igbinedion and his father helped Oshiomhole become governor in 2008. Their support for Ize-Iyamu in 2016 did not yield any result as the then PDP candidate did not win the election.
After initial doubts about who the family will support in 2020, members of the family including the Esama, Lucky Igbinedion and Omosede, his daughter, have since declared support for Obaseki. Lucky and his father even played prominent roles in the defection of Obaseki from the APC to the PDP. Members of the family have been campaigning for Obaseki and they are the reason many feel Obaseki may just win Ovia north-east local government area where they hail from.
Shaibu, the hitherto political godson of Oshiomhole and deputy governor of Edo state, is an enigma who has given the PDP more presence in the Etsako west local government area. The fact that the PDP allowed him to run with Obaseki after they both defected to the party shows how much leaders of the party believe in his capacity to add value. The former majority leader in the Edo state house of assembly is determined to prove to Oshiomhole that “no man is God” and that the former APC national chairman alone cannot determine the political fortune of the people of Edo state. The PDP’s hope of closing in on the APC in the crucial Etsako west local government area rests on him.
Tom Ikimi has somewhat filled in the leadership vacuum created by the demise of Tony Anenih, former board of trustees (BoT) of the PDP. The Oduma of Igueben might not be as influential as the former Iyasele of Esanland but in the former national chairman of the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC), the Esan people have an elder statesman, who given the chance can fight for them. With a strong presence in the entire Edo central zone, the PDP can rely on the former foreign affairs minister to win Igueben local government area.
The senator representing Edo south was among the first PDP leaders to welcome Obaseki to the party. The two-time senator declined overtures to vie for the PDP ticket. Urhoghide is considered one of the best senators to have represented Edo south district, having numerous constituency projects in the area to show for his effort. One thing that Urhoghide has is goodwill. Owing to his achievements as a senator, he has been able to market Obaseki’s candidature in his domain with ease.
He is the lawmaker, who currently represents Oredo federal constituency. He is the first federal lawmaker to win a reelection in Oredo federal constituency. He was set to emerge as the PDP governorship candidate before Obaseki left the APC and joined the PDP. He first resisted conceding the PDP ticket to Obaseki but was prevailed upon. He has been out working for Obaseki, deploying his grassroot connections for the PDP candidate.
The former deputy governor to Oshiomhole is among politicians with a political structure in Edo state. After initial uncertainty regarding whether if he would work for Ize-Iyamu, he quickly swung into action and deployed his men to the field. Perhaps buoyed by the alleged damaging role Obaseki played in his attempt to head the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Odubu understands the need to defeat Obaseki in order to remain politically relevant.
The two-time member of the house of representatives is one of the leaders of Edo Political Movement (EPM), an Edo APC group used to oppose Obaseki. The former APC senatorial candidate is a politician, who must never be underrated owing to his vast understanding of grassroot politics in the Edo south senatorial zone. In 2015, he won the Edo south APC senatorial ticket despite the support Patrick Obahiagbon, his opponent, enjoyed from Oshiomhole. He is gifted with oratory and exceptional persuasive skills. He is still ambitious, hence he needs Ize-Iyamu to win so that he can stand a good chance of winning future elections.
He headlines a long list of politicians who chose to remain in the APC but are alleged to be working for Obaseki. Others in this category include Osarodion Ogie, speaker of the Edo state house of assembly, Frank Okiye and some of his colleagues. A former majority leader in the state house of assembly and former commissioner in the NDDC, Iduoriyekemwen is from Ikpoba Okha local government area. Iduoriyekemwen is an astute politician who is capable of deploying human resources and capital to actualise political goals.
Imasuen, a former deputy governor of the state, controlled the politics of Egor local government area. It has been 12 years since he left office and his influence has not waned. He is still a force to be reckoned with in the politics of the Edo south.
He is currently secretary to the Edo state government. Like Iduoriyekemwen, he has also chosen to remain in the APC and work for Obaseki. Before Oshiomhole picked Obaseki as his successor in 2016, all eyes were on him as the chosen one. He has built a formidable political structure for himself and he is still seen as the strongman of Ikpoba Okha politics.
He has been part of the ACN/APC government in Edo state since 2008, so he is an asset to Obaseki, especially in his Ikpoba Okha local government area.
He is a former secretary to the Edo state government under Oshiomhole and two-time member of the house of representatives, where he represented Owan federal constituency. Iriase left the house representatives in 2019 to assume a new position as the APC leader in his Owan east local government area. Iriase is deeply rooted in the politics of both his area and Owan west local government area. In him, Ize-Iyamu has a formidable politician who can work with other strong forces to give him victory in Owan east local government area.
The immediate past state chairman of the Edo PDP is known in the state owing to the way he piloted the affairs of the party for about 10 years. He was made chairman of the PDP campaign council shortly after he left office this year. He has always delivered his Ogbona ward in Etsako central local government area to the PDP and he his one of the men the PDP is banking on to win Etsako central council.
It is no small feat winning election into the house of representatives three consecutive times. Such is the feat of Akpatason, who has represented Akoko Edo federal constituency since 2007. Akpatason has matured in politics over time and his influence in his council is now far-reaching. He is preparing for the PDP onslaught in his domain that will likely be led by Kabiru Adjoto, his former opponent in the APC.
Winning senatorial elections twice, Alimikhena has established himself as a formidable politician. Granted that Oshiomhole helped him to get to the senate, the years spent in the upper chamber of the national assembly have now turned him into a politician of reckoning capable of pulling the strings for his party, the APC. Now his party needs him and he appears capable of standing up to the challenge.
Popularly known as “rice man”, the serial governorship candidate always adds value to any party he chooses to pitch his tent with. He aligned with the APC the last time, but the PDP is his preferred party this time. After he stepped down for Obaseki in the race for the PDP ticket, Imasuangbon has surprised many with the aggressive way he has campaigned for the governor. He is well on the ground in his Ewohimi country home and Esan south-east local government area.