Amidst the intense horse-trading ahead of the governorship election in Edo State, BANJI ALUKO, in this report, focuses on the 18 local government areas in the state, the chances of the two dominant parties, namely the APC and the PDP and other factors that may decide who wins.
IT is now time for the 2016 Edo State governorship election. Going by the Electoral Act, all forms of campaign by political parties has end. For the political parties and their candidates, this will bring to end a phase that started many months ago. With the clock ticking, those involved in the election can only plot their games behind the political podiums they had become used to in the last few months. By 8:00 a.m. tomorrow, the race will begin and the players can only pray for a good day. For the two major political parties: the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and other serious parties in the race, only victory is good enough.
Some analysts also claim that the Edo election is critical to the federal administration. One of the reasons is that it represents another major test of the commitment of the authorities to free, fair and credible election. Coupled with this is that the success or otherwise of the governing APC at the poll will have a far-reaching implications for the party and the federal administration, as they battle to deliver on campaign promises.
Indeed, for APC and PDP, defeat is unthinkable. Defeat for other of the two parties means another four years of patience, hunger, abuses and solitude. These have been the bitter pill committed PDP leaders and members have been forced to swallow in about eight years. With an outspoken governor such as Adams Oshiomhole, many of them may consider relocating outside of Edo should APC win. The governor has repeatedly boasted that he would finally consign PDP in Edo to the dustbin at the poll and if he finally achieves this, some of the PDP leaders can consider taking vacation from politics.
With Edo as the only state in the grip of the ruling APC in the entire South-South zone, this election is a must win if the party does not want a total obliteration from the zone. With an eye on the 2019 general election, a loss for APC is not good for the party. Victory for PDP and its candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, will leave APC with just five governors out of 17 in the southern part of the country.
The fear by APC of possible rejection could encourage states such as Ondo, Ekiti and Osun, where elections are due to hold before the general election in 2019 to further reject APC. Ondo, where election is due to hold in November, is where victory or loss for APC could greatly affect the fortunes of the party. In fact, many believe that winning Edo is the tonic APC needs to slug it out with PDP in the state. Conversely, many believe that victory for PDP, will kill whatever impetus APC may have garnered to face PDP in the Sunshine State. For the two parties, nearly cannot be good enough, as there is no prize for the first runner up.
The APC candidate is regarded as the head of the Edo State Economic team. As the national chairman of APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun put it, Obaseki is the brain box behind Oshiomhole’s engine, the unseen hand behind the economic policies of the Oshiomhole’s administration. He was among a team of concerned Edo indigenes, who handed the Oshiomhole’s government an economic blueprint before he was invited by the governor to join him more than seven years ago. He is an investment banker, who has garnered experience in the corporate world. He will appeal to many, including those who prefer a non-politician as governor. He has promised to run Edo like a business entity, something many think is needed to move the state forward.
This is his strength and ironically his weakness as many believe that he lacks the understanding of how politics works in Nigeria. Many think that he was dragged into the race by Oshiomhole.
The politics of Edo since 1999 can never be complete without the mention of the Redeemed Church pastor. He has been directly involved in the politics of the state since then, though he cut his political teeth in 1988, when he was personal assistant to Lucky Igbinedion, when the latter was the chairman of the old Oredo Local Government Area. The same Igbinedion appointed him Chief of Staff, when he became governor in 1999. He was later appointed Secretary to the State Government.
Ize-Iyamu has never contested any election before but he has been deeply involved in many elections. He was instrumental to the emergence of Oshiomhole as governor, as he joined forces with some other politicians to achieve that goal, after being shut out of PDP. He was Oshiomhole’s campaign director in 2012. When he left APC in 2014 for PDP, he was appointed the director of former President Goodluck Jonathan campaign team for the 2015 presidential election. His defection to PDP then also sparked a revolt in the state House of Assembly.
His biggest challenge is what has been described as his role in the Igbinedion’s administration. Many say that he was more than an SSG in that government, arguing that Igbinedion entrusted him with the governance of the state. Some of his ardent critic even referred to him as the de facto governor. Such people are quick to blame him for perceived failures of that administration.
Some key facts
About 1.925 million people have been registered to participate in the coming governorship election. There are 2,627 polling units scattered across the state. There are three senatorial zones in Edo, namely Edo North, Edo Central and Edo South. There are six local government areas in the Edo North, five in the Edo Central and seven in the Edo South, making 18 in total.
Natives of the Edo North, who are popularly referred to as Afemai, are largely made of three ethnic groups–Etsako, Owan and Akoko Edo. The Etsakos, who are the largest in the district, have three local government areas: Etsako East, Etsako Central and Etsako West. The Owan ethnic stock controls the Owan East and Owan West local government areas. The Akoko Edo Local Government Area, consisting of the Akoko Edos, is the last local government area in the district. In terms of voters strength, about 24 per cent of registered voters in Edo reside in this district.
The district is generally regarded as the base of APC. This is largely due to the emergence of Oshiomhole as governor in 2008. Hitherto, the area was predominantly PDP before the coming of Oshiomhole into the politics of the state. The people of the area rallied behind him to make him the first governor from the Edo North district.
Oshiomhole is from the local government with its headquarters in Auchi. The council is the largest among the three Etsako councils. It consists of four wards in Oshiomhole’s Uzaire clan, four wards in Auchi; one in South Ibie; one in Jagbe; one in Agbede, and another one in Anwain. If there is any local government area PDP will admit they cannot win, it is this local government area. Oshiomhole’s parties, be it Action Congress (AC), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) or APC, have won recent elections in the area. Votes from the area prevented PDP from springing surprise in the Edo North senatorial election in 2015. Being Oshiomhole’s area, the people are ready to follow the governor wherever he goes.
The area is populated by Muslims with the highly respected respected Otaru of Auchi, Alhaji Aliru Momoh Ikelebe III, being spiritual leader. The monarch is very close to Oshiomhole and is expected to rally his people for the governor and his party once again. APC can boast of many developmental projects in the area, such as the newly established Edo University, Iyamho; the police barracks in Iyamho and so many road and erosion-control projects. The running mate to the APC governorship candidate, Hon Phillip Shuaibu, is from the local government area. The incumbent lawmaker representing Etsako Federal Constituency is popular in the area as he had won elections twice into the Edo House of Assembly in the past.
PDP is not without its foot soldiers in this area as well. One of them is the lawmaker representing Etsako West II in the state House of Assembly, Sylvanus Eruaga. That a PDP lawmaker is representing Oshiomhole in the state assembly is a blight on the joy of APC in the area. He got into the assembly after the election that brought in APC candidate and erstwhile lawmaker was faulted by the courts. Eruaga is from the Uzaire clan just like Oshiomhole and Shuaibu. He is a popular grassroot politician, who has the capacity to mobilise men and resources for his party along. Along with the likes of Abu Maipati, Henry Duke Tenebe, Garba Hussein and Jaret Tenebe.
Agenebode, which is the headquarters of the local government and Okpella are the two biggest communities in the area. The two communities have four wards each out of the 10 in the area. Being an Etsako council, APC is expected to have an edge in this area. The people of Okpekpe and Imiegba, for instance, will eternally be grateful to Oshiomhole for constructing road to their hilltop communities. Hitherto, the communities were practically inaccessible but the road is now used to host the Okpekpe since 2013. The APC senator representing the Edo North, Francis Alimekhena, is also from this area.
The problem for APC in this area is that PDP has some of the most influential politicians such as Chief Raymond Dokpesi, who is from Agenebode and Hon Abubakar Momoh, who, two weeks ago, collapsed the political structure of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the entire Edo North for the gubernatorial ambition of Ize-Iyamu. The Imiegba-born engineer cum politician, who had left PDP in 2015, was said to have been coveted by APC before he declared support for Ize-Iyamu. PDP is also said to have a good record of performance in Okpella and an average performance in Agenebode. Political analysts believe either of APC or PDP could win the local government with a small margin.
This is one local governments many think PDP has a realistic hope of wrestling from APC due to some factors. Parts of the reason PDP is upbeat of winnning is the perception that Oshiomhole has not done much in the area in terms of developmental projects, unlike the other councils in Etsako. PDP leaders are quick to say that apart from the Ekperi–Anegbette road, the governor did not do any other considerable project in the area.
PDP’s task of wrestling the area from the grip of APC will be led by its state chairman, Dan Orbih; former Chief-of Staff to President Goodluck Jonathan, Mike Ogiadomhe; who are both from the area. The duo, along with the party’s 2015 Edo North senatorial candidate, Pascal Ugbome are working round the clock to achieve victory. The fact that Ugbome won the area for PDP last year makes the party believe that winning the area is achievable. The defections of the immediate past former chairman of the area, Hon Emma Momoh, to PDP from APC and a two-time former council chairman, Hon Alemoh Akhigbe, from SDP to PDP are some of the reasons for their optimism.
However, being an Etsako council, they will have to battle Oshiomhole’s popularity in the area. One project Oshiomhole flaunts in the area is the Ekperi–Anegbette road. A former member of the Edo State House Assembly, Hon John Oghuma and the incumbent lawmaker representing the area in the Edo State House of Assembly, Damian Lawani, are also on ground here. Like Etsako East, many believe that election in this area is very close between the two parties
Owan East and Owan West
APC appears stronger in Owan East than Owan West. The most influential politician in the Owan area is the lawmaker representing Owan Federal Constituency, Hon Pally Iriase. He is from Owan East and the main reason Owan East remains seemingly impenetrable for PDP. He is expected to deliver Owan East to Obaseki. Iriase, who is a former Secretary to the Edo State Government (SSG), has grown in stature politically, rising from a local government chairman to winning election into the National Assembly twice. He was among the candidate considered as running mate to Obaseki due to his popularity. In Owan West, however, PDP may be looking at springing surprise. Like Owan West and Akoko-Edo, PDP’s selling point in this area was what they described as an alleged neglect of Owan by Oshiomhole’s administration in terms of projects and appointments. PDP used this as their campaign topic in all the areas. The party charged the Owan people to ask why Oshiomhole concentrated projects and appointments in his Etsako area and why an Owan person was not considered good as running mate to Obaseki. No one knows if the PDP’s message has taken root in the heart of the people.
Reputed to be the oldest local government in Nigeria that has remained intact since it was created, the scenario here is similar to that of Owan East and West. PDP’s message is that the area has been relegated in favour of the Etsako group, especially the Uzaire clan. PDP is appealing to the people to effect a change. APC, however, has some tested politicians in this area such as the incumbent lawmaker representing Akoko Edo Federal Constituency, Hon Peter Akpatason and Senator Domingo Obende. Akpatason narrowly won election last year defeating PDP’s Oladele Balogun. This local government area is too close to call.
The Edo Central district belongs to the Esan nation. Unlike the Edo North, this zone is a monolithic ethnic group. The five local government areas in this district are Esan North East, Esan South East, Esan Central, Esan West and Igueben. Major towns in this district are Uromi, Ekpoma, Irrua, Ubiaja, Igueben, Ewu, Ewohinmi, Iruekpen and Ilushi. Going by figures published by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), about 16 per cent of Edo registered voters reside in this district.
The Edo Central is generally regarded as the base of PDP as the party has never lost National Assembly elections in the area since 1999. Many in the district have consistently complained of marginalisation. PDP made a clean sweep of the area during the National Assembly election last year. Despite a change in political fortunes occasioned by PDP loss of the presidential election in 2015, the party still managed to win three out of the six state assembly seats in the area.
Esan North East
The local government area, with its headquarters in Uromi, is seen as the political capital of the PDP in the state. It is one council Edo APC leaders know they may have a tough time. The area is home to a former chairman PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Chief Tony Anenih. Other PDP strongmen in the area are a former Minister of Works, Architect Mike Onolememen and Hon Friday Itulah. PDP consolidated its stronghold of the area by picking running mate to its governorship candidate, John Yakubu, from there. The former chairman of the council is also popular in the area.
The household political party in Ekpoma, which is the headquarters of the council, is seen by some observers as PDP. While many believe that APC has been able to make some vital incursions into Esanland, others hold that Esan West cannot fall into the hands of the party. The lawmaker representing Esan West/Esan Central/Igueben Federal Constituency, Joe Edionwele is expected to take care of the Iruekpen axis for the party. APC boasts of former Governor Oserheimen Osunbor in Iruekpen.
Like other councils in the area, PDP dominates the political landscape here. The APC chairman in Edo, Anslem Ojezua, is from this council. The APC managed to win the House of Assembly election in the local government last year after Abuja had fallen into the hands of the party. This was due to the inputs of the APC leaders in the area, Francis Inegbeneki. The nomination of an Esan man as running mate to the PDP candidate could influence the poll here.
Esan South East
The factors here are the same with other Esan local government areas —alleged marginalisation and the need to support John Yakubu to become deputy governor. While PDP cannot boast of the kind of popularity it enjoins in Esan North East here, it is still the party to beat. In Ubiaja, the council’s headquarters, the PDP can count on Senator Odion Ugbesia as a rallying point.
This is one local government many believe APC is the strongest in Esanland. A political rearrangement in July ensured that the lawmaker representing the area in the state House of Assembly, Justin Okonoboh, emerged Speaker. PDP can however count on former Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Tom Ikimi, for inspiration here. The Esan agenda, which is to make Yakubu, deputy could also play a role.
The Edo South is the Benin area consisting of Oredo, Ikpoba Okha, Egor, Orhiomwon, Uhumwonde, Ovia North East and Ovia South West local government areas. With Benin, the state capital, this district has the highest population of voters in the state with about 60 per cent registered voters. The three municipal local government areas: Oredo, Ikpoba Okha and Egor, are the key councils. This is where the battle of who becomes the next governor will be lost and won. The candidates of the two parties are both from here, hence the Benins are certain of producing the next governor of the state.
Oredo, which constitutes the capital city, alone has about 279, 000 voters and 561 polling unit. It is the most cosmopolitan area in the state with people from different parts of the country living there. It is the most sought- after area and the two parties will concentrate a good part of their resources to winning this local government area. Along with Ikpoba Okha and Egor, it is where many of the projects undertaken by the Oshiomhole administration are concentrated. These include road project, flood control projects and city beautification projects. Governor Oshiomhole believes that his achievements will sway votes for the APC here. The governor, no doubt, has many admirers, who applaud his achievements.
There are, however, some factors that could work against the governor and APC. Many in the local government are direct casualties of what has been described as a repressive tax policy of the government. Many shop owners in the highly commercial areas of the metropolis and markets complain of huge amount they pay as tax. The Land Use Charge of the state government is also an issue here. PDP has assured the affected people of a more friendly tax regime. They have campaigned with this promise. One thing that is clear is that any party that wants to win cannot afford to perform woefully in Oredo as such scenario could create an unassailable gap. It has often been said that any party that wins Oredo usually wins governorship election in Edo State.
Like Oredo, APC and Oshiomhole can list projects undertaken in the council, including roads and the Storm Water projects designed to tackle flood in the area. APC will, however, be going to the election here with the headache of Egor Local Government Area workers, who are still being owed about 10 months’ salary arrears. Many in the area are also affected by the state government’s tax policy.
APC, nonetheless, some strong politicians in the areas, including the state Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General, Henry Idahagbon; the lawmaker representing the area in the state House of Assembly, Crosby Eribo and Gentleman Amegor. These men and many more are expected to shore up APC’s chance. PDP will, however, be banking on the popularity of its candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, in the area and the entire Edo South to win here. Ize-Iyamu has people working for him: Chief Oni Edigin and Barrister Nosa Adams. This is one local government area no one can give to a particular party.
This is the third municipal local government area within Benin City. The oil-producing local council has the second largest population in Edo. Looking at the calibre of people paraded by APC here, one could be tempted to give it to the party but there are other factors that may shape the election. Osarodion Ogie, who is the Commissioner for Works and campaign director for Godwin Obaseki, is the leader of APC here. He has a lot to lose if APC loses the election as he has been reportedly penciled in for top appointment in the next government.
Runner up to Ize-Iyamu during the PDP primaries, Matthew Iduoriyekemwen ought to be PDP’s biggest asset here as he is very popular, especially among the youth. He is however seeking to be declared as the authentic PDP candidate in the election. Not much has been seen or heard of him lately, but many believe that PDP will benefit a lot if he makes his resources available for the party. Since he can only become governor if PDP wins, some argue that he might just do that.
Ovia North East and Ovia South West
These two local government areas located outside the Benin metropolis often vote the same way. The family of the Esama of Benin, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, are PDP’s biggest asset in Ovia North East. Esama’s daughter, Omosede Igbinedion, shocked everyone. When she defeated the APC candidate last year to become the lawmaker representing the two councils in the House of Representatives. Recently, she clashed with some APC strongmen in the area over some developmental projects she said she wanted to embark upon.
Her father, the Esama, and her brother, former Governor Lucky Igbinedion, are some of the closest persons to the PDP candidate. They are expected to deploy their resources for PDP. APC, however, has some top politicians in the area such as the state Commissioner for Sports, Priestly Ediagbonya; a former chairman of the council, Mrs Lucy Omagbon, and some other party leaders in the area to checkmate PDP.
In Ovia South West, it is going to be a battle for the two parties. The Igbinedions’ influence is said to extend to this local government as well, while Omosede Igbinedion can still count on the modalities used to win her election last year as a reliable model. In the riverine communities in the council, the two parties are said to have men and materials on ground to match each other.
This is the local government of the PDP candidate, Pastor Ize-Iyamu. Many say he is not expected to lose his local government area, though APC is perceived to be strong here. One factor that is said to favour him is the collective will of the people of the area to have one of them as governor. They may see in Ize-Iyamu their only hope of achieving that after the Edo State deputy governor, Pius Odubu, who is from the area, failed to secure the APC’s ticket. Like the other local government areas in the Edo South, it is certain that the two parties will do all within their power to win Orhiomwon, which is another highly populated area.