12th February, 2012
The ambition of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State to wrest power from the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) is causing tension within the ranks of its members and leadership.
Intrigues, blackmail, infighting and the like are threatening its governorship primary which has been slated for Saturday, 25 February 2012.
P.M.NEWS gathered authoritatively that the tension has been very high among the aspirants and has even spread to the party members, especially the delegates and officials. This has led to calls in some quarters for the intervention of the national headquarters of the party so as to avoid the bitter experience that trailed a similar governorship primary held by the party in the state in late 2006.
There are reports flying all around party circles in the state that, of the nine aspirants that initially signified their intention to jostle for the party’s ticket, only five are still in the race.
Four out of the five aspirants are said to be under intense pressure from some of the party leaders to step down and support the aspirations of one of the aspirants, General Charles Airhiavbere.
Allegation flying around is that the party leaders may have endorsed the aspirant because he has met most of the conditions’ they have set for their choice of the party’s flagbearer.
The first condition being that the flagbearer must have enough cash to match the incumbent governor of the state, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole during the governorship campaign.
Independent assessment is that the ‘favoured’ aspirant has spent millions of naira on the party in the state and even on other unlisted issues.
Secondly, because the incumbent governor is from the northern part of the state and the serving federal minister from the state is from the central senatorial district of the state, the PDP top hierarchy in the state have by mutual consent agreed that the party’s governorship flag should be handed over to somebody from the southern district, a conditionthat the retired General also met.
However, the other aspirants have been raising dust on this subtle attempt to scheme them out of the race. They have at various times threatened to take drastic steps to ‘settle’ the issue if they discover that the party leadership skew the process of selecting the flagbearer.
In his own submission, an aspirant, Professor Julius Ihonvbere, a former Special Adviser to the ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo on Project Monitoring, who also contested the primary in 2007, said he believes that the primary would be free and fair this time around.
“For now, with all honesty, I have no reason to doubt that it will be free and fair. The National Leader (Tony Anenih) has stressed again and again that he wants a free and fair primary to produce the best candidate for the party. The State Chairman (Dan Orbih) has also assured that it will be free and fair and virtually all the aspirants have also insisted on free and fair primary.
“So, I believe that to avoid crisis, to avoid disaffection, to avoid people withholding their support for the party and the candidate that emerges, there should be and there must be a commitment to free and fair primary,” he said.
He refuted claims in some circles that one of the aspirants has been anointed.
“I assure you very firmly and clearly that nobody has been anointed.
It’s true that some people try to play that kind of politics for whatever reasons. As at that time, many aspirants had not come back or come into the race but as you can see today, it will be foolhardy for anybody to see himself as anointed.
“The aspirants now that are deploying massive resources, I know from experience that that does not guarantee votes at the polls. I did that, I spent over N1.6 billion in Edo State.”
Another aspirant, Hon. Mathew Iduoriyekenwen, a former Commissioner representing the state at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), said he intends to test his popularity in the state and thus would not step down for anybody no matter the intensity of the pressure mounted on him to step down.
“The PDP today needs somebody that can take on the ACN government of Adams Oshiomhole and the only way is to emerge as the party’s flagbearer. So, it is the other aspirants that will step down for me,” boasted Iduoriyekenwen who incidentally is from the same south senatorial district as General Airhiavbere.
Ken Imansuangbon, a barrister and Abuja-based school proprietor, who is one of the aspirants, insisted that the party leaders have no choice than to follow due process in the selection of its governorship candidate.
He stressed that the sincerity of the party’s leadership would go a long way in determining if it will clinch the governorship seat come July 14, 2012.
Attempts to speak with General Airhiavbere on the issue was unsuccessful as he never kept to his promise of talking to P.M.NEWS through the Director General of his campaign organisation after two calls he responded to in two days.
By Isaac Olamilekan/Benin