Oct 17, 2013

Oshiomhole/Ikimi vs Anenih/Onolememen in Edo

On paper, it is about the conduct of election into just one local government, where previous attempt to conduct election like the rest of other 17 local government areas of Edo State twice failed.
But there is more to it in real terms as respect, recognition and relevance are all for grab on Tuesday, writes Banji Aluko.
IT is now more than five months that representative government returned to local governments in Edo State, except for Esan North-East Local Government Area of the state. This came after the conduct of local government election first on April 20 and later April 24 and 25, 2013, in four councils, where elections were postponed.
On his assumption of office in November, 2009, Governor Adams Oshiomhole, had sacked the 18 elected chairmen and 193 councilors, who had been voted into office in December 2007 during an election that was organised by the administration of former Governor Oserheimen Osunbor, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
According to the electoral body in the state, Edo State Independent Electoral Commission (EDSIEC), the April 20, 2013, election had to be postponed in Esan North-East and three other councils due to logistic challenges. EDSIEC was, however, evasive in providing reasons for the cancelation of the election when it was eventually held four days later on April 24, thereby giving the political parties freedom to trade blames for the failure of the election.

In any case, the people of the local government would not have expected that a window to have a democratic leadership in their council would next be opened six months after. Perhaps they had expected that a new date would be announced immediately after the cancelation of the April 24 polls. This, however would not happen. They held rallies and appealed to EDSIEC to conduct another election.
They even wrote petitions to the Edo State House of Assembly to prevail on the EDSIEC to conduct another election so that they would also have a representative government in their council like the other councils in the state.
Their prayer was eventually answered last week as the EDSIEC announced Tuesday, October 22, as the new date for the conduct of election into the council and six wards spread in four local government areas. While announcing the date of the election, EDSIEC chairman, Solomon Ogoh, said it took the commission time to announce the date because a lot had to be put in place before the election would be held. The body also absolved itself of blame in the delay of the election, saying that the parties were largely responsible for the delay. The commission added that four parties

—PDP, APC, Accord Party and Labour Party—would be contesting the election.

With about a week to the conduct of the election, politicians in the camps of the two parties have since returned to the drawing board, strategising how victory would be theirs on Tuesday. Ordinarily, the election could have been inconsequential and a walk in the park for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), won the chairmanship polls in all the 17 local government areas where elections were held in April, but the race for Esan North East council is more complex than that as so many other factors are involved.
One of such factors is that Esan North-East council, with its headquarters in Uromi, is the local government of maverick politician and chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of PDP, Chief Tony Anenih. That is not all. The Minister of Works Mr Mike Onolememen, is from the council. The duo are said to be highly influential and well respected. With Anenih and Onolememen, it is generally believed that funding and mobilisation would not constitute any problem for PDP in the council.The council is also seen as the remaining stronghold of the PDP in Edo, though the party is considered strong in the entire Edo Central Senatorial District, where the council is situated. For instance, the senator representing the zone, Odion Ugbesia, is of PDP, while two House of Representatives members from the zone are also of the party PDP.
Ahead the general election in 2015, the political calculation in Edo is that there would not be a better time for the PDP to get out of the political obscurity that the ACN/APC had lately consigned it to than now. For the PDP, winning the election will signal a kind of resurgence it hope to build on to challenge APC in 2015. For APC, victory is equally crucial if only to send message to the PDP leaders in the council that they can be defeated even at home.
Above all, the popularity of its candidate in the election, according to observers, may well be the reason for the PDP’s optimism. Their candidate, Honourable John Yakubu, is said to be very popular in the local government. His popularity is said to extend beyond party lines as he is said to have followers in all the parties owing to what was described as his landmark while he served as chairman
 of the council between 2007 and 2009. During the period, he was said to have embarked on numerous developmental projects that people said were still very feasible. Many in the council consider him the best council chairman the local government has ever seen and are willing to see him return, irrespective of his political affiliations.
At a well-attended campaign of the party at Uromi on Sunday, Edo State chairman of PDP, Chief Dan Orbih, described Yakubu as a grassroot mobiliser and best candidate for the election. He said his achievement as chairman of the council remained the best in the history of the council, boasting that the APC would be trounced on Tuesday.
Such is the confidence in the PDP camp that one of the leading politicians in its fold, Mr Vincent Akhere, told the Nigerian Tribune that that their candidate would win the election anytime it is conducted. He said, “If the election is conducted in Esan North-East Local Government Area 100 times, our candidate, John Yakubu, will always win. If the election is fixed for tomorrow mornings, we are very ready.”
He alleged that the election was delayed so that APC would have enough time to prepare for it. “Obviously, the ACN people are aware that they have no chance of winning the election and that is why they are delaying the conduct of the election. We heard that they held a meeting at the Government House where they informed the governor to give them at least six months to prepare for the election. They are scared of our candidate, Honourable John Yakubu, so they are buying time,” Akhere said.

Pundits opined that be that as it may, defeating the APC may not be that easy as Akhere said. A reason is that it is the ruling party and ruling party hardly loses council election in Nigeria. It will be recalled that the party won in all the 17 other councils where the election was concluded and only a complete domination or 18/18, as they used to say in Edo, would be good enough for the leaders of the party including Governor Oshiomhole and the national vice-chairman, South South, of the party, Chief Tom Ikimi, who incidentally is from Edo Central Senatorial zone like Chief Anenih.
Less than a week to the election, the party has started campaigning and strategizing how to win. Immediately EDSIEC announced the date for the conduct of the election, its candidate, Sam Oboh, started campaigning, telling people in the council that if they do not want to be left behind by the wind of change currently blowing in the state, they should vote for him. The party has also be appealing to the people in the council not to be the odd one out among the local governments in the state.