Edo State governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole builds his political structure ahead of 2012 election with a rally in Benin City which was premised on the Action Congress and the Labour Party alliance
By Victor Osehobo
Barely one year into office, Edo State governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has realised all too soon that erecting the critical political structure he will need to secure a second term as governor should begin now. Since he assumed office, the governor has with key appointments attracted grassroots politicians from all the 18 local governments that make up the state. Some of them were hitherto disciples of the aging Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, leader Chief Tony Anenih, members of the PDP or members of other opposition parties like the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, whose footprints have completely disappeared from the state since 2007.
The Action Congress, AC rally last weekend at the Ogbemudia Stadium was the biggest evidence that the governor was alert to the emerging dimension and intrigues that will rule the politics of Edo in 2012. Apart from the 13 serving local council chairmen elected on the PDP platform who crossed over to the AC, two popular transporters, and key PDP gladiators namely Chief John Adun, owner of the Bob Izua Motors and Chief Goddy Edosa, who owns Goddy Edosa Motors, both in Benin also pitched tent with the AC.
Adun's jump on to the AC train has been described as an attempt to check the losses he has suffered since the governor took office. First, his motor park at Ring Road, Benin for which he claimed a 30-year lease valued at N30, 000 approved by the Oredo local council, was crushed by the government's demolition squad. There were speculations last week that his palatial villa located near the Oba's Palace in Benin occupies a space designed as an annex of the Oba Market and was marked for demolition in the Benin City beautification campaign. He was the PDP Oredo local council chairman.
As for Goody Edosa, his claim to becoming the PDP leader in Egor local council has come under question in recent times. His supporters were sidelined when in December 2007, the PDP chose his opponents to fly the PDP flag in the local government pools which PDP won across the state. The site occupied by his motor company was also speculated to be marked for demolition as it encroaches on the Benin Moat and Walls. It is not certain if the decision of the two politicians to join the AC wagon will spare their business locations. But what is certain is that they have pledged to swim or sink with Oshiomhole wherever he goes from now on.
Oshiomhole had no political structure in 2007. He was popular but rode on the back of the political structure supplied by Chief Lucky Igbinedion, former governor of Edo State. It was a structure which broke off from the PDP in 2004 as the Grace Group, and formed a parallel state PDP executive. This later metamorphosed into the Advanced Congress of Democrats, ACD, and finally the Action Congress in 2007. That structure financed the election of all the AC members of the Edo State Assembly and was responsible for picking Dr. Pius Egberawhen Odubu to run with Oshiomhole as deputy governor, though he had a third term House of Representatives ticket from the PDP.
The political structure's plan was for Oshiomhole to serve as governor for four years between 2007 and 2011 and allow Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu to fly the flag in 2011.
This structure has undergone changes since November last year although Ize-Iyamu has got his fingers burnt in the process. He had sought control of the AC structure in the state by seeking to be on the party's board of trustees, BoT. But Oshiomhole preferred Senator Roland Owie instead. By his own calculations, Ize-Iyamu is anticipating that he will fly the AC flag in 2012, using the structure that produced Oshiomhole. But Odubu who was supposed to step aside for him to grab the gubernatorial ticket, now appears keen on remaining with Oshiomhole even ahead of 2012.
Conscious of the fact that if Igbinedion plays the godfather and wants his man, Ize-Iyamu to fly the AC flag in 2012, Oshiomhole has already started building his own structure; not in AC but in the Labour Party, LP. This informed the personal reception by the governor of the mammoth crowd of PDP faithfuls who rather than joining AC last weekend opted for the LP. Among them was Hon. Isaiah Osifo, Chief of Staff to Osunbor and easily the governor's loudest critic since November 2008. A two-term council chairman and PDP leader in Uhunwonde, it was Osifo's organisational ability that produced the structure Osunbor relied on in the runoff to the 2006 PDP gubernatorial primaries that defeated Professor Julius Ihonvbere after an angry Anenih withdrew his support with erstwhile President Olusegun Obasanjo's objection, to Odion’s Ugbesia aspirations. Osifo has worked closely with Ogbemudia and Owie, who are from the Uhunwonde like him. He has never hidden his dislike for Ize-Iyamu, hence his resolve to join LP instead of AC.
Analysts say that in the months ahead, Governor Oshiomhole's moves would be in the direction of consolidating on the gains he has made politically since he came into office. This may see to the sack of some commissioners and their replacements with his loyalists. The dissolution of local councils in the state is also said to be on the cards now that opposition will be minimal with 13 of the erstwhile 19 PDP council chairmen supporting him. Many of them are optimistic that they will get automatic tickets to run in the impending local government polls.