The controversy that enveloped the candidature of retired Nigerian Army General, Charles Ehigie Aiwiriavbere, to contest the gubernatorial ticket and the stream of fresh controversy after he emerged as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party for the July 14, 2012 Edo State governorship election does not seem to simmer. The choice of who becomes his running mate is further deepening emotion and the future health of the party in the state.
From his own camp, former Speaker of the House of Assembly, Zakawanu Garba, and Johnson Abolagba have pitched fiercely against each other in the fight. Whereas, some concerned members of the party feel that the deputy governorship ticket should have been given out to the more popular candidates defeated in the primaries as a way of getting their support and structures to deliver the party against a seemingly formidable Governor Adams Oshiomhole of the Action Congress of Nigeria, who is already reaching into the PDP flanks.
Electoral values: For party pundits, both Zakawanu and Abolagba may not deliver the quality of electoral values to the party in the July 14 election. Zakawanu is from Etsako-West. He was speaker. He has got so much from the system. The average person from his constituency is so jealous and not too happy with him because he can barely count how many youths he has helped to be better with the political offices he has held. His electoral strength is Auchi and within Etsako-West.
Whereas Abolagba, a former House of Representatives member and former chairman of Owan-West Local Government Area is very popular among members of the party’s leadership but not with the lower rung of the followership of the party. He contested and lost a bid to return to the National Assembly by not winning a ward in his constituency. An opponent of his within the party described him as a moral burden despite being the vice-chairman of the PDP in Edo-North.
If the party must do well in the general election, the wisest thing to do is to secure the favour of the Mathew Iduoriyekemwen group with the deputy governor slot. They were able to wire all the dormant youths in the party structures across the state for the primaries. The primaries was like a war between the old forces and the very young generation. These new folks were more in population and aggression. They were mobilised without cash. They volunteered and worked so hard.
The old generation held on to Dan Obi, the state PDP chairman, Zakawanu Garba, General Aiwiriavbere, who had the stamp and support of Chief Tony Anenih, the former Minister of Works in Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration. He is seen and addressed as “the leader”.
The new generation were effectively carried along by Iduoriyekemwen and his Campaign Director, Jarret Tenebe. A top politician in Anenih’s camp who offered to do this analysis on condition of not being quoted said: “If Tenebe is offered deputy governor, if he will accept it, that will mean that we can get Iduoriyekemwen and his structure to return to the fold because they would have won the election if not for the intervention of the leader. You know that Oshiomhole is already reaching out to them and to the Kenneth Imasuangbon folds.”
The electoral mathematics: Iduoriyekemwen is from Ikpoba-Okha, one of the largest and most populous local government councils in the state’s South constituency. Tenebe, his campaign director, is from Etsako-West, where Oshiomhole is from. His mother is from Etsako-East. He went to school in Etsako-Central. This candidature can help weaken the base of the ACN candidate to the advantage of the PDP. Is there any other candidate in the General’s group who can deliver the combined Iduoriyekemwen-Tenebe structure? No. If Oshiomhole gets this value to what he already has in addition to the incumbency factor, its surely a home run for his second term. Don’t forget the way and manner their flank controlled the votes from Ovia-South, Ovia-northeast and Oredo.
The current ticket bearer, General Aiwiriavbere, is from Edo South. He got the votes in the primaries from Edo North and Edo Central based on instructions from Anenih. His own people rejected him at the primaries. How does he convince them to vote for him in the general election? What about the investigation hanging on his neck by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission? Will the opposition not maximise his records against the PDP?
Intra-party healing processes: Two other candidates that ran in the primaries who would have been considered to be good to sort out the deputy governorship ticket in the media to strengthen the party are Professors Julius Ihonbvere and Osarhiemen Osunbor. Both men are considered to belong to the “old school” in their 60s. They have their own followership, no doubt, but they should not be expected to be looking for the deputy governorship slot as that will mean the whole leadership will be old, conservative and pensionable. Osunbor and Imansuagbon are both from Edo central.
Unverified sources claimed that the way the duo went ahead pre-primaries worried the old members of the party. They poisoned the mind of the leader who eventually saw in them a more viral set that can be worse than Oshiomhole. This informed why he gave instructions that the General should be the candidate anointed to carry the flag of the party.
Meanwhile, when reached, one of the losers in the primaries who is nursing a legal challenge to the party’s ticket said: “We have concluded to go to court to challenge the result. By our party’s constitution, only Oredo local government held primary election. The other 17 local governments did not. We are still awaiting the results. Our constitution recommended that primary elections shall hold in the local government council headquarters with the results announced in the state capital. It is this legal interpretation we want to explore.”