The declaration of General Muhammadu Buhari, of the All Progressives Congress (APC), by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), as winner of the March 28th 2015 Presidential poll, no doubt altered political permutation and calculation across the country as mass defections became the order of the day. In spite of calls by the leadership of the APC on Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members to remain in the PDP, some political figures of note particularly in Edo State have continued to deploy all tactics to defect to the APC as a viable platform to actualized governorship ambition ahead of 2016. PATRICK OCHOGA takes a look at some of the defectors likely to cause ripple in the APC and writes
Major General Charles Airhiavbere (rtd.)
The retired Army General was the National Coordinator of the Goodluck Jonathan Organisation prior to the 2015 general elections, a platform charged with the sole responsibility to canvass support for President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election. Airhiavbere was a major contender in the 2012 governorship election under the umbrella of the PDP, against the incumbent governor, Adams Oshiomhole. He lost the election with a wide margin.
Despite the outcome of the 2012 governorship election, the Army General, it was learnt had continued to deploy his resources to keep the PDP in the state afloat with the possibilityof seeking the party’s ticket in 2016. The PDP in the state which paraded political heavyweights such as its BOT Chairman, Chief Tony Anenih; Minister of Works, Mike Onolemenmen; Captain Hosa Okunbor, and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, had boasted that the APC will go into oblivion after the 2015 election.
But shortly after the result of the Presidential elections was announced, Airhiavbere, who still nurses the ambition of contesting the 2016 governorship election in the state surrendered to APC at a public event in Benin.
Airhiavbere, during his defection had declared, “I believe today which is also an Easter Sunday, is the day the Lord has made and set aside for the people of Edo State to have sustained peace and political progress. Since after my election of 2012, Edo State has experienced heightened political tension which has brought development of the state to a back stage”.
“That I was the governorship candidate of the PDP in 2012 election and its aftermath is history. I have decided to join the team of change that has come to the nation in the last election of the March 28th, 2015, so that Edo State will continue to enjoy the benefits of the party at the centre. Any politician who means well for this state will ground their arms of hate and join the change train of the APC government ably led by His Excellency, Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole”.
The former governorship candidate of the PDP added that, “I know for sure that with APC at the National and the State, there will be rapid development and all the campaign promises will be delivered to our dear state that is yearning for rapid development. Kudos to all APC members for your resilience and victory at the last election”.
When asked why he didn’t defect before the March 28 presidential election, Airhiavbere said, “PDP didn’t give me any money. My drive and passion for Jonathan is from my personal efforts. I will ensure that Edo State remains in the mainstream. Money has never motivated me. I will always be loyal to the centre”.
Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor
Former Governor Oserheimen Osunbor, Professor of Law and the immediate past governor of Edo State was a major pillar of the PDP in Edo Central Senatorial district. He was governor of Edo State for 18 months before the emergence of Oshiomhole through a court ruling. No doubt, Osunbor, who is a major player in the PDP contributed to the massive victory recorded by the party in the March 28 election.
Curiously, on Tuesday, March 7, he defected to the ruling APC with his teeming supporters.
His defection to APC came to many as a shock owing to the fact that he was the National Chairman of the Nigeria Law review commission under the Jonathan’s administration while others felt he had overstayed in the PDP over alleged illegality that characterized the conduct of the PDP governorship primaries at Dr Samuel Ogbemudia’s stadium in 2012 where he lost. More often than not, Osunbor prior to his defection had stayed away from activities of the PDP, an indication that his days with the party were numbered.
Osunbor, who is from Edo Central senatorial district is touted to contest the 2016 governorship election, may have capitalized on the agitation from the people of the zone that it is their turn to produce the next governor for the state. Part of the agitation was that Osunbor only served for 18 months in office between 2007- 2008, when the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal declared Osunbor election invalid.
The former governor had in a previous encounter disclosed that he had been under pressure from friends and associates to contest the 2016 governorship election. He was received into the APC by governor Oshiomhole Oshiomhole, while welcoming Osunbor into the APC family stated, “I will be working with a respected Professor of Law like you and many of your supporters. We thank God for what he has used us to achieve. I appeal to our people to vote for our APC House of Assembly candidates because they will help me to develop our state rapidly and with the APC government at the top, the sky is our limit”.
Barrister Kenneth Imansuagbon
Ken Imansuagbon, can rightly be said to be a household name in Edo political landscape owing to his philanthropic gestures to the needy.
The less privilege every December looks forward to his yearly free rice distribution which earned him the appellation of “The Rice Amanda”.
In spite of his contribution to the educational sector in the country, the educationist turned politician threw his hart into the governorship race way back in 2007 on the platform of the Action Congress (AC), alongside Hon Charles Idahosa, and Mathew Atama, as the front liners. He left the party in anger and went to the PDP when he lost the AC ticket to Oshiomhole. It was learnt that Imansuagbon, a major financier of the party played a critical role in what has today metamorphosed into APC. In 2012, he again contested for the governorship ticket on the PDP platform in a party primary that was reportedly skewed by party leaders in favour of Major General Charles Airhiavbere.
Unofficially, Imansuagbon, can be said to be a member of the APC. He was said to have left the PDP in December 2014, over what he attributed to lack of justice, equity and fairness by leaders of the party. He was reported to have predicted a revolution which would sweep the PDP out of power in the 2015 general elections, a prediction that has come past.
The governorship hopeful, who also hails from Edo Central senatorial district, is confident of clinching the APC governorship ticket come 2016, recently told LEADERSHIP why he jumped the PDP sinking ship to work for the APC, in an interview.
He said, “If you observed, by the time Mr President visited Benin I was not at the stadium, I was conspicuously absent. In December, I granted an interview where I said I foresaw a revolution in Nigeria.
And what that means was change and I predicted that Jonathan was going to lose the election. So, when Jonathan visited Edo I had resigned my membership of the PDP.
“In PDP, what made them lose the election basically was because there was lack of fairness, equity and justice within the party and even in Edo state majorly .You saw the primaries of 2012 , if it was free and fair I would have won the primaries and of course the story today would have been different”
“I supported Buhari at the general election, though I was out of the country. My coming to the APC was not about the party but about the honesty of Buhari , am a Nigerian and what influences me is my love for my country. I saw that Buhari will represent the interest of the Nigeria people better, so I supported him. Even, though I was outside the country then. I asked my people to vote for APC and that was what happened. I supported APC with money, tactics and logistics and we delivered APC. I am happy to tell you that I delivered APC against the tyranny of a few”, he declared.
He also expressed confidence that the people of Afemai in Edo North and the Bini’s of Edo South would support his governorship ambition come 2016.
Engineer Chris Ogiemwonyi
Chris Ogiemwonyi, who was a Minister of State for Works under President Jonathan defected from the PDP to the APC in November 2014 before the 2015 general elections. He is quietly building structures that will position him for the APC ticket in 2016.
He said his decision to defect to the APC was informed by the need to align with the power at the centre; this he posited would attract more development to the state. He was formally received into the party by the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie Oyegun.
Among those who attended the official reception of the former minister and his supporters across the three senatorial districts of the state at the traditional Urhokpota ground, Ring Road Benin, were Oshiomhole; General Buhari, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and other members of the party.
Ogiemwonyi told journalists in Benin that he was motivated by the performance of the APC and the state governor in the transformation of Edo state and expressed displeasure at the past leadership of the PDP in the state, which he said was disastrous for the people of the state.
His defection from the PDP to the APC is likely to make contest for the party’s governorship ticket tight. He is however said to be highly favoured by the Benin palace.
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