Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
Leadership of the pan Esan socio-cultural organisation, Esan Okpa Initiative (EOI), and other stakeholders in the state, are awaiting report of an implementation committee led by Professor Michael Ikhariale, to resolve the knotty issues of pruning the number of persons from the Esan extraction itching to be governor of the state in 2024.
Feelers from the group reveal that the committee, which was wrapping up its report last weekend, may recommend consensus building perceived as “winning strategy” and a way of whipping the aspirants into line.
THISDAY gathered that the 11-person implementation committee had a crucial engagement with the governorship aspirants from the zone cross parties in Benin City, the Edo State capital as part of the move to gauge their suitability in order to ensure that Esan, which makes up Edo Central Senatorial Zone, puts its best foot forward in the race for a successor to incumbent Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki whose term winds up on November 12 next year.
No doubt, many of the aspirants which include Prof Oserheimen Osunbor, who had a stint as governor for 18 months, Kenneth Imansuangbon, Adolphus Aletor, three other prominent professors, five former Speakers of Edo State House of Assembly, among others parade worthy and enviable credentials.
However, Esan leaders are said to be worried that the load of aspirants may whittle the chances of the zone if all of them go to primaries in their respective parties against fewer aspirants from the other two zones.
In the words of Ikhariale: “There is a legitimate expectation that the governorship position in Edo State is now for Esan people to lose and quite frankly, there is the real possibility that we might just lose it if we do not put our house in order by quickly formulating a winning strategy.”
Although Ikhariale, who recently rounded up his term as Visiting Professor at America’s Ivy League, Harvard University, explained that his committee assignment was not to “screen out” any aspirants since that is the forte of the political parties, the engagement was no doubt an attempt to sift the grain from the shaft and ensure that only formidable persons with clout and influential reach to the other two zones – Edo North and Edo South are supported.
Addressing the aspirants, he declared: ‘Before I proceed further, please permit me to make this fundamental clarification about today’s activities. We are certainly not here to “screen out” anyone neither do we have the desire or inclination to do so. The issue of screening aspirants is within the remit of the various political parties.
“What we invited you for is an interactive engagement wherein we would look at each other’s relative strengths and weaknesses and then proceed to honestly tell ourselves about our levels of readiness in the Esan quest for the governorship position.
“Going forward, we expect this engagement to be frank, dispassionate, and objectively based on a set of objective criteria. The outcome of today’s engagement shall be submitted to the leadership of EOI and other critical stakeholders for their deliberations and further actions.
“We all know that whenever brothers go into any discussion behind closed doors and they come out all smiling, it is usually an indication that they have deceived themselves. We of the EOI obviously do not intend to do such to ourselves here or unduly make anyone unhappy.
“Looking at the contemporary political landscape of Edo State, it is easy to observe that there has never been a better opportunity in recent election cycles for Esanland to produce a Governor. Constitutionally, there are three senatorial districts in the State, namely, Edo North, Edo South and Edo Central (Esanland). Of these three, it is only Edo Central that has not yet produced a Governor for almost twenty years. The last time we had a Governor of Esan extraction, his tenure was unfortunately truncated within a few months of its inauguration.
“ EOI’s primary goal, in the circumstance, is to objectively reason with all the aspirants with a view to building consensus around those aspirants who have realistic chances within their respective parties and Esan people will support those aspirants while allowing the good people of Edo State make their choice.”
Aside from Prof Ikhariale, who chairs the implementation committee set up by EOI with Chief Executive Officer, Novelpotta, Dr. Celey Okogun as secretary, other members include Linguistics Scholar at the University of Port Harcourt, Prof Philomena Ejele and Education Scholar, Prof Oyaziwo Aluede who teaches at Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma.
The committee also has Acting Director General, Edo State Directorate of Quality Assuarance, Dr. Roseline Etiti Okosun, a Political Development Expert, Dr. Ono’ohomen Ebhohimhen and Engr. Francis Oriakhi, president, Esan Club 30 based in Port Harcourt as members. Both Rev, Fr. (Dr.) Fidelis Arhedo and Mallam Abdulkadiri Mukhtar represent faith based organisations in the committee while Mr. Prosper Iyere and Mr. Alex Orukpe are drawn from youth organisations.
The engagement was with the aspirants mostly members of the three leading parties – All Progressive Congress (APC), People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Labour Patty (LP) was generally described as “fruitful”.
Apart from Osunbor, some of the high profile aspirants who turned up for the event include Edo State APC Chairman, Col David Imuse (rtd), former APC Chairman, Anselm Ojezua, former Chairman, Esan North East Local Government, John Yakubu and former Edo State Government House Chaplain, Rev Fr. Andrew Obinyan. Others are: Prof Sylvester Odion Akhaine, Prof Amb Martins Uhomoibhi, Adolphus Aletor, and Prof Osezua Ehiyamen
The gathering also featured former Speakers of Edo State House of Assembly, Francis Okiye, Friday Itula, Bright Omokhodion, and former Deputy Speaker, Festus Ebea.
Of the 26 aspirants who responded to the invitation of the implementation committee, only 17 eventually made last weekend’s engagement.
Moreover, three aspirants based in the Diaspora requested for a Zoom facility which could not be immediately arranged while two others sent apologies with no word received from four aspirants who had initially responded to the letter of invitation.