Edo 2024: The Quest By Esan People to Produce the Next Governor

Oba Ewuare II (center) with the delegation of Esan Okpa Initiative (EOI) and Esan Liberation Movement (ELM).

By Jethro Ibileke

On Tuesday, 12 November, 2024, Mr Godwin Obaseki would have completed his two terms of eight years in office as governor of Edo state. About three months prior to that day, as constitution demands, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, would have conducted an election to determine who takes over from Obaseki. Like in every other election, this one is open to whosoever qualifies to contest. It is therefore expected that politicians from across the three senatorial districts will aspire to occupy the Dennis Osadebe Avenue-seat of government, first, by contesting for the tickets of their respective parties.

Although the election is still more than a year away, aspirants from the three senatorial districts are already exploring the possibilities of becoming the next governor, with some engaging in underground campaigns, to woo all stakeholders, including officials of the various political parties and the electorate.

From 1999, when the present democratic dispensation began, three governors have occupied the office of Governor of the state, namely, Lucky Igbinedion (1999-2007), Adams Oshiomhole (2008-2016), Prof Oserheimen Osunbor who was declared winner of the 2007 guber election by the INEC, was removed from office by the election petition Tribunal and the appellate court of the land, in November 2008, after ruling for 18 months. Adams Oshiomhole was subsequently restored as winner of the election. The incumbent, Godwin Obaseki (2016 till date).

Put together, the four persons who have ruled the state as governors, namely, Lucky Igbinedion (Edo South), Adams Oshiomhole (Edo North), Oserheimen Osunbor (Edo Central) and Godwin Obaseki (Edo South), have ruled the state for 25 years and six months. This means that the south district has ruled the state for 16 years, the north for eight years, while the central district ruled by accident for 18 months.

For justifiable and equitable reasons politicians from the central district part of the state, made up of Esan ethnic descent, have been clamoring to occupy te top position in the governance of the state. According to them, although they have the lowest population, they are equally very important to the state and they have men who are most capable to be governor. Besides, they have fallen to enable aspirants from other districts to get the job, hence, they also expect others to also fall for them, for reasons of fairness.

A senior official of one of the political parties in the state, who however did not want to be named, told the Magazine that a “gentleman agreement” was reached during the last governorship election, in which it was agreed that Edo central should set aside their aspirations for now and support candidates from Edo south, with the promise of unalloyed support for candidates from Edo central for the 2024 election. “It was generally aggred upon,” he said.

However, discordant tunes are already emanating, indicating that the so-called “gentleman agreement” will not be honored after all, as politicians from across the three districts are already warming up for the election. As at today, no fewer than 10 persons, front the central district, including Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor, Barry Kenneth Imansuagbon and others, have already indicated their interest to contest the all important governorship election. Politicians from Edo south and Edo north, including the incumbent Senator representing Edo south, Matthew Urhoghide, the member representing Oredo federal constituency, Dennis Idahosa, the immediate past minister of state for budget and national planning, Clem Agba, have also shown interest. Besides, many from Edo south are already condemning those calling for the zoning of the governorship election to the central district to enable them win with ease.

To say the list, this does not go down well with the Esan people, who are already feeling betrayed by their brothers from the north and the south. But, they are not resting on their oars, they are not leaving any stone unturned to ensure that they get the not to produce the next governor.

Spare-heading the campaign for the Esan people are the groups, Esan Okpa Initiative (EOI) and Esan Liberation Movement (ELM). They have held meetings with stakeholders both in Esan land, in Nigeria and in diaspora, in a bid to present a common front. Just three days ago, a high-power delegation was sent on a courtesy visit to the palace of the Benin Monarch, HRM, Oba Ewuare II, with a view to solicit his support for the realization of the Esan governor project 2024.

The delegation made up of traditional rulers and prominent sons of Esan, was led by His Royal Highness, Anselm Aidenojie II (Onojie of Uromi); President, EOI, Barr. Matthew Egbadon. Aidenojie who spoke on their behalf, intimated the revered Monarch of the desire of the Esan nation to produce the next governor of the state.

He said: “History teaches us that Your Majesty is not just a symbol of the historical unity of the Edo people, but also, significant traditionally, and serves as the pivot for the accomplishment of the vision of a greater and inclusive Edo Nation.

“We would like to seize this opportunity to formally apprise Your Majesty of the yearning and desire of Esan people to produce the next Governor of Edo State at the end of the tenure of the present administration in 2024. We know that this is a matter primarily within the remit of politicians and political parties to decide on.

“We have started engaging the various political leaders across the political divide in the state on the need to have a Governor of Esan extraction at Osadebey Avenue come 2024. This will be in the interest of equity, fairness and justice which Edo people are known for.

“To dispel the deliberate misinformation being bandied by some mischievous people, we need to state clearly and unequivocally that there is no ethnic insularity to this yearning. Edo people are one, ‘Edo Okpa Makhin’. We believe that all parts of Edo State have bountiful talents and sound minds that can work in unison for the greater good and development of Edo State for the benefit of all.

“Esan people have never nursed any divisive, narrow minded or supremacist agenda, and shall eternally remain in friendship and brotherhood love with all other Edo people across the State.

He continued: “Since the creation of Edo State in 1991, the statistics shows that we have only had an Edo Governor of Esan extraction for a period of about 18 months in the person of Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor. Cumulatively, our kith and kin in Edo South would have occupied the office for about 17 years by the end of the tenure of the present administration in 2024. While our kith and kin in Edo North have effectively occupied the seat for 8 years already.

“We are happy to report to Your Royal Majesty, that a considerable number of the political leaders and influentials we have consulted in the State, have supported our yearning and desire for an Edo Governor of Esan extraction come 2024. We will continue to engage a wide variety of political and other opinion moulders in our State to buy into and support this yearning in the interest of the unity of the Edo people.

“Though you are not a politician, we solicit Your Royal Majesty’s support and blessing for this yearning and desire of Esan people. We give full assurance that we shall encourage and support our best Esan sons and daughters to contest the elections for the office of the Governor on the platforms of the various major
political parties come 2024.”

Responding to their requests, Oba Ewuare II, who thanked the visitors, promised to look into the issue raised. He promised to consult with relevant stakeholders. He noted that the matter brought before him is like security matter which are not discussed in public but stress that he would consult widely with relevant stakeholders to ensure fairness and equity.

Of course, HRH Anselm Aidenojie II expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the visit.
Speaking with journalists after the meeting, he siad: “Am satisfied with the outcome of the meeting, he gave us very good answer, he said he wants to make consultations, which is okay. We believe in fairness; we believe in equity and we believe in justice.  So what we have asked for is not too much, it’s something that can be achieved and by the grace of God and our ancestors we will achieve it”.

Also speaking, a member of the delegation and Ojomo of Ekpoma, Chief Ezekiel Ainabe, said the response of Oba Ewuare II is encouraging. “It’s  very encouraging, he is our father; he is aware of all that we said. Edo North have had their turn, Edo South have had their turn, Edo Central has been there for just 18 months, he promised to consult with his people and get back to us. The visit of Esan traditional rulers to the Oba of Benin is a significant milestone in the quest of Edo Central to produce the next Governor of Edo State in 2024,” he said.

Also writing on the need to make equity, justice and fairness an important part of the Edo 2024 governorship race by giving the slot to Edo central, Ernest Omoarelojie, an Esan-born journalist, called for the need for traditional rulers from the district to begin a bridge-building move by reaching out to their kits in the two other senatorial districts of the state. He also called for the pruning down of the Esan aspirants, so that they do not shoot themselves on their feet.

According to him, “Great statesmen they are proving to be as they began the process by paying a courtesy call on the main figure, the very great and incomparable Oba of Benin, His Royal Majesty, Oba Ewuare II, over the issue. The next step is to reach out to other traditional rulers from both the south and north senatorial districts to rally support for the course, while at the same time working on would-be aspirants, to prune the number to not just a reasonable level but also with a view to presenting the best of the lot without being hindered by any divisive belief.”

As countdown to te Edo 2024 governorship election beings, we watch keenly of the gentleman agreement will work in favour of the Esan nation, how far aspirants from other senatorial districts will have consideration for their kinsmen in the central and the effect of the mediation by His Royal Majesty, Omo n’Oba n’Edo, Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II. Oba ghat to kpe ree. Ise.