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Esan Leaders Anxious for Consensus Candidate to Emerge from Implementation Committee Report



As the drums continue to beat in anticipation of the Edo 2024 elections, leaders of the pan-Esan socio-cultural organization, Esan Okpa Initiative (EOI), along with other stakeholders, are eagerly awaiting the report from the Implementation Committee. This committee, led by the highly respected Constitutional Law Professor, Michael Ikhariale, has been tasked with addressing the complex issue of reducing the number of Esan candidates vying for positions at Denis Osadebey House in 2024.

It appears that the committee, which is finalizing its report this weekend, may recommend a consensus-building approach, seen as a “winning strategy,” to unite the aspirants. The 11-member Implementation Committee recently held a crucial meeting with governorship hopefuls from various political parties in Benin City, the capital of Edo State. The purpose of this engagement was to assess their suitability and ensure that the Esan community, which constitutes the Edo Central Senatorial Zone, presents its strongest candidates for the race to succeed the incumbent Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, whose term concludes on November 12 next year.

Undoubtedly, many of the aspirants, including Prof. Oserheimen Aigberaodion Osunbor, who previously served as Governor for 18 months, three other distinguished professors, and five former Speakers of the Edo State House of Assembly, boast impressive and commendable credentials.

However, Esan leaders are concerned that the large number of aspirants from their region might reduce the chances of Edo Central when they all participate in their respective party primaries, especially compared to fewer aspirants from the other two zones.

In the words of Ikhariale, “there is a legitimate expectation that the Governor’s 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 their 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.

“ 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,” he contends.

Aside from Prof Ikhariale, who chairs the Implementation Committee set up by Esan Okpa Initiative with Chief Executive Officer, Novelpotta, Dr. CeleyOkogun 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 organizations.

The engagement 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, former APC Chairman, Barr Anselm Ojezua, former Chairman, Esan North East Local Government, Hon John Yakubu and former Edo State Government House Chaplain, Rev Fr Andrew Obinyan. Others are Prof Sylvester Odion Akhaine, Prof Amb Martins Uhomoibhi and Prof Osezua Ehiyamen

The gathering also featured former Speakers, Edo State House of Assembly, Rt Hon Francis Okiye, Rt Hon Friday Itula, Rt Hon Bright Omokhodion and former Deputy Speaker, Rt Hon Festus Ebea. Although former Speaker, Rt Hon Victor Edoro and former member, House of Representatives, Rt Hon Serguis Ogun indicated their willingness to attend, they could not make it.

Of the 26 aspirants who responded to the invitation of the Implementation Committee, only 17 eventually made last weekend’s engagement. Three aspirants based in the Diaspora requested for a Zoom facility which could not be immediately arranged. Two others sent apologies with no word received from four aspirants who had initially responded to the letter of invitation. Leaders of Esan Okpa Initiative led by its President, Rt Hon Mathew Egbadon and other Esan elders had earlier met with aspirants of Edo Central extraction last July in Benin City as part of the move to