After days of playing hard to get and so much braggadocio, the duo of Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama and Kenneth Imasuangbon, both aspirants on the platform of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in Edo State finally deferred to Obaseki making the on-going governorship primary election a walk over for the governor. Up till 8 pm on Wednesday, Imasuangbon was still on national television blowing hot, vowing not to step down for Obaseki. The lawyer and educationist, popularly called ‘Rice Man’, sounding like a broken record, insisted that it was the governor that should step down for him. He boasted that he remained the only candidate who could defeat Obaseki or any candidate of the opposition political party at the September 19 governorship election in the state.
Only on Wednesday, less than 24 hours to the primary election, Imasuangbon came out to vehemently deny collecting $2 million from Obaseki as inducement to withdraw from the contest. He said contrary to reports, he had not stepped down for the governor and remained very much in the race. In a personally signed statement, Imasuangbon boasted that he was in the governorship race to win and not to make up the number of aspirants for the PDP ticket. He alleged that the rumour that he accepted $2 million from the governor was being spread from his camp to sway the votes of delegates in his favour.
According to him, “The governor knows I am popular with the delegates and he is doing everything possible to change this. For the sake of emphasis, I have not, and will not consider accepting any money for me to step down from the race for the PDP ticket. I also understand that they are trying to manipulate the delegates list to their favour. I want to warn that if they try it, we will do everything possible to resist it and we shall meet in the court of law”. The proprietor and chief executive officer, CEO, of Pace Setters Group of School, Abuja, urged all delegates to come out and vote for him at the primaries, promising to wipe away poverty from the state if elected as governor.
But in a volte face, Imasuangbon dropped from the race. Surprised Edo people woke up on Thursday to the news that the governorship aspirant had sacrificed his ambition to further that of the governor. Not a few doubted until in the afternoon when he issued a statement explaining why he stepped down for the governor. In it, he attributed his decision to his desire to build a strong and united PDP in the State. He said though it was a painful decision for him and his supporters across the state and beyond, he refused to be “a spanner in the works of the party”.
Describing his withdrawal from the race as “a defining moment for the party and the country, Imasuangbon said “It painful for me to submit my 16 years of trying to be governor. However, I needed to take it because of the unity of the party, because of the Nigeria nation as a country. The country, the party is far above me; the pressure was much. I cannot be spanner in the works of the party. The struggle is not about me anymore but about the country, Edo; and Obaseki himself is doing very well. So I have decided to step down for him and support him”.
He said Obaseki had assured him that “all my dream for the state he will work on; that he will tackle the issue of hunger, that he will identify with the weak, address the challenges on our roads, build more schools, and make the people happier.
“Obaseki is a fine gentleman, there can only be one captain at a time. I have always known him from afar. Humanity demands that a man who has done well, though he was distracted by APC and Oshiomhole, needs to be supported”.
According to Imasuangbon, it was good the governor took the decision to leave APC when he did. Positing that his political future is with God, he assured that PDP would emerge victorious in the September 19 poll. “PDP will defeat APC with a landslide and I will lead the attack,” he said.