AS the people living in Edo State prepare for the July 14, 2012 poll to elect their governor, reports indicate that there is a plethora of aspirants including former Governor Oserheimen Osunbor, working round the clock to stop the incumbent Governor Adams Oshiomhole from being re-elected.
Against this background, at least eight aspirants have indicated interest under the platform of the People's Democratic Party, (PDP) in the state to oust Oshiomhole.
The latest aspirant is the former state representative on the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, (NDDC), Mr Mathew Iduoriyekenwen.
Others who had earlier indicated interest in the race include the former Governor of the state, Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor, former Special Adviser to the President, Prof. Julius Ihonvbere, Mr Kenneth Imasuagbon, Gen. Charles Airhiavbere (rtd), and Jacob Idinye.
For those familiar with the politics of Edo State, Iduoriyekenwen, entrance in the race would pose a threat to the aspiration of Gen. Airhiavbere, owing to the fact that the duo are from Edo South Senatorial district.
According to him, he decided to join the race because of his experience in the politics of the state both as a two-time lawmaker in the State House of Assembly from where he rose to the position of Majority Leader of the House and as state representative in the NDDC.
Those in the know say the political space in the state may be choking given the calibre and political clout of some of the aspirants already on parade and others who, at the moment, surreptitiously perfecting their strategies.
Many say the race is going to be between the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the PDP, which is currently parading the highest number of aspirants.
Other parties in the state have also indicated interest in the race. One of them is the National Chairman of the People's Progressive Party, (PPP), Chief Solomon Edebiri.
However, Edebiri seems to be afraid of the election because of his experience in the last election. He has therefore cautioned officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Police and other security agents to resist the temptation of being used to rig the election in favour of the incumbent governor.
He also charged the Federal government to ensure a level playing field during the election.
The PPP national chairman alleged that some soldiers and policemen posted to maintain law and order during the last governorship election in the state perpetrated electoral fraud during the poll.
Speaking in Port Harcourt, capital of Rivers State, Edebiri alleged that, the security agents were actively involved in thumb printing of ballot papers for some candidates, during the state and National Assembly elections in the state
He disclosed that he was almost shot dead by a soldier during one of the elections when he demanded to know why soldiers should be involved in election rigging.
To ensure a credible election, Edebiri appealed to both the state and the Federal Governments to henceforth, take steps to strengthen the nation's democracy by ensuring that law enforcement agents do not indulge in electoral fraud.
In his words, 'The major problem is that the ACN-led government in Edo State partly controls the police while at the federal level, the ruling People's Democratic Party, controls the Army.
'The officers from these two security agencies were involved in rigging at the last election in Benin City and this is not fair to Nigerians.'
Edebiri said both the Police and the Army should not be allowed to abuse the electoral process, but provide a level playing ground for democracy to thrive.
He urged the National Chairman of INEC, Prof. Atahiru Jega to check the excesses of his supervisors during next year's election at the state level.
'Also INEC should see that those supervising the elections for it at the state level are thoroughly monitored by Jega', Edebiri added.
Meanwhile, allegations of plans to rig the election are rife in the state with the Oshiomhole accusing the main opposition, the PDP of perfecting plans to win the election other than the legitimate means of popular decision of the people of the state.
The governor who recently, raised the alarm, alleged that the PDP was preparing National Youth Service Corps, (NYSC) uniform which they could dress some young men as NYSC members to carry out the plans.
The Edo State chief executive quoted a PDP source to have assured their supporters that they would determine the Resident Electoral Commissioner, (REC), to be posted to the state who would help them to rig the election.
He added that some of the PDP candidates had even boasted that they would use the Army to cover up.
His words: 'My only reply is that we rely on Edo people and God. The man with the people is also with God. I am a very happy person today because of what God has used me to achieve.
Oshiomhole raised the alarm during the inspection of the on-going construction of Umogbai-Ogenemih road Project in Jattu and the Iyekhe-Aviele road in Auchi, Etsako West Local Government Area.
On the tirade against his administration by Prof. Osunbor, the governor said: 'A nice professor keeping bad company will end up doing what he is doing now-putting the truth upside down.
'To be honest, he is the best aspirant in PDP compared to all those cashiers or those who cannot even have one genuine certificate. He is more educated, more civil but he is hopelessly incompetent. That is the truth.'
The governor appears to be enjoying a lot of goodwill from within and abroad.
Some indigenes of the state in America and Europe have urged their kith and kin at home to ensure that Oshiomhole was voted back to Edo State Government House, saying that it would be unfair to God and humanity if he was not given support in view of what he had been able to achieve in the past three years.
In a statement signed by Dr Patience Ibhade, the group noted that the state had been transformed beyond recognition since the coming of Oshiomhole.
They noted that the transformation was shocking because the people thought such development was not possible since the state does not produce so much oil like Delta and other Niger Delta states.
According to the statement, 'We feel sad when we read in the media the PDP criticizing the government of Oshiomhole. We read of a PDP governorship aspirant saying that he was distributing rice for the people because they were hungry in Edo State.
'We want to inform him to provide employment for our youths rather than sharing rice because of his aspiration. Oshiomhole brought hope to the people of Edo state after PDP destroyed the state for ten years'.
However, in a swift reaction, Chief Dan Orbih, the state chairman of PDP, described the allegation as unfounded, baseless and laughable.
He stated that it had dawned on the Governor that planting flowers in the name of beautification and award of contracts without due process, coupled with cosmetic painting of existing schools, would not save him from the forthcoming election, urging him to stop crying wolf where there was none.
Also reacting to the allegation, one of the aspirants, Mr Imansuangbon, faulted the governor's allegation
The governorship aspirant described the allegation as laughable, just as he recalled that he was a founding member of the ACN but that Oshiomhole and some leaders of the party manipulated the process and denied him and others the gubernatorial ticket of the party in the 2007 elections.
According to him, 'What is hunting Oshiomhole today is what he did to some of us after he joined the ACN. Some of us laboured for the party but he came and manipulated the process and took the ticket. That was the worst rigging I have ever seen in politics. I want to tell him that the PDP is ready to win at the poll, the new PDP in Edo State is not like the ACN that rigged election in Akoko Edo, Etsako Central and Ovia.
'I know that by the special grace of God, I will emerge as the PDP standard-bearer and I will tell Oshiomhole that rigging is over in Edo State. And when you come to look at it, all those who destroyed the name of the PDP, who were riggers, are all now in the ACN.
Analysts say the first test of the strength and preparedness of the PDP for the race would be selecting one out of the many aspirants. If that is done fairly, then they can be said to be ready indeed. In the meantime, Oshiomhole remains the man to beat.