In the twilight of his fairy tale political career Chief Anthony Akhakon Anenih, a key arrowhead of the Peoples Democratic Party's drive to retrieve power in Edo State, faces arguably his toughest political battle today when the governorship poll pitches PDP's flag-bearer, retired Major-General Charles Airhiavbere against Governor Adams Oshiomhole of the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) amongst other fringe contestants. LOUIS ACHI examines the various scenarios
According to some irreverent humorists, former Edo State governor, Chief Lucky Igbinedion had so much respect for tradition and history that he resolutely ensured the state sustained its historical label: an ancient kingdom.
For eight years as it were, the state under Igbinedion of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) remained a developmentally static theatre. So when the 2007 gubernatorial election came, it was not surprising that a totally disillusioned and angry Edo electorate voted out PDP.
But the party had only to dig into its infamous bag of tricks then - and bingo - Professor Oserhiemen Osunbor, the PDP candidate was declared winner and sworn in as governor.
But after a bracing, marathon judicial battle, backed by the peculiar battle strategy of his party, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), petite dynamite Comrade Adams Oshiomhole recaptured his electoral mandate and rightfully reclaimed the Benin Government House.
Largely, this experience may have shaped the developmental momentum he scripted to transform the state and alter its 'ancient kingdom' status. Arguably, this background spawned the populism of Oshiomhole and provides the context which has willy-nilly made the battle-plan of PDP's power grab an uphill task.
What's more - this scenario has put Chief Tony Anenih on the spot as he marshals all his wile and famous intrigues as he leads the PDP charge.
The Essential Anenih
Something of an oracle and more famously known as 'Mr Fix-it', the respected Uromi high chief Tony Anenih has made his mark as one of Nigeria's most flexible politicians and the ultimate political survivor.
Gifted with an astute, calculating mind, undeniable political abilities and folksy charm, he has served every military and civilian regime since Shehu Shagari became president in 1979.
He was close to President Olusegun Obasanjo and was a confidant of his military predecessor, General Sani Abacha, for whom he lobbied against sanctions at the Commonwealth Summit in Edinburgh, Scotlandin 1997.
He fell from favour briefly under Obasanjo, after he supported Peter Odilli and was voted out of the PDP. He was reinstated by Umaru Musa Yar'Adua when he was appointed Chairman of the NPA in 2009. But there is more.
Born in Uzenema-Arue in Uromi on August 4, 1933, in 1951 Anenih joined the Nigeria Police Force in Benin City. Working at home, he obtained secondary school qualifications.
He attended the Police College in Ikeja, and was selected for further training in the Bramshill Police College, Basingstoke, England in 1966 and the International Police Academy, Washington DC in 1970.
He served as a police orderly to the first Governor General of Nigeria, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. Subsequently, he worked as an instructor in various police colleges and in 1975 was assigned to the Administrative Staff College (ASCON), Lagos. He retired from the police as a Commissioner of Police
He was state chairman of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) between 1981 and 1983, helping Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia become elected as civilian governor of Bendel State.
However, the governorship was cut short by the military takeover of December 1983. He was national chairman of the Social Democratic Party from 1992 and 1993, when he assisted in the election Chief M. K. O. Abiola as president. He was a member of the Constitutional Conference in 1994.
Anenih was a member of the PDM until early April 2002, when he transferred to the People's Democratic Party (PDP). He reportedly masterminded the April 26, 2002 declaration of President Obasanjo at the International Conference Center Abuja and was deputy national coordinator of Olusegun Obasanjo's campaign Organisation in the 1999 and 2003 elections.
On The Spot...
Tracking back, both Anenih and Oshiomhole had a chummy relationship previously. But political hostilities broke out between Anenih and Governor Oshiomhole in early 2010 during the rerun election for Akoko-Edo state and federal constituencies.
LEADERSHIP WEEKEND gleaned that prior to the poll; both the ACN and the PDP had entered into a cooperation agreement to dispense with all underhand practices during the election.
But that understanding was broken as soon as it was entered. On Election Day, party stalwarts from both parties from other senatorial zones in the state stormed Akoko Edo to ensure victory for their parties.
At the end of the election, the PDP lost both seats and hardly found the development funny. One of the seats was occupied by Tunde Akogun, leader of the sixth session of the Federal House of Representative. PDP accused ACN of manipulating the polls.
Oshiomhole kicked against such accusation and threatened to arrest, prosecute and jail Anenih if he does not behave himself.
By then it was clear that the two leaders were out for a full blown, no holds barred war. Matters were worsened when the ACN routed the ruling party in two other rerun polls for the state Assembly in Etsako Central and Akoko-Edo constituencies.
Not amused, Anenih fought back. All his nominees serving as commissioners in Oshiomhole's government resigned one after the other. And apparently taking a cue from the body language of Anenih, the Garuba led state legislature stopped "co-operating" with Oshiomhole.
The Oshiomhole script took things a notch higher when the ACN legislators in the state Assembly ousted the Garuba-led leadership of the House in what remains the most controversial leadership change in the Assembly since 1999.
In one instance, Oshiomhole proclaimed Anenih dead politically and stated that he can never be revived, not even by Abuja.
Reacting to Anenih's speech in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State that PDP would win the July 14 poll in Edo State, Oshiomhole stated, "The godfather can never resurrect from his political death. Abuja cannot revive him. "Abuja will not define votes in Edo.
Edo people will decide the votes. When an old man decides to live on fraud, cheating, manipulation, he is poised for a bigger place in hell. "Let him come to Benin and make the statement he made in Yenogoa.He should come here.
He should come to the streets of Benin. Let us march together to markets in the state. "He must not hide inside a bullet proof vehicle and be making statements he cannot make even in Uromi." Uromi is Anenih birth place.
According to many observers, today's governorship poll will represent the grande finale of the bitter confrontation between Chief Anenih and Comrade Oshiomhole.
The governor had been attacking the PDP leader, alleging that Anenih is responsible misfortunes that had befallen ACN recently, including the death of his principal secretary, Olaitan Oyerinde and the tipper that ran into his convoy killing three journalists.
In one instance, Oshiomhole wrote off Anenih as dead politically and irredeemable, not even by Abuja. Reacting to Anenih's speech in Yenagoa that his party would win the July 14 poll in Edo state, Oshiomhole said, "The godfather can never resurrect from his political death. Abuja cannot revive him. "Abuja will not define votes in Edo.
Edo people will decide the votes. When an old man decides to live on fraud, cheating, manipulation, he is poised for a bigger place in hell. "Let him come to Benin and make the statement he made in Yenogoa."
Not to be outdone, the PDP leader fired back. According to Anenih, "PDP is ready to democratically and legally take over Edo State. We would go from ward to ward, from unit to unit, from house to house and on July 14, Adams Oshiomhole will be voted out.
We are ready to get him out through the ballot. We'll not hire tipper or truck to kill him. We will not kill him by accident because it is of no use killing him. Politically, he has no value".
With the virtual militarization of Edo political space and considerable tension dominating on day, many are concerned whether what will hold today will be a fair electoral exercise or an outright war by other means.
To scale up the level of desperation to retain or retrieve political power in the state, a victory or defeat for either party, especially for their arrowheads, will translate to loss of face, influence and political relevance. Some equate this scenario, rightly or wrongly as death.
Unquestionably, for the ageing Anenih, a loss will almost certainly represent and eclipse, the end of an illustrious political odyssey; a victory will translate to the re-sparking of a waning political story.
For the much younger Oshiomhole, a victory will equate the firming up of a political career on an impressive ascendancy. A loss will mean return to the drawing board to re-strategize for a future come-back.