• Tony Igele

Free Seat in The House: Who will replace Philip Shaibu?

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is set to declare the seat of the Estako Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives vacant. This is because the previous occupant of the seat, Hon Philip Shaibu, is now the deputy governor of the state, following the election of Godwin Obaseki in the September 28 poll.

A date has not been fixed for the election, but some political heavy weights in Estako, especially in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), are not leaving anything to chance in the race to replace Shaibu in the National Assembly. They have started campaigning.

The aspirants turned the grand reception organised for former Governor Adams Oshiomhole by leaders of Edo North Senatorial district to campaign. they recruited women, drummers and youths to carry their banners and posters to dance round the field where the event took place.

In front of Oshiomhole’s country home at Iyamho, aspirants have hung their campaign posters on the fence. The purpose is apparently to seek the support of Oshiomhole. The three local government areas that make up Estako Federal Constiuency are Estako East, Estako West and Estako Central local government areas. Of these three, Estako West has the highest population and voting strength. It was the votes from Estako West that gave the APC victory in last year’s general election. Shaibu and Senator Francis Alimekhena won the polls.

Shaibu hails from Estako West, Senator Alimekhena hails from Estako East and it is expected that the House of Representatives member to replace Shaibu should be from Estako Central.

Among the aspirants jostling to replace Shaibu in the APC are Bless-ing Agbonmhere, John Akhigbe, Johnson Oghuma, Luqman Mohammend, Joseph Ugheoke, and Akhigbe Kelvin.

Agbomhere first attempt at seeking elective office in Edo was when he contested for the APC governorship primaries He got only five votes and was the first to congratulate the winner, Godwin Obaseki. Agbomhere campaign title for the by-election is ‘Mr Bee’ and he has intensified grassroots campaigns by organising empowerment programme for youths in the locality through training on the use of social media to boost businesses.

Agbomhere urged the people to put aside public sentiment and focus on productivity. He said: “Even the worst among my critics have agreed that my vibrancy, courage and commitment to Estako development has put me ahead all the contestants. Let us make our voice heard to bring home national projects and programmers for the good of all Estako people.”

John Akhigbe was a Senior Special Assistant to Governor Oshiomhole on Protocol. His campaign posters are visible across the three local government areas appealing for support to replace Shaibu. He told newsmen that the type of education and experience he garnered working under Oshiomhole has given him the boost above other aspirants.

Johnson Oghuma was a former member of the House of Assembly. His attempt to go the House of Representatives failed as he could not scale through the party primaries. Oghuma is perceived to be favoured to clinch the replacement ticket owing to the role he played when leadership crisis rocked the House of Assembly after a failed attempt by the Peoples Democratic Party lawmakers to oust former Speaker Uyi Igbe.

Luqman Mohammend is also a former lawmaker in the House of Assembly. He came second at the party primary that threw up Shaibu as the flag bearer. His close associates said Luqman might kicked against any attempt by the party to conduct fresh primary. It was gathered that he has been lobbying for him to be considered for Shaibu’s replacement since he came second at the primaries.

Donald Oiboh is a former Commissioner for Land and Survey under Oshiomhole. He left the APC for the PDP after he lost the primary. He is among the many aspirants jostling to contest under the PDP ticket.

A son of former Governor Oshiomhole, Cyril, is also said to be interested in the race to succeed Shaibu.

The APC Chairman, Anselm Ojezua, said the responsibility of selecting a candidate lies with the national leadership of the party. He said the State leadership will wait for directives on whether to conduct fresh primaries or not. the PDP State Publicity Secretary, Chris Nehikhare said many persons have indicated interest to contest under the PDP. He said fresh primaries would be conducted to pick the party’s candidate.

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