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Cablegate: Follow the Roads to Find the Problems in Edo State

DE RUEHOS #1320/01 3050727
R 010727Z NOV 06





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: Conflictual politics and benighted leadership in
local and state governments have contributed to miserable
conditions for the residents in Edo State, best characterized
by the overloaded, cratered roads of this trade-oriented
State. Governor Lucky Igbinedion, lacking both vision and
verve to get things done and further enfeebled by intra-party
struggles, has been unable to improve his State during two
terms in office. While the People's Democratic Party (PDP)
remains the most powerful in the State, brewing internecine
frictions could make the PDP vulnerable in the 2007
elections. The poor performance and internal squabbles
within the PDP provide an aperture for a populist candidate
to make some headway. Former Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC)
President Adams Oshiomhole hopes to fill the bill and seize
the Edo Governorship come 2007. End summary.

Bad Condition of Edo's Roads . . .

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2. On a late September visit to Benin City, Poloff
experienced the dismal state of the roads of Edo State. The
State's official sobriquet is the "Heartbeat of Nigeria"
because its geographic position makes it a trading
crossroads--significant trade pulsates through the state's
major arteries to Lagos, Port Harcourt, and other parts of
Nigeria. Unfortunately, crater-sized potholes have turned a
busy highway into a moonscape. At three stretches in the
road, the eastbound lanes proved impassable, forcing traffic
to shift to westbound lanes. The resultant congestion and
disorder brought traffic to a near standstill. Only
impromptu directing by Motorized Police managed to get
stalled traffic moving again. Numerous cars, buses, and
trucks had broken down and were abandoned alongside the
highway. Poloff struggled through a bone-rattling seven hour
drive that should have lasted only four hours.

. . . Reflects Governor's Weakness

3. Journalist Michael Otunba, Political Editor for the
Independent Television News and Chair of the Edo State
Nigeria Union of Journalists, told Poloff that Edo's Roads
are a product of the weakness of two-term Edo State Governor
Lucky Igbinedion. The disrepair of the roads reflects the
overall condition of the State. Igbinedion, son of Gabriel
Igbinedion, one of the State's wealthiest men and an
important traditional ruler, became governor as a result of a
1999 alliance between close presidential advisor and PDP
official Anthony Anenih, a citizen of Edo, and the elder
Igbinedion, Otunba stated.

4. However, that accord proved to be mortal. The
Anenih-Igbinedion alliance dissolved ignobly and very
publicly after Igbinedion's 2003 re-election, as disputes
over control of state appointees and Igbinedion's successor
proved irreconcilable. Conditions in Edo State have suffered
as Igbinedion refused to fix the main thoroughfares in Benin
City, claiming they are federal roads outside of his purview.
However, the Governor has spent state funds on soccer fields
and other projects most Edo citizens would deem frivolous.
Not wanting to do anything that would benefit Igbinedion
politically, Anenih held tight the federal public works purse
strings so that no funds would be used to fix these roads.

5. Igbinedion has managed to move the State bureaucracy to
fix some state roads but crucial thoroughfares remain in
tatters. For example, Otunba characterized the main road
from center city to the University of Benin a "disaster".
The trip through the main market area of Benin City is as
much an obstacle course as a road.

6. Even on those roads for which the Governor has managed to
issue contracts, the work is often not completed or done
poorly, Otunba added.

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Flight of Supporters to AC Further Weakens Governor
--------------------------------------------- ------

7. Igbenedion was twice elected on the PDP ticket, but PDP
infighting has weakened Igbinedion's control over the party
mechanism considerably, Otunba said. As the
Anenih-Igbinedion alliance faltered and control of the PDP
apparatus seemed to fall into Anenih's hands due to his
closeness to President Obasanjo, many of Igbeinedion's
supporters defected to the Advanced Congress of Democrats
(ACD) and then its successor, the Action Congress (AC), while

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Igbinedion has remained in the PDP. Speculation is rampant
that Igbinedion might leave the PDP as well.

8. Igbinedion is finishing his second term, and is
constitutionally barred from a third term. He has not
declared himself a candidate for president, said Otunba. He
has tried to position himself as a Vice-Presidential
candidate and has the strong backing of close friend and
political big brother, Delta State Governor James Ibori.
Because of his poor record, his lobbying for the
Vice-Presidential slot has not gotten much traction.

--------------------------------------------- ---
Some Services Have Improved, but Problems Remain
--------------------------------------------- ---

9. Igbinedion has been able to deliver some improvements in
services that affect people's lives, said Otunba. One and a
half years ago crime in Benin City was termed "terrible and
dangerous" after 6:00 pm, as gangs roamed the streets
targeting cell phones in particular. It was unsafe to take
motorcycle taxis and there were few taxicabs. However,
Igbinedion began to work on the crime problem and the city is
now much safer, Otunba conceded.

10. Other sectors also suffer from problems that Igbinedion
has been unable to fix. The Benin City Hospital, which is
over a hundred years old, suffers frequent blackouts.
Although the hospital has a generator, Otunba told Poloff
that the hospital's wiring is so old that it cannot handle
the electricity the generator creates.

Governor Has No Clear Successor

11. Despite the intra-party infighting, the PDP apparatus in
Edo State continues to make it the strongest party. There
are no other parties beside the PDP that have particularly
strong positions within the state, Otunba stated. The
still-powerful Anenih has made Odion Ugbesia the PDP's
gubernatorial favorite, but Anenih distanced himself from the
presidential third-term bid and thus has lost some favor with
Obasanjo. The loss of favor also means a diminution of
clout. Anenih's candidate will not automatically win the
Party nomination. Sensing that Anenih's stock has dropped,
the Igbinedions are feeling a bit more confident in battling
Anenih for control of the PDP.

12. Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) President Adams
Oshiomhole has declared his candidacy for the governorship
under a small opposition party, the Labour Party. Although
popular, Oshiomhole has an uphill battle. Without the
benefit of a major party with a strong organizational
structure, he will be hard pressed to carry the state against
candidates fielded by the PDP, Otunba remarked.

13. Comment: Political infighting in Igbinedion's second
term has contributed to the dereliction of Edo State.
Although not solely the fault of Igbinedion, as Governor he
must shoulder the brunt of responsibility. While Tony Anenih
remains a power in the State, his recent estrangement from
Obasanjo will affect his preferred candidate Ugbesia. The
PDP gubernatorial nomination is shaping up to be a
tug-of-war. Meanwhile, the opposition remains a jumble. It
remains to be seen whether Oshiomhole can generate enough
popular enthusiasm to overcome his lack of political
organizational strength. End comment.


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