A lawyer and former governorship aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party in Edo State during the 2012 election, Mr. Kenneth Imansuangbon, is an unusual politician who, despite constraints, has maintained his principle of siding with the people. Here, he shares some of his political philosophies.
For Mr. Kenneth Imansuangbon, a lawyer, philanthropist and former aspirant to the Edo State Government House in the April, 2012 election, the success of a politician is not measured by the public office he or she occupies, but how he or she has been able to impact positively on the lives of the people who looked up to him for leadership and direction.
Imansuagbon, fondly referred to as 'The Rice Man' following his adoption of the late Moshood Abiola style of meeting the people at the point of their needs, came to political limelight in 2007, when he co-founded the former Action Congress and became the party's governorship candidate in the build up to the 2007 election.
He, however, lost the ticket when he was persuaded by the party elders to give up his mandate for the governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomohle, who was then the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). He later left AC for the PDP after feeling betrayed by those who benefited from his philosophy of politics without bitterness.
However, in 2012, Imansuangbon joined the league of governorship aspirants on the platform of PDP who wanted to wrest power from Oshiomhole. But his ambition was cut short when he emerged the runner up to General Charles Airhiavbere, the eventual winner of the party primaries.
But amid allegations of irregularities in the primaries, other notable aspirants like Professor Julius Ihonvbere protested and later defected to the ACN. Ihonvbere was later compensated with the office of the Secretary to the State Government by the Governor. But Imansuangbon who refused to defect like others, despite all entreaties from Oshiomhole, hinged his position on his belief that "anything that happens to a man is ordained by God and it is for his own good, one way or the other".
"Despite my reservations about how General Airhiavbere emerged as PDP candidate, I have to accept the situation as a party loyalist. For me, my party's interest is of greater interest than any other consideration. Well, after due consultations with my supporters, coupled with the respect I have for the party leadership and my utmost belief in the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan, I made up my mind as a loyal party member to work for the party's victory in the election.
"There is no doubt that I was not happy with the outcome of the primaries but there is no doubt about it also that because of the intervention of President Jonathan, Chief Tony Anenih and other party leaders, I had to fully campaign and back the party's candidate. It was a party decision and as a loyal party man, I am obliged to back the choice of the party," Imansuangbon said.
He, however, said he would not blame those who left because it was their personal decision. "When you consider the fact that some of us have sacrificed our energy and money to revive the party when it went down, we had to go round everywhere, trying to make the party big again. While many were decamping, we cannot afford to leave the party now when it faces difficulties.
"No, we will rather stay put and revive the party. I, as a person, will stay in PDP and continue to speak the truth, and together with other party loyalists, re-brand the party.
"Edo State belongs to all of us. We must sue for a peaceful and united Edo State. Those who play the card of ethnicity and religion are divisive elements who do not mean well for our beloved state. Edo State needs people with entrepreneurial antecedents; proven managers of human and material resources to co-operate so that Edo can be great again," Imansuangbon maintained.
On whether he would seek the party's ticket in future, he would always offer himself for the service of the state. "It is possible for Edo State to become a model for other states in job creation, robust economy with solid public private partnership, meeting Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) target in health care delivery, becoming a food sufficient state, science-based 21st century education and human capital development, tourism, sports and above all, a secure state."
Imansuangbon, though wished Oshiomohle well saying as a democrat and promoter of good sportsmanship, he supported the people of Edo State for making their choice, however, "For PDP, I know it's not the end of the road and the party will be back again stronger and better. I love my party and I know that this is just a temporary setback.
"It happens in the life of an organisation. We have learnt our lessons and very soon, you will see a reformed PDP. With the backing of Chief Tony Anenih and other leaders of the party, those of us who are loyal party men have decided to pool energy and resources together and revive the party; build it to a stage where it can regain its lost glory. We still hold our heads high. We have nothing to be ashamed of because we lost an election, after all, there is another time."
Ironically, since he lost the party's ticket, many had thought that Imansuangbon would back down on his philanthropic gesture because the idea was believed to have been stoked by ambition.
But to prove critics wrong, Imansuangbon won had won the hearts of the people in the state through his regular free distribution of food items to the less privileged and spurred by his beliefs in Maslow's philosophy that "once you remove hunger from the list of wants of a man, poverty is half solved."
Quickly, he put the governorship struggle behind him and continued to identify with the people through what he was known for: philanthropy - which he said was a movement and a train of change that could not be stopped.
For instance, during the last Christmas and New Year, he distributed thousands of bags of rice to the less privileged in the three senatorial districts in the state; a gesture he claimed was to put smiles on the faces of the poor during the festive period.
"This is my own commitment to fighting poverty in my state. I came from a home where there was no rice to eat but now that I can afford rice, my commitment is that to the extent God permits, I will always give food, every time, to the poor in Edo State and if I had enough money, I would send it to other parts of the country to put smile on the faces of the people."
He was quick to note that his gesture was not politically motivated but the manifestation of the humanitarian spirit in him. "I have seen poverty and I have seen comfort now. I know that comfort is better than poverty. My own is that every Edo person must have comfort during Sallah, during Christmas and New Year.
"So, my commitment is to the people and a way of thanking God and my little contribution to fighting poverty because it does not matter, 50 years down the line how much money you have in your bank account. As a matter of fact, I gather money throughout the year to save to buy food items at the end of the year to put smile on the face of the man on the street. If I go on the streets now, people line up to greet me with nostalgia and to me - that is better than if I had billions in my account."
Speaking on the political situation, especially the criticism against the president, he urged Nigerians to support the president. “If Jonathan fails, Nigeria fails; if he succeeds, Nigeria succeeds. Let every department, police, military, school children, farmers, everyone - let us support Jonathan. When we support any president it is the country we are supporting
"Each time America holds an election, the country is usually divided between the Republicans and the Democrats. But the moment a president emerges; all Americans see the actions and inactions of the president as their job. So, in the same way, the president needs support to succeed," he said.
Also, on the security situation in the country, Imansuangbon believed that security of the people in a nation is primarily the responsibility of everybody. "In America for example, when a crime is committed, your neighbour sends a tip-off. The bombers are brothers and sisters to every one of us. You know the bombers, I know them. In fact, everybody knows them and the police know them. So, Nigerians are supposed to take their destiny in their hands to secure their country."
Imansuangbon also spoke on the current merger of the opposition parties and said that the project was good for democracy. "If I had my way, I would have preferred two political parties in Nigeria - PDP and the opposition party. First, it is PDP in Nigeria before any party. I would have propagated that it is in the interest of the country to have a credible opposition against PDP.
"Yes, it's good. That it is democracy where I want to see whoever picks up the ticket of my great party, squares it up with a credible and organised opposition for example. Let us see debates: how do you want to tar the roads? Where are you going to get the money from?" he inquired.