As the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) traverse Edo State canvassing and campaigning for votes in the September 19, 2020 election, BrandiQ Chief Correspondent, Martin Ogumah, who recently returned from the state, reports that though the crucial election will be tough, but that the odds may favour incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki.
If you are a visitor to Edo State you will be forgiven if you thought there is a huge carnival going on statewide. The electioneering campaigns of the two major parties – PDP and APC – wear a carnival-like look with a clash of party colours and attires. In some instances, violence does break out with buck-passing by the political heavyweights.
This notwithstanding, the Edo election has pitched gladiators against one another. Governors from PDP and APC controlled states have also made Edo their base as the turf war of political relevance gathers momentum. The Edo people are equally in the mix as they seem to have made up their mind on where they believe the pendulum will swing and how and who should govern their state for the next four years.
Where Edo Citizens Belong
Some citizens of Edo State spoke with BrandiQ on their expectations and projections from the polls. Citizens loyal to both camps would however want to see a fair and credible poll devoid of violence and brigandage.
Sylvester Omoruyi, a civil servant, said he believes Obaseki will carry the day because of “his great stride in putting Edo state and her people first above every other interest.” He berated the former APC national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole for the “godfather role” he is playing in Edo politics and for “campaigning more than the person” vying to be governor.
“In any of their outing, you will notice that if Ize-Iyamu talks for two minutes, Oshiomhole will talk for 30 minutes because he knows this election will determine whether he will remain in politics or not. Now that all indications point toward Obaseki winning, Oshiomhole is running scared. And why will he not? Abuja has rejected him and Edo does not want him. So, he has nowhere to go to. This third term agenda he is trying to run will not work.”
Another Obaseki supporter, Tony Ademokhai said he supports the incumbent governor because of what he terms “the Esan option.” According to him, “I support Obaseki for a second term because the Esan people who dominate the Edo Central Senatorial District would be able to produce the next governor of the state in 2024. The Bini people of Edo South should be allowed to run out their tenure through the able leadership of Obaseki who has done well for the people of the state.”
He pointed out that this was the norm in the state even when Oshiomhole was governor. “When he went for a second term, even the Bini people voted for him against their own son, Gen. Charles Aihavbare. Many Bini leaders, even including Airhavabre’s first cousin, Senator Ehigie Uzamere, joined in backing Oshiomhole. He should leave Edo people to choose their governor.”
On the other hand, Nosakhare Imasuagbon, a civil servant and a “die-hard” supporter of Ize-Iyamu said Ize-Iyamu is “the best man for the job. Edo State is firmly in the progressive fold, the state would continue to vote APC as it has done in previous elections in line our love for President Muhammadu Buhari.”
He noted that Edo people are never comfortable with being in the opposition, stressing that they are wise enough to know the benefits of belonging to the mainstream of Nigeria’s politics. “How can we vote for the PDP? We will not. We want to remain in the mainstream so as to attract federal projects to Edo state,” he added.
Benjamin Osunbor, a lawyer said the APC miscalculated, or rather, allowed the ‘Oshiomhole factor’ to topple the delicate political apple cart in the state which will eventually work against them. “As Nigerians, we all know the impact zoning plays in our political system; we would therefore be naïve not to take them into consideration. For the eight years Oshiomhole was in power he was in a cat and mouse game with the Esan people mainly because of the political dominance of late Chief Tony Anenih who is from Uromi. As his term ended in 2016, Oshiomhole’s parting gift was to depose HRH Anslem Aidenojie II as the Ojuromi of Uromi. The deposition was eventually reversed by Governor Godwin Obaseki after he came to power. So, in this election, who do you think the people will vote for? They will definitely line up behind Obaseki.”
Osunbor added: “As a learned person, I can read the writings on the wall on the basis of the claim of the Esan leaders that the region has not had a full four-year stint in the governorship since 1999. The only taste was between 2007 and 2008 when Senator Osehreinmen Osunbor held the office of the governor before the court gave victory to Oshiomhole. For many of the leaders, backing Obaseki looks the easiest path to winning the office because Obaseki would serve only one more term at the end of which the Esan people can then present their candidate.”
Jonathan Okosun, a civil engineer, said Edo people are politically savvy, united and, know where their future lies. Because of what he perceives as Oshiomhole’s overbearing influence over the APC campaign, he believes this will work in Obaseki’s favour. “For one, I do not believe Edo people would vote for Ize-Iyamu because of Oshiomhole.
“For the eight years that Oshiomhole was in power, the PDP held all National Assembly seats in Esan land. It was the base of the late Chief Tony Anenih and it was as such not surprising that the people from the region complained that the former governor in every way sought to diminish the people of the region. That perception was not just in terms of infrastructure, but also politically.
“When the position of Speaker of the House of Assembly that was zoned to the region became empty in the last years of Oshiomhole, the people felt that the sitting governor did not show muscle in canvassing for the office of Speaker to remain there – after it was moved to Edo South. Even more, was the testy relationship between the Onojie of Uromi, HRH Anslem Aideonojie II, and Oshiomhole. The traditional ruler was deposed from the throne before Oshiomhole left office. He was later reinstated by Obaseki. The people will thus not forget that gesture from Obaseki.”
Turf War of Political Relevance
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, who is the chairman of the National Campaign Council of the PDP in Edo state, boasted that no one would stop the victory of the party in the September 19 governorship election. He also said the governorship election is for the people of the South-South and not that of Governor Godwin Obaseki. Wike, who made the remarks while speaking on his achievements in an interview on African Independent Television (AIT) and monitored in Benin City by BrandiQ said it is time for South-South to speak with one voice.
While assuring that the South-South governors would rally behind the re-election of Governor Godwin Obaseki, he added that there would be no intimidation in the election, as the people of the state will be allowed to choose who governs them. “Edo election is not an Obaseki election but for the people of the South-South. APC has never been a political party, it’s a collection of people that came together to fight Jonathan. That’s why they can’t agree. Edo people rejected Ize-Iyamu in the last election because they saw he wouldn’t be a good Governor,” he said.
His Delta State counterpart, Ifeanyi Okowa, chose the occasion of Obaseki’s 63 birthday to drive home his point that Obaseki “will be compensated by the people of the state because of his administration’s giant strides in the last three and half years.”
Okowa stressed that “It is heart-warming to note that you (Obaseki) have through dint of hard work, discipline, and vision to industrialise Edo, won the admiration and respect of your people and the nation at large. Your focus and commitment to reforms in governance and your ability to attract investors into your state are remarkable and worthy of commendation.
“No doubt, the people of Edo will in September, reciprocate your giant strides in the last four years by returning you and your amiable deputy for another term in office to guarantee a brighter future ahead of them”, he stated.
He lauded the Obaseki’s ingenuity and untiring spirit which he said had brought to bear in stimulating the industrialization of his state, and making life easier for the people through investments, including the Azura-Edo Independent Power Project (IPP), a 450MW Open Cycle Gas Turbine power station.
Okowa eulogised his Edo state counterpart for his patriotic and relentless service to his state and the nation, just as he prayed to God to grant the governor long life, good health, and wisdom as he continued to serve Edo people and Nigeria. “Your focus and commitment to reforms in governance and your ability to attract investors into your state are remarkable and worthy of commendation. On behalf of my family, the government and people of Delta, I heartily rejoice with my brother governor, a reputable politician, outstanding professional, seasoned administrator, Mr. Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki, on his 63rd birth anniversary.”
On the other hand, the Governor of Kano State and head of APC’s 49 member committee for Edo 2020 election, Abdullahi Ganduje, said Obaseki “will be shocked with the outcome of the polls.” While addressing the committee, he threw a joke at his PDP counterpart from Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, saying APC would send Wike “to Isolation Centre,” in order to create a victory for the APC during the Poll.
“The art of governance is to provide social and economic development, infrastructural facilities, peace, and stability, but all of these are lacking in Edo State under Mr. Obaseki.
“What has he on the ground to show to Edo people that he deserves re-election? He has 53 cases in courts and busy with in-fight with his people. Apart from all litigations, he has cross-carpeted to another party and abandoned the governance of his people. What we are saying to Edo people is that the APC gubernatorial candidate Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is a man of God, whose commitment in the service of his people, made it deserving for all his people to follow him to APC because he has his people at heart.
“When he came to our party he came with all his people. But when Governor Obaseki cross-carpeted to PDP he was followed only by his cabinet, because the people have not seen any reason why he should be followed.”
In a swift reaction to Ganduje’s joke, Wike said he cannot be isolated by a man caught pocketing dollars. “Between me and a man who has been caught pocketing dollars, who deserves to be isolated”, Wike asked, during a news conference he granted.
However, just as the exchanges between the two governors continue to generate public attention, political pundits are contemplating the type of electioneering campaign strategy that the duo of Governor Ganduje and Governor Yahaya Bello, both of whom were re-elected in their states in controversial elections described to be the worst in the country, got to offer APC in Edo.
The political pundits are arguing that when they learnt that Governor Ganduje is the one heading the APC campaign team in Edo, the memory of the strategy adopted by the APC in a re-run election held in Gama Ward, which gave Ganduje his second tenure chance, quickly came to mind.
To many of these observers, Gama strategy entails a situation in which anything goes in winning an election, and are hoping and wishing that the September 19 election will not follow what they described as a “terrible pattern” where everything is compromised by the electoral body and security agents.
Achievements versus Assumptions
BrandiQ also spoke to a cross-section of Edo citizens from across the three senatorial zones in the state and the overwhelming consensus was that Obaseki deserves to win a second term because of his achievements that cuts across all sectors of the state’s economy. Some of the people who spoke also cast aspersions on the tenure of Ize-Iyamu when he was the secretary to the state government.
They started off by identifying six planks upon which Obaseki’s interventions in the state’s political economy rest upon. “In just over three years, the governor studiously followed through with the plans in remaking Edo State, which aspires to become an investment hub propelled by its strategic geographic advantage, a vibrant and aspirational youth population and a rich, diverse cultural heritage that dates back several centuries,” says Benedict Okonoboh, a doctoral student.
These dynamics, Innocent Erewele, an undergraduate added, have propelled investments in institutional reforms, sports development, industrialisation, education and health reforms, infrastructural development, skills development and, job creation and, far-reaching civil-service reforms.
As the incumbent governor, Obaseki stands a better chance of victory, particularly as he has some notable achievements under his belt. These achievements include his EdoBest programme – and EdoBest at Home created during the coronavirus pandemic to help children to continue their education at home – which is developing a pool of highly skilled teachers for the state and helping children to compete in the world of work.