The Edo state gubernatorial campaign has delivered every single characteristics of election campaign in Nigeria. Lack of ideas, yes! Hooliganism and thuggery, yes! Spiced with clownish campaign songs.
For keen observers, what is going on Edo state is the dearth of ideology in our political parties. Where a man can sleep as a member of Party A, and wake up as a member of Party B; then proceed to eat dinner as a member of either Party A or C.
Less than four years ago, Adams Oshiomhole labelled his new buddy, Osagie Ize-Iyamu a “thief”. Further, he had described his current foe, Godwin Obaseki as the next best thing after Agege bread.
Unfortunately, alignments and counter alignments present nothing significant in the life of the masses. However, these moves will determine who will rule the people of Edo state for the next four years. Also, the irony of the new alignment between a former governor, Oshiomhole and All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Ize-Iyamu presents a worrisome challenge for the incumbent governor, Obaseki. The question remains, can he survive it and retain his hold on power?
Let’s go back to 2016 where it all started….
To answer this question, one needs to go back to the events that culminated in the emergence of Obaseki. For most pundits, there would not have been a Governor Obaseki, if not for Oshiomhole. Back in 2016, aside the popularity of Ize-Iyamu, there was a strong anti-APC sentiment in the South-South due to the defeat of Goodluck Jonathan.
In what is a knotty political situation, the three individuals used to belong to the same party. While Obaseki served as chief of staff to the former labour union leader, Oshiomhole; Ize-Iyamu served as his campaign Director General in 2012. But things fell apart when Oshiomhole worked against all odds to give Obaseki the ticket of the APC. Thereafter, Ize-Iyamu was forced to decamp to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – a move that bears similarities to the events of 2020.
When Oshiomhole needed someone to challenge Obaseki whom he has famously fallen out with; he turned to his old friend-turned-enemy, Ize-Iyamu. The political scheming cost Oshiomhole his APC national chairmanship position. Nevertheless, Oshiomhole’s humiliation at the national level did not save Obaseki from being forced out of the party.
Four years ago, it was Ize-Iyamu that sought refuge in the PDP. Now, Obaseki has taken the same path. However, the only constant in the political equation remains Oshiomhole.
But what has changed?
Let start with things that have not changed. First, the APC still has the federal might. Ize-Iyamu still feels that he is very popular and Obaseki still considers himself a technocrat. But quite a few fundamentals have changed. The incumbent power is with Obaseki who currently controls the purse of the state and state powers which he has used ruthlessly. Recall the Edo State House of Assembly crisis where the governor refused to swear in some lawmakers that he feels are not loyal to him. In a bizarre turn of events, the roof of the State Assembly complex was removed to forestall any move on the part of the ‘lawmakers’ loyal to Oshiomhole to impeach Obaseki.
Also, Oshiomole does not control any power aside some considerable influence and access to the ‘federal might.’ But his political career hangs on defeating his former godson. Indeed, Obaseki’s re-election would be a political funeral for a man who once decided who becomes governor in states across Nigeria.
The political arithmetic…..
There is no doubt that Ize-Iyamu is popular in Edo state. He has been around for years. He served as the Chief of staff to former governor Lucky Igbinedion from 1999 to 2003. Also, he was later promoted to the position of Secretary to the State Government from 2003-2007.
Further, Ize-Iyamu served as the Vice National Chairman of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN); as Director General of Oshiomhole’s second term election and later Coordinator of Goodluck/Sambo election bid in 2015.
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No doubt, Ize-Iyamu has an impressive political portfolio. However, he is at the risk of inheriting all the enemies of Oshiomhole. As a matter of fact, Oshiomhole has an impressive long list of enemies. Although Ize-Iyamu has been doing a lot to drop the tag of being a godson to Oshiomhole; it remains a herculean task.
In an interview on Channels TV, he had said: “I am too big, too exposed for anybody to be my godfather. My pedigree is there for everyone to see. Oshiomhole is not my godfather. To say he is my godfather presupposes that I’m his godson. In the context of politics, do I look like a godson?” he queried.
Continuing, he declared: “I am a kingmaker. Can you call a kingmaker a godson? Oshiomhole that I supported to be governor?”
However, his decision to leave the PDP for the APC tells a different story. His popularity could have given him the PDP governorship ticket. But he decided to swing to the APC in what many pundits believe was at the behest of Oshiomhole.
Strengths and Weaknesses….
Obaseki, of course, is the incumbent in the state with access to the state purse. Unfortunately, state resources should not be deployed for campaign purposes. But in Nigeria, there is a vague line separating state resources and personal resources of political office holders.
Also, the governor will get sympathy votes. He has publicly presented himself as a man fighting against an overbearing godfather. Also, he will have on his side several enemies of Oshiomhole. Perhaps, the list will even include a former National Chairman of the APC, John Oyegun.
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Furthermore, the last election shows that both parties are well grounded in the state. The PDP won two senatorial districts while the APC won one senate seat. However, out of the nine House of Reps seats, the APC claimed five and the PDP four seats.
Obaseki will also rely on his deputy, Philip Shuaibu who is from Oshiomhole’s district, Edo North Senatorial District. Shuaibu, a former House of Representatives member will have to battle Oshiomhole in Edo North which will be important in deciding the outcome of the election.
On the other hand, Ganiyu Audu, the running mate of Ize-Iyamu is from the same district. Equally important, he brings religion balance to the ticket. Obaseki/Shuaibu is a Christian/Christian ticket.
The Edo South senatorial district is the largest voting bloc. The two gladiators are from this senatorial district but other senatorial districts; particularly Edo Central will be comfortable supporting Obaseki to finish his tenure with the hope of rotation to their district. Furthermore, there appears to be little or no divisions within the PDP camp; unlike the APC that almost imploded which ultimately led to the decamping of the incumbent governor.
Before Obaseki decamped to the PDP; he made frantic efforts to see President Muhammadu Buhari to get some sort of blessing. This move, many believe, is to neutralise the federal might, probably to get the President to back off. Although Obaseki controls the state resources, he will have to contend with the “federal might’’.
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While Edo South which is the largest voting bloc is the home of the incumbent governor; it is also the home of Ize-Iyamu. The two of them will have to slug it out in this zone. Unfortunately for Obaseki, six out of the 10 House of Assembly members he refused to swear-in are from the same district.
Although the Igbinedions are firmly behind Obaseki, Ize-Iyamu also has a long history with the Igbinedions. He served as Obaseki’s Chief of Staff and SSG as mentioned earlier. Also, Omosede Igbinedion lost her re-election into the House of Representatives in 2019 to Dennis Idehosa. Therefore, the Igbinedion amour has also proven to be penetrable.
Another concern for Obaseki is the fact that Ize-Iyamu against federal might in 2016 polled 41.28% of the votes. Now, with the prospect of mass rigging and now running with federal might, who knows what will happen?
The election will be very close, but the numbers seem to be on the side of the Ize-Iyamu.