The 2020 Edo State Governorship election has come and gone but some of its talking points still reverberate. For several reasons, the Edo election has been viewed by many as a proxy battle at this particular moment in time between political forces and figures that will contend against each other during the battle for 2023.
These external factors and interests determined the actions and support given to the various candidates by many major figures. Thus several actors supported a candidate not of their party because they deemed what otherwise would be considered partisan betrayal as profitable to their 2023 calculations.
The Edo governorship election was a chess game played not just to win the governor’s seat but also played by certain people to better position themselves for 2023 while also attempting to sidetrack feared probable 2023 rivals.
These calculations blurred party lines as loyalty to selfinterests exceeded loyalty to party. The manner of things concerning Edo was never as they appeared. Indications of these complex dynamics were evident early in the campaign.
The PDP campaign initially fixated on Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, a former governor of the state and immediatepast National Chairman of the APC. With the intensity of attacks on Adams Oshiomhole, one would have thought he was going to be on the ballot.
This was just the prelude to a larger broadside. The PDP, aligned with a fifth column in the APC would see the Edo race as a way to attack and derail Asiwaju Tinubu’s purported 2023 presidential ambitions.
Several APC governors and a few cabinet ministers held not so secret Abuja meetings on how they could use Edo to topple Tinubu’s likely presidential run. They determined that to support Ize-Iyamu was tantamount to bolstering Tinubu as both men were joined in political alliance via Oshiomhole.
It is against this background, the involvement of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in the election must be weighed. In a video that went viral, the National Leader of APC admonished Edo voters not to renew Obaseki’s mandate as governor because of his anti-democratic action of inaugurating only 9 members (a 10th member was later sworn-in) out of 24 members of the Edo State House of Assembly following their election during the 2019 general elections. The remaining 14 have been locked out of the House Chambers since June 2019 thereby denying the majority of Edo people representation.
Tinubu made this statement in an attempt to rally party loyalists. He understood that leaders of the APC factions against him had laid traps to sabotage Ize-Iyamu’s campaign.
Thus, one can perhaps criticize Tinubu for making a wrong statement at the right time. However, to attack him under the proposition that he had no right to concern himself with the election is hypocritical.
Granted that President Muhammadu Buhari needed to play the role of a statesman by not deploying the apparatus of state in support of his party’s candidate, nothing in the books precluded APC governors, ministers, appointees of the President, former governors, and other party leaders from giving a moral boost to Ize-Iyamu’s campaign with their physical presence in Edo. Reports that some serving and former APC governors and leaders like Kayode Fayemi, Ibikunle Amosu, Rotimi Amaechi and others actually aided the campaign of Obaseki should have been treated long ago.
They should never have been allowed to afflict the party as they did in Edo State. Asiwaju Tinubu could not keep silent given this scenario. He had to do the little he could in support of the candidate of his party, Pastor Ize-Iyamu. That is the stuff leaders are made of.
It is in this context that I believe that rather than vilify the Asiwaju, he should be commended for exhibiting the highest level of loyalty and commitment to his party.
His lone mistake was that he should have much earlier and more publicly called to task those in the APC who supported Obaseki. As a democrat who believed in the power of the people, Asiwaju’s appeal to Edo voters is testament to his democratic credentials and respect to the people of the State.
For now, the election may have been lost but had his party won, the criticism he is facing now would have been praise for his forthrightness. The man has courage while those fighting from the shadows do not.
However, he must now use that courage to shine a light on those who do the wrong thing and seek to undermine the party through cover of darkness that they may gain through subterfuge what they cannot attain through legitimate, democratic, party processes.
*Akpan is a Public Affairs Commentator based in Abuja