TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE writes on the renewed battle for Edo State between the state governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki and former Secretary to the Edo State Government (SSG), Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu
ithout any iota of doubt, the September 19 governorship election in Edo State is going to be a straight battle between the state governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki and former Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who are the two leading candidates in the poll.
Both of them have already picked the governorship tickets of their respective political parties ahead of the poll. Governor Obaseki is the standard bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), while Pastor Ize-Iyamu is the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
For many political analysts, the September 19 poll is going to be a renewed battle between Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu, who square up against each other during the 2016 governorship election in Edo State. Governor Obaseki, then of the APC defeated Pastor Ize-Iyamu, who was then the governorship candidate of the PDP.
Obaseki, who was declared winner of the September 26, 2016 governorship poll by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC’s Returning Officer, Prof. Kayode Soremekun, polled 319,483 votes as against Ize-Iyamu’s 253,173 votes. The then APC candidate defeated his main rival with 66,310 votes, winning 13 out of the 18 local governments of the state, with wide margin votes in Edo North and Edo South senatorial districts, while Ize-Iyamu swept the votes in Edo Central Senatorial District, which is PDP’s stronghold.
However, Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu have swapped parties ahead of the forthcoming poll no thanks to soured political relationship between the governor and his predecessor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who is the immediate past national chairman of the APC. Oshiomhole was consumed by the internal wrangling that led to the recent dissolution of the APC National Working Committee (NWC) by the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) last Thursday.
As a result of the disagreement between the former and incumbent governor, APC in Edo State was enmeshed in a crisis since last year and several efforts by party leaders to reconcile them didn’t yield positive fruits as Edo APC is currently divided into two factions, each battling for the soul of the party.
A faction is loyal to Oshiomhole while the other faction was backed by Governor Obaseki, before his defection to PDP and secured its ticket against all odds.
Oshiomhole and Obaseki enjoyed a cordial relationship for many years and they worked together during the past administration to deliver dividends of democracy to the people of Edo State during Oshiomhole administration. The relationship between them was one of the reasons why Oshiomhole worked tirelessly to ensure that Obaseki succeeded him in November 12, 2016. But despite the role Oshiomhole played in his emergence as incumbent governor of Edo State, Obaseki fell out with his predecessor due to political differences, which eventually deepened the war of attrition between them.
In the course of the political war, some APC chieftains in Edo State including the state deputy governor, Hon. Phillip Shuaibu and other public office holders, stood solidly behind Governor Obaseki and didn’t hide their preference for re-election of the governor.
For the pro-Obaseki group to achieve their goal, they are doing everything possible to stop forces against the governor re-election. In fact apart from the several endorsements the governor had received within the party, some of PDP chieftains within and outside Edo State have also endorsed Obaseki for a second term.
On the other hand, the pro-Oshiomhole forces also picked up a fight with Obaseki and his men to ensure that they stop the governor’s re-election. It was the political war against Governor Obaseki that forced many APC governorship aspirants to agree to present a consensus candidate during the June 22 governorship primary and the arrangement produced Pastor Ize-Iyamu as the consensus candidate of the APC faction loyal to Oshiomhole.
The political war between Oshiomhole and Obaseki affected the chances of the governor picking the APC’s ticket as the party’s screening committee disqualified him over issues relating to his certificate.
The disqualification forced Obaseki out of APC and he defected to PDP to contest for the party’s gubernatorial ticket. Against all odds, the governor was able to get the leadership of the PDP to grant him a waiver to be able to contest for the party’s governorship primary.
Obaseki’s entrance into the race generated a lot of controversies within Edo PDP but the governor, who was determined to get the PDP ticket did everything possible to win the party leaders and members to his side and based on internal arrangement within the party, other PDP aspirants stepped down for him.
Governor Obaseki’s emerged as the PDP governorship candidate for the September 19 gubernatorial poll last week Thursday, scoring 1,952 votes out of total accredited votes of 2024, while 72 votes were invalid.
On his part, Pastor Ize-Iyamu, emerged winner of APC’s direct primary election. Declaring him winner of the party’s primary election, the Chairman of the APC Primary Election Committee and Imo State governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma, declared that Ize-Iyamu polled 27,838 votes to defeat a former deputy governor of the state, Dr. Pius Odubu and Osaro Obaze, who scored 3,776 and 2,751 votes, respectively.
No doubt, Governor Obaseki and Pastor Ize-Iyamu are not new in the
Edo governorship race, however, the belief is that their respective personalities, party structures and political network are likely determine the outcome of the September 19 gubernatorial election. Governor Obaseki, born on July 1, 1957, is aspiring to extend his stay in the Edo Government House beyond November 12, 2020, when his first term in office is expected to end.
The businessman and investment banker turned politician, first served in Edo State as the Chairman of the Edo State Economic and Strategy Team inaugurated by former Governor Oshiomhole in March 2009. He also served as the Chairman of Tax Assessment Review Committee for Edo State Internal Revenue Service (TARC) and the Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME), respectively.
On assuming office, he used his connection to attract lots of economic development to Edo State and many believe that he was one of the brains behind the laudable achievements and success of the Oshiomhole-led administration in the state.
Many people also believe that Obaseki’s performance and track record made Oshiomhole to throw his weight behind him for the 2016 governorship poll.
Ize-Iyamu, a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), who was born June 22, 1962, is not a novice in the politics of Edo State having served in both party and government positions. He was former Chief of Staff and Secretary to the State Government in Edo State.
The APC candidate was the Director- General of Adams Oshiomhole Campaign Organisation in 2012 and was a one-time National Vice Chairman (South-South) of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN); one of the legacy parties that merged to form APC in 2014.
Due to his quest to become governor in 2016, he felt out with Oshiomhole and defected to PDP.
He served as the Coordinator of Goodluck/Sambo Campaign Organisation in Edo State during the 2015 elections. A grassroots politician, who hails from Benin Kingdom, Ize-Iyamu later declared his intention for governorship of Edo State on the platform of PDP, took part in party’s primary and emerged as PDP’s governorship candidate for the September 26, 2016 governorship poll.
He lost the election to Obaseki of APC. Ahead of this year’s gubernatorial poll, he defected to APC few months ago and benefited from the supremacy batte between Oshiomhole and Obaseki to emerge as the candidate of the APC.
Two months ahead of the election, the two candidates are drumming for support from different sources in their determination to win the poll.
But many political analysts believed that a lot of issues will determine the outcome of the election, among which are financial strength, party structures and individual strength and political network of the two political gladiators in the race.
With PDP now as the ruling party in Edo State, Governor Obaseki will be going into the election with a financial war chest to ensure that he secures his second term to be able to spend eight years in office like his predecessor.
The recent defection of some public office holders and eminent politicians in Edo from APC to PDP is going to boost the governor’s chances.
The unity in the ranks of the PDP, which was reflected in the way the party managed the entrance of Obaseki into the party and his emergence as the party’s flag bearer, is also an added advantage to the ruling party if its members sustain the momentum till September 19.
On his part, Ize-Iyamu as a grassroots politician and a member of the ruling party at the federal level will also be banking on support from the centre and other APC states to realise his governorship aspiration. However, being in the opposition party and the recent crisis and division in APC might pose an impediment to his bid of unseating Governor Obaseki.