CAJETAN MMUTA reports on the intrigues that led to the victory of Governor Godwin Obaseki and defeat of acclaimed political godfathers during last weekend’s governorship election in Edo State
The much talked about September 19 governorship election in Edo State has come and gone and the cold breeze and shivers of threat of violence that took the centre stage before and during the campaigns have naturally died down. As expected winners and losers have emerged but the outcome had left in its wake reverberating echoes of joy and laughter for the winners as well as the losers and it might be permanent pains of loses, regrets and anguish.
The reasons are obvious. For Governor Godwin Obaseki and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), it is indeed freedom for Edo people and lovers of democracy from the repressive hands of the godfathers. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Governor Obaseki the winner of the election with a score of 307,955 votes to beat his main challenger and candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who polled 223,619 votes.
With the figure, Obaseki distanced Ize-Iyamu away and absolutely stopped him from inching close to the luscious and luxury seat at the Dennis Osadebay Avenue Government House. The investment czar polled a historic wide margin of 84,336 votes to seal the race and silence his opponents.
Declaring the results, INEC’s Returning Officer for the election, said: “I, Prof. Akpofure Rim-Rukeh, the Returning Officer for the Edo State Governorship Election, do here certify the following votes as scored by the 14 parties that contested the election.
“They are as follows: AA: 107 votes; ADC 1,370; ADP 2,374; APC 223,619 votes; APGA 177 votes; APM 57 votes; APP 78 votes; LP 267 votes; NNPP 258 votes; NRM 573 votes; PDP 370,955 votes; SDP 323 votes; YPP 132 votes and ZLP 117 votes respectively.
“I hereby affirm Godwin N. Obaseki of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as winner of the election having scored a total of 370,955 of the valid votes cast; and having scored 25 per cent of the total votes cast and margin of the lead higher than cancelled votes, is, hereby declared winner of the election.”
Earlier, the Returning Officer had announced that there were a total of 557,443 voters; valid votes: 537,407; total votes cast as 550,242, while rejected votes stood at 12,835. A breakdown of the results showed that Obaseki of the PDP won in 13 local government areas, while Ize-Iyamu won in five local government areas. Interestingly, Obaseki had survived all odds and traps ab-initio set on his way by detractors from securing his second term in office.
He inexplicably demystified his estranged godfathers, who majorly include the immediate past governor of the state and former National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole; National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; immediate past deputy governor of the state, Pius Odubu, General Charles Airhiavbere, Engr Lee Ikpae and a former Minister State for Works, Engr. Chris Ogiemnwoyi as well as others, who under the aegis of Edo Peoples Movement (EPM), plotted Obaseki’s ouster. Analysts’ views and findings showed that Edo electorate took aggressive poise against Oshiomhole, who was at the center of the battle to ease out the governor out office.
The people were said to have plotted to completely retire and politically silence the Iyamho born politician and former president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) for double speak on the person and credibility of the APC governorship candidate. Oshiomhole had without restraint, publicly condemned Ize-Iyamu in 2016 in order to score cheap political points.
The people were angered that Oshiomhole never took cognizance of the fact that Ize-Iyamu was the same personality who offered himself as the Director General of his reelection campaign and had played active role towards the success of his administration.
In clear terms, Oshiomhole demarketed Ize-Iyamu and brought his fortunes to rubbles. Again, Oshiomhole’s combative, arm twisting game and plot to disgrace Obaseki out of office and to deny him a second term was seen by eggheads from the populous Edo South and Central senatorial districts as an attempt to diminish them ethnically and politically and in the process lord it over them.
This particular action exposed Oshiomhole as the godfather, a tag he had long kicked against. Also, the people felt that Oshiomhole’s seeming grandstanding was a humiliation against them having supported him while he held sway as governor of the state and therefore, cannot determine solely who the next governor of the state should be.
It was part of this reason that forced Obaseki to take his destiny in his hands and took the battle to Oshiomhole’s doorsteps. Furthermore, Oshiomhole’s overbearing influence was said to have ruined the fortunes of the ruling APC at the centre that it lost grip of expected unity and peace among of its elders, leaders and members across most states under the control of the party.
It was evident that shortly after the bitter and dramatic exit of Chief John Odigie-Oyegun as APC national chairman, the party had 26 states under its control but the internal crisis that engulfed the fold upon Oshiomhole’s emergence depleted the number of states under the party’s control, which now stands at 19. One is not therefore surprised that findings have revealed that key leaders and members of the APC voted against their party due to the Oshiomhole factor. Reason for this was obvious.
Complaints were rife against Oshiomhole over the alleged dictatorial role he displayed in collaboration with members of the APC National Working Committee (NWC) and Screening Committee that pronounced Obaseki unfit to contest the September 19 governorship election. Again, it may not be far from the truth that APC governors worked against their party in the Edo State.
While good reasons are yet to be given for the questionable failure of the APC National Campaign Council to hold the much expected grand finale rally after its candidate and party toured round the 192 wards and 18 local government areas during the governorship campaign in the state. It was reported that some APC governors ensured that the move to get Oshiomhole back as helmsman of the party did not work out.
While the Obaseki/Shaibu (Deputy Governor Philip Shaibu) team has succeeded in taking a pound of flesh from Oshiomhole, forces within the APC appear to have sharpened their daggers to make Oshiomhole fall on ordinary ground by whittling his powers in order to have their way.
No doubt, the former governor has irretrievably lost political relevance. It is worthy of note that members of the Edo Peoples Movement (EPM) had to split over Oshiomhole’s dump of his then deputy governor, Odubu whose chances for the number one seat were clear. Sources close to the EPM revealed that after meetings held in the houses of two key leaders of the group, some henchmen of Oshiomhole abandoned him after they were asked to support the governorship ambition of Ize-Iyamu against an earlier agreement to feature Odubu for the plum job. Also, the Esan people in Edo Central zone of the state voted massively for the PDP even though the area has PDP in their blood due to their respect for late Chief Tony Anenih but more importantly for the agreement they entered into with Obaseki to ensure the zone produces the next governor after his eight years in office.
It was clear that Obaseki means many things to a majority of the estimated 1.7 million voters in the state, who without hindrance proved with their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) that they cannot be taken for granted. Their resolve to back Obaseki was a testimony of their departure from the vicious attacks by opposition groups, which claimed that the present government has nothing on ground to show since it came to power. However, the almost four years of the first term has been eventful with records of achievements, especially the reforms in various sectors, prompt payment of salaries, digitization of teaching in Edo schools and improvement in technical and science education; e-learning that earned the state outstanding performance in recent examinations due to the doggedness of EdoBest programme, infrastructural and industrial revolution, employment and skill development.
Edo people were also miffed by the incursion by Tinubu in the process. The APC national leader was quoted to have asked Edo people to reject Governor Obaseki at the poll. In a special broadcast aired four days to the election, Tinubu described Obaseki tagged as a dictator who does not know the value and genesis of the democratic rule Nigerians are currently enjoying.
The former governor of Lagos State added that Obaseki won election in 2016 because he presented himself as a democrat. No doubt, the poll in all its ramifications was keenly contested and won fairly but the question on the lips of many is: What next after Obaseki has cut his foes to size and earned his deserved second term? Many are of the view that he should forget the threats of “lions and tigers” and face governance as well be magnanimous in victory because to whom much is given, much is also expected.
To these analysts, Edo people have spoken and it is another privileged opportunity to pay them in good coin. They insist that a new dawn has come, so the governor must strive to welcome back his old friends and foes and endeavour to give the next four years a human face.