The emergence of the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Godwin Obaseki and his counterpart in the Peoples Democratic Party, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, for the September 10 governorship election in Edo State, has no doubt set the stage for what is obviously a two-horse race, writes Davidson Iriekpen
With the conclusion of the primaries to elect the standard bearers in the two major political parties for the September 10 governorship election in Edo State, there is no doubt that the stage is set for contest to begin.
While Godwin Obaseki emerged candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), settled for Osagie Ize-Iyamu. Although there have been discontents in both parties since the emergence of both candidates, it is obvious the two parties might have moved on as far as their choices are concerned.
Obaseki was the Chairman of the state’s Economic and Strategy Team inaugurated by Governor Adams Oshiomhole in March 2009, while Ize-Iyamu, a pastor in the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), is former Chief of Staff and later Secretary to Edo State Government in the Lucky Igbinedion administration from 1999 to 2003.
There is no doubt that with the conclusion of the primary elections, the stage is set for the two candidates in the race, who incidentally are Binis to put all their electoral arsenal at work for the September 10 duel. The Binis, with seven local government areas, constitute about 50 per cent of the population of the state.
There is no doubt that while the APC, which has been in power for the past seven and a half years, may want to consolidate by striving to win the election, the PDP which previously ruled the state for nearly 10 years and now hungry for power, would try everything humanly possible to reclaim the state’s plum job.
While Oshiomhole and other APC stakeholders in the state might boast of victory come September 10, there is no doubt that the emergence of Ize-Iyamu, who is largely seen as well-rooted in the politics of the state as the PDP candidate, makes them uncomfortable. The impression in some quarters is that the PDP candidate, having served as Director-General for the Oshiomhole Campaign Organisation during his second term bid for the governorship seat, understands the workings of both the APC and the PDP. A school of thought believes that he would put his wealth of experience to use during the electioneering process, even though there is a counter belief that Obaseki’s position too puts him in vantage edge in terms of policy and administration, having helped to deliver the present administration.
But the governo dismissed this fear last week, when he said the opposition party would not constitute any threat to his party winning the state on September 10. Speaking after Obaseki’s emergence, Oshiomhole said: “Our delegates have spoken. Now, the party will hit the ground running. There is no PDP in the state. Which of the factions? We have one body with several heads, even when they were in the federal we defeated them with all their federal might. So, there is no PDP as long as I am concerned.
“For me, they are lighter than a loaf of bread. But we will go to the election with the hope that there are other parties in the state. PDP is not an issue. I don’t think Edo people will forget PDP’s crimes in a hurry. Not for the next 20 years in this state. Even when you ask young boys and girls in the state, who is responsible for this bad school, they would say it is PDP.
“Who is responsible for this bad hospital, they say it is PDP. Who is responsible for this bad road, it is PDP. Who is responsible for this good road, it is APC. Even children know that. By the time they become 18, they will continue to vote APC and vote against PDP. We have no fear at all. In fact, we will do better in the next election and kick them out of existence.”
With the electioneering now in progress, those against Obaseki believed that Oshiomhole’s preference for him is to cover his tracks and reintroduce god-fatherism into the politics of the state, which he did everything possible to exterminate in the state, when he assumed power in 2008. They also believed that if the Oshiomhole/Obaseki governorship deal works out, Obaseki, as the governor of Edo State, would pander to the whims and caprices of his godfathers.
On the hand, those against Ize-Iyamu accused him of political prostitution, having moved from the PDP to the APC and back to the PDP, and the fact that he once served under a government that left the state worse than they met it between 1999 and 2007.
On the other hand, many observers believe that the APC, which has been in power and also controls the centre would seek to up its game by hinging its campaign on Governor Oshiomhole’s performance in office. Also, considering the nature of the nation’s politics, some are tempted to believe that the party may benefit from its control of the government at the centre.
Besides, there are those who argue that the Binis had in the past lamented their exclusion from national patronage as a result of the state being in the opposition party. The sentiment in some quarters now is that the APC controlling the central government in Abuja and headed by a Bini son, Chief John Odigie Oyegun, as its chairman, would serve the interest of the people better.
But those against the party in the state are arguing that there is nothing special about Oshiomhole’s performance. They accused the state government of massive corruption in the awards of contracts and of running a one-man government. They also accused Oshiomhole of running an authoritarian government, where every decision and approval comes from him.
But whatever argument observers put forward, many believe that the two main parties would have a lot of issues to campaign with, both for and against, and ultimately, the fate of the candidates will be decided by the electorate.
“The people of Edo State are totally disenchanted with Oshiomhole for his draconic and authoritarian style of governance. He alone knows everything. He constantly talks down on people, he bullies and harasses everybody. Come to the state and hear what the people are saying about their governor they once loved, you would be shocked and ashamed. Now, nobody wants to see or touch anything he stands for because he has failed the people,” said a member of the Ize-Iyamu campaign organisation.
Perhaps, this was why Ize-Iyamu recently challenged Obaseki to a robust campaign. The PDP candidate, while congratulating his opponent on his nomination as the APC standard bearer, said he looked forward to meeting him on the field on issue-based campaign that would seek to address hunger, poverty, crimes and unemployment in the state.
The PDP candidate wondered why Oshiomhole was still acting as if he was seeking a third-term in the office. According to a statement by his campaign organisation, “A week after Obaseki emerged as the candidate of the APC, it is interesting to note however that Oshiomhole still speaks as though he is the candidate running for elections. Is Obaseki not a grown man? Why can’t he begin to speak for himself or is this a sign of things to come?’’
He advised the electorate to thoroughly scrutinise the candidates soliciting for their votes before deciding who to support, adding that Edo State would stoutly reject a puppet being sponsored by Oshiomhole in conjunction with some external investors for their selfish interest.
Ize-Iyamu said he was ready to submit himself for any scrutiny and ready to defend all his activities in the past. He also described the recent statement credited to Oshiomhole that the anti-graft agency would abort Ize-Iyamu’s governorship aspiration as unfortunate, saying he was being driven by fear of Ize-Iyamu emergence.
However, one of the steps that the two candidates need to urgently address to be in good stead would be how to successfully resolve the grievances of those, who lost out in the primaries.
In the APC, for instance, announcement of Obaseki as the standard bearer of the party had provoked other aspirants such as Chris Ogiemwonyi and Kenneth Imansuangbon, who alleged that the figures credited to Obaseki were electronically manipulated.
At a joint press briefing they held a day after the primary election in Benin City, they both called for total cancellation of the entire result. They also called on the national leadership of party and the Primary Appeal Panel to order a repeat election, as well as the forensic analysis of all the ballot papers, and finger prints on the ballot papers, because according to them, the ballot papers used for the primaries had been compromised.
Besides, they accused agents of the state government led by Oshiomhole of victimising party officials and delegates, before and during the party primaries, whom they perceived of not being in support of alleged imposition of Obaseki.
For instance, Ogiemwonyi and Imansuangbon claimed that some of these victimisations include the illegal suspension of some ward chairmen, the unlawful removal of Orhionmwon local government party chairman, Mr. Matthew Ehigie and the unlawful suspension of APC Edo South senatorial chairman, Mr. Gentleman Amegor. They also cited attempts by the same agents of the state government to substitute names of authentic delegates for the primaries, a manner, both noted, subverted the conduct of a peaceful, free and fair primaries.
Similarly, in the PDP, the two other aspirants, who contested the party’s ticket with Ize-Iyamu, Matthew Iduoriyekemwen and Chief Solomon Edebiri, staged a walkout of the stadium before the results were declared. They rejected the exercise, alleging that the leadership of the party in the state led by Chief Dan Orbih threatened delegates to vote for Ize-Iyamu or they would be removed as delegates.
Edebiri said the exercise was a conspiracy by the leadership of the party in the state to impose Ize-Iyamu, adding that “Orbih threatened few weeks ago that he would make sure that I do not get the ticket because he accused me of working against him during party chairmanship congress. He promised that he would ensure I do not get the ticket. Last week, he started giving directives to party leaders to deliver.”
While the two parties have set up committee to address these grievances, considering the way and manner politics is played in this part of the world, the possibility of mass defection cannot be ruled out on both sides, depending on how the issues are resolved.