Adibe Emenyonu writes that the recent abysmal electoral performance of the All Progressives Congress in Edo State could be traced to factors that have haunted the party for a long time
The last presidential and national assembly elections in Edo State did not bring cheering news to the All Progressives Congress (APC) family because from all indications, the party had no excuse to lose. However, when the results were announced, the party struggled to capture five of the nine seats in House of Representatives.
The senatorial contest was a disaster for the party, as it lost two of the three seats to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
But for the gallant fight displayed by the APC members in Edo North senatorial district, it would have been entirely a difficult race. In the zone, the party swept all the three Representatives seats available including the senatorial seat.
Comrade Peter Akpatason opened the floodgate of victory in the area. The two-time House member and former National President of PENGASON defeated Oladele Bankole-Balogun of the PDP to win Akoko-Edo Federal Constituency seat. He scored a total of 27,097 votes to beat the PDP candidate who scored 16,053 votes.
Akoko-Edo Federal constituency is home to prominent personalities like, Senator Domingo Obende, Chief of Staff to Governor Godwin Obaseki, Mr. Taiwo Akerele, Speaker, Edo State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Kabiru Adjoto and Elder Ayo Olowojoba, Hon. Segun Oseh amongst others.
Next to bring cheerful news to the APC was Prof. Julius Ihonvbere who polled 33,199 votes to beat Johnson Abolagba who scored 25,722 votes when INEC released the final results at Afuze, headquarters of Owan East local government.
Professor Ihonvbere, a Human Rights activist was former Special Adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Project Monitoring. He was also SSG to former Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, now National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC). His rival of the PDP was one time member, representing Owan Federal Constituency as well as Deputy Governorship candidate of the party in Edo 2012 governorship candidate. He ran on the same ticket with Major-Gen. Charles Airhiavbere (rtd) under PDP.
Similarly, good tidings came from Etsako Federal constituency where incumbent Johnson Oghuma of APC, defeated the PDP candidate, Blessing Agbomere with 57,751 votes to 36,904 votes.
In the Senate race, incumbent senator from the area, Senator Francis Alimikhena of the APC, humbled Abubakar Momoh, one-time member, representing Etsako Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives. Alimikhena scored a total of 117,783 votes to defeat Momoh of the PDP who polled 80,752 votes.
The political fortunes of the party, however, began to change when the results from Edo Central senatorial seat was announced. Nobody expected anything else as the area has been a PDP stronghold for a long time. The result did not disappoint political fortune tellers.
It wasn’t therefore a surprise when Clifford Ordia of the PDP and incumbent senator representing the zone in the Senate was declared winner by INEC. Ordia, an engineer by profession, scored 56,048 votes to trounce his rival, John Osagie-Inegbedion, an acolyte of Governor Godwin Obaseki who garnered 49,158 votes.
In the same manner, Sergius Ogun, also of the PDP was announced winner of Esan North East/Esan South East Federal constituency seat. Ogun trashed Joseph Ikpea, a former Council chairman, and younger brother to Delta-based multimillionaire, Leemon Ikpea with 25,581 votes as against 18,687 votes.
It was not also good news from Esan West/Esan Central/Igueben Federal constituency when the result was declared. It also showed that Chief Joe Edionwele of the PDP, defeated Deacon Patrick Idiake of the APC. Edionwele scored 30,848 votes while Idiake garnered 29,844 votes.
Then came the real disaster which defied all political permutations and analysis because nobody expected the defeat from Edo South, the home of Governor Godwin Obaseki, former National chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, Minister of State, Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, APC, state secretary, Lawrence Okar, former Deputy Governor, Lucky Imasuen, APC Youth leader, Valentine Asuen and Major-Gen. Charles Airhiavbere (rtd).
The first sign that defeat stared APC in the face came when some of it’ candidates began to raise alarm, accusing the opposition and INEC of skewing the process, which was dismissed. But when the results finally came, it was shocking.
The governor lost his immediate constituency seat of Oredo with a wide margin. The quintessential Omoregie Ogbeide Ihama of the PDP was declared winner of Oredo Federal Constituency seat. He polled 32,895 votes to defeat the APC candidate, Hon. Tony Osaigbovo Iyoha, who scored 23,352 votes.
As if the Oredo saga was not enough, the result form Egor/Ikpoba-Okha Federal constituency was a big political blow to the APC family following the humbling defeat of the rotund political figure from the area, Rt. Hon. Ehiozuwa Johnson Agbonayinma by a frail and colourless personality, Jude Ise-Idehen who polled 53,618 votes to defeat the incumbent, Agbonayinma of the APC who scored 44,323 votes.
The only cause for smile in the zone came from the remaining two constituencies of Ovia and Uhunmwode/Orhionmwon where the APC won. According to the result from Uhunmwode/Orhionmwon, the APC candidate, Mr. Patrick Aisowere scored 27,526 votes to win Mrs. Uwa Osunbor of the PDP who pulled 23,460 votes.
In Ovia Federal constituency, Dennis Idahosa of APC dethroned the daughter of Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, the Esama of Benin, Ms Omosede Igbinedion of PDP who is currently occupying the seat. Idahosa, a former Commissioner in Edo, polled a total of 28,509 to defeat Omosede who scored 23, 345 votes.
This little joy was nevertheless, wiped off by the result of the senatorial seat. The sitting senator of the PDP, Sen. Matthew Urhoghide beat the favoured political wordsmith and bombastic Hon. Patrick Obahiagbon. He scored 135,588 votes to beat Obahiagbon who pulled 121,957 votes.
The outcome of the National assembly poll also affected the presidential election result. Overall, President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC lost to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of APC with 267,681 votes to 275,681 votes. In the Edo Central senatorial district for instance, PDP had 56,874 votes while APC scored 45,116 votes. North senatorial district, APC pulled 114,071 votes and PDP 80,042 votes. While in the South senatorial zone, PDP garnered 138,767 votes and APC 108,613 votes.
With this results, APC has won five of the federal constituency seats, while PDP secured four seats. In the Senate result, PDP won two of the senatorial seats and APC had one.
The outcome, political watchers in the state believe is not a good one for the APC that controls the federal, state and local government administration. Handlers of the APC in the state have been roundly blamed for these uninspiring results. In 2015, for instance, a similar scenario played out but the difference then was that PDP was in control of the federal government. But with APC government in charge, “there is no excuse for this show of shame,” said one of the party sympathizers who craved anonymity. According to him, “it was expected that the party will perform creditably well but some of us are disappointed with what happened”.
The road to the present dismal performance of the APC in Edo State was tarred two years ago. Shortly after he took over, Obaseki began to have run-ins with top leaders of the party. First to disagree with his style of governance was the then state youth leader of the party, Comrade Osakpanmwan Eriyo, popularly called “No Molest”.
The differences led to Eriyo being clammed into prison custody for two months. He was only released following the intervention of Oshiomhole before he was forcefully removed, and replaced with the favourite of the governor, Valentine Aisen.
Not only that, another youth leader, Anthony Adun, alias Tony Kabakar also fell out with the governor. The same attitude drove away Rotimi Adams, popularly known as “Shaba” by his cronies who is now with the opposition PDP.
These youth leaders were the foot soldiers of the APC before Obaseki came to office. They were the ones the party used in bringing Obaseki to power.
The disagreement Obaseki had with these youth leaders emanated from the abrupt suspension and removal of markets and motor parks toll collection from them without providing an alternative means of survival. Angered by this move and the adamant posture of the governor to find a middle cause to resolving the logjam, the 2019 presidential and national assembly elections became the launch pad to pay the governor back in his own coin.
Another reason the APC performed poorly in the elections is due to the calibre of persons who surround Obaseki. As soon as he took over, Obaseki conceived a plan to do away with Oshiomhole’s men and recruited his own infantry battalion. Unfortunately, he could not back it up with the required generosity to command enough loyalty.
More so, his recently conscripted foot soldiers lack the political sagacity of the old brigade he dispensed with. Even when they are indigene of the communities they were asked to man as Special Assistants at the wards, local governments and state levels, they remained far from the politics of their respective community because they are not on ground.
Not too long ago, some indigenes of the state cried out that foreigners and those who were not around during the electioneering that brought the governor to power are now the ones calling the shots in his administration. Nobody cared to listen to their complaints. Some of these complainants were among those that sabotaged the APC. They even vowed to teach him a greater lesson during the state assembly polls slated for this weekend.
Again, it was alleged that the governor in his spent thrift nature, cared less in the last election in terms of campaign funds for his party candidates. According to a source close to him, “He refused to support our candidates, simply because the election is not his own. Even when he decided to bring in something, it was not only too meagre, but came very late. Severally when approached for funds, he will say anyone seeking election should be ready to finance it.”
Another straw that broke the camel’s back was the over confidence displayed by APC chieftains in the state. They were banking on the fact that since APC is in control of the federal, victory was assured. They have since learnt the hard way. Moreover, when the election was first postponed, they went celebrating believing, the opposition will no longer have the wherewithal to mobilise their supporters not knowing that is not over until it is all over.
Against this backdrop, Obaseki has begun to mend fences to ensure the victory song changes in favour of APC. This is necessary because a repetition of the last election in the forthcoming state assembly election will spell doom not only for the party, but his reelection chances in 2020. Should the PDP win majority of the state assembly seats, he might as well bid goodbye to Dennis Osadebey Avenue.
In the bid to cover for the loss in the presidential and national assembly elections, the party and Obaseki have started making moves with the intent to retain all or most of the seats in the state assembly in order to remain relevant.
Deputy Governor of the State, Rt. Hon. Philip Shaibu, gave the hint at a rally to celebrate President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory in the February 23 presidential election, which the party in the state lost to PDP, urging members and supporters of the APC in the state, to come out and vote for the party’s House of Assembly candidates.
According to him, “I urge Edo people to come out on March 9, 2019, to vote for candidates of the APC to help the government consolidate on its achievement by passing bills that would enable us accomplish more for all Edo people and residents.”
Shaibu who represented his boss, Governor Obaseki at the rally, explained that “a parliament that is dominated by APC legislators will cooperate with the governor and support the people-centred programmes of the party such as infrastructural development that will grow the economy and put smiles on the faces of Edo people.” He cited the cooperation of the current assembly with the executive arm of government, which he said has led to progress and development in the state.
Notwithstanding, a pressure group under the auspices of Benin Elders has perfected plans to persuade the people of the area to vote APC so that the state will not be in opposition to Buhari’s government at the centre.
How these strategies play out in the next few days, depend on the governor’s disposition and change of attitude to do away with selfish politics. At the same time, he has to assuage the angry elements in his party, to bury the hatchet. Otherwise, he should be ready to carry his portfolio back to his stock broker firm.