By Elizabeth Tejumola
As the appointed day for the Edo people to choose their preferred governor for the next four years approaches, politicians from various camps and parties are bracing up, leaving no stone unturned to ensure victory for their candidates, apprehensions are rife and political anxiety are shored up among residents and observers alike.
Drumbeats and counter-drumbeats of war could be heard at deafening volumes. The closer the election date, the more ingenious some of the political camps have become in their bid to outwit one another.
There is no doubt that the forthcoming Edo governorship election fits as a prototype for the 2023 general election, largely as the real battle for “Osadebe House” remains squarely between the duo of incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Pastor Odigie Ize-Iyamu of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Both the APC and PDP have worked tirelessly to ensure that enough friends are made and are converted to loyal voters for the September 19 poll.
Politics anywhere in the world is a number’s game and the numbers have to be accumulated. Both Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu have been traversing the length and breadth of the state – from Edo South to Edo Central, not leaving out the much-coveted Edo North senatorial electorate – all in the bid to shop for friends, who would be converted into favourable voters.
Though usually the outcome of any election involving an incumbent office holder, particularly in Nigeria has almost always been predictable, because they usually sway every state apparatus, including the security agents and even electoral umpires to their advantage, usually in a manner that makes mockery of democracy.
Apart from squandering state funds illegally on an election, which usually is their (the politicians) selfish pursuit, it has also become a wise tactic for politicians to woo voters and political influencers with posts, appointments, contracts and other patronages. The power of incumbency is usually arrogated to the advantage of the incumbent.
However, the incumbent in the Edo election, Governor Obaseki has been in the thick of one storm or the other since the warm-up began for the forthcoming polls. He has had a seemingly endless battle of supremacy against his immediate predecessor and benefactor, Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomole. But the former APC national chairman is just one out of the many hurdles awaiting Mr. Obaseki in his bid to have a second term as a governor.
That the political combat for the control of APC in Edo State between Oshiomole and Obaseki ripped Oshiomhole of his APC chairmanship garb is no longer news, but the laurel won by the governor against his former boss, who many believe is neither down nor dead, will be a major albatross for him.
The former governor is surely not relenting in his bid to assert himself, not only in Edo State but also at the national level, where the governor collaborated with some anti-Oshiohmole forces to edge him out of office and he is enjoying the support of many well-meaning Edo indigenes, most of who advised the governor to toe the path of peace without success.
Not a few Edo State indigenes and non-indigenes were displeased with the governor over the roles he played in Oshiohmole’s ouster as the APC National Chairman and now is apparently a time he would be paid back in his own coins.
A major drawback of the Edo governor is his inability to apply enough Emotional Intelligence (EI) and power of retrogressive thinking. These have to do with the way people weigh their weaknesses and strengths.
Obaseiki naively elevated individual brilliance above emotional intelligence, leading to his failure to articulate the pros and cons of his actions. Whereas, in management, emotional intelligence is 70 per cent of application while individual brilliance is only 30 per cent. Thus, successful leaderships across the world in history have thrived on this fact.
The governor didn’t consider the feelings of other Edo APC members, when he turned external forces against a man believed to have over pampered the people during his eight years rule as governor. He fought his predecessor, a considered (single) enemy and in the process, offended a greater number of the Edo people.
A man, who could not differentiate between his strengths and weaknesses, is not fit to lead a people or else he would lead to needless crisis. In additional, he lacks emotional maturity.
No wonder Oshiomole is taking to his knees in apology for introducing an “impostor” and an alleged “forger” to the people in 2016. He likened the governor to “a man with the propensity of running a one-man show in a democracy.”
The informed Edo people believe that Governor Obaseki placed personal interest above the common good of the Edo people, especially, those of the APC as he joined forces with perceived enemies to oust a man considered the only voice Edo State could boast of in terms of representation at the national level. He played the spoiler, who cares less for others and so selfishly stirred up the dirt at the bottom of the well after fetching enough water for himself, supposedly.
For this reason, the Edo people are crossed with their governor and he would only measure the impact of his misdemeanor after the election. He was simply shortsighted and parochial, when he joined alien forces to oust Oshiomole.
Oshiomole already played the party supremacy card. The next line of action will be to deploy his political sagacity and his clique of friends within and outside the state to prevent his political mortification as schemed by Obaseki. Oshiomole will play this game with and for his pride. This is more so, because he has a lot of people that matter on his side.
Added to that is the fact that the APC leadership will also advance all available political machinery for their victory in the Edo election.
President Muhammadu Buhari, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Oshiomhole and an array of APC leaders at the national level are all in one accord in their quest to retain Edo for APC. It will go down in the records as the dirtiest political walloping on them (the APC hierarchy) if Obaseki succeeds in deposing Oshiomole as chairman, as is widely believed, and then wins the governorship election for PDP.
The APC for who they are, are under immense pressure to win the election – Edo being the only APC state in the South-south. Pride is at stake. Another factor that might impede Governor Obaseki, which is another clear indication of his poor emotional intelligence, is the issue of the 14 non-commissioned house members, who were sidelined on his instructions.
Edo State House of Assembly has been operated by just 10 out of 24 elected members. The 10 members favoured by Obaseki were inaugurated at an “odd hours” on June 17, 2019, and his agents have prevented the others from serving their people ever since.
In a recent letter to the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), and signed by their counsel, Dr. Ehiogie West-Idahosa of West Idahosa & Co., the disenfranchised representatives of the people, now 17, including three out of the ten inaugurated since last year, who have all pledged support for Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, candidate of the APC, they urged the AGF to use his good offices to arrest the desecration of democracy in Edo State.
In the letter with the reference number WIC/AB/W2/1024/20 the aggrieved lawmakers, also loyal to Oshiomhole, said: “Contrary to the standard practice of inaugurating the House with possibly all members present, the governor, on June 17, 2019, chose to inaugurate the House at odd hours with only about nine members in attendance”. They revealed further that the governor has frustrated every entreaty to have their inauguration effected.
The partial inauguration of Edo legislative house, according to the lawmakers, underlined the disequilibrium in the political stability of the state and the resultant insecurity that had characterised the state. This, they explained, has shut about 60 per cent of the Edo people out of the scheme of things, denying them the benefits of constituency projects, employment, judicious allocation of resources and other dividends of democracy.
This is also believed to have snowballed into a general lull in the economic activation of those people and places, increased crime rate and the palpable tension generated by the unbecoming violent clashes of the pro-Obaseki lawmakers and the already agitated uncommissioned faction believed to be loyal to former governor and deposed national chairman of the APC.
In the protest letter, signed by West-Idahosa, the principal partner, and titled, ‘Urgent and nationalistic appeal to intervene in the restoration of constitutional democracy in Edo State of Nigeria’, dated August 3, 2020, the lawmakers said; “Since then, the Assembly has been run by nine members for no justifiable reason whatsoever. By failing to inaugurate about 14 members-elect of the House, there is a huge social and political disequilibrium in the state.”
The greatest challenge for Obaseki at the polls will be the over 60 per cent of the total Edo State constituents, who have been denied representation on the floor of the house. It implies that the 17 house members and their teeming supporters will work against the governor at the polls. How he intends to convert this larger and aggrieved populace, mostly in APC dominated zones, into supporters and voters remains to be seen.
Again, he has lost the grassroots and no one wins any election with this kind of posturing, more so, the likes of Captain Idahosa Wells Okunbo, whom he turned to an enemy overnight is loved by many people in the grassroots and worst still, his challenger, Ize-Iyamu, is a well-known grassroots politician.
The infraction of partial inauguration of the house poses serious wide reaching criminal implications for the present Edo State Government. For instance, the state has operated on a budget of about N179billion for the 2020 fiscal year, purportedly passed by the same decimated House of Assembly. Now, if as much as 60 per cent were denied their rightful commissioning by Governor Obaseki, which means they were hindered from performing their legislative duties, and by extension over sixty per-cent of Edo people were denied their constitutionally guaranteed right to be represented in a democracy, one can safely say, and be right, that Governor Obaseki is operating an unlawful budget.
Recall that Justice J. O. Ogebe of Oyo State Appeal Court in a ruling on December 1, 2006, had declared the impeachment of former Oyo State governor, Senator Rasheed Adewolu Ladoja, illegal, null and void, partly because the house did not muster the required majority vote for any bill to become a law.
Only 18 out of the stipulated 22, which should be the stipulated majority in a 33-member house declared the then governor impeached and installed his erstwhile deputy, Adebayo Alao Akala, as governor. Keen observers are also looking forward to the legally minded to interpret the law and proffer clarifications as to the legality or otherwise of operating a budget that fell short of constitutional requirements.
Whether a budget, which demands a majority vote by house members, but passed into law by only the House Speaker and a few other lawmakers, who are less than the legally defined simple majority is a workable legal document or not will be decided by the Nigerian judiciary. But before then, the electorate in the September 19 election, are most likely to pass unfavorable judgment on the outgoing administration.
This is because to an average informed Edo person, Obaseki committed an impious crime and ought to be impeached. Every Kobo he has spent from the illegal budget is a crime and punishable under the law. Another oddity that will work against Obaseki is the demographic distribution of Edo State.
Both Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu are from Edo South senatorial district. It is however instructive to repeat that the challenger is a respected grassroots politician, loved by his kith and kin. Their love for him has always been demonstrated during elections even when he was not in the central ruling party. For instance, neither Obaseki nor any other politician stand any chance to win against Ize-Iyamu in any election as far as the senatorial district is concerned.
He has always won and will win the upcoming elections if history and statistics could be valid indices of accurate forecast. Ize-Iyamu is a politician with strong personal political structures on ground, from the pre-APC days, when he founded the Grace Group, a structure that successfully midwifed the ACN and later APC. Ize-Iyamu is a man respected and loved by the who-is-who in Edo politics.
Unlike the incumbent, who relies on syndicated votes from other regions chiefly Edo north, where he rode on the Oshiomole factor to the government house, presently, Ize-Iyamu and Oshiomole are in the same camp against Godwin Obaseki. And boosting the rating of their camp is the fact that nearly all the notable politicians in the state, have now signed up for the Ize-Iyamu ambition.
The APC candidate will naturally carry the day in Oshiomole’s North senatorial district. The combination of a split victory from Edo North and Central senatorial districts coupled with an assured maximum vote from the South will see Ize-Iyamu coasting to a landslide victory in the upcoming elections.
Though the Central senatorial district, for the consideration of 2024 is likely to support incumbent Obaseki, simply because standing with the governor and ensuring his victory might see the baton of leadership switching in their direction come 2024. But votes from this district are the least among the three divisions in the state.
Worst still, the consideration they might have for Obaseki could as well be overwhelmed by the strong ties between Ize-Iyamu and major politicians in this region.
Ize-Iyamu has been a friend of the influential Igbinedion family since the 80s, during the Zero Party. He was an assistant to Lucky Igbinedion as a local government chairman and became the Chief of Staff when Lucky became governor, before eventually making him the Secretary to the State Government. All these factors have definitely propelled the unusual crowd and personalities seen during each of his campaigns.
For instance, when he took his campaign to Edo Central, apart from his running mate, Mallam Gani Audu, and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the Federal Commissioner representing Edo in the Federal Character Commission (FCC), Mr. Henry Idahagbon, the Edo Central Campaign Director-general and two-time member, Federal House of Representatives, Mr Patrick Ikhariale, two-time former Commissioner, Chief Frank Okafi Erewele, the strong man of Edo Central politics, Chief Francis Inegbeneki, former Civil Commissioner, Ken Ihensekhien, Mr Abu Momodu among others were present to lend their support.
In Edo North, the list is inexhaustible with personalities like former Deputy Governor, Rev. Peter Obadan; Senator representing Edo North Senatorial District, Senator Francis Alimikhena, the member representing Akoko-Edo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives. These and many more political heavyweights appear to have deserted Obaseki for an old friend and ally, Ize-Iyamu.
Knowing full well that the crowds seen at political rallies may not be the true representation of the peoples’ love for a contestant, the calibre of politicians, who have signified their disapproval of Obaseki’s reelection is a better pointer to the fact that he has been roundly rejected by his people, and as such, cannot and will not win the September 19 governorship election in Edo State.
*Tejumola wrote from Abuja