By Sufuyan Ojeifo
Since Mr Charles Idahosa’s interview published on page 10 of New Telegraph of July 15, 2020, headlined: “Edo people’ll resist rigging of guber poll”, Governor Godwin Obaseki, for whom he works, his administration officials and leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on which platform he (Obaseki) is contesting the September 19 governorship election in Edo State have continued to reinforce that fictive narrative.
Creating unnecessary ballyhoo about some imagined plans to rig is a simple strategy of building up a dodgy alibi to explain away Obaseki’s impending defeat and to seek to diminish the magnitude of the expected victory of the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
I foresee a situation where, smarting from their forthcoming comprehensive defeat, the PDP apparatchiks would say to as many as would care to listen: did we not shout from the rooftops that the APC was planning to rig the election? Did we not alert the security agencies to the plots by the APC to undermine the process, using the federal might, and acting in cahoots with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)?
PDP’s burgeoning propaganda about APC’s plot to rig the poll is nothing but a cock-and-bull story being painstakingly concocted by its leaders to misrepresent the actual worth of its Godwin Obaseki/Phillip Shaibu’s joint governorship ticket.
What can be the real worth of a ticket scorned, shunned and rejected by the APC in Edo State? Can the appropriation of the same ticket, especially the Obaseki component, by the PDP shear it of the contradictions that assailed it and for which reason the APC disqualified him from participating in its governorship primary election?
Obaseki is an open book, which Edo people can read. His close to four years of uninspiring performance in office cannot escape essential indictment by the people. Had he been up and doing to deserve renewal of his mandate? Edo people will provide an answer to this question on September 19.
Indeed, having been in the shadows of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole for all of eight years as Chair of the Economy and Strategy Team and having worked very closely with other members of Oshiomhole’s cabinet, Obaseki has taken his time to unravel in the last four years. Certainly not as a reliable apostle of Oshiomhole’s philosophy of continuity of progressives projects and policies but as a potential conquistador to the consternation of Oshiomhole and his colleagues who misread him sufficiently to bet on him to keep fidelity to shared values when he was being entrusted with power. Alas, it was a misplaced decision. Obaseki has since moved on in a different direction.
Having now been inherited by the PDP, baggage and all, I cannot but laugh at the chicanery of the PDP leaders in their reprobative and approbative responses to Obaseki’s candidature in 2016 and 2020, respectively. All of a sudden, they are forcefully selling Obaseki, carrying on as if they never had a past of animosity between them. Now PDP leaders make it look as if their standard bearer is a born-again potential performer, reformer and visionary, trying to garb the inherent lies and contradictions in ethnic politics and obfuscating electioneering that suffers critical disconnect with his first term in office.
It is clear that after about four years in office, there are no self-evident, concrete and tangible achievements on which Obaseki is running. This is a local issue, which his supporters outside Edo have failed to connect with. Obaseki has lost this winning issue. Oshiomhole won an emphatic second term in office on the basis of his performance in his first four years in office. He was a homeboy governor whose stake resonated well with the people.
If PDP leaders think that they could hoodwink enlightened Edo people into believing and accepting their skewed narratives hook-line and sinker, in order to prepare for Obaseki an explanation of the adverse outcome of the September 19 plebiscite, then they have got a big think coming.
But reading and listening to their gobbledygook, I always, in soliloquy, ask rhetorically: who really wants to rig the September 19 governorship election in Edo between a very popular candidate with pervasive networks and high net worth and a chaotic candidate who had to leverage on the PDP structure after he was disqualified from seeking re-election on the APC platform? The answer to this question is, of course, blowing in the wind.
If Obaseki were very popular as he claims, he should have chosen to run on the platform of any of the small political parties instead of the hassles to which he subjected himself to get the PDP ticket. Former Governor of Ondo State, Olusegun Mimiko, left the PDP for Labour Party to contest the governorship and defeated Olusegun Agagu. Mimiko, like Ize-Iyamu, is a popular and grassroots politician. It is thus understandable the reason the PDP in Edo is dissipating energy on disseminating pieces of propaganda with which its leaders are propping up Obaseki.
What should have been of great concern to Charles Idahosa and his party men is the advice given to them by my very good friend, former journalist-colleague and now chieftain of the PDP in Kogi State, Mr Farouk Adejoh-Audu in a Facebook post, advising that “Edo PDP (should) be vigilant! Don’t get distracted to go after Governor Abdulahi Ganduje of Kano State…and forget important local winning issues.”
I am glad at the clear understanding of Adejoh-Audu that every politics is local and that there are winning issues that are collocated and circumscribed within the various localities. As a matter of fact, I had intended to title this article: “The local winning issues in Edo guber race”, but had to settle for the above title that pointedly speaks to the theme of rigging, which the PDP leaders have continued to harp on.
While there is nothing amiss in preaching about free and fair elections, I find it disingenuous on the part of the PDP to assume the position of a moral compass in this matter of election purity. The PDP is simply hiding behind a grand chicanery and I am sure a vast majority of Nigerians see the Edo State chapter of the party as just playing to the gallery in a calculated bid to divert attention from itself and, by so doing, portray the APC as a rigging machine even when that representation is not correct.
Electioneering is a time for blowing hot air. And, the PDP is acquitting itself very well on that score. But beyond the outlandish allegations and preposterous claims, are the significant local winning issues, which political parties and their governorship tickets are expected to be conscious of and keep fidelity to in their enlightened self-interest; otherwise, they would be swept off by the tide of people power.
What are the local winning issues that will determine the shape and texture of the forthcoming governorship contest in Edo, which is a two-horse race between Pastor Ize-Iyamu of the APC and Governor Obaseki of the PDP? I think what will swing victory to either of the two leading candidates can be compartmentalized into four: politics of politics; politics of religion; politics of tradition and culture; and politics of compassion.
Who between the candidates has played an integrative, inclusive and accommodating politics that connects with the masses across the state? Who between them constantly touches base with, identifies with, oil his structures and network? This is politics of politics. Ize-Iyamu has acquitted himself very well on this score.
He has been doing these, at least, since 1999; and, has, in the process, been a kingmaker of sorts. In about four years in the saddle as governor, Obaseki has only succeeded in mismanaging electoral success by ostracising and trying to retire from politics leaders of the APC that assisted him to power.
Talking about the politics of religion, Ize-Iyamu has largely taken care of that sensitivity and the sensibilities that come with it. For the first time since 1999, a Muslim, Malam Gani Audu, from Edo North is on a frontline governorship ticket. If the ticket wins in line with reasonable expectations, it will be the first time that the Muslim population in Edo State would be represented in the Government House.
It will be a dream come true for the Otaru of Auchi who has been in the vanguard of a Christian-Muslim governorship ticket to accommodate the two major religions in the state. The Muslim population, especially in Edo North, is significant. A vast majority of them will settle for Ize-Iyamu/Audu ticket on the score of religious accommodation. Obaseki is stuck with Phillip Shaibu, a fellow Christian as his running mate. This is a local winning issue that Obaseki’s supporters outside Edo are possibly not factoring into their prognosis.
Against the backdrop of recent developments, who between the candidates has maintained a closer relationship with traditional rulers as well as shown a greater understanding of the culture and tradition of the localities in Edo State? Who has shown more respect to the traditional rulers?
When Comrade Adams Oshiomhole apologized to the Enigies over the disconnect between them and his successor and regretted that Obaseki was not meeting with them regularly as he (Oshiomhole) was wont to do, the message was very clear. Oshiomhole had assured them that when Ize-Iyamu steps in the saddle, he will revive that interaction and synergy.
And talking about the politics of compassion, even if Ize-Iyamu has not been opportune to be governor, how has Obaseki deployed his opportunity in relating and dealing with both real and imagined opponents? Ask Tony Kabaka whose hotel was demolished. Ask Henry Idahagbon whose office was riddled with bullets.
Ask those persons whose Certificates of Occupancy to GRA plots were revoked. Ask those young men who were assaulted in front of the Palace of Oba of Benin on July 25. Ask Oshiomhole who lost his chairmanship due to legal crisis orchestrated and sponsored by Obaseki. Need I say more? How else can the compassion of a leader be judged. In Oshiomhole’s time, he only threatened opposition and never got down to act in accordance.
But, we, Edo people, have in our hands a bull in a China shop, who seems not ready to take prisoners. Will the vast majority of Edo electorate deploy their PVCs in validating and renewing the status quo? I doubt.
This is a local issue that has not resolved itself in favour of Obaseki. So, when the chips are down on September 19 and the big man in Osadebe House kisses the dust, let it not be contemplated or even verbalized that APC rigged the election. Obaseki has simply gifted away the governorship.
Ojeifo contributed this piece from Abuja via firstname.lastname@example.org