Nseobong Okon-Ekong writes that the fever-pitch anticipation of the September 19 governorship election in Edo State may be determined by factors that are glaring, from the outlook of the major political parties and their candidates
The Godfather Versus The Godson
Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the immediate Past Governor of Edo State and former National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was instrumental to the emergence of Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State in 2016. But the cosy relationship between the two men went sour. Obaseki alleged that Oshiomhole wanted to control him as a puppet, particularly in deciding how the finances of the state should be expended, but he would have none of it. Oshiomhole who markedly showed disdain for a godfather figure when he governed Edo was being portrayed as one who wanted to hold his successor by the jugular. This narrative from the Obaseki camp has been widely sold to the public. Although Oshiomhole has tried desperately to debunk the notion, but try is all he can because Obaseki may have won the sympathy of many for being the underdog who is being whipped for challenging the powers that be. Obaseki”s allegations of high handedness against Oshiomhole have largely been wild sweeping, without specific instances to prove indecent interference and not allowing him a free hand to govern the state. Oshiomhole, an unabashed ally of the APC National Leader, Senator Bola Tinubu has been told in clear terms that Edo is not Lagos where Tinubu dictates the pace of governance and who drives engine of power as governor.
Will Federal Might Be Brought to Bear?
Supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), whose flag Obaseki is carrying have told anyone who cares to listen that the only way the APC and its candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu can win is to execute an elaborate rigging plan, aided by the various agencies under the control of the Federal Government. This is what is often alluded to as the proverbial Federal Might. Elections in Nigeria are generally known to be marred by many ugly incidents including vote buying, stuffing of ballot boxes, violence and open display of partiality by officials. So far, all the indicators reveal that the major contestants are desperate and willing to do anything to win. This ugly trait is not restricted to one political party or its candidate. However, PDP supporters have lately been harping on the leaked conversation between the Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Gambari and Oshiomhole in which there was a suggestion to arrest or cage PDP stalwarts. The APC too has alleged that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) may be hand in gloves with the PDP to give victory to Obaseki. This allegation came to the fore after the controversial Resident Electoral Commissioner in Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Mike Igini was spotted in Edo. But the PDP also accused INEC of putting the Edo governorship electuon in the hands of a Resident Electoral Commissioner who sympathises with the APC. During the 2019 national elections, in some states like Sokoto and Akwa Ibom where it was feared that the APC would exert undue influence to gain an upper hand, resolute resistance and vigilance from the people halted any rigging plan that may have been conceived. It is not impossible to successfully resist Federal Might if the people of Edo are determined to chart a different course. Oshiomhole may not command the kind of influence previously associated with him as National Chairman of the ruling party at the centre.
Influence of Edo Royal Fathers
Following many incidents of violence involving supporters of the two main political parties, the APC and the PDP, the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, broke his silence and extracted commitment from leaders of all political groups and other stakeholders to maintain peace throughout the period of the election. Much of the fracas have been reported in Edo Central, which heartland of the Esans, who are next to the majority Bini-speaking people. The Binis can be found in seven of the state’s 18 local government areas, representing 57.14 percent out of the 6 million population of Edo State, while Esan people constitute 17.14 percent. Oshiomhole is said to have turned his back on Esanland during his eight-year tenure. An example is his alleged abandonment of Ambrose Alli University in Ekpoma, while establishing another university in Iyamho, his hometown in Edo North. Royalty in Esan hold this against him. Of particular note was his dethronement of the Onojie of Uromi, His Royal Highness Anselm Aidenojie II. Obaseki restored his crown. Nothwithstanding, some royal fathers in Esan like Ojirua of Irrua, HRH Williams Okuagban Momodu II, has identified with Ize-Iyamu. Both Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu have have it a point of duty to pay courtesy visits on natural rulers wherever they go to campaign. While a few of these royal fathers maintained dignified silence, others have clearly shown their preference, according honours and titles.
Proud Personal Heritage
Both Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu have name recognition that dates back to a good number of year. The Governor’s family name Obaseki meaning “King of the Market,” was given to his ancestors by ancient Benin kings. Ize-Iyamu also comes a family line of honours that are bestowed with many traditional titles. His forefather holds the reputation of erecting the first story building in the kingdom.
Can Incumbency Work Magic for Obaseki?
From being an underdog, Obaseki has emerged as a giant killer in his fight against Oshiomhole. He successfully engineered the removal of Oshiomhole as Natiinal Chairman of the APC, having ensured that he was suspended from his ward. Obaseki also kept his head above turbulent waters by making sure that Edo lawmekrs who were suspected loyalists of Oshiomhole were not sworn in. When he was denied the ticket of the APC for a se ond term, he switched political party loyalty to the PDP and has since been carrying out a robust campaign, telling the people about his Make Edo Great Again (MEGA), which promises to build industries, more roads, take his EDOBEST educational programme to the next level and continue with prompt payment of salaries and pension. His an ebullient general in his Deputy, Mr. Phillip Shuaibu.
Will Edo Buy His SIMPLE Agenda?
Ize-Iyamu is trying to sell to Edo people an all-encompassing development agenda that caters for security, education, infrastructure and training with the acronym SIMPLE. It is a novelty that the people of Edo State have never tested but may be willing to try because of the reputation of the man behind it. Ize-Iyamu on his own steam was said to have given the APC (his then opponent in the 2016 governorship election) such a hard fight. The calculation now is that with the backing of Oshiomhole, he is set to make a very good run.
Ize-Iyamu has become a constant factor in the politics of Edo State over. He served the state as a former Chief of Staff to the then governor of Edo State, Chief Lucky Nosakhare Igbinedion who later was appointed the Secretary to Edo State Government.
The Redeemed Christian Church of Christ pastor also became the Director General of former Governor Adams Oshiomhole’s re-election. He helped Oshiomhole to win clearly in all the 18 LGSs of the state.
Ize-Uyamu has also served as Director of Campaign to both former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, giving the two candidates a good win.
However, the RCCG Pastor
His traducers at some point went to town to talk about a certain 700 million Naira which was brought to the state for the purpose of election in 2016. In their usual manner, they said he has received an illegal proceed and expected him to lie waste in prison custody. Sadly, this accusation was flown at a time he was contesting against the current governor of Edo Starts Mr. Godwin Obaseki. As God may have it, there has been a lot of revelations on the matter as it has become obvious that the said fund was neither a criminal proceed NLR was it sent to the account of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. The bank has only called him and some other party members including Chief Dan Orbih and Hon. Tony Aziengbemhi (the immediate past and present chairmen of PDP) to certify that the money was well delivered after which they (the bank) took the fund to a certain leaders house. The chairmen of the 18 LGA who the campaign money were shared to signed as receivers. There has been no Kobo in the records traced to Pastor Ize-Iyamu.
Did Oshiomhole Demarket Ize-Iyamu?
In 2016 Oshiomhole—the then-governor of Edo—traversed the state with Mr. Godwin Obaseki urging the people to support his governorship bid. For seven and a half years, Obaseki served as the chairman of the state’s Economy and Strategy Team. He birthed the major development projects of the Oshiomhole government.
Oshiomhole called Ize-Iyamu an acid bather who got rusticated from school. He referred to him as a fake pastor.
Oshiomhole also stated that Ize-Iyamu was unfit to be governor because he had no record of professional enterprise or public service besides his stint in the government of Chief Lucky Igbinedion. He called him a treasury looter who had cases to answer at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and could not be trusted with public funds.
If there is one opponent that the All Progressives Congress (APC) dread in Edo State, it is the incumbent governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki. The reason is not far-fetched, a little while ago, the Edo governor was a member of the APC, even if he was treated like a leper for a season by key decision makers in the political party, particularly its erstwhile National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. What began as a minor misunderstanding between the two men was mismanaged on both sides. The gulf of distrust became so wide that it was impossible to reach across the divide for a friendly handshake.
Powerful individuals and interest groups had weighed in on the war between the political godfather, Oshiomhole and his estranged godson, Obaseki. The APC National Leader, Senator Bola Tinubu overtly threw his weight behind Oshiomhole, while the former National Chairman of the party Chief John Odigie-Oyegun backed Obaseki.
Finally, the differences took an irreconcilable turn. Obaseki was denied the APC gubernatorial ticket which would have enabled him to take a second chance at the office of the governor in the impending September 19 Edo State governorship contest. What was APC’s apparent loss, became PDP’s gain. The tables turned quickly as Obaseki switched political party loyalty to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In a twinkle of an eye, the PDP had become the ruling party in Edo. The permutation for the governorship contest was altered. Obaseki who was threatened with the ‘Ambode treatment’, meaning, like the immediate past governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, he will not be given the opportunity to serve a second term, has shown that he was not willing to yield an inch without giving the fight of his life. His supporters are boasting that the APC made a fatal error by giving its governorship ticket to Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. In their reckoning, APC has kissed the state goodbye.
From being an underdog, Obaseki has emerged as a giant killer in his fight against Oshiomhole. He successfully engineered the removal of Oshiomhole as Natiinal Chairman of the APC, having ensured that he was suspended from his ward. Obaseki also kept his head above turbulent waters by making sure that Edo lawmekrs who were suspected loyalists of Oshiomhole were not sworn in. When he was denied the ticket of the APC for a se ond term, he switched political party loyalty to the PDP and has since been carrying out a robust campaign, telling the people about his Make Edo Great Again (MEGA), which promises to build industries, more roads, take his EDOBEST educational programme to the next level and continue with prompt payment of salaries and pension. His an ebullient general in his Deputy, Mr. Phillip Shuaibu
Ize-Iyamu is trying to sell to Edo people an all-encompassing development agenda that caters for security, education, infrastructure and training with the acronym SIMPLE. It is a novelty that the people of Edo State have never tested but may be willing to try because of the reputation of the man behind it. Ize-Iyamu on his own steam was said to have given the APC (his then opponent in the 2016 governorship election) such a hard fight. The calculation now is that with the backing of Oshiomhole, he is set to make a very good run