Old Cultural Animosity, Resistance to Godfatherism Aid Ize-Iyamu’s Defeat



Adibe Emenyonu

Osagie Ize-Iyamu, an ordained pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) and candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the just concluded governorship election in Edo State, must be wondering what hit him. Reputed to be a grassroots politician, who has spent all his life in Benin City, capital of the state, safe for the one-year sojourn in Lagos to attend the Nigerian Law School for his legal practitioner’s licence, he genuinely believed that the coveted price was in his kitty, given his perceived extensive political network in the state.

But now, he must have seen how mistaking he was. Trounced by an otherwise political novice, who was four years ago, in his own words, needed a godfather to show him around the state’s political landscape, Ize-Iyamu’s bewilderment is clearly understandable.

However, as some political analysts note, he ought to have known that the political narratives had been framed against him. Sponsored by persons suspected to want to entrench their political hegemony on the state, the outcome of the election could not have been different for as far back as 2012, there has been endemic animosity towards the tendency for anyone to arrogate to himself the attributes of God.

Even years before Oshiomhole came to the scene in 2008, Ize-Iyamu had fanned the embers of resentment of the notion. “No man is God,” was the phrase he popularised in his struggle against the entrenched political interest of the time. By 2008 when Oshiomhole became governor against the run of play from the court and began his onslaught against Chief Tony Anenih, the political godfather in the state at the time, he was only stocking the fire Ize-Iyamu had ignited.

Not a few people in the state saw Oshiomhole’s role in the last governorship election as an attempt to go back to his vomit. He had told the people that godfathers were the reason the state had stagnated and that for it move forward, all those playing God must be uprooted.
“Oshiomhole taught us to fight godfathers because they are evil, now he wants to be one,” Obaseki said in many of his campaigns across the state.

Obviously, that message resonated with the people, who Oshiomhole, in his effort to uproot the entrenched political dominance of the Peoples Democratic Party’s leader, Anenih, spent his eight-year governorship teaching to fight godfathers. To bring in Obaseki as governor on the ground that his (Oshiomhole) eight-year governorship and achievements revolved around him (Obaseki) and turn around to paint him black four years later, portrayed Oshiomhole as not only a dog back at his vomit, but also as taking the people for granted.

“We are not exactly as gullible as Oshiomhole thinks we are,” Osaro Uwugiaren, a political science graduate of University of Benin, who has been out of a job since he graduated four years ago, told THISDAY yesterday. “And there ought to be a consequence for such reprehensible behaviour,” he added.
That must have been what happened on Saturday.

If the dog’s return to its vomit was reprehensible, something more unacceptable was in the offing. Last week, Bola Tinubu, the national leader of APC, made a broadcast, urging Edo people to reject Obaseki, dismissing him as a dictator, who has not been part of the struggle for democracy and did not appreciate the need for political tolerance. His sole evidence for this wholesome rebuke of an elected governor was Obaseki’s perceived role in fencing off 14 state Assembly members-elect from the hallowed chamber of the legislator.

That turned out to be an unintended strategic political error. It failed to take into cognizance the age-long cultural superiority rivalry between the Yoruba and the Bini. In recent times, the superiority contest between the Yoruba and Bini over originality had boiled over. The Bini claim the Yoruba migrated from Edo and the Yoruba say the Bini originated from Oduduwa in Ile-Ife. The acrimony has been there. Tinubu’s media pronouncement, to an average Edo person especially the Bini, who are so proud of the culture, was seen as an affront and unnecessary extension of influence.

“We are not about to start taking instruction from Lagos,” Idemudia Aigbogun, a lawyer, told THISDAY, saying coming against the background of the political war cry of “Edo no be Lagos,” was a most insensitive and a terrible political error of judgment.
Perhaps so. The outcome of the election in which Ize-Iyamu lost 13 of the 18 local councils, including his Orhionmwon homestead indicates a sort of disenchantment with his latest political association.