After months of heated campaigns, Edo State governorship election was in a dramatic twist shifted by three weeks, In this piece, CHIBUZO UKAIBE and PATRICK OCHOGA, explore the intrigues surrounding the postponement.
The postponement of the Edo State governorship election to September 28, (which was earlier scheduled for today) came like a jolt, creating political ripples that are yet to settle.
Barely 24 hours after President Muhammadu Buhari attended the mega rally of his party, All Progressives Congress (APC) making the final campaign for its guber candidate, Godwin Obaseki, a security alert emerged advising a postponement.
The Police and Department of State Services (DSS) said the call was as a result of alleged threat by those they referred to as insurgents and extremists planning to cause mayhem in the country between September 12 and 13.
Force Public Relations Officer, Mr. Don Awunah, and Garba Abdullahi of the DSS, stated this at a media briefing in Abuja.
The statement added, “The Nigeria Police and Department of State Services wish to inform the general public that credible intelligence available to the agencies indicate plans by insurgents/extremist elements to attack vulnerable communities and soft targets with high population during the forthcoming Sallah celebrations between September 12 and 13, 2016.
“Edo State is amongst the states being earmarked for these planned attacks by the extremist elements.”
INEC was taken aback. As the body mandated with the constitutional responsibility of scheduling, shifting or canceling elections, it’s immediate response to the advisory was surprise and then outright refusal.
Expectedly, the political parties, feasted on the announcement. While they resisted the shift as well, they bragged that they were already coasting to victory.
The state Governor, Adams Oshiomole and APC called for the continuation of the polls lamenting that it would postpone the burial of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, while the leading opposition party, declared that the postponement was a ploy by the APC-led government to buy time having foreseen defeat.
They further argued that it was odd that INEC could conduct a senatorial election barely two weeks back in Borno State where insurgents held sway for the better part of five years.
Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose, on his part alleged that the APC was behind the plot adding “Democracy in Nigeria has now graduated from inconclusive elections to postponement of elections in other to return APC candidates at all cost.”
While the back and forth between the parties continue, barely 12 days to the previous date scheduled for the polls, security agencies and INEC after a stakeholders meeting had interestingly assured they were ready for hitch free polls.
The stakeholders had met under the aegis of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security at INEC’s headquarters in Abuja. The meeting was chaired by the INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu.
At the meeting, the Edo State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Chris Ezike assured that about 22,603 policemen will be deployed for the election, aside several officers to be contributed by other security agencies.
Ezike added that the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) was advised at a recent meeting to shelve the conduct of the 2016 Nov/Dec Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE), scheduled to hold on the election day.
He noted that since the state would be locked down throughout the day, with movement restricted, it would be impossible for candidates writing the examination to move about to their respective centres. He said WAEC was also advised to relocate the candidates to nearby states for the examination.
The CP who was quoted as describing the election as a litmus test for the new Inspector General of Police, added that the police in the state began preparations several months ago.
He said: “If there is a way we can mitigate violence, our election will be conclusive. Since September 2015, we have made 870 arrests, while 525 suspects have been charged to court. Over 248 individuals have renounced cultism and some 248 small arms have now been recovered.”
He said a show of force would be conducted on August 31, while a number of helicopters would be deployed for surveillance purposes during the election.
He assured: “for the Edo election, we are good to go. We will not give room for ballot snatching and we will enforce the no-movement order to the letter.”
Days later he was redeployed to Lagos State for purposes of the election, in keeping with the tradition ahead of such polls. Mr Olafimihan Adeoye was deployed to replace Ezike. The new CP on assumption of office assured that all the arrangements for the polls would not be touched.
But less than 48 hours to the polls, a lot changed. Amazingly, INEC’s initial resolve to go ahead with the polls, much to the cheering of the PDP, couldn’t last beyond five hours. In a dramatic twist, the electoral commission reversed itself.
Not even the goading from the civil society, who tongue-lashed the security operatives and described their advise as unconstitutional, could firm INEC’s spine to go on.
Clearly, the commission, according to analysts, knew it was in a bind, reminiscent of 2015 general election.
At the peak of preparation for the 2015 general election, the former National Security Adviser (NSA) Col Sambo Dasuki, had called for the postponement of the polls, citing security concerns in the North East, which was ravaged by insurgents at the time.
The then INEC chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega, held series of meetings with several stakeholders but gave in to the security advise, extending the poll by three months. For many analysts at the time, the commission was subtly blackmailed by the security agencies.
This time, the resolve of INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmoud Yakubu to dare the odds and go ahead with the polls melted in the face of the realities at stake.
It was reported that upon the issuance of the security alert, there was a subtle withdrawal of personnel for the polls. It was gathered that even the National Youth Service Corps adhoc staff were not deployed.
Evidently, the burden of a breakdown of law and order if the election had held would be borne by a commission that had earlier this year vowed not to conduct elections in areas where safety of lives and property cannot be guaranteed. The commission had made the resolve after an INEC adhoc staff drafted from the NYSC was killed on election duty in Rivers State.
While concerns continue to mount over the inability of more than 20,000 policemen (excusing other security agencies) to conduct election in one state, a larger concern brews ahead of 2019, majorly on account of security.
While security experts are wont to disagree that the agencies lack capacity for the job, the debate over political interference in their operations has remained rife. Security agencies have over the years been accused of partisanship during elections.
More so, the scenario in Edo has sparked off the debate over where the weak link actually lie with regards to the spate of inconclusive elections.
However, civil society organizations have blasted the security agencies over their action, describing it as unconstitutional. But beyond that they pointed to a more disturbing scenario.
The Transition Monitoring Group said the decision by Nigerian security agencies was unacceptable.
In a statement signed by its Chairperson, Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, the TMG, a coalition of Nigerian civil society groups, said the decision was “poorly timed, wrongly presented” and capable of eroding the confidence of Nigerians in the electoral system.
“It is trite fact that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the security agencies have meeting forum and channels of communication.
“It is astonishing that INEC appears not to have been taken into confidence before the security agencies came out in full glare of the public to announce its preference for a postponement,” Ms. Akiyode-Afolabi said.
Ms. Akiyode-Afolabi said the security agencies should understand that their announcement was capable of causing tensions that they intended to forestall in the first place.
“TMG feels strongly that this tendency could undermine the confidence of voters and precipitate apathy and is capable of building tension in the electoral space,” Ms. Akiyode-Afolabi said. “This could lead to electoral violence, which the security agencies are supposedly trying to prevent.”
Similarly, the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room (Situation Room) comprising more than 70 Civil Society Organisations that were already in Benin-City to observe the Edo governorship election has expressed disappointment at the attempt by security outfits to put off the poll.
Their statement news “The advice is in clear violation of S.160 (2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which forbids any person or authority from giving directives or seeking to control INEC – it being an independent body.
“It is surprising that the Police and DSS who are part of the Inter Agency Consultative Committee on Elections Security (ICCES) together with INEC, did not formally brief INEC before issuing this contentious statement, to enable all key stakeholders review whatever security challenges the security services may claim to have arisen.
“The ‘advice’ by these security agencies has undermined public confidence in the conduct of the Edo State Governorship poll.
“INEC now faces a more challenging task of assuring all parties that a revised poll can be properly organized within a constitutionally stipulated timeframe.”
While the debates lasts, the expectation nonetheless stands, a violent-free, fair and credible polls.
How the Candidates Stand…
In about three weeks, the residents in Edo State will go to the polls to elect a new governor who will pilot the affairs of the state for the next four years. INEC had cleared 18 political parties to contest in the election.
However, from all indications only two political parties are really in the race to win. They are the APC and PDP. Mr. Godwin Obaseki and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu are candidates of the APC and PDP respectively. Still, many believe that the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) Earl Osaro Onaiwu and the Labour Party (LP) candidate, Amos Areolegbe, might just pull an upset.
Godwin Obaseki, (APC)
Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki was born in Benin City to the famous Obaseki family. He had his early education at St. Matthew’s Anglican Primary School, Benin City, from where he proceeded to Eghosa Anglican Grammar School, Benin City, for his secondary school education. He attended the University of Ibadan where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Classics.
Obaseki attended the Columbia University and Pace University in New York and has an MBA in Finance and International Business. He is also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Stock Brokers, Nigeria, and an alumnus of the Lagos Business School, (Chief Executive Programme). He was nominated as Global Leader for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum in 2001.
Obaseki began his career over 30 years ago and he has a proven track record in Investment Banking, Asset Management, Securities Trading and the Public Sector both internationally and in Nigeria. He started out in 1983 with Capital Trust Brokers Limited, Lagos, as a stockbroker where he excelled and subsequently worked with International Merchant Bank (an affiliate of First Chicago Bank). In 1988 he joined AVC Funds Limited, Lagos, where he served as a Project Manager and led the core team that set up two of the new generation banks, which eventually reshaped the face of the banking industry in Nigeria. Between 1993 and 1995, he worked in New York as a principal of Equatorial Finance Co, a financial advisory firm with a focus on Africa, providing Structured Trade Finance for Africa related transactions through credit, financial advisory and risk insurance.
Obaseki founded Afrinvest West Africa Limited (formerly Securities Transactions & Trust Company Limited (SecTrust) in 1995 as the pioneer managing director.
Obaseki is presently the chairman of the Board of Directors of the firm, which won the Best Asset Management Firm in Nigeria (2014) Award, organised by the Wealth & Finance International Magazine Finance Awards.
Before his nomination as the candidate of APC, Obaseki served as chairman of the Edo State Government’s Economic and Strategy Team, a position he has held since March 17, 2009 pro bono.
Obaseki has served on the Presidential Committee on the Reform of the Nigerian Pension System. He also served on the Nigerian Securities and Exchange Commission Committee on the Reactivation of the Nigerian Bond Market and the review of the Investment and Securities Act. He served as a member of the Nigerian Stock Exchange Council between 2006 and 2009. He also serves on the board of some companies, such as Dorman Long Engineering Limited, Pillar Oil Limited, Seric Impianti International Limited.
Obaseki was the founding secretary of the New York-based US Africa Chamber of Commerce in 1992, which promoted US organisations doing business in Africa. He was a director in junior achievement of Nigeria – the local affiliate of the worldwide not-for-profit organisation which trains students to appreciate market economy values.
He also participates actively and serves as trustee in the Dr. Jackson Owen Obaseki Foundation, a family owned NGO, which is involved in providing free educational and health services to the less privileged.
Despite allegation of imposition by some APC aspirants that contested the party’s ticket Obaseki enjoys the full support of the APC family in Edo state. In a bid to go into the election united, the party’s leadership immediately set up a peace committee to assuage aggrieved members who had threatened to work against the party.
His pedigree and understanding of economy is seen in many circle as a strong factor that may sway votes in his favour especially in the face of the present recession the Country is facing, in his campaign, the investment guru has explained how he intends to create 200,000 job in the first four years. He also has a well-defined programme for the women through micro-credit schemes to enable them expand their trade and businesses.
Another thing going for Obaseki is the fact that his party the APC controls the power at the centre consequently the state would not want to be in opposition with the federal, a situation which has caused the state not to benefit from the ecological fund when PDP under President Jonathan was in power.
Obaseki also enjoys tremendous geopolitical advantage. Edo State seats on a tripod. Edo South senatorial district has 58 per cent of the voting population; Edo Central has 16 per cent, and Edo North has 26 per cent of voters in the state. Incidentally, the zone where PDP commands a seemingly huge popularity is the Central zone, which has the likes of Chief Anthony Anenih, Chief Tom Ikimi, Mike Onolemenme, Senator Clifford Odia, Senator Odion Ugbesia, and others with the exclusion of former governor and senator, Prof. Osunbor.
Oshiomhole no doubt can be said to be the number one political figure in Edo North (Afemai Land) owing to the developmental stride he brought to the area. The senatorial district constitutes about 26 per cent of the state voting population. Recent political development suggests that the zone will vote overwhelmingly for APC governorship candidate. The ceding of the deputy governorship slot is considered an advantage and it is expected that the people of the zone will vote for their son, Hon Phillip Shaibu in additional to the endorsement by traditional rulers in the zone.
His critics are of the opionion that the renowned banker cum politician is a stooge of the out-going governor and thereby may be tele-guided by Oshiomhole if he becomes the governor.
While others are of the view that Obaseki is not a politician, professional politicians who are used to enjoying government patronage through the award of contracts and largess from time to time, they are however worried that if elected they may lose what is known as “political patronage.”
Because of his snack to ensure the revenue profile increase from what is it now, people are afraid that he may introduce all manners of taxes that may further pauperise the people. The thinking is also compounded with the growing economic recession by the Buhari’s APC led administration. This may deny the candidate of votes.
However if political calculations and permutation are anything to go by, Obaseki and the APC may find it difficult to survive the political sagacity in Edo Central, the political strong hold of Chief Tony Anenih.
Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu
Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is a grassroot politician with a cult-like followership. He is a pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church of God and a former official of the PDP government in the state, where he served as Chief of Staff and Secretary to the Edo State Government during the administration of Chief Lucky Igbinedion, between 1999 and 2007. Before his nomination as candidate of PDP, he was a member of the All Progressives Congress and the National Vice Chairman, South-south zone, of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria.
Ize-Iyamu served as director-general of Adams Oshiomhole’s second term campaign organisation. He was also the coordinator of Goodluck/Sambo Campaign Organisation.
Ize-Iyamu was born in Benin City on June 21, 1962 to Chief Robert Osayande Ize-Iyamu and Mrs. Magdalene Naghado Ize- Iyamu (nee Obasohan), both of blessed memory. His father was a revered high chief of the Oba of Benin, ranking second in command until his demise as the Esogban of Benin. His mother was a trained teacher who later distinguished herself as a successful trader.
Ize-Iyamu is a descendant of an illustrious family deeply rooted in nobility and with an outstanding record of service to the community and society. His forefather, Chief Odia, was the Iyase’N’ohenmwen (Prime Minister) of Benin in the reign of Oba Osemwende (1816 – 1848 A.D). Ize-Iyamu’s maternal heritage is also of noble repute. His maternal grandfather was the well-known Obasohan of Akpakpava.
Ize-Iyamu’s strength which in many quarters is considered a strong advantage is his ability to command followership from other political circle. His loyalists even cut across religious and political divide is seen a s a factor coupled with his understanding of the inner workings of the APC and PDP. Another advantage Ize-Iyamu seems to have is the economic state of the country, which has become a kind of albatross for the ruling APC. During the campaign to Edo central Ize-Iyamu also capitalized on the alleged marginalization of the people by the Oshiomhole’s led administration and asked the people to pay back the APC government by voting against the party’s candidate
The pension arrears owed pensioners and some local governments who are owing their workers if not quickly countered by the APC may work against the party. Even when it is a known fact that pensioner who are captured in the pension scheme receive their pensions alongside workers of the state, and local government workers that have started receiving some of the backlog of salaries owed them, the PDP has used the initial problem to its advantage.
Despite some of his strength which the party is harping on, the former Secretary to the Edo State Government is been hunted by his link with the former Governor Lucky Igbinedion, whose administration is considered the worst since the creation of the state. Ize-Iyamu’s opponents had accused him particularly of the massive looting of the state resources, an allegation the PDP governorship hopeful have repeatedly refuted.
The crisis rocking the national leadership of the party is seen as a negative development that may work against his chance at the poll. Even though with INEC recognizing him as the party’s candidate, the ticket is however torn between Ize-Iyamu and Modu sheriff led candidate, Mathew Iduoriyekewem.
Lots of PDP faithful few weeks to the election have abandon Ize-Iyamu and defected to the APC citing alleged imposition and lack of purposeful leadership as a factor.
In Edo South, for instance, personalities like two-time governor of the state, Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia, former deputy governor under Prof. Oserhiemen Osunbor, Lucky Imasuen, and a host of others are no longer in PDP. Even those who are there are no longer on the same page with Ize-Iyamu.
Earl Osaro Onaiwu
Earl Osaro Onaiwu was born 23 December 1958, a Politician, businessman and former Director General of the Peoples Democratic Party Governors Forum. He was an aspirant under The PDP Platform but left the party when it was obvious that the party’s Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is favoured by the leadership of the party to be the candidate.
He moved to the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, as the sole candidate. Onaiwu whose campaign slogan is “The Solution” enjoys support of the Igbo indigenes in the state.
APGA as a political party in the state is not known to the people and has no structure that can wrestles power among the two major parties. The Governorship candidate strongly believes that if voted into power the party will replicate the success story in Anambra state, controlled by APGA.
As a new political party in the state the party is likely to appeal to some voters aside since the APC and the PDP have tasted power. Igbo voters in the state are expected to vote for the candidate of the party. He is expected to enjoy the financial backing of former members of the governors forum.
His major weaknesses aside the fact that the party is new it lacks the political structure to win elections in the state.
Amos Areolegbe of the Labour Party: Unlike the All Progressive Grand Alliance, the party was introduced in the state by the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole when he was in search of a credible platform to contest the 2007 governorship election.
The LP is seen as worker’s party and therefore it is expected that some aggrieved workers especially pensioners who are owed months of arrear and gratuities may find the Labour Party appealing. The candidate at debate forum promised to encourage investors and job creation.
The party have also been suffocated by the two major political parties in the state. It lack the structure to make impact in Saturday Governorship election.
Be that as it may, Edo South senatorial district with a voting population of 56% is expected to be the battle ground for both the two contending major parties.
Daunting challenges await who ever emerges victorious among the political parties governorship candidates in the race. Aside the challenges of improving on the infrastructural foundation laid by the out-going governor. It is also important to note that the state will require a governor that can immediately reconcile all the contending issues in the state especially in the areas of alleged marginalization in the distribution of political offices and perceived inequality in project citing.
More critical the incoming governor is expected to immediately think outside to box and fast-tract development in agriculture, job creation, flooding, human capital development and curbed what is perceived as excessive and double taxation which has been one of the bane of the out-going administration.