PATRICK OCHOGA, writes on the emergence of Godwin Obaseki of the All Progressive Congress (APC), as Edo governor-elect and the expectations ahead of him.
The Edo State governorship election may have come and gone, but the shock and aftermath of the exercise may linger for a long time.
The emergence of the All Progressive Congress, (APC) Godwin Obaseki as the governor-elect remains hard to bear for the main opposition People Democratic Party (PDP) in the state.
Prior to the APC primaries, PDP had prayed for Godwin Obaseki to be handed the party’s ticket, according them, the investment banker will suffer fatal defeat because, he is considered not to be a “politician.”
PDP candidate, Pastor Osagie-Ize Iyamu, a respected grass root politician who commands huge followership, defeated three other aspirants to pick his party’s ticket. Though some aspirants, who were unsatisfied with the outcome withdrew their support, it couldn’t take away the shine from the rising popularity of the PDP candidate.
Ize Iyamu in certain quarters was touted to be the only one who could give the ruling APC a fight in the build up to the September 28 governorship election. He was perceived as possessing the antidote that can stop the Adam Oshiomhole-led APC owing to the fact that he knows and understand the inner workings of the APC in addition to thinking that he has many moles in the APC.
It would be recalled that Ize-Iyamu was the Director General of Oshiomole’s campaign Organization in the 2012 re-election was said to have boasted that majority of APC card carrying members including cabinet members of Oshiomhole are secreting working for his emergence, development which sent panic in the camp of the APC.
The fear that PDP may take over the state also heightened following the outcome of the APC primaries which saw Obaseki picking the party’ ticket to an initial angst of Dr Pius Odubu, Edo Deputy Governor, Engineer Chris Ogiemwonyi, former minister of Works and Barrister Ken Imansuagbon, an educationist.
The outcome of the primaries created a gulf in the party to the point of disintegration, which informed the decision of the party to set up a conflict resolution committee of party’s leaders that swiftly reached out to all the aggrieved members in order for the party to approach the governorship election as a united force.
As the earlier date of September 10 drew near, political tension heightened in the state as parties in the governorship race had mobilized leaders across the 192 wards in readiness for the election. The PDP initially was said to be in high spirit and sure of victory, resources were said to have been disbursed to party leaders 48 hours to the September 10.
Ize-Iyamu’s enthusiasm was dashed when the news broke that the umpire for the election, INEC, had shifted the election from 10 to 28 September citing security concerns.
It was gathered that the financial implication of the shift for the opposition parties in terms of campaign and mobilization of the electorates was a huge setback for the PDP, the party was said to have disbursed money to their party agents for mobilization.
When it was clear that there was no going back on the postponement, the PDP was quick to accuse the Oshiomhole-led APC of masterminding the shift in date. This they alleged was to allow the ruling party in collaboration with the state government access to results sheets to write the results, an allegation the APC had debunked.
Security report had indicated that Edo was among the state targeted for attack by terrorist group an advised INEC to shift the earlier date of September 10 to 28.
Leadership gathered that part of the reasons for the shift may have some political coloration owing to fillers that the PDP had infiltrated majority of the recruited INEC adhoc staff, electoral officers and youth corpers in addition to suspicion that some of the agents are PDP members, a development if not checked spelt doom for the APC. Unconfirmed report however indicated that most of adhoc staff were eventually replaced.
48 hours to the September 28 election, word on the street of Benin was that Ize-Iyamu had won the election while others are of the view that both Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu had equal chances of becoming governor until the latter was quoted to have made a public statement that he would make the birthday celebration of Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, Esama of Benin a state affair when he becomes governor.
Even though Ize-Iyamu later came out to say he was misquoted, the message had already been passed. Besides, the statement credited to Lucky Igbinedion, former governor of the state that the governor of the state will come from Igbinedion political family did not go down well with the people of the state, who still remember how the former governor ruined the state for eight years.
Igbinedion never came out to withdraw the statement and Edo people, especially the Binis were said to have promised to reply him with their votes.
It is also a known fact that the people of the state cannot forget in a hurry the prominent role Ize-Iyamu played during the 8-year administration of Igbinedion, where little or nothing was achieved.
This was a huge setback for Ize-Iyamu and no doubt, this worked against him during the election, which he eventually lost to Obaseki. A school of thought believed that if Ize-Iyamu was voted in as governor, then the Igbinedion family would have technically returned to power.
Generally, what worked for Obaseki was the massive development strides of Oshiomhole in Edo and during the campaigns, the comrade governor went a step further by following him round the 18 local government areas, telling Edo people that he (Obaseki) would take Edo to the next level.
Outside this, Obaseki is a known technocrat that is very versed in wealth creation and not the usual politician.
Contrary to speculations, election was generally peaceful across the state. On Thursday, September 29, all roads led to the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC to witness the collation and announcement of results. Perhaps to show its credibility, the collation and announcement was beamed live for all to see. The returning officer for the election, Professor Kayode Soremekun, who is Vice-chancellor, Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, Ekiti State, declared Obaseki winner with 319,483 votes to the 253,173 votes credited to the PDP candidates, Ize-Iyamu.
The APC candidate won in 13 LGA’s while his counterpart in PDP won in 5. None of the other 17 political parties that participated in the election won a majority in any of the councils.
But the declaration of results at the INEC collation centre was characterized by drama, starting from the night of the election when declaration of results was suspended for sometime. The PDP immediately raised the alarm, alleging that the suspension of the declaration was part of the plot by the ruling APC and its collaborators in INEC and security agencies to rig the election.
The party, through its spokesman in the state, Chris Nehikhare had declared that based on results from the polling units, the PDP candidate was having a comfortable lead across the state and warned that efforts to subvert results would be resisted.
Curiously, the announcement of results by INEC was ongoing when the PDP addressed a press conference at the residence of its candidate. The State Chairman of the party, Dan Orbih and the candidate, Ize-Iyamu rejected the results, claiming that it was predetermined and manipulated at the INEC State Headquarters.
Responding to the allegation made by the PDP, Special Adviser to Governor Oshiomhole on Political Affairs, Charles Idahosa, said he was disappointed and shocked that they could say such a thing. According to Idahosa, “let them shed tears, you can’t stop them (PDP) from shedding tears”.
Speaking after a road show round the State Capital, Oshiomhole, basking in the euphoria of his party’s victory said he had permanently retired some PDP chieftaincy from active politics.
According to him “they said they would disgrace Oshiomhole in this election because they were plotting evil during the election, but God thwarted all their plans. Just look at the result of the election. Igbinedion lost his ward, Ikimi was defeated in Igueben and that is because these people have lost touch with the people.
“There is something unique in the way things have turned out. In Esan land, the senatorial zone of the PDP godfather, we won two out of the five local governments. We gave him a fight that he managed to escape. He used the factor of his age to play on the emotion of the people. It’s a victory for the people of the state”.
Excited by the outcome of the election, Obaseki said, “We promised jobs. We promised empowerment of our citizens. We promised improved social welfare services and a more secured state. We strive to deliver on all of these promises. As we travelled all over our great state selling our programmes, we also took note of your concerns and problems. And I want to assure you that we will do everything in our power to address them”.
Clearly, PDP’s disposition towards the outcome of the polls, shows it might approach the courts, a process through which Oshiomhole has assumed office back in 2008.
How the case would swing is only a matter of time. But, in the meantime, the governor-elect would be expected to get as much preparation ahead of assumption of office as he is expected to hit the ground running.