The impending 28 September 2016 gubernatorial election in Edo State is, in one respect, a contest between one man who has always been in the tick of the politics of the state and the other, a neophyte who found favour with the out-going governor.
Osagie Ize-Iyamu, the PDP candidate in the election, has been around since the late 1980s when Lucky Igbinedion burst on to the scene as the most effective local government chairman (of Oredo LGA) in the country. He was around when Mr. Igbinedion, under the umbrella of the National Republican Convention (NRC), contested the governorship of the state. Of course, the man was in full bloom in the politics and governance of Edo State during all of Igbinedion’s two terms as governor from 1999 to 2007. He was also a notable figure in Oshiomhole’s emergence in the politics of Edo state. From a studied interest in the politics—over the past close to 30 years, Ize-Iyamu comes across as resilient as they go, and his understanding of the pervasive development challenges breathtaking.
That is why, on the surface, Godwin Obaseki, the green horn that he is, even in terms of party affiliation, is a mismatch. However, he is being propelled by Oshiomhole, whose penchant for arbitrariness in his handling of the state’s treasury makes this propulsion weighty.
However, the Oshiomhole phenomenon needs to be examined. There is glaring evidence that diminishing returns have set in. indeed, some of the man’s actions have verged on the ludicrous. Establishing a university right in front of his country home is as unpalatable as the method he used in achieving this is criminal. What do Owan and Akoko-Edo people feel about it? What do the people of Ekpoma, hosts to the under-resourced Ambrose Alli University, indeed the Esan people, feel about it? What is the feeling of Orhionmwon people, whose long history of neglect continued, despite Pius Odubu being his deputy for eight years; indeed, what do they feel when they see the revolutionary transformation that has been witnessed in Iyamho where Oshiomhole hails from? Not a single project was done at Urhomehe, Odubu’s hometown!
When he was on the campaign trail in 2007 and 2012, did he promise to cite a university “in my home-town” on any soap-box anywhere outside Iyamho? What he has done is the height of immorality and insincerity. Although a Benin person, I am not fooled by the upgrading of Ekiadolor College of Education to Tayo Akpata University. If, indeed, new universities were needed, why not turn to Owan and turn the College of Physical Education, Afuze, into a university; or reward Akoko-Edo with a university in Igarra to reassure the area that they are a part of Edo state? If there was a commitment to continuity in governance, the Oshiomhole administration would not have allowed the agro-processing centre at Ehor, the headquarters of Uhunmwode, to go into irretrievable abandonment. For all of eight years, Oshiomhole has deliberately ignored the project to serve the morbid purpose of advertising the “failure” of the Igbinedion administration.
Oshiomhole is acting as if he’s the one contesting the 10 September 2016 election. In a way, he’s really the one contesting the election. He naturally wants someone to cover his tracks. But the people of Edo state are saying to him: “Comrade, thank you for the work you have done, but your time is up.”
The people of Edo South have concerns over Godwin Obaseki, not only because of his questionable business dealings with Oshiomhole but, more importantly, his own daunting baggage to do with a serious allegation of treachery against generations of the Obaseki lineage. There is also the matter of his inability to account successfully for his academic qualifications.
Suddenly, Oshiomhole has become a liability in his campaign because of his track record of hurting people with his insincerity and ruthless sense of betrayal. Tony Anenih had a taste of these traits, as did Chris Ogiemwonyi, Chief Tom Ikimi, Charles Airiavbere, Julius Ihonvbere, etc. Oshiomhole has no regard even for APC chairman John Odigie-Oyegun!
It has been suggested that, rather than boost his chances of getting the votes of Edo people, his ties to Igbinedion, on account of the overall poor assessment of the government’s performance during the period, will work against Ize-Iyamu. However, there is also immense validity in the argument that since Osagie Ize-Iyamu was one of those who enlisted Oshiomhole into the Edo project in 2007 and was in the good books of the Oshiomhole administration for the greater part of the tenure, including being the director of the Oshiomhole campaign machinery in 2012 – until the parting of ways before the 2015 elections – the son of Chief Imagbe Ize-Iyamu, a former Esogban of Benin, whose father Osawe Iyamu built the first storey building (“Egedege N’Okaro”) in Benin City, has more than compensated for the “sin” of association with Igbinedion’s “failure.”
Yet, even the whole notion of dismissing Igbinedion as wholesome failure is contestable. During his tenure, Edo was not at a standstill. Roads were constructed, even if without the obscene fanfare that Oshiomhole has made an art. You only need to do an objective assessment of the period to appreciate that Lucky was certainly not the most under-performing governor of his era. The feats recorded by the state in the sporting arena during this period are unparalleled in the annals of the state. Recall the exploits of Bendel Insurance FC in WAFU and CAF competitions. Ogbe Stadium, its capacity increased and rejuvenated during the Igbinedion administration, remains a pride to Edo people. Who doesn’t yearn for the days of sporting glories in Edo state!
The truth of the matter, therefore, is that both his “association” with Igbinedion and his “flirtation” with the successful portion of the “progressive” Oshiomhole administration have only added up to make him the best proposition for the people of Edo state in the impending election. Osagie may have his bad side—a young man in his days of student unionism; but today he is an ordained Pastor in Redeemed Christians Church of God(RCCG). He may have worked with a “failed” former Governor Igbinedion; but he succeeded with Oshiomhole, and then he left the Oshiomhole boat when the boat was capsizing under the weight of the Comrade’s one-man dictatorship and maximum rule characterized by betrayal, treachery, and disrespect for elders, opportunism, unilateral decisions, manipulation and vain glory.
Indeed, in Ize-Iyamu, the APC candidate Godwin Obaseki – beg your pardon, Oshiomhole – has more than a match.
— Osadiaye is an international development expert and political analyst based in Benin City