If the governorship election, earlier scheduled for September10, 2016, had not been shifted to September 28, by now, the good people of Edo State would have been celebrating the emergence of a brand new Governor; and, I am not in doubt as to what the verdict would have been. Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu would have become the custodian of the people’s sacred mandate. As a grassroots politician, Ize-Iyamu has galvanised massive support across the state. He is seen more as the face of the liberation movement than the candidate of a political party in the rescheduled election. Through him, the people would have realised their much-desired freedom from the shackles of deceptive administration, foisted on them by the outgoing Governor Adams Oshiomhole.
However, in spite of the poll shift, deliberately orchestrated by the Governor, in concert with some security agents, when he saw the writing on the wall, the people’s verdict, according to credible reports and feelers, remains sacrosanct. They will now declare it on September 28 or any other time the election is rescheduled to hold. For them, the election provides a veritable opportunity to reprimand Oshiomhole for the propaganda of the last four years.
The day of reckoning has finally come. The comrade Governor has pathetically realised that deception has an expiry date. Governance by divide and rule has lost its efficacy. He is now faced with a worsening credibility crisis. The shift in the date of the election, rather than mitigate what would have been his initial electoral damage, has reportedly worsened his situation. The postponement has backfired and this is very obvious. The consequential collateral damage will manifest on September 28.
That I have, so far, refrained from mentioning the names of political parties in this piece is deliberate. I am convinced that the governorship election in Edo is not about political parties or party affiliations. It is a statewide consciousness to test the people’s will against the will of a man who has transformed from a comrade to the ultimate godfather in his party and now wants to extend his suzerainty to the entire State by plotting to install his proxy – Godwin Obaseki – as his successor. His plan is sardonically self-serving. A vote for Obaseki is already dubbed as a vote for a neo-godfather.
Indeed, Oshiomhole wants an Obaseki who would cover his odious tracks, contrary to his claim of continuity of performance. This is discounting Obaseki’s electoral value and self-worth. The people are now much more enlightened. They say they do not want a puppeteer who will sustain his master’s continuity of divide and rule. They easily cite the massive development in the Governor’s village (Iyamho) at the expense of so many towns and villages across the State. To a very large extent, the comrade Governor’s loss of goodwill is self-inflicted. It is his personal tragedy that he had chosen to be a clannish and nepotistic Governor.
Annoyingly, he always turns round to point fingers of guilt at elders in the State who are politically opposed to him, making them butts of abuses and verbal attacks, blaming them for all imaginable setbacks that the State has witnessed in the past. It is indisputable that Oshiomhole does not have respect for elders. He has terribly fouled the air of the culture of respect in Edo state; and, he has now extended his lack of respect to the sacred area of tradition by insisting that the governorship election should be shifted to coincide with some post-coronation activities of the revered Oba of Benin.
The actual coronation should have been on September 26, 2016. The election is on September 28. From September 27 after the coronation, community and village heads in Edo South would have been expected to leave their domains to visit the Oba of Benin in his palace to pay homage. But those movements to express royal solidarity would certainly have beeen affected by the pre-election, election and post-election activities. Indeed, it was because of Oshiomhole’s obstinacy on the September 28 date that the Benin Kingdom would now have to wait till October 28 to coronate the new Oba. The Governor made fine tradition to buckle in the face of crude politics.
But, there were reports in the social media, after the postponement, that the Deputy Governor, Dr Pius Odubu, a true and courageous Benin son, told Oshiomhole that his decision to have INEC pick September 28 was capable of undermining age-long traditions. Dr Odubu was reportedly upbraided by Oshiomhole for talking about tradition when his political fortune was under real threat. Oshiomhole does not care about tradition, yet he wants to benefit and make political capital out of royal endorsements by traditional rulers for his candidate.
Oshiomhole is desperate and ready to go to the extreme to install his successor. But well-meaning Nigerians should counsel him not to plunge Edo State into avoidable crisis through his manipulative conduct. Edo people are peace-loving. It was bad enough that the Governor, through his schemes, prompted security agencies to dubiously and negatively profile Edo State as a safe haven for militants and terrorists of the Boko Haram hue. Is it not curious that the security advice came on the heels of a hitch-free mega rally, organised for his candidate with President Muhammadu Buhari in attendance?
In the run-up to the September 28 election, the Governor has resorted to several questionable antics aimed at subverting the will of the people. He has allegedly directed that Electoral Officers in the State should be deployed and replaced with those from some States controlled by his party. The INEC has reportedly rebutted this insinuation. He has also been alleged to have made moves to have INEC replace National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members already trained for the election with his party members. The reason for the move is that the Youth Corps members will pass out on September 26. The electoral body has also said it would not succumb to the push. These gambits are capable of inflaming destructive passion.
Perhaps, the real concern is the recruitment and planned deployment of vicious thugs to disrupt and undermine the integrity of the electoral process. Leading politicians and opposing political camps have accused one another of complicity in this. The Governor, who has been in power in the State for about eight years, has so much explanation to make as regards the prevalence of thugs on the political turf in the State. His claim that the other camp had registered 8,000 militants is dubious and unjustifiable. The simple and logical argument is that with state machinery at his disposal, Oshiomhole is better positioned to recruit and fund thugs for political ends. He is said to have sustained a lucrative recruitment scheme since stepping in the saddle as Governor and has given official protection to known thugs, including the notorious Osakpanmwan (alias No Molest) who once assaulted a prince of the Benin monarch.
Further validation: during the Akoko-Edo House of Assembly rerun election in August 2009, there were media reports that twenty seven thugs wielding AK-47 rifles, who were allegedly recruited from Kogi by the then Action Congress (AC), the Governor’s party, were arrested in Igarra by the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of election operations and taken to Abuja on the instructions of the Inspector General of Police. They were reportedly paraded with their rifles by the Police and charged to court. Upon their release to their sureties, Nigerians would want to know why the matter has since “died.” The thugs and their sureties are still at large while the exhibits (Ak-47 rifles) are being detained by the Police. It is all the outcome of the manipulative conduct of a desperate Governor even as a member of the opposition party. One can, then, imagine the extent he will go now that his party controls the government at the centre.
This and other pranks are what the Police, in particular, and other security agencies should work assiduously to avert on September 28. The Police should be allowed to do their job. Oshiomhole should not use his position as the Chief Security Officer of the State to manipulate and coerce the Police to do his bidding. I pray that the INEC will provide a level play field by conducting the election in accordance with the guidelines as contained in its books.
Finally, I hope that President Muhammadu Buhari, who is a beneficiary of a free and fair presidential election in 2015, will not throw partisan bias into the mix. After a series of inconclusive elections by INEC under his presidency, this should be an opportunity for the Commission to justify the postponement of Edo governorship election by making the election a model worthy of replication in future exercises. This will, no doubt, enhance the election management profile of Buhari’s government.
– Ojeifo is editor-in-chief of The Congresswatch magazine, he wrote in from Abuja.