As the Edo State governorship election inches closer, CHIBUZO UKAIBE, in this report, captures the intrigues ahead of the September 19 poll.
For the two leading political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and their main political actors, there is a lot on the line as far as the Edo and Ondo states governorship elections are concerned.
For one, the brickbat between Governor Godwin Obaseki and his estranged political godfather, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, seems to be matching the fears raised during the early stages of their falling out.
While the brickbats come amid concerns overheating of the polity, for the immediate past APC national chairman, he is perhaps, faced with his toughest battle yet, some pundits aver.
Oshiomhole is burdened with the need not to just salvage his political empire in the state by ensuring Obaseki‘s defeat, but also halting moves to retire him from politics both at state and national levels ahead of 2023.
Obaseki, having been thrust into such a fierce battle, will hope to transit successfully from a political greenhorn into a force to reckon with in the state.
A political commentator, Mr. Ibekwe Erondu, said, “You can see that the former APC national chairman is now in the fore of the contest. He understands the importance of this election. On Obaseki’s part, we are also seeing a resolve to hold on tight to the reins of power in the state.
“However, beyond politicking, we hope to see quality campaigns and deep interrogation of issues pertaining to the welfare of the people,” he said.
However, some watchers believe that the battle between Obaseki and Oshiomhole for the Edo top seat is an integral part of the battle for 2023, a precursor (like Ondo) of sorts to the battle for 2023.
The Edo election which comes barely weeks before the Ondo polls, it is projected, will serve as a springboard, somewhat, for the party that wins ahead of 2023. It would in the interim, add up the number of states and increase the potential votes being controlled by the party that wins even as uncertain political times lay ahead.
For now, the ruling APC has 19 states while the PDP has 16 states. This is a contrast from the dominance APC had after the 2015 elections and off season governorship elections when the party controlled 25 states against PDP’s 10 states.
PDP won the state in the 2019 presidential election. Its candidate, former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, polled 275,691 votes to defeat President Muhammadu Buhari who scored 267,691 votes.
Buhari’s victory in 10 of the 18 local government areas didn’t stop Atiku’s, who got a margin of 7,849 votes against the president. PDP also controls two senatorial districts in the state.
While it seems like PDP, so far, has an edge going into the Edo election with Obaseki’s defection into their party, it is equally instructive that the APC, having emerged from its recent leadership crisis is more united and focused, would deploy its political arsenals to retain the state. The party leaders, according to pundits, would build on the new leadership and rally behind the APC candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu to secure the state.
But there is more. The party’s desire to extend its presence in the South-south is at stake.
Barely recovering from the loss of Bayelsa State following the Supreme Court verdict on the election, the import of this election for the ruling party is instructive, analysts would argue.
Recruiting the expertise of an experienced political party administrator, in the mould of Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State, as Chairman of the party’s Caretaker Committee, would count for much, APC supporters would aver.
What’s more, with the array of governor’s leading the party’s campaign for the election, namely Governors Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano; Yahaya Bello and Hope Uzodinma of Kogi and Imo respectively, party loyalists would expect a good outing at the polls which would in turn serve as a crucial plank towards consolidating their hold on political power as race 2023 gathers pace.
Speaking recently, the chairman, APC Caretaker Committee, Buni, declared that the party would win the Edo and Ondo governorship polls.
He premised his optimism on the ongoing reconciliation efforts by leadership of the party.
The Yobe State governor spoke during the inauguration of the Edo Governorship Campaign Council and the Reconciliation Committee for Edo/Ondo States at the APC National Secretariat in Abuja.
Buni expressed confidence that the teams would deliver the states to the party.
He said the assignment before the reconciliation and campaign council was to build a united APC and to ensure “successful renewal” of Edo mandate.
The governor urged the council to reach out to all stakeholders and pursue its assignment with all sense of purpose and commitment.
Buni also appealed to all APC members of the party across the country to support the peace initiative.
“I am glad to state that the caretaker committee which I am opportune to lead had initiated a wide range of consultations and reconciliatory measures to pave the way for true and sincere reconciliations.
He called for all-inclusive consultations “to accommodate and fix-up areas posing threats to the party.”
The chairman added that the visit to some founding members of the party which has justified the new approach with very positive results.
For PDP, whatever edge it thinks it has could amount to less if the unpredictable political space in the Edo and the country is anything to go by.
This is inspite of the party’s recent ability to manage the tension that trailed Obaseki’s defection to its fold.
The tension had manifested when the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, in a media outburst, raised concerns over the process leading to Obaseki’s move to PDP.
But many watchers of events were taken aback by the Rivers State governor’s acquiesce to lead the governorship campaign in the state, following some political resolutions, including the resignation of the former national vice chairman of the Party in the South-south, Emmanuel Ogidi, which calmed frayed nerves. Known sometimes for his over-the-top display of passion for affairs in PDP, Wike has been central to the desire to ensure the party wins the election and consequently consolidate hold in the zone.
Wike, expectedly, is also confident of victory just like Ganduje, his APC counterpart. The Rivers governor believes that Obaseki had no opponent going into the election.
Speaking as a guest on a Live Television Programme, Wike who threw a jab at Oshipmhole and the APC candidate, said the Edo people would vote the right way.
“I respect the Benin tradition and I know that Edo people are educated to know that Oshiomhole cannot play on their intelligence. If he is now retracting what he said of Ize Iyamu, who is sure that he’s saying the correct thing now.
“Adams Oshiomole’s sudden U-turn is a great insult on Edo people. This is an opportunity for Edo people both at home and in the diaspora to use their votes to tell Oshiomole they cannot take his lies anymore.
“From all indications, it is obvious that there is no strong opposition against Obaseki and he will win convincingly,” he said.
Governor Wike who is the chairman of the PDP National Campaign Council further stated that he and his team accepted the responsibility to lead the campaign because they were satisfied with results coming out already from Edo State.
Governor Wike added that the PDP had continued to take steps in strengthening the nation’s democracy.
According to him, the party does so with the promotion of internal politics and resolving the conflict of interests of members to achieve common goals.
He, however, noted the party recorded success for conducting free and fair party primaries in the state, adding that all the aspirants decided to work together to support the candidature of Governor Godwin Obaseki who is the party’s flag bearer.
“It was not easy to have a sole candidate for the party in Edo State. People thought there would be problems, given the fact that Obaseki was coming from another party. But Party members who are grounded and believe in the party didn’t see any sacrifice too much to make.
“Even in Ondo State, the deputy governor, Agboola Ajayi who decamped to PDP contested keenly during the primaries and lost. If there are other pending issues in the South West, be sure that the Party will resolve them.
“That is exactly what Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, as the chairman of South-south States’ Governors had done. He is making sure that we are all on the same page to ensure that all states in the South-south is controlled by PDP,” he stated.
As the politicking intensifies, pundits aver that the need to ensure it doesn’t escalate out of control is pivotal. With the recent incident near the palace of the Benin Monarch and the back and forth that trailed the incident, pundits continue to appeal to the stakeholders to put the people first.