In this report, GABRIEL EMAMEH captures the intrigues that defined the Edo State Governorship election.
The much-anticipated September 19 Edo State gubernatorial election has come and gone. Expectedly, while the winners are basking in their victory, the losers are battling to swallow the bitter pills of defeat.
Against the backdrop of predictions of violence, the election, to the commendation of most observers witnessed relatively insignificant skirmishes.
Violent exchanges had trailed the campaigns, as a fallout of the intense frictions which resulted in the scheming-out of Governor Godwin Obaseki from contesting the primary election under his former party, the All Progressive Congress (APC), and the subsequent removal of Adams Oshiomhole as APC national chairman.
The anxiety was heightened by some opinion poll which projected that the APC candidate, Osagie Ize-Iyamu would beat Obaseki of PDP, in a state latter won by a whopping 56 per cent in 2016.
While some pundits aver that the interventions of the Benin Monarch and the National Peace Committee (NPC), helped to douse the tensions which trailed the campaigns, others adduce the relatively peaceful polls to the visa ban warning made by the international community against those who incite violence.
And so after the election, Obaseki was last Sunday declared the winner of the 2020 Edo guber election having polled 307,955 votes to defeat his main rival, Ize-Iyamu who scored 223,619 votes. Obaseki also won in 13 out of the 18 local governments in the state, despite the array of political gladiators within and outside the state that queued behind Ize-Iyamu and Oshiomhole.
Obaseki won in Igueben, Esan Central, Esan North-East, Ikpoba-Okha, Uhunmwonde, Egor, Owan West, Esan South-East, Ovia North-East, Oredo, Esan West, Ovia South-West, including Orhionmwon where his main opponent comes from.
Ize-Iyamu on his part, won in Owan East, Etsako West, Akoko-Edo, Etsako Central and Etsako East.
While some pundits see Obaseki’s victory as signifying a major challenge for the APC as the ruling party at the central if the party fails to put its house in order, others contend that APC’s loss indicates Oshiomhole’s political decimation in his home state.
The results also showed that the PDP and the people in the state were fired up behind Obaseki to yet again defeat Ize-Iyamu, whom he outperform in 2016.
For an election that had shaped up to be one of the indicators to the politics of 2023, its outcome has raised some posers for the APC in light of its ability to hold on to power at central beyond 2023.
Analysts have attributed the loss in Edo to lack of internal democracy and discordant tunes among power players in the party. However, there are other underlying factors responsible for all of these – pride, arrogance, and the scramble for the soul of the party, perhaps the 2023 ticket.
While these remain opinions in some quarters, there are others who believe that some of the following factors and strategies worked against the APC.
In the build-up to the election, both parties and their candidates adopted different campaign strategies. While APC’s Ize-Iyamu adopted the “local government to local government tour” with crowds pouring out in a single campaign venues, PDP’s Obaseki used the “ward to ward strategy”, which enabled him to reach out more directly to the people. It afforded him the opportunity to explain in more specific ways what he has done and what he intends to do if he is given another opportunity. Some said he took governance to the people, which made him a formidable force.
This was no doubt the icing on the cake for Obaseki and the results from the three senatorial districts speak volumes about his magic wand. Even in Oshiomhole’s Edo North where Ize-Iyamu won five out of the six local governments, Obaseki took a chunk of the votes and won one local government area there.
The referendum to end godfatherism
This was, of course, one of Obaseki’s strongest appeals that drove the vehicle of sentiments in the entire campaign against his erstwhile godfather. this sentiment birth the Slogan: ‘Edo no be Lagos’; a reminder to the people to resist a replication of the situation that played out in Lagos State in the build-up the 2019 election where former Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode was muscled out of the contest to retain his seat.
As such, as the Oshiomhole and Obaseki battle played out, the “Edo no be Lagos” slogan resonated with the people in Edo State and worked perfectly for the PDP.
Analysts believe that the election was more of a plebiscite on Oshiomhole’s political leadership in the state than a contest between Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu. The feeling, as some pundits opine, was not so much about Obaseki defeating Ize-Iyamu, but about the Edo people’s resolve to retire the former APC national chairman for his arrogance and overbearing godfather status.
This scenario has raised the poser on whether Ize-Iyamu could have won more votes if Oshiomhole had played less role in his campaign. The same also applies to the video by Bola Ahmed Tinubu barely 24 hours to the poll. With the election won and lost, such speculations remain consigned to the uncertainty of history.
LEADERSHIP had in one of its earlier analyses, reported that with the developments in the state and the crisis rocking the APC at the national level, the people of Edo might not necessarily vote along party lines. The reason is that thousands of Obaseki followers who refused to decamp with him still sympathised with him.
For instance, most of the APC executives across wards and local governments in the state worked against the party during the election. The APC chairman in the state, Anslem Ojezua, loyal to Obaseki, retained his position in APC but his heart was with the governor. Ojezua repeatedly refused to recognise Ize-Iyamu as the party’s candidate on the grounds that his nomination process was unconstitutional.
Obaseki’s ties with Edo central
Edo Central has always been Obaseki’s vote bank even before the election. It should also be recalled that LEADERSHIP reported that Edo Central would be one of the major battlegrounds between PDP and APC.
Edo Central has always been PDP’s strongest hold since 1999 and the party has maintained this feat. Most analysts were not surprised at the outcome of the election from the district.
The clamour to produce the next governor of the state from the zone played a key role in the manner in which the people voted.
This sentiment influenced the people’s decision to ensure that Obaseki retains the seat and finishes his second term. For them, the choice was between waiting for four years with Obaseki or risking eight years, should Ize-Iyamu win.
Sources from the zone told LEADERSHIP that there is a seeming consensus among the Esan people to work towards producing the next governor of the state by 2024 and that Obaseki’s return will provide them a better chance to produce the next governor.
“There is an existing tripartite agreement that gives the mantle of the governor to an Esan indigene as from 2024. The people of Esan land strongly believe that Governor Obaseki will fulfill this promise”, the source told LEADERSHIP.
He said the sour relationship between the people of Uromi and the Oshiomhole’s led APC in the state arising from the suspension of their Onojie (which they considered a deposing of their King) by the former governor is still fresh in their minds.
Also, the emergence of the Speaker of the House of Assembly from Esan North East also played a significant role in Obaseki’s victory.
The fairly large Edo diaspora community contributes reasonably to the economy in the state and to some extent, the politics of the state. During the campaigns, it was obvious that Obaseki enjoyed 90% of diaspora support following the numerous endorsement and supports he got from them. This gave his campaign a big lift and broader acceptance.
Ize-Iyamu’s/Oshiomhole new alliance
“He was the wrong candidate at the wrong time for the party”, said an APC stalwart who believe that APC would have suffered the same consequences in Kogi and Ondo States if Bello and Aketi were denied the ticket.
Oshiomhole’s toxic campaign against Ize-Iyamu in 2016 bordering on corruption allegations and his recent realignment with Ize-Iyamu infuriated a lot of Edo citizens who believe, he was taking them for a ride. Oshiomhole had demarketed Ize-Iyamu badly in 2016 when he told the Edo people not to trust him with public office.
As such Oshiomhole’s dramatic realignment with Ize-Iyamu and making him the APC candidate after falling out Obaseki didn’t sway the Edo people.
This scenario, according to some pundits, posed a setback for Ize-Iyamu. Mindful this scenario, the Progressives Governors’ Forum had expressed concern over the damage Oshiomhole’s campaign for Ize-Iyamu might cause the party. The body had accused the former APC national chairman of usurping the campaign of the party’s candidate.
In a statement titled ‘Progressive Politics – Which Way, APC?’ by its director-general, Dr Salihu Lukeman, the body had described Oshiomhole’s involvement in Ize-Iyamu’s campaign as diminishing the electoral value of the APC.
“Comrade Oshiomhole has relocated to Edo State and taken over the APC campaign and the campaign is proceeding in a manner that suggests the Edo State governorship election is an extension of the personal battle between the governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki, and Oshiomhole.
“The APC campaign is personalised around Comrade Oshiomhole and the candidate of the party, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, is an onlooker. The soundbite from the Edo APC campaign is so offensive to the point where Comrade Oshiomhole appears to be disowning almost every APC (member) in Edo State between 2016 and now, the statement had read,” he said.
Division among APC governors and other party stalwarts.
Pundits believe that APC at the national level went into the election as a disunited entity. Since the APC 2019 general elections primaries, the party has not recovered from the crisis that hit it over a disagreement on how candidates contesting under its platform were selected during the primaries.
Many of its members are still nursing resentment over the decision of Oshiomhole-led NWC to shut out those who had indicated interest to contest various positions by adopting the kind of primaries that suited the interest of his preferred candidates.
APC leaders in the heat of the issue went as far as using unprintable words on themselves.
The verbal exchange between Oshiomhole and former governors Ibikunle Amosun, Rochas Okorocha, and a host of other governors were mind-boggling.
The internal crisis in the party which has since snowballed into the politicking for 2023 is alleged to have made some notable APC governors and ministers work against the interest of the party during the Edo election as part of measures to spite Oshiomhole.
INEC new technology
Although the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had earlier noted that its alternate online real-time result collation was for research purposes, the decision helped in no small measure to check suspected attempt to rig the election.
LEADERSHIP recalls that INEC recently disclosed that in addition to the card reader authentication, it has deployed another innovation called the “Zip with Z-file.”
INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, who made the disclosure in Benin City recently, explained that the Zip with Z-file, was a tablet with a camera, which at the end of voting and sorting out of ballots, will take a picture and transmit the same to a dedicated portal for everyone to view the polling unit results live and direct.
“The Z-file is a tablet with a camera that captures the entire voting exercise in every polling unit. It functions in such a way that at the end of the process after voting has been concluded and sorted out, the ballots counted, the picture of the form ECBA would be taken and transmitted to a dedicated portal so that Nigerians can view the polling unit results live and direct by those close to the polling units”, the INEC boss explained.
The technology deployed by INEC was different from the case of the 2019 test run where results were uploaded to a server by presiding officers,
signed and stamped result sheets were uploaded in PDF format thereby reducing any form of manipulation during collation.
The technology eliminated in some measure the tendencies to manipulate the process either by Adhoc staff or politicians. Advocates of electoral reforms have called on the 9th National Assembly to sign the last electoral amendment done by the 8th Assembly.
Some pundits aver that Obaseki reaped from the anger in the land due to the harsh economic reality in the country. So far, some watchers argue that the recent hikes in prices of foodstuff, power, and electricity a few weeks to the election might work against the ruling APC as well.
However while APC in the state has rejected the outcome of the polls, the national leadership has since accepted its fate and moved on.
Following the cue of the president, chairman, APC Caretaker Extraordinary/Convention Planning Committee, Mai Mala Buni, in a statement after briefing the president has congratulated Obaseki.
Having taken stock of their performances in the election, the next stage of politicking for PDP and APC ahead of the 2023 election has begun.