PETER DAVID writes that the battle for the Edo State Government House has overheated the polity with barely two months to the September 19 governorship poll
As the race to the Edo State Government House intensifies, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Governor Godwin Obaseki, and the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, are not leaving anything to chances.
Obaseki, who was the candidate of the APC in the 2016 governorship poll, defeated Ize-Iyamu who was then the candidate of the PDP.
However, the table has turned in 2020, following Ize-Iyamu’s defection to the APC and Obaseki’s movement to the PDP after his disqualification by the APC primary election screening committee.
Obaseki has, therefore, switched from APC’s broom to PDP’s umbrella, while Ize-Iyamu has dumped the umbrella for the broom.
The ‘umbrella’ is the symbol of the PDP, while that of the APC is the ‘broom’. Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu are from the same Oredo Federal constituency in Edo South.
Already, the battle of who will be sworn-in as the next governor of Edo State on September 19, 2020, has begun.
The duo have been exchanging tantrums in recent weeks.
The crisis was the offshoot of the unresolved dispute between the governor and the former National Chairman of the APC, Mr Adams Oshiomhole.
Ize-Iyamu’s emergence as the APC candidate was largely believed to have been made possible by Oshiomhole.
The former APC chairman, who was instrumental to the emergence of Obaseki as governor in 2016, has now shifted his support to his former political rival, Ize-Iyamu.
Political pundits believe the race between Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu will be very tight this time.
Ize-Iyamu, the APC governorship candidate in the September 19 election, is not a rookie in Edo politics. He is a former Chief of Staff and Secretary to the Edo State Government during the tenure of former governor Lucky Igbinedion.
He also served as the Director-General of Oshiomhole’s second term Campaign Organisation and later became the coordinator of Goodluck/Sambo Campaign Organisation in the state. It is believed that his grass roots contribution to his former party, PDP, boosted the opposition’s performance in the state during the 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections.
Conversely, Obaseki is believed to have learnt politics from his former political mentor, Oshiomhole. He rode solely on the back of Oshiomhole to win the election under the APC platform and was sworn in as the governor on November 12, 2016.
He was the Chairman of the Edo State Economic and Strategy Team inaugurated under Oshiomhole in March 2009 where he played strategic roles behind the scenes until the end of that administration in 2016.
Meanwhile, the infighting between Obaseki and Oshiomhole became obvious shortly after the House of Assembly elections in 2019 where the ruling APC cleared all the 24 seats. With that kind of victory, any party would go to sleep but the reverse was the case in Edo as the House became enveloped in the crisis of inauguration.
Obaseki, who was already having issues with his erstwhile ‘godfather’, ensured that his men emerged as principal officers.
Efforts to settle the duo by prominent personalities both within and outside Edo State did not yield any positive result.
Oshiomhole on the other hand did not sleep over the matter. It was he, according to reports, who encouraged Ize-Iyamu to return to the APC.
The ex-Edo governor ensured the coast was cleared for Ize-Iyamu after Obaseki was disqualified by the APC screening committee over issues bothering on academic credentials.
But the seemingly intractable feud within the state chapter of the party escalated to the national level. The result was Obaseki’s eventual defection to the PDP to pursue his second-term ambition.
Ize-Iyamu, in an interview with Saturday PUNCH, said, “You know I am a very familiar face, I have lived here all my life and people know and trust me. They believe that what I say, I will do. So, with that kind of relationship I have, I am optimistic that the people will come out en masse to vote for me. They did it before, they felt I was cheated, I do not want to quarrel with the decision of the Supreme Court because it is final, but a lot of people believe that this time round everything will go my way.”
Also, Obaseki had after his nomination as the PDP governorship candidate for the election, asked the people of the state to keep faith with him as he was convinced alongside his team that the state could be great again if everyone worked together.
He said, “Our team is convinced about this and have faith in our people as they have us remain unshaken. We have made remarkable improvement in security, job creation, among others and we are certain to do more in the coming years.
“I salute all Edo people at home and abroad as well as our friends from other cities but certainly that a better Edo State is possible if we are allowed to lead and not the godfathers to lead. I implore you to keep faith and to inform you of the tasks ahead.”
However, the Publicity Secretary of the Edo State APC loyal to Oshiomhole, Mr Chris Azebamwan, said God and the Edo People would make Ize-Iyamu the governor.
He said, “It is evident that the leadership of the PDP is still mystified by the hands of God in the current political trajectory of the governorship candidate of the APC in Edo State, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, and is therefore struggling to conflate issues in the September 19 governorship election.
“The first and most cogent point is that Mr Adams Oshiomhole is not the reason their flustered new intake, Governor Godwin Obaseki, is running from pillar to post to save his head in the election. The truth is that Obaseki is a misfit that has been roundly rejected by the people, and through whom God the Almighty has raised Ize-Iyamu as a worthy replacement.
“For a man who has spent nearly four years in office without something tangible to his name outside fighting both real and perceived enemies, it was only a matter of time before Obaseki was shown the way out and it was also simple logic that he had since shut the door of re-election against himself.
“The earlier the PDP realises this battle is already lost and won, the better for Obaseki, who might end up squandering the little he is meant to keep for life post-governorship. Let no one be mistaken, Obaseki’s fate has been sealed by God, and the good people of Edo State.”
But a Benin-based legal practitioner, Mr Jefferson Uwoghiren, disagreed with this, saying Obaseki had remarkably shown himself to be the people’s man by his knowledge-driven policies and plans.
He said, “Obaseki has remarkably shown himself approved by unwittingly drawing raw positive emotions and profound emotive accolades from the critical mass of voters, by his knowledge-driven policies and plans.
“With forceful insistence on procedural and substantive due processes, he has broken the misleading image of a political puppet of a vicious godfather. He has surprisingly shown a striking determination to open a new page of development in the state, making the state the second most sought foreign destination.
“He has demystified governance shedding the huge wage bills, bloated workforce, financial leakages, poor project supervision and parochialism in workers’ employment, promotion and retirement.
“Using the private sector development strategy of increased efficiency at a reduced cost, instead of the prevalent increased cost at minimal efficiency, he has within a short time demonstrated that governments can earn profits; institutional and capital.
“So, in terms of preparation for the job and as a candidate in the coming election, Godwin Obaseki commands intimidating experience, trust, sympathy and the managerial ability to rescue the state in the light of ravaging global economic difficulties.
“In comparison with many persons angling to displace him, especially Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who seemed more obsessed with the allure of power and its distributive extractive attributes, Obaseki is light years ahead. But his biggest drawback is the lack of, or appearance of sympathetic politics, which is the greatest strength of Ize-Iyamu.”
A staunch member of the APC in the Ovia North-East LGA, who is a former Executive Director at the Edo State Internal Revenue Service, Mr Charity Amayaevbo, felt Obaseki might not make it to the general elections because of the alleged certificate scandal.
Amayaevbo also said the governor did not fulfil his electoral promises to the people.
He said, “Obaseki might not make it to the general election because of the series of scandals in terms of his academic credentials and alleged forgery of documents that are hanging on him. Even if he makes it to the general election, Obaseki will lose in the 18 local government areas.
“I was one of those that marketed him during the 2016 election in Ovia North-East and we know the promises he made if he emerged governor. Today, I can tell you that none of those promises have been kept, the LGA is worse off.
However, an activist in the state, Mr Tunji Salami, said Obaseki’s performances in the last three and a half years in office would earn him a second term.
Salami said, “Obaseki has the mandate of the ordinary Edo people. The reason I have said it is because the way the Edo people saw Ize-Iyamu four years ago is different from the way we are seeing him now. The average Edo person has been following the political development and they saw the manner Ize-Iyamu got his APC ticket.
“For Obaseki, when he came in, he was described as a puppet, a baby that is tied to the apron string of the mother, which showed someone who lacked capacity and cannot handle the issue of governance and politics, but for the past three and a half years we have seen capacity and that is what we want. We want a government that will work for us.
“Obaseki has tarred most of the roads in Benin and other major towns without making any noise about it. In the area of agriculture, he has done well too. In terms of education, his programme called EDO BEST is clear to us.”
He added, “Today, our public school students can compete with any student in any part of the world. They have become ICT literate and their curriculum is programmed which is an indication of someone that has foresight. The teachers have been trained and given tablets with software that makes it possible for SUBEB to monitor their activities with the students. The Edo State University now wears the look of a real institution.”
Despite the claims and counter claims, many people believe it may be difficult to predict the eventual winner of the September 19 governorship poll.
However, Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu have remained in the trenches, battling each other ahead of the D-Day.