VOTERS in Edo State on Saturday made their choice among 14 governorship candidates in a poll that was preceded by pervading tension and apprehension, due to a high level of political intolerance on display by few stakeholders in the politics of the state. TAIWO AMODU, who monitored the election, writes on the gainers and losers in the epic contest. He also examines the likely domino effects of the result of the election on other variegated issues that have dogged the state parliament.
After months of sustained suspense and anxiety, the Edo State governorship election has finally been won and lost. The Independent National electoral Commission (INEC) Returning Officer for the election that was conducted in 18 Local Government Areas in the South-South geopolitical zone, Professor Akpofure Rim-Rukeh, declared that the incumbent governor and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Godwin Obaseki has earned a fresh mandate, having defeated his main rival and candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Pastor Ize-Iyamu. Obaseki won in 13 LGAs as against Pastor Iyamu’s victory in five. LGAs. In all, Obaseki polled 307, 955 votes, while Ize-iyamu got 223, 619 votes. The Edo election has since thrown up winners and losers in Edo local politics and the national secretariats of both political parties with lessons that will haunt certain stalwarts of the APC ahead the 2023 general election.
Nigerian Tribune unveils the losers and winners of the weekend election, in which the Edo electorate offered a resilient Obaseki a fresh term.
The Progressives Governors Forum is the platform for governors of the APC. Led by Kebbi State governor, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, the PGF is not a statutory organ of the APC. But the ubiquitous governors have since proved that they can decide who gets what, when and how in the APC. The APC NWC and national caucus, two of the statutory organs of the party can only ignore the PGF at their peril. Only President Muhammadu Buhari is the restraining factor on the Forum.
Investigation revealed that the gang-up by the governors saw to the sack of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as the chairman of the party at the emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting held at the Presidential Villa.
Not comfortable with the humiliation of their colleague by Comrade Oshiomhole, who stripped Obaseki of his right of first refusal for the party ticket by disqualifying him from the party primary that threw up Pastor Ize-Iyamu as the APC candidate, the governors did not desert Obaseki, who later defected to the PDP from the APC. Only the Imo State governor, Hope Uzodinmma, and his Kano State counterpart, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, were visible around Pastor Ize-Iyamu in the heat of his campaigns for the votes of the Edo electorate.
With the weekend election, the governors have reinforced their grip on the APC.
Eclipse of APC in South-South?
With Governor Obaseki’s victory, the main opposition party in the country, the PDP, has since regained lost ground in the South-South geopolitical zone. Checks revealed that the party lost Edo to the defunct Action Congress (AC) in 2008, following the judgment of Edo State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal of Justice Peter Umeadi, which nullified the victory of the PDP candidate, Professor Oserheimen Osunbor, in the April 14, 2007 election.
Comrade Oshiomhole subsequently won a fresh mandate in 2012 with a landslide, ultimately pitching PDP into opposition for eight years.
With Douye Diri emergence as governor in BayelsaState through the Supreme Court pronouncement and weekend victory of Governor Obaseki, the PDP now has a firm grip on the South-South states in the country.
The former president of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) became Edo governor in March 2008, following the tribunal judgment which ousted Professor Osunbor and the judgment of the Court of Appeal which reaffirmed Justice Umeadi’s pronouncement.
Comrade Oshiomhole was a beneficiary of the intrigues orchestrated by the APC governors, goaded by a national leader of the party, Bola Tinubu, who wanted former Edo governor, John Odigie-Oyegun, removed as national chairman.
On his ascension to office, the former NLC president’s sermon on party supremacy, in a deft move to subordinate the PGF, was his Achilles’ heel. His normative call that all should subordinate themselves to the APC national secretariat was rebuffed by governors and federal lawmakers, who consistently dismissed him as the Man Friday of a certain national leader of the party.
Rochas Okorocha and IbikunleAmosun, former governors of Imo and Ogun states, respectively were suspended by the Comrade Oshiomhole led National Working Committee (NWC) without recourse to the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the APC.
The September 19 election was the battle of his life to remain relevant in the local politics of Edo and launch himself back to national politics. The defeat of his anointed candidate, Pastor Iyamu denied Oshiomhole that opportunity, as his estranged godson, Obaseki and the forces behind him denied the ex-president of NLC that golden opportunity.
Obaseki: From technocrat to budding godfather?
The resilient Edo governor is the proverbial cat with nine lives. A Nigerian Tribune source revealed that having been denied his erstwhile party governorship ticket by Comrade Oshiomhole, his counterpart in Rivers State, Nyesom Wike encouraged PDP national vice chairman, South-South, Dan Orbih, who incidentally was former PDP chairman in Edo and the PDP national chairman, Uche Secondus, to facilitate the PDP ticket for Obaseki.
With his victory despite the odds against him, the technocrat has proved that he is no pushover in politics. How he manages his new political habitat, the PDP in his home state may transform him from a technocrat to a godfather.
The incumbent deputy governor, Philip Shuaibu hails from Edo North senatorial district with Oshiomhle. He had to contend with many other influential individuals in the area in the quest by the PDP ticket to secure a second term in office. Oshimhole had accused the deputy governor and others from his local government area of betraying him in the buildup to the election.
Ikimi back to political reckoning?
A former chairman of the defunct National Republican Convention (RC) and erstwhile chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, Chief Tom Ikimi, may emerge as one of the beneficiaries of the victory of the PDP candidate in Saturday’s election.
Ikimi dumped the APC on the eve of the 2015 general election that transformed the party from main opposition party to the ruling party.
Aggrieved that he lost the race to emerge national chairman to Tinubu’s candidate, OdigieOyegun, Chief Ikimi returned to the PDP and has since maintained a low political profile.
A former Chief of Staff and Secretary to Edo State Government in Comrade Oshiomhole first tenure as Edo governor, he defected to the PDP ahead of the 2016 governorship election and lost to the APC candidate, Godwin Obaseki. He returned to the APC and emerged its candidate having been granted waiver by the party NWC.
Pastor Iyamu was again defeated by same Obaseki on Saturday.
Business mogul, Flight Captain Hosa Okunbo had recalled how he joined others to support the bid of Obaseki to become governor in 2016. He fell apart with the governor as the countdown to the 2020 governorship poll attained the fever pitch. Citing irreconcilable differences with Obaseki, the Edo State-born philanthropist promised to work against the governor’s re-election bid, and consequently threw his full weight behind Ize-Iyamu, the standard-bearer of the APC.
Embattled Edo lawmakers
The Edo State House of Assembly has been polarised into two camps: those loyal to Governor Obaseki and the former APC national chairman, Comrade Oshiomhole. Last August, the rank of the anti-Obaseki group swelled to 17 as they claimed to have removed Frank Okiye as Speaker and pronounced Victor Edoror, as new Speaker
How will the impasse in Edo State House of Assembly that has courted several litigation be resolved? Will there be political solutions, outside the court room? Having been given a fresh mandate, will the aggrieved lawmakers seek for reconciliation with Governor Obaseki?
Gale of resignations
The outcome of the election also has implications for other categories of politicians and individuals that left the camp of Governor Obaseki at the threshold of the election. No fewer than five aides to the governor resigned their appointments. The list included four Special Assistants from Ovia South-West local government area: Honest IminaUnuagbon (SSA LGA), GoodluckUyigue (SSA Ward 2), RazakRotimi (SA Ward 7), Victor Olunyomi (SA Ward 8) and Smart Bank (SA Ward 10). In a joint letter of resignation sent to Obaseki through the Secretary to State Government (SSG), MrOsarodionOgie, they wrote: “Our reason is simply based on the fact that we are not ready to defect to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) along with the governor.”
Similarly, the chairman of the Edo State Board of Technical and Vocational Education, Mr Christopher Adesotu, resigned his appointment on June 26, while the Chief of Staff to Obaseki, MrTaiwoAkerele, who also resigned his appointment, premised his action on administrative reasons. The Commissioner for Information, Mr Paul Ohonbamu and a Special Assistant, MrsEmikeObaze equally resigned their appointments in June. But the resignation of members of the Edo State Oil and Gas Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC) Board was most curious with insinuations about the grave implications for the re-election bid of the governor. The government, in a statement by the Special Adviser to Edo State Governor on Media and Communication Strategy, Crusoe Osagie,had to clarify the actual status of the four. He stated: “Though these board members are sometimes referred to as commissioners, a title they share with their counterparts on the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), they are however not civil commissioners of the Edo State Government that assist with the day-to-day running of the government.”
What next for the gladiators?
With the major hurdle over the governorship over, some of the next phases could include the filing of petitions at the Edo State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal; rapprochement among the aggrieved camps, including the vanquished among the rest of the contenders for the coveted office of governor and likely realignment of forces. With the benefit of hindsight, many pundits believe that form and shape the political realignments might not departure substantially from the past.