With exactly 60 days to go in the Edo State governorship election scheduled for September 19, 2020, the battle line has been drawn between Mr. Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki, the incumbent governor of the state and the governorship candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) after a tortuous and hectic journey to secure the governorship ticket of the two major political parties in Nigeria.
What an irony of history for both men who had to switch party, dramatically with Pastor Ize- Iyamu moving from the PDP to the APC, while Mr. Obaseki left APC to the PDP. This represents the complexities associated with the Nigerian politics in contemporary times. An enemy of yesterday is a friend of today and vice versa.
It will be recalled that in 2016, Mr. Ize-Iyamu, a former secretary to the Edo State Government under Governor Lucky Nosakhare Igbinedion, had a bright chance to become the APC governorship candidate for that year’s election and, most likely, would have won the general election, but for Mr. Adams Oshiomhole who, as governor then, foisted Obaseki on the party.
While several APC members and supporters, including Oshiomhole’s allies, were rooting for Ize-Iyamu in 2016, the Comrade Governor not only resisted him but turned the table against him, despite the fact that Ize- Iyamu led his 2012 re-election campaign.
Obaseki, Oshiomhole’s favourite then, was widely considered as an ‘outsider’ in the APC and in the politics of Edo State since he was recruited into the party by Oshiomhole’s administration as a technocrat from the banking sector, an action that almost rocked the boat soon after the primary.
Ize-Iyamu, out of frustration, defected from the APC to the PDP where he ran for the governorship in the 2016 election, but at the end, lost to Obaseki narrowly despite the fact that Oshiomhole almost went naked to campaign for Obaseki. While canvassing votes for Obaseki during the 2016 election, Oshiomhole denounced Ize-Iyamu as being unworthy of public office.
According to Oshiomhole, “It is true we found ourselves in the region of politics working together, but I never gave him government job,” Oshiomhole said of Ize-Iyamu in an undated video of a 2016 APC campaign rally in Benin City.
“I kept him (Ize-Iyamu) busy, let him be holding midnight meeting which he is used to. Ask him, since he was the DG (of my campaign organisation), why did I not appoint him into government?
“We kept him away, nothing near government circle, no access to public fund.” Oshiomhole, in the 10-minute video which is an excerpt from Channels TV’s live coverage of the rally, said Ize-Iyamu was a “GM of one wuru-wuru” company and accused him of ruining the administration of Lucky Igbinedion in Edo State. Oshiomhole said the likes of Ize-Iyamu would never be allowed to return to the government of Edo State.
On the other hand, Oshiomhole in the video praised Obaseki as one who used his “brain” and “creativity” to work for the good of the state and the people. He even raised a song that said Obaseki was “a winner and not a loser.”
Just like the Oshiomhole-Ize-Iyamu relationship, the immediate past PDP chairman of Edo State, Chief Dan Orbih had also in the past attacked Obaseki’s educational certificates as being fake.
“I have had Oshiomhole refer to him as a technocrat and the candidate himself has described himself as one” Orbih who is now leading Obaseki campaign trail as the chairman of the South-South Zone of the PDP said of Obaseki in August 2016, during the governorship election.
“Here with me is the school certificate he used to gain admission to the University of Ibadan. In this result, he did not pass Economics, yet he calls himself head of economic team. In the same certificate, he made P7 in English and failed Mathematics.
“He claimed he entered the university the year he left secondary school. How could he have gained admission with such result? The result was not even good enough for any form of preliminary studies.
“This can only mean that Obaseki forged the certificates to gain admission. It is obvious that the man has no academic qualifications as he had only three credits,” Orbih further said then.
Very interestingly, the APC, which defended Obaseki’s certificates in 2016, later deployed the same controversy to disqualify him in 2020, and the PDP, which started the controversy, has not only welcomed Obaseki into the party, but has made him its governorship candidate for the September 19 election.
Now, this is 2020 and the political game has completely changed for the trio of Oshiomhole, Obaseki, and Ize-Iyamu. There has been a reversal of roles.
Obaseki, who was once a darling, has become Oshiomhole’s worst political enemy. They have fought a protracted political battle that sapped the strength from the Edo governor. He was eventually disqualified, most likely through Oshiomhole’s prompting, from contesting in the APC governorship primary, thereby forcing him to defect to the PDP.
Obaseki, already exhausted after his battle with Oshiomhole and the APC, entered his new party, the PDP, only for him to encounter another challenge – the uncertainty about him getting the PDP governorship ticket – with some of the aspirants who were already in the party before him vowing that they would not step down for him.
The PDP leadership in Abuja shifted the Edo governorship primary to allow room for Obaseki to negotiate his way through thereby securing a waiver from the party to dislodge the three aspirants, Ogbeide Ihama, Gideon Ikhine and Kenneth Imasuangbon, all of whom were prevailed upon to step down from the race.
However, it could easily be assumed that the biggest factor, perhaps, for Oshiomhole and the APC in the Edo election is Ize-Iyamu who is an experienced politician, with a strong connection with voters across party lines.
This could probably explain why Oshiomhole ate back his words and conceded to backing Ize-Iyamu for the election, for the ‘last fight’ against Obaseki.
It is difficult, for now, to predict who between Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu would win the Edo election, especially as politicians from outside the state such as the Kano state governor, Alhaji Umar Ganduje who is the chairman of Ize-Iyamu’ campaign Council and his Rivers State counterpart, Nyesom Wike who is also the Chairman of Obaseki Campaign Council are threatening to undo each other in the election as they would likely use the state as an experiment desk to test-run their preparedness for 2023 presidential elections.
Chances Of Obaseki, Ize- Iyamu On September 19
Firstly, a victory in the Edo election may just be the last thing Oshiomhole could grab for now to save himself from complete humiliation, having lost out unexpectedly in a power-tussle in a party he successfully led to win the presidential election just last year.
If Obaseki wins re-election, it would be a double humiliation for Oshiomhole, one that could lead to his quick retirement from politics and that is the last thing the former Edo state governor would want to experience, especially when he remembers the battle he fought to get Obaseki to succeed him as a governor in 2016 against all odds. This is why Oshiomhole and his supporters will go all out to ensure victory for the APC candidate, Ize-Iyamu who is also banking on his political experience and grassroots support.
On the other hand, Obaseki as the sitting governor has so many things to his advantage by pointing to what he has done and what he is doing in the state.
However, despite the fact that Ize-Iyamu has no project to point to as one to his credit, he is still being seen by the political observers as the candidate to beat in this election especially with the air of confidence with which he is conducting his campaign since launching what he described as his “Six Point Agenda” where he declared that the four cardinal programmes of the Unity Party of Nigeria of the second republic reshaped his interest in politics and the importance of manifesto for a political party and politicians.
“My Six Point Agenda for the state which I tagged, ‘The SIMPLE Agenda’, shows every component of manifesto which creates room for employment generation as well as to continue to programme what I would inherit from the current administration if I win the election particularly the Benin Water Storm project designed to check flooding in the state. I wish to recall that when Chief Obafemi Awolowo in 1978 formed the Unity Party of Nigeria, even though I was quite young, I was fascinated by the manifesto of his party, the four cardinal programmes of the UPN namely: free education, free health services, integrated rural development and employment for all.
“It was very easy to understand and it was all encompassing and that manifesto alone made me to take an interest in the party and I became a member of the youth wing. From an early age, I appreciate the role of manifestoes in party formation and to me it was key in the choice of the party to belong to.”
On projects, Ize-Iyamu said “The water storm project cannot be abandoned, we must commend those who planned it even when four years ago I was contesting for office, I commended the foresight because I realised that flooding was becoming a major problem in our state and especially in Benin.
“There are many areas where when it rains not only are the roads impassable but the houses there are in serious danger so when the storm water was conceived and execution started, it offered a lot of hope, if you look at Airport and environ you will know that the storm water project has been able to bring that place back to normal. These were areas before that were completely impassable.
“To have abandoned the project the way it has been abandoned is senseless and wicked especially coming from an administration that was part of the administration that actually conceived the project.
“Even though it is difficult to see, if there are projects that Obaseki has started, I can assure you that we will complete them, it does not make sense to abandon projects. On the moribund Bendel Breweries, I will ensure that the brewery is revived because people are making money from breweries so why will Edo State not make money from what it has? No matter the problem it has, it can be resolved. We will discuss with all those involved in the Bendel Brewery matter it is better for the factory to be functional than for the factory to be closed.”
For Obaseki, his strongest campaign point to the people is that Oshiomhole and other APC leaders were fighting him because he refused to share the state’s funds to them which is the simple reason he went for Ize-Iyamu as his replacement.
To the understanding of Obaseki’s supporters, what that implies is that Oshiomhole is bringing Ize-Iyamu to be governor because he will agree to share the state’s resources with him and other APC leaders.
This campaign is stronger in the Edo South Senatorial District which is populated by the Benin speaking people of the state that control almost 60% of the state’s total population. Added to this, is the governor’s development projects in the three Senatorial Districts many of which are actually visible and verifiable.
Edo State development report today states that the poor masses, artisans, market men, women and the poorest of the poor are happy and at peace with the state of development, especially with the elimination of double taxation, “Agberoism” touts and other extortions. The state and the local governments can now pay salaries as and when due.
Before 2016, local governments, like the cosmopolitan local government in the state, that could hardly realize N10 million monthly from their Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), today now get about N100 million on the average every month from the same IGR.
This has engendered statewide positive change and revolution rendering previous administrations’ performance as poor in comparison.
The past efforts became acknowledged as small fractures and tissues in the development trajectory of Edo Society. They have therefore, proclaimed the emancipation of the Edo people under the government of Obaseki.
Like what his predecessor Oshiomhole said, “All positive and progressive changes in human endeavour goes with pains and perhaps stepping on toes. Obaseki vowed to put his life on the line for the development of Edo and to erect his administration on a tripod; of urban renewal, Agricultural infrastructure and Industrial template.
To this end, Obaseki has so far done noble, in his implementation and execution of this with a strong will.
In a recent analysis, Ihimekpen Okharedia, a veteran journalist indicated that, within the first three years of his administration he took the mantra of urban renewal and environmental discipline to the door steps of the ordinary Edo citizen.
He outlawed the nightmare of crass insubordination and hooliganism otherwise called, “Agberos” from the state revenue collection, built and replaced them with human relation, friendly and modern technology models. He gave the land transfer transaction a human face with a deliberate policy that crashed the cost of obtaining certificate of occupancy “C of O” from over N1 million to N50,000.00. These actions no doubt, may have made him step on the toes of some privileged powerful few, but the people are happy with their governor.
On infrastructural development, Obaseki engaged on complete reconstruction of the Sam Ogbemudia Stadium, rehabilitated schools and established three other technical colleges, one in each Senatorial District to complement with the newly built Government Science and Technical College, among many others too numerous to mention.
If Obaseki is to be commended for these giant strides, his passion for the future of Edo State will ensure the engraving of his name in gold and for refocusing the state’s vision to our natural and human resources.
The thought that crude oil and the not too consistent Federal Allocation will not be with us forever and that we must start thinking of Technology and Agriculture as a fallback position to Edo State without oil has been articulated.
Contrary to the uninformed critics, it is with the support of the Presidency, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria and Dangote Refineries, that the Obaseki administration embarked on the construction of Edo Seaport, a project which is aimed at decongesting the Lagos, Warri and the Port-Harcourt Seaports and making the Bight of Benin a Cargo Ship-berthing destination.
On Agriculture, he has facilitated the return of the Michelin Rubber Estate to Uronigbe Rubber Plantation Reserve, revitalized the Ikpeshi Rice Farm and flagged-off the N78 billion palm plantation investment in the state. These gestures have brought and ushered into the economy the associated benefits of employment opportunities for our youths and women.
In contrast some seemingly powerful members of his party, (APC), felt the developmental strides though noble, ought to have been executed differently where majority of them would have been on the driver’s seat. No matter how you dislike a messenger; it is good to accept the good message. It is on the side of wisdom for all to accept the message of the good tidings in the overall interest of Edo People.
Consequently, taking a critical look on how the two governorship candidates will perform in the three Senatorial Districts, one could categorically say with all emphasis that Edo South voters will decide the winner of the election.
This is so for the fact that while Ize-Iyamu of the APC is already singing victory songs for the result of Edo North, courtesy of Adams Oshiomhole’s popularity in the area, Obaseki of the PDP is home and dry in Edo Central for two reasons.
Obaseki has made some developmental strides in some towns of Esanland in terms of road construction especially in Ekpoma, the Ambrose Alli University town where he constructed some of the township roads and carried out major infrastructural development at the University main campus.
This feat has endeared the governor to the people of Esanland of the Edo Central immensely.
The second strong point that most elicited the people is the promise by the governor to the Esan people that his successor after his second term will come from Edo Central.
This alleged promise has changed the political countenance of majority of Esan people who are now alleged to be carrying out door to door campaign for Obaseki.
The effect or otherwise of the house to house campaign in Esan land will become manifest after the voting on September 19.
However, some pessimists insist that it is not always difficult for politicians to make promises but to fulfil them is the problem and only time will tell.
Coming to Edo South Senatorial District where the two leading candidates hail from, it would be difficult to predict the candidate that would get the upper hand as both of them and their parties are well known in the entire area of the senatorial district.
Only God knows what will happen in the seven local government areas of Uhunmwode, Orhionmwon, Ovia South, Ovia North East, Ikpoba- Okha, Egor and Oredo local government areas that make up the Edo south senatorial district. This senatorial district is where the winner and loser of September 19 election will emerge?