The forthcoming governorship election in Edo State has all the trappings of a football match. In 2016, team Godwin Obaseki, adorning the blue jersey of All Progressives Congress (APC) was home against the Osagie Ize-Iyamu team resplendent in their red jerseys flying the flag of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Four years after that first encounter, the two players are billed for a return match on September 19, 2020. While Obaseki has moved from ‘Chelsea’ to ‘Liverpool’, Ize-Iyamu has been fielded by ‘Manchester City.’
Already, some Chelsea fans have expressed fascination for Manchester City, giving stakeholders some worries about how the applause coming from the camp of the defending champions would impact on the outcome of the September 19 derby.
When Governor Nyesom Wike, the PDP governor of Rivers State and Kassim Afegbua, raised issues about the modalities of fielding Obaseki for the forthcoming encounter, their communication came off more as the usual outbursts of supporters club.
That is where the September 19 contest’s analogy to soccer attribution ends, because the greater portions of the other aspects pertain to the power game: Politics.
APC stalwarts in Edo, particularly Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, expressed dismay at the unhappy ending in the drama that culminated in the dissolution of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC).
However, going by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s conclusions on the sacking of the APC NWC, the woes would be compounded if the party fails to deliver Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu in the governorship poll.
The APC national leader fell short of telling the humiliated Oshiohmole and Edo APC faithful that victory in the gubernatorial poll is sacrosanct, as Obaseki’s is re-election would amount to double humiliation for them.
In 2016, Oshiomhole and his die-hard supporters powered the incumbent governor to electoral triumph against all the odds. But things fell apart midway into Obaseki’s tenure as fight over who controls the state APC structure pitched the governor against the sacked national chairman.
For both Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu, picking PDP and APC governorship tickets for the September 19 governorship poll did not come easy. Apart from switching political parties, they also switched supporters’ clubs. Four years ago, APC supporters were upbeat about Ize-Iyamu until Oshiomhole intervened in favour of Obaseki.
Perhaps, because Ize-Iyamu actually directed Oshiomhole’s 2012 governorship re-election campaign, most party faithful saw Obaseki as an outsider recruited into Oshiomhole’s government, being a technocrat.Once a darling, Obaseki has currently become Oshiomhole’s basest political foe. His disqualification from APC governorship primary forced him into the PDP.
Even in PDP, the governor encountered another round of battles, as some of the established aspirants vowed not to step down for him.The drama ensued: Governor Nyesom Wike, who initially rejoiced at Obaseki’s entry into PDP, stormed out in anger mid way to the PDP primary. Wike accused some PDP leaders of trying to smear him because of Obaseki, crying out against those he called ‘tax collectors’.
In the thick of Wike’s allegation, Special Adviser to Governor Obaseki on Media and Strategy, Crusoe Osagie, denied that his principal paid any money to anybody in PDP.
In 2016, PDP doubted Obaseki’s educational certificates, claiming there was no way he must have entered the university the same year he left secondary school.
According to former Edo State PDP chairman, Dan Orbih, “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.”
But the same APC, which defended Obaseki’s certificates in 2016, had to deploy the same argument to disqualify him in 2020, while PDP swiftly adopted him as its governorship candidate for the next September poll.
Last year December, while welcoming Ize-Iyamu to APC, Oshiomhole said: “You will remember, Pastor Ize-Iyamu was my campaign Director-General (DG) in 2012 for my second term.
“I won in all the 18 local government areas; I won all the wards in Edo South. I scored 74.6 per cent in the total votes cast. In 2016, the man left us and stood against us. We only managed to defeat him with about 50,000 votes.
“So, if he is bringing on board as he has done, that his goodwill, his energy, his resourcefulness, and his own electoral base to join the APC, I am much more confident now about APC’s continuous hold on the governance of this state than ever before.
Although Ize-Iyamu faced a contest before clinching the APC ticket, Obaseki had to ride on an affected consensus arrangement to become the PDP candidate.
Apprehension and tension was building up to a crescendo before Mr. Kenneth Imasuagbon, the last man standing among the three aspirants, agreed to yield for Obaseki.
The same Imasuagbon that insisted, “If there is anyone to step down for the other, it is Obaseki,” turned round after stepping down, to explain that “Obaseki is a performing governor; he has worked hard for the state, but he was distracted by the godfathers while he was in APC.”
Who Wins On September 19
There are many factors to consider in predicting the likely outcome of the forthcoming Edo State gubernatorial poll.They include the sacking of Oshiomhole as APC chairman, incumbency factor, fall out of governorship primaries, federal might, grassroots appeal and perception about governance in the past four years.
In the event that incumbency and federal might end up as vagabond forces, Oshiomhole and his group from the Edo Peoples Movement (EPM) would fight ferociously to reclaim their relevance and ensure that the state remains in the mainstream.
It is not known how far the politicians in the state would want to play on the opposition flank, but the recent anti-party declarations by Prince Kassim Afegbua, could be a pointer to latent voter preferences down the line.
Afegbua, a former spokesman to the 2019 PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, had vowed to support Pastor Ize-Iyamu against Obaseki. Either out of pain that his preferred aspirant, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama stepped down or the impudent nature of Obaseki’s emergence as PDP’s standard-bearer, Afegbua stated: “We will join hands with the APC candidate to ensure that Godwin Obaseki does not return. I am a PDP member, but I will vote APC. A man with the humility of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is better than a governor who fights everyone who disagrees with him.
“Edo has become too polarised over avoidable and needless battles. Let us have a new leadership that will usher in quiet and peace to everyone. The noises from Obaseki’s aspiration have become too polluted and cannot be in the best interest of anyone.”
Although some PDP faithful said Afegbua was merely trying to attract some relevance to himself, the frustration he (Afegbua) expressed could be a thread among other PDP members and Edo electorate.
Afegbua had stated: “Ogbeide-Ihama got swallowed up by the politics of money that has become the bane of Nigerian politics. He was ambushed by Governor Obaseki’s desperation; who was ready to use any amount to railroad people in the party to buy into his aspiration.
“How can someone who did not buy nomination form, who came in when sale of forms had closed, screening had closed, congresses for the election of delegates had closed, and all of a sudden, because he has state resources to spend, rules were bent to accommodate him and made to become the candidate?
“Only yesterday, Edo PDP scored Obaseki F9 in its sectoral analyses, and today, the same man who scored F9 all through in terms of performance, has suddenly become the head of the PDP corner.
“A governor who PDP challenged in 2016 for discrepancies in his submissions has suddenly become the candidate of the party. How do you explain such scenario? For me, I still hold the view that Ogbeide-Ihama had better opportunity to pull through if they had allowed Obaseki to settle for another party.
“It would have been a matter of three candidates and PDP would have had a better grip. I was shocked to see all three aspirants stepping down in the face of pressure. Even Kenneth Imasuagbon, who was shouting on top of his voice that he would pull through, buckled suddenly and swallowed his misplaced pride.”
To some extent the outcome of the election could be affected by recent calls on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to probe the PDP governorship primary.
Those urging EFCC to investigate the PDP primary allege that much money was expended during the exercise, stressing that state PDP chairman, Mr. Tony Aziegbemi, should be invited to explain all he knows about the sources of the funds.
It is possible that a lot would be thrown into the election, but the fact that Oshiomhole would want to keep his political clout in tact makes the encounter a must win for Ize-Iyamu than it is for Obaseki to assert his independence and personal appeal. Would the election be a referendum on Obaseki’s performance in the last four years or Ize-Iyamu’s grounding in Edo politics for the past 21 years? Time shall tell.