Edo Election: The Victory, the Defeat, the Lessons
By Eniola Mayowa
Edo State governorship election has come and gone! There has been celebration and jubilation and celebration in the camp of the winners since Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced the results of the election while the loser are already counting their cost and hope for a better performance next time.
Prior to the election, there have been several permutations and analyses on the likely outcome of the election with many expecting a volatile election giving the violence that characterized the campaigns of the major contenders to the seat of government in the state.
In many instances, attacks and violence were recorded given in the camp of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) the political platform of the incumbent governor as well as the All Progressive Party (APC), the political platform of the major opponent and leading contender to the throne.
Other parties at the election were regarded as pretenders who merely wanted to show presence on the ballots boxes and endear recognition, again, the game largely depended on the size of pocket and political goodwill.
Giving the occurrence of events in the days and months before the election, it was clear that so much was at stake in the emergence of the next governor of the state. While the incumbent was in the boxing ring fighting the battle to retain his position for the second term with his erstwhile godfather Adams Oshiomhole; the godfather who at one point in his political journey affirmed his commitment to end godfatherism in the state was bent on seeing the exit of the governor having lost his own position at the centre largely due to the imbroglio from his home state.
The intrigues at the centre within the APC party structure also contributed to the awakening interest of the majority of the populace outside of Edo state on the election.
Now that the election has been won and lost, a review of the election script became necessary for future reference and lessons for the gladiators as well as political parties.
Interestingly, politicians for who they are, both Godwin Obaseki and Osagie Ize-Iyamu were the gladiators in the same election in 2016 albeit on switched parties. While Obaseki who then enjoyed the tremendous support of the incumbent governor, Adams Oshiomhole as the godfather ran on the platform All Progressive Congress (APC); Ize-Iyamu was on the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and was extensively described in very derogative manner.
It was on records that Oshiomhole successfully damaged the reputation of Ize-Iyamu that left a bad image of him in the mind of many including the voters in the state.
One of the major factors that worked for Obaseki in 2020 elections were the endorsement of Oshiomhole in 2016 and condemnation of the candidate of Ize-Iyamu. People refuse to be taken for fools.
How can the same man you have painted as not good for the office of the governor four years ago suddenly become the bride you want everyone to support and vote for as the governor of the state? What has changed? What went wrong with the saint of 2016 who has now become the devil in 2020 if not for selfish interest?
Oshiomhole’s role reversal is seen purely as a political game that is devoid of the interest of the people. Many perceived his position as that of a ‘big brother’ who doesn’t want the governor to breadth for failing to do his bids. Oshiomhole was one the politicians who fought against godfatherism in the political space particularly in Edo state yet he wanted to give the dose of the same medicine he resisted to his perceived underdog.
This role reversal also calls the integrity of the former state governor to question and was seeing as a man who is largely driven by selfish interest and political relevance at all cost.
From the report filtered from the state, Obaseki is believed to have done more for the people in terms of dividend of democracy when compared with Oshiomhole’s eight years tenure.
His performance was rated in terms of payments of pension arrears, completion of abandoned projects, road constructions and creating a conducive environment for businesses within the state. Some claimed the governor was not generous and wasteful with the state resources hence he caught the wrath of entrenched politicians who believe they should have unhindered access to the state resources at the expense of developmental projects for the benefits of the majority of the people.
Some political analysts have argued that Ize-Iyamu would have won the election if he had remained in PDP having lost with a close margin in 2016. Their argument is premised on the fact that he would have been the main beneficiary of the fight and crisis within the APC in the state.
Having lost the party ticket, Obaseki would have been forced to move to a relatively unknown party with little or no political machinery to win the election. Again, the support by the other PDP state governors would probably have been the needed push for Ize-Iyamu to wrestle the state from the party in power and worked in his favour in the manner it worked for Obaseki.
The subtle threat by the United State and the United Kingdom to place visa ban on politicians with penchants for rigging elections seem to have done some magic in the outcome of the election in Edo State where the power of incumbent can be described to have won and lost the election at the same time.
While it can be argued that the threat is not the first, it must be noted that it was perhaps the first time individuals were called out for electoral malpractices with dare consequences. The rightness or wrongness of such threat in a state within a federating unit with sovereign powers is a debate for another time.
That broadcast by one of the APC leaders, Bola Ahmed Tinubu is seen in many quarters to have done more damages to the candidature of Ize-Iyamu and won sympathy votes for Obaseki. Many queried the audacious move by the party leader to influence the choice of who to elect in the state.
While some people saw the move as a fair play in politics as all is fair in war, a number resent such position from a man who is not known to hold any official position in the party hierarchy and wonder in what capacity was such broadcast made ab initio.
Indeed, the broadcast was a further confirmation of the position of a movement #EdoNoBeLagos, an hashtag suggestive of the extension of the political clout of the leader to Edo state from Lagos where Tinubu remains undisputable godfather.
The other position which worked for Obaseki and gave him victory at the election is the unconfirmed and suggestive support he enjoys from other state governors on the platform of the APC. It was noted that many of his colleagues were not happy with the manner he was denied the party ticket and quietly worked to disgrace his adversaries by ensuring they met their waterloo at the poll.
Not a few are of the opinion that Obaseki may likely return to APC to finally ensure the burial of his political godfather. It was believed that the strategy to run on PDP ticket was purely a business for which he paid handsomely to get the ticket.
Like the state governors who maintained a quiet but supportive posture, it was also believed that Obaseki enjoys the support of certain individuals from the seat of government at the federal level. These certain individuals had made frantic efforts to upturn the decision of the party national executive under the leadership of Oshiomhole to deny Obaseki APC ticket.
The intrigues within the party which was not unconnected to the power play for the soul of the party in 2023 which consumed the authority and leadership of Oshiomhole as the party Chairman.
Now that the people of Edo have spoken and gave the mandate for the next four years to Obaseki, it is hoped that he will make the most of the trust and confidence of the people by truly avail the people with the dividends of democracy.
•Mayowa, a Lagos based marketing communication consultant is the Vice Chairman of the Lagos Chapter of NIPR