By Muyiwa Olayinka
“Godwin Obaseki of the PDP, having satisfied the requirement of the law and scored the highest number of votes, is hereby declared the winner,” Johnson Alalibo, the chief returning officer of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the state, announced on Sunday afternoon.
Mr Obaseki polled 307,955 votes to defeat his main rival, Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who had 223,619 votes. He also won in 13 of the 18 local government areas and thus scored more than 25 per cent of votes cast in two-thirds of the local governments in the state to satisfy the second constitutional requirement to be declared governor.
This official statement from the chief returning officer of INEC put an end to years of political brickbats, rivalry and bad blood between Governor Obaseki and his erstwhile political godfather, ex-Governor and former Chairman of the ruling party, All Progressive Congress, Adams Oshiomhole.
Mr Obaseki won his first election in 2016 as a candidate of APC and was ably supported by Oshiomhole to beat his closest rival, Mr Ize-Iyamu who was then the candidate of the PDP.
The chummy relationship that existed between Godwin Obaseki who was the ex-Chairman of the Edo State Economic and Strategy Team inaugurated by his boss and the former Governor Adams Oshiomole in March 2009 became ruptured, some few months after he took over. What started like a minor disagreement snowballed into a major crisis that almost engulfed the state.
This epic political battle between the two political gladiators became protracted that almost tore the political fabrics of the south south state of Edo, many notable personalities like President Buhari, Oba of Benin Ewuare II, the richest man in Africa, Aliko Dangote tried unsuccessfully to reconcile the two proved abortive.
The battle of supremacy contributed to the fall of Mr Oshiomhole as the chairman of the APC. But Mr Obaseki also could not get his party’s ticket; he had to switch to the PDP with his deputy, Phillip Shaibu.
How did Obaseki survive all these political landmines put on his way against his reelection to win convincingly for another four years? We may have to look at some of the personae and circumstances that contributed to his success.
He was sworn in as the governor on 12 November 2016. Before he contested for the office, he was the Chairman of Oshiomhole’s think tank (Edo State Economic and Strategy since 2009. From this strategic position, he understands how the government works and he was instrumental to his successful exploits that rejuvenated infrastructural developments, but unfortunately, his predecessor owed a backlog of payment of retired pensioners.
Bearing in mind that Edo state is a civil servant state, Obaseki made payments of all the backlog of pension funds his priority and quick disbursements of salaries to civil servants, and as at when due. Teachers and government workers became happy under his government. For his commitment to the welfare of civil servants in his state, he won the National Union of Teachers award for the best performing governor of the year in 2019.
Many Nigerians that had association with Edo state will admit the unruly activities of touts or ‘thugs’ within Benin metropolis at motor parks and major markets harassing and extorting illegal collections from transporters and market women. These thugs were backed by many prominent people of the state.
Governor Obaseki banned these thugs and touts in all the state and brought about relative peace in the state. He also put an end to land speculators and proscribed the Community Development Associations that were acting as middlemen in land related matters and feeding fat from the dysfunctional system. He stopped political hangers that milled around government offices to make cheap money. This angered many top political figures that were making cheap money
Another important factor that worked for his success is the principle of rotational political posts, a gentleman agreement of sharing political appointments that had been adopted by Edo state. Obaseki’s predecessor, Oshiomhole is from Edo North and had taken the slot of his zone for eight years. Obaseki is from Edo south and his expected to complete the cycle. Stopping him halfway from reelection was seen as a ploy to circumvent the rotational principle. At the end of his eight years, it will be the turn of Edo central in 2024.
Unfortunately, Ize Iyamu Osagie is from the same senatorial zone with Obaseki. What it means is that if Ize Iyamu had won; Edo Central’s interest would be jeopardized. For political exigency, Edo central delivered their votes for Obaseki, winning all the five local governments that make up the senatorial zone.
The sympathy for Obaseki’s predicaments such as attempts to impeach him by the state house of assembly, continuous persecution, his unceremonious disqualification from the screening made him to pitch his tent with PDP influenced the decision of the people to vote en masse for him. The sympathy votes made him win Orhionwmwon local government of his main challenger, Ize Iyamu.
Edo state like other south south states in Nigeria was a PDP state from 1999 to 2008 before it was retrieved by APC through a prolonged legal battle that returned Adams Oshiomhole to power. It was naturally a homecoming for him when APC denied him the ticket. However, it is noteworthy that PDP has a strong presence in Edo state, taking two senators out of the three senators of the state.
In 2019, PDP won the state for its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, scoring 275,691 votes representing 49.71% of the total votes while APC got 267842 votes representing 47.77%. Governor Nyesom Wike was appointed to head the campaign for Obaseki. Wike who battled both internal and external forces to win his reelection in Rivers state is well suited for the job. Coupled with the power of incumbency, the Governor Nyesom Wike went to work to deliver a resounding victory.
PDP rolled out propaganda machinery against Governor Ganduje of Kano, who was appointed the head of campaign for Ize Iyamu. The viral videos of Ganduje stuffing his babaringa with crispy dollar bills in a bribe for contract scandal were repeatedly played on a big billboard strategically located at the ring road, the city center of the state capital, Benin. It also repeatedly played the viral video of Oshiomhole praising Obaseki in 2016. These messages will go on to influence the voting pattern of the electorates.
Ize Iyamu Osagie
Osagie Ize Iyamu ran against Obaseki in 2016 on the platform of PDP and lost. In 2016, Obaseki of APC won with 319483 votes and Ize Iyamu got 253173, the difference between the two major candidates was 66310. Four years later, the difference rose to 84336. Among some of factors that may have contributed to his loss, could be the transferred anger against Oshiomhole’s sins to him.
Somehow, if he was allowed to run his campaign, the contributions of two senators, namely Clifford Ordia of Edo Central senatorial district and Mathew Orhoghide of Edo south senatorial district would have made impacts, in conclusion, Ize Iyamu had already been decimated politically before the election.
It is rather unfortunate that Oshiomhole who was a victim of godfatherism was trying to assert himself as another godfather. He had forgotten how he labored against established god fathers like late Anthony Anenih and Chief Gabriel Igbenedion that were holding the state to ransom for many years
For supporting Ize Iyamu, he has turned full circle as the new godfather of Edo state.
He was following the footsteps of “godfather” Asiwaju Tinubu who had been dictating in Lagos for 21 years. Oshiomhole wanted to reignite the Akinwunmi Ambode’s travail of Lagos in Edo state by totally removing the vestiges of Obaseki. His style of administration as the Chairman of the ruling party, APC was seen as dictatorial, abrasive and unpopular. As a former leader of Nigerian Labor Congress, he brought the firebrand unionist style to the political space that eventually led to his downfall. This style of leadership made it easier for his political enemies to remove from office, complying with the ruling of the judgment of the Court of Appeal. With this defeat, Oshiomhole suddenly has become a political orphan in the state he held sway for eight years
Bola Ahmed Tinubu
Tinubu is the national leader of APC and the godfather of Lagos state. He has consistently remained in the consciousness of Lagos state since 1999. A former governor has a formidable and well-oiled machinery political structure in the commercial city of Nigeria.
Tinubu and Oshiomhole are political soul mates dated back when the former labor leader joined politics. Tinubu was part of those that partly financed Oshiomhole to retrieve his stolen mandate that returned him to power in 2010. At the national level, both controlled the structure of the party before president Buhari with the backing of the central working committee (CWC) dissolved the party structure and inaugurated the caretaker committee.
Naturally, Tinubu is expected to support his party’s candidate in Edo but he overreached himself with the special broadcast he made to the people of Edo state, asking them not to vote for Obaseki. He called Obaseki a dictator, a non-democrat that must be voted out. Unfortunately for him, the message became counterproductive, incensed by his ‘busybody’ and undue political interference, the slogan ‘Edo is not Lagos’ became the rallying point and they went ahead to vote massively for Obaseki. Inadvertently, Tinubu’s broadcast helped Obaseki to secure another mandate from his people.
The beauty of Obaseki’s victory establishes the fact that the people of Edo state knew what they wanted despite financial inducements, though from both parties. They were not deterred with the presence of 31,000 federal securities on Election Day; they came out in large numbers to exercise their franchise.