Edo Guber Poll: Where will the Pendulum Swing?

In this analysis EMMANUEL IRIOGBE tries to look at the Edo governorship election coming up in less than two weeks and the factors that may play out to make a victory possible for either of the two main contestants, Governor Godwin Obaseki of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the All Progressives Congress, APC.

The forthcoming Edo state governorship elections on September 19 promises to be a very interesting one.

This is one election that is holding Nigerians both those home and abroad spell bound due to the intensity of the campaigns thus far.

How the election in a single state has generated so much interest from many citizens is befuddling, however the reason is not farfetched.

The main gladiators in the race for who occupies government House, Osadebe Avenue, Governor Godwin Obaseki and Pastor Ize-Iyamu are politicians known to many, they squared up in 2017 against one another. While the former won the election under the All Progressives Congress, APC, the later contested under the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and lost. However, they have since swapped parties, in the forthcoming election and no thanks to the role played by former National Chairman of the APC and immediate past governor of the state, Adams Oshiomhole.

Obaseki and the former labour leader (Oshiomhole) got entangled in a bitter fight for supremacy of who controls the APC in the state and when Obaseki refused to bulge to Oshiomhole they parted ways and the later ensured that the party ticket was not given to the incumbent governor.

Oshiomhole was able to convince Ize-Iyamu to dump the PDP and settle for the APC with the governorship ticket as a bait.

The final battle line was drawn when the governor and his deputy, Philip Shuaibu after losing out at the APC primaries was welcomed warmly to the PDP and the governorship ticket given to them.

Since the electioneering campaign started it has been bitter and acrimonious with stake holders calling for restraint. The Inspector General of Police, IGP, has had to intervene by warning both parties against violence prior, during and after the election.

Things came to a head only last week when the revered Oba of Benin, Omo No ne Edo ukuakpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare 11 called the two candidates and their deputies to his palace where he admonished them to embrace peace as according to him both men were brothers and the different ethnic groups in the monolithic state all descendants from the Great Benin Kingdom. Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu were made to embrace themselves during the parley in front of camera and to the admiration of those present.

Pundits are of the opinion that the entrance of Oshiomhole in the campaigns remains the major reason why the state is at its tithers end presently. The former governor has never hidden the fact that he is fighting for his political survival as losing the state may spell political doom for him. This has made him to follow Ize-Iyamu on every campaign he has embarked on throughout the state. While some see this as a plus for the Redeem Church Pastor others see this as an albatross to the latter’s ambition.

Coming to the chances of both candidates, it can be safely said that the race is going to be a very tight one at the end of the day.

Looking at the geographical spread and power bases of Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu, it shows that Edo south has the highest number of registered voters in the state. According to figures released by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the senatorial district has a total number of 1.281,414 registered voters out of the total state figure of 2.210,534 registered voters. On the other hand, Edo North has 564,122 number of registered voters while Edo Central has the least number of registered voters with 364,998.

The permutation is that Edo central may play the joker’s role of who finally emerges winner of the election. This is based on perceived mass voting for a particular candidate during the election while the other two zones will be split on almost equal bases by the candidates. The Senatorial Zone reputed to be a strong PDP stronghold with the people Esan race as the dominant people that populate it has a grouse with Oshiomhole who they see as anti Esan.

The people are of the opinion that the zone never felt the impact of governance for the 8 years’ period Oshiomhole held forth as state governor. They complained of total neglect and marginalisation by the Oshiomhole then led administration.

The former governor was seen not to hide his disdain for the zone when all trunk B roads that were supposed to be maintained and rehabilitated by the state government were in deplorable state for eight years.

Oshiomhole was once quoted to have told people of the zone that they should hold their sons late Tony Anenih and Mike Onolemenme responsible for the deplorable states of the roads in the area because they were at different periods in this present political dispensation ministers of works.

It took the intervention of Obaseki to rehabilitate these roads in his first tenure as governor for which the people are grateful.

To add to why the people of the zone felt he had no love for them was Oshiomhole’s deposition of a first class traditional ruler, the Onojie of Uromi, (Anenih and Onolemenme home town) Anslem Eidonojie. Again it took the intervention of Governor Obaseki to restore the traditional ruler to the throne when he came in as governor.

It was therefore not surprising that Oshiomhole and Ize-Iyamu were given cold shoulders when they took their campaign to the zone. They were received by the entire traditional rulers in the zone at the palace of the Onojie of Igueben in Igueben local government area of the state.

As unconfirmed reports have it Oshiomhole was said to have told the gathering of the traditional rulers and the people present that he has no regret for actions he took while in office including the dethronement of the revered traditional ruler. This was after Ize-Iyamu had tried to placate the people for Oshiomhole’s action in removing the Onojie. This, it was alleged infuriated the Onojie in question who used unprintable names on Oshiomhole and asked him out of their presence. His move was purportedly supported the other traditional rulers present.

The take of an average Esan man today from feelers at our disposal is that Oshiomhole has succeeded in de-marketing Ize-Iyamu in the zone by accompanying him during his campaign tour and his unrepentant remark in question. Thus they have in one accord agreed to vote enmass for the PDP candidate, Governor Obaseki. There is also an undisclosed agreement between the people of the zone and Obaseki that they will be allowed to produce a successor when the governorship seat becomes vacant in 2024.

The election may swing in favour of Obaseki in the zone at 80/20.

In the Edo state North Senatorial District where Oshiomhole hails from, he is seen as a messiah of sort. The cult followership he enjoins from his people can be attributed to the development he brought to them in his 8 years as governor.

This according to the people is because he came to wipe their tears of total neglect and marginalization by successive administration since the creation of old Bendel state. It is on record that Oshiomhole is the first and only governor the zone has ever produced since democracy berthed in the old Bendel state that was later split into two, Edo and Delta state.

Oshiomhole did not disappoint his people as he went into massive rehabilitation of roads in every nook and cranny in the zone.

This cult followership of the people to Oshiomhole may make Ize-Iyamu claim victory in the senatorial district.

However, this is not to discountenance the influence of the incumbent Deputy Governor of the state, Philip Shuaibu, an Oshiomhole protégée that turned against his master.

People are easy to point to the fact that whatever Shuaibu is today politically in the country can be attributed to Oshiomhole influence. From been a member of the state House of Assembly to his election into the House of Representatives where he was recalled to become a running mate and ultimately deputy governor of the state were all the handiwork of Oshiomhole. However, Shuaibu while defending his action for turning against his political godfather is quick to point out that Oshiomhole has refused to practice what he preached which bothers on the need to do away with godfatherism in the state.

Philip Shuaibu it must be noted is no push over in Edo North politics. He has been able to build a political structure that can match that of Oshiomhole in the zone. He may be able to deliver some votes to Obaseki under whose ticket he is running as deputy governor. Also, he has his eyes on the governorship after Obaseki in 2024. This is the card he is playing among the people.

Give or take, it might be a 60/40 in favour of Ize-Iyamu.

Edo South is lucky to have both candidates coming from the senatorial district. As things stands it’s a 50/50 chance for both candidates.

At recent political rallies, mammoth crowd have welcomed Governor Obaseki to his campaign rallies in the local government areas he has so far visited.

In Ovia and Ikpoba Okha, it was the same story. Traditional rulers in Ikpoba okha gathered and with the symbolic breaking of kola nut prayed for the success of the governor.

This zone remains the most volatile among the three districts in the state. In the area of youth followership, it can be said authoritatively that Ize-Iyamu stands shoulder high above his opponent. The likes of one Tony Adun aka Kabaka and his group are spoiling for war with Governor Obaseki for daring to make them irrelevant in the scheme of things in the state.

They allude to the fact that without them Obaseki wouldn’t have been governor today.

The governor has not hidden his disdain for these group of persons who have now come to be referred to as lions and tigers and acronym supposedly first used by Ize-Iyamu.

Obaseki only recently pulled down a portion of Kabaka’s hotel claiming that it encroached on government land.

This analysis cannot be complete without talking about government interference in elections in Nigeria.

Some political analyst sees the Edo election as very crucial to the ruling APC government. Their inability to make inroad into the south south geographical zone through Bayelsa state presents yet an opportunity to make an impact in the oil rich zone. It is alleged that plans have been concluded to make sure that Edo state returns to the fold of the APC. To this end, security outfits, INEC and others have been bankrolled in this scheme. This however remains a projection in the minds of opponents of the present APC led federal administration.

What becomes of Edo, aftermath of the election remains to be seen but as its toga of been “The heartbeat of the Nation” entails, what happens in Edo will surely have a telling effect on the nation.

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