Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
After months of tension-soaked electioneering campaigns, the people of Edo State will tomorrow file out to elect their governor for the next four years, beginning from November 12.
By the records of the Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC), a total of 14 political parties will be participating in Saturday’s gubernatorial poll, while a total of 2,210,534 registered voters will decide the winner of among the various candidates in the race.
According to the electoral body, five Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) will be deployed to support the Edo REC in the conduct of the poll, while the police high command is deploying a Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), an Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) and eight Commissioners of Police (CPs) to take charge of the security arrangements.
The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, revealed that 31,000 police personnel will be on the ground to protect election officials, materials and voters as well as enforce the rules during Saturday’s election.
Despite the tension ahead of the poll, many critical observers agree that the contest is mainly between Governor Godwin Obaseki and Osagie Ize-Iyamu, candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) respectively.
Ironically, both men had squared up against each other in the 2016 gubernatorial election in the state, which Obaseki contested on the platform of the APC and won, while Ize-Iyamu, a former Secretary to the State Government,was the candidate of the opposition party and runner up in the contest.
In what looks like a paradox in politics, the two leading contenders for the Dennis Osadebe Avenue in the gubernatorial poll switched parties between the PDP and APC while the political leaders in the state, who played key roles in the campaign of the candidates during last poll are also playing opposite roles in the governorship contest.
For instance, during the 2016 governorship election, former APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, who was completing his second term as governor of the state, had spear-headed the Obaseki campaign.
During that campaign, Oshiomhole had extolled Obaseki’s virtues, describing him as the brain behind most of his successes in his eight years reign and noted that he was the best man for the office of governor. On the other hand, in 2016, the former APC chairman described Ize-Iyamu in very derogatory terms.
In that same election, the PDP’s National Vice Chairman (South South), Dan Orbih dismissed Obaseki then as Oshiomhole’s lackey and charged the people of the state not to vote for him.
Orbih, who was the state chairman of the opposition party at that time, relentlessly drummed support for the former SSG, describing him as the man to lead the state to Eldorado.
Four years after, Oshiomhole is now Ize-Iyamu’s chief marketer, while Orbih is Obaseki’s chief campaigner.
The dynamics in the Edo gubernatorial contest changed after the APC screening committee constituted by Oshiomhole as national chairman, disqualified Governor Obaseki from participating in the ruling party’s primary on account of his alleged questionable educational qualifications.
The Edo governor promptly defected to the PDP and clinched the opposition party’s gubernatorial ticket for tomorrow contest.
Since then, it has been a “war without end” as the PDP and APC traversed the length and breadth of the state to market their candidates to the electorate.
In the course of the electioneering campaigns, there have been allegations and counter allegations of rigging plots, amidst drums of war with the political temperature of the state rising to an all time high.
Since the creation of the state on August 27, 1991, there have been six gubernatorial contests, with tomorrow’s as the seventh. However, analysts say none has kept the state on the edge like the current contest.
This is understandable. Unlike previous contests, the stakes are much higher in tomorrow’s poll. On the surface, it seems as just a normal contest for the coveted governorship seat, but it goes beyond that. It is about the pride and honour of the two major contenders and their backers, as well as the continued relevance in the politics of the state. Therefore, for gladiators, it is more or less a “do-or-die “ contest.
The Benin monarch, Oba Ewuare 11, while addressing the gladiators, at a peace parley in his palace, had expressed concerns over the rising political tension ahead of tomorrow’s poll. The monarch, who urged the politicians to exercise restrain, noted that “this is the worst scenario of all the politics that we have seen in Edo. Edo politics have been in the news for quite sometime now for all the wrong reasons.”
Pundits say apart from being a contest for supremacy between the PDP and APC, the governorship contest is also a proxy war between state governors elected on the platform of the two political parties.
The PDP will be fighting to retain the state to consolidate its hold on the South South states. On the flip side, the APC is fighting to reclaim Edo and from there, launch out to other South South states in the 2023 general elections.
Expectedly, two political parties have raised “war “ councils to prosecute tomorrow’s election. Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike is leading the PDP to tomorrow’s battle, while his Kano state counterpart will play a similar role for the APC. Essentially, this is a contest to determine who owns “ Papa’s Land.”
Indications that the governorship contest will be tension soaked emerged earlier when Ganduje boasted that Rivers Governor, Nyesom Wike, will be isolated until the poll is over.
The Rivers governor in his response retorted: “Nobody can intimidate us in this election. But let us understand the statement made by Ganduje, don’t look at it ordinarily. What Ganduje said is that they have concluded with security agencies to make sure that the people of Edo State do not protect and defend their votes; that they will not allow them to come out and before you know it, they will announce the result. So, he just used me to say that they will isolate voters.”
The men, their agenda
Obaseki of PDP:
The current Edo governor’s romance with public office started with his appointment in 2009 as Chairman of the Edo State Economy Team during the tenure of Oshiomhole as the governor of the state. Before then, he was just an investment banker.
He was on the Presidential Committee on the Reform of the Nigerian Pension System, which facilitated the introduction of the contributory pension scheme and other novel pension reforms.
The governor equally served on the Nigerian Securities and Exchange Commission Committee on the Reactivation of the Nigerian Bond Market and the review of the investment and Securities Act.
The PDP candidate’s manifesto is anchored on Making Edo Great Again (MEGA ) agenda, which encompasses a 12 point action plan in education, health care, critical infrastructure, agriculture and natural resources, peace and security and environment; others are public service, public finance and public revenue, art and culture, legal reforms, chieftaincy and religious Affairs, Transport, women, children, youth and sports.
Ize -Iyamu of APC:
Ize-Iyamu made his debut in the politics of the state in 1988 with his appointment as special assistant to Lucky Igbinedion, who was at that point chairman of Oredo local government council. In 1999, he was appointed as Chief of Staff to Governor Igbinedion. In 2003, he was appointed as Secretary to the State Government, during the second tenure of Igbinedion.
At the height of political hostilities between former Governor Igbinedion and late Chief Tony Anenih, the APC candidate founded the Grace Group, political pressure group within the PDP, which later formed the nucleus of the defunct ACN in the state.
The former SSG was at various times the South South Vice Chairman of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria and Director General of the Adams Oshiomhole reelection campaign in 2012.
Ize-Iyamu’s manifesto is anchored on his “SIMPLE” agenda. The SIMPLE agenda is an acronym for Security, Infrastructural development, Manpower development, Public Private Partnership, Leadership and Employment creation.
The thrust of the manifesto is to create employment in every sector of the state with the target of 70,500 jobs across various sectors of the state economy.
Factors that will define the guber poll
Analysts say the contest will be defined by three critical factors. These include performance, god-fatherism and the quest for power shift to Edo Central senatorial zone in 2024.
While the performance of Obaseki, in the last four years, has generated diverse reactions across political divides, Oshiomhole’s support for Ize-Iyamu is perceived in some quarters as an alleged move by the former APC National chairman to entrench himself as a godfather in the state.
A PDP leader, Omon Ezomon, who spoke on the factors that will define the contest, told our correspondent that if performance is a yardstick for re-election, Obaseki would definitely carry the day.
Besides, the former lawmaker added that the people of the state are averse to god-fatherism.
According to Ezomon, who is also a former deputy Speaker of the state House of Assembly, “ The governor here has demonstrated it beyond doubt that he is a performer and that would make it easy for him to be reelected.”
He added:” Secondly, is the issue of god-fatherism which the former governor told us is detrimental to the development of the state and he did all he could to eliminate god-fatherism, only for him to turn around to take not only the position of a godfather, but he is like an emperor.
However, a member of the House of Representatives, representing Owan Federal Constituency, Professor Julius Ihonvbere, told Daily Sun that the allegation of god-fatherism levelled against Oshiomhole is a non-issue.
Ihonvbere, who is leader of the APC in the state said : “Where is the godfather? How is Oshiomhole playing the godfather? Was he holding any position in Edo? Has he asked him for money? If he did, that would have been the campaign issue now. He has never asked him for money. Did he force appointees on him. No. He nominated one person, who has since been sacked by Obaseki.
Furthermore, the lawmaker added: “The two leading candidates appear to be like day and night. We have one, who made promises four years ago, but has not delivered five percent performance, whether it is in education, security, governance, infrastructure and even political relations, building the party that brought him to power. He is at war with everybody. “
Analysts argue that the agitation for power shift to Edo central senatorial zone in 2024 would be a key factor in the election.
Edo central senatorial zone, which is currently a strong hold of the PDP in the state has only held the governor for 17 months since 1999. And that was during the short tenure of Osunbor as governor.
On the other hand, Edo South where the two gubernatorial candidates hail from has occupied the Government House for 12 years, between 1999 and now while Edo North, Oshiomhole’s senatorial zone, has held the governorship seat for eight years, since 1999.
Regardless, the political antecedents of the state reveals that that popularity, performance and incumbency factor has not always won governorship elections.
Electoral victory in governorship polls has always been a combination of several other factors including ethnicity, the traditional institution among others
Analysts say since both Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu are from Edo South, which has the largest population, with the respective deputy governorship candidates from Edo North, the major battle ground will be in Edo Central.
There is no doubt that the major consideration for voters in tomorrow’s poll may not necessarily be about the political platforms of the gubernatorial contenders.
Analysts say the Edo electorate will most likely be looking at the manifestos of the two candidates and their antecedents, including their ability to deliver on their promises to decide who will govern them from November 12.