By Onyedika Agbedo and Omoniyi Salaudeen
The victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in last Wednesday’s governorship election in Edo State, where its candidate, Mr Godwin Obaseki, was declared governor-elect by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) after the collation of results did not come easy. From every indication, it was a hard-earned victory. Obaseki polled a total of 319, 483 votes to defeat the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu who garnered 253,173 votes. So, Obaseki won with only 66, 310 votes, which clearly shows that the election was a tough test for the APC. It was PDP’s best outing since Governor Adams Oshiomhole moved into the Edo State Government House in 2008.
A breakdown of the result showed that there were a total of 1,900,223 registered voters, out of which only 622,039 voters were accredited to vote, representing 32.74 per cent of the registered voters. The total votes cast was 613,244, out of which 582,299 votes were valid and 30,945 rejected.
In the 2012 governorship election in the state, the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), one of the legacy parties that formed the APC had scored 477, 478 votes to beat the PDP, which had garnered only 144, 253 votes, meaning that ACN had won the election with 333, 225 votes. So, the wild jubilation by party faithful after Obaseki was declared winner amid protests by supporters of the PDP was, therefore, not unexpected.
Many analysts believe that the positive outing of the PDP in the election was a sign of the peoples reaction to Oshiomhole’s style of leadership lately. It is believed that his alleged penchant for speaking about the elders of the state in an inglorious manner did not go down well with the people and they were determined to pay him back on election day. Also, a lot of people were convinced by the opposition party that voting for Obaseki meant granting Oshiomhole a “third term” in office.
A chieftain of the party in the state, Chief Tom Ikimi, had in a recent interview with Sunday Sun noted: “A critical issue in this election is to prevent a de facto, third term governorship by Adams Oshiomhole, through the back door. The outgoing governor has been extremely hostile to the Central Senatorial district where I come from. He has boasted that he does not require Esan vote…His “Ajasco dancing on the soap box from place to place and insulting elders has not gone down well with the general public who are determined to pay him back on election day.
“We want a state in which all the three Senatorial zones have a sense of belonging. It is well known that Comrade Oshiomhole has done nothing in the state during his second four years. The period has been spent soliciting for massive loans which he has been spending quietly with Godwin Obaseki at his elbow. Edo State is heavily in debt and our people are impoverished. The truth and reality will be revealed when Oshiomhole and his cohorts leave office, so that true change takes place…A victory by the PDP and the installation of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu as the next governor of Edo state will be the best thing to happen at this time…The victory will ensure the end of the reckless ambitions of the outgoing governor dreaming dreams to establish himself as the “Jagaban” of Edo State.”
An analysis of the election result showed that the electorate in Edo bought into the sentiments expressed by Ikimi as the APC lost in three out of the five local councils in Edo Central Senatorial district. But that did not stop APC’s victory.
An elated Oshiomhole, while savouring the victory pointedly lampooned Ikimi and other leaders of the PDP in the state.
He said: “The election was the final burial of political godfathers who have held the people hostage since 1999. It is outstanding and remarkable that tensed as the election was with all the predictions, the APC, out of 18 local Government Areas, won in 15, decisively. Those who were loudest in making noise have been showed where they stand in relation with Edo people.
“We have humbled Chief Tom Ikimi even in the local government he claimed to have created, we defeated Chief Raymond Dokpesi in his polling unit, his ward and his local government. That reassures that the ruthless deployment of media machinery is not enough to distort the will of Edo people to determine their choice.
“In Okada, the political family that has boasted that they will continue to govern this state and even compel the state to adopt them as the queen of England, whose birthday must be celebrated, the APC was the preferred party by the people than that family in Okada.
“There is something unique in the way things have turned out. In Esan land, the senatorial zone of the PDP godfather, we won two out of the five local governments. We gave him a good fight though he managed to escape. He used the factor of his age to play on the emotion of the people. It is victory for the people of the state. Edo people are now proud they can determine who rules them and no one godfather can choose a leader for them.”
From the foregoing, it is clear that Oshiomhole threw himself into the ring to ensure Obaseki’s victory; how he would have felt had APC lost could better be imagined.
The intrigue that produced Obaseki as governorship candidate of the APC is a familiar story. In the face of all the horse-trading, accusations and counter accusations that characterized the party’s primary, Obaseki eventually emerged victorious. He beat 11 other contestants, pulling a total of 1,608 votes to pick the ticket. Among the Aspirants that took part in the primary were Dr. Pius Odubu (the deputy governor), Dr. Chris Ogiemwonyi, Kenneth Imansuangbon, Prof. Oserhiemen Osunbor, Prof. Ebegue Amadasun, Austin Emua, Comrade Peter Esele, Justina Agbara, Blessing Agbomhere, Gen. Charles Airhiavbere, and Arigbe Osula.
A total of 2,582 delegates were accredited to vote at the primary election that was conducted by an electoral committee constituted by the national headquarters of APC, headed by Katsina State Governor Aminu Masari.
One major factor that worked in favour of Obaseki as against other contenders was the bloc votes he got from Edo North, Oshiomhole’s domain as well as majority votes garnered from Edo Central and South districts.
And, of course, the influence of money was not left out. Comrade Oshiomhole himself was alleged to have tacitly admitted this accusation, saying all of them were involved in the utilisation of money.
Beyond that, Obasaki has an intimidating credential as economic cum financial expert. Before his emergence as the candidate of APC, he had served as chairman of the Edo State Government’s Economic and Strategy Team, a position he has held since March 17, 2009. So, he has been part of and parcel of Oshiomhole’s success story.
Oshiomhole, expressing confidence in the ability of Obaseki to steer the ship of governance after the primary, said: “If you listened to Obaseki’s acceptance speech, the guy is sound, he is at home with issues; he is not a stranger to governance. He has been at home with the issues; he has been part of the system in the past seven years. So, there is no space for learning. The guy is ready to hit the ground running. For me, I feel fulfilled; Nigerians and other interested stakeholders around the world watched the event live on television. I got calls, people are happy, we are celebrating democracy, and Edo is leading by example.”
To this extent, Obaseki’s victory couldn’t have come as a surprise to many political watchers of Edo State politics. Unlike the PDP that had been enmeshed in internal crisis, Obaseki enjoyed the full backing of APC members. After the initial horse trading and disagreement that followed the primary, Oshiomhole was able reconcile the aggrieved aspirants and secured their support for Obaseki. Obaseki’s victory has undoubtedly strengthened Oshiomhole’s political base and influence in Edo State at the expense of his rivals in the PDP. The APC has also drawn enormous strength with victory both in the state and at the national level. With the internal wrangling in the ruling party and the endless wait by Nigerians to experience the “Change” the party promised during the 2015 electioneering campaign, a loss would have spelt doom for the party especially with the Ondo governorship election in sight, a neighbouring state to Edo.
Arguably, the PDP has rejected the outcome of the election because they know its import on the health of the party both in Edo and the national level. Should the party exhaust the judicial options available to it in seeking to upturn the election result and fail, the implication is that it will be out of power in the state for another four years; and should Obaseki impress the people in his first term, the wait might stretch to another eight years. The vacuum would be long enough for the APC to explore to desecrate the party and its “godfathers” in the state. But in politics, anything could happen and it would be in the interest of the APC and Obaseki to watch out for slippery spots.’