By Omoniyi Salaudeen
By the zero hour of Friday, September 9, the eight-year administration of Comrade Governor Adam Oshiomhole of Edo State will run its complete cycle. There and then, the electorate in the state will file out in their numbers to elect a successor who will be in charge of the affairs of the state for the next four years.
According to the list of candidates released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), 19 political parties would be participating in the September 10 governorship poll. The two front runners in this contest are the candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and his counterpart in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Godwin Obaseki. Other candidates are: Ishaka Paul Ofemse (AA), Andrew Igwemoh (ACD), Cosmos Irabor (ACPN), Roy Ononodena O. Iribhabor (CPP), Tobi Adeniyi (ID), Thompson Osadolor (Kowa Party), Oronsanye Richard (MPPP), Peter Osawaru Omoragbon (NCP), Ukanga Frank Onaivi (NPP), Aiyanyor Efosa Osarobo (PDC) and Thomas Amannesi Sadoh (PPA), among others.
This election is significant for the two leading political party for several reasons. One, it is going to be a litmus test for the sustained popularity of the ruling APC. Already, there is a loud disenchantment by the general populace over the poor state of the economy. If its candidate wins the election, it will silence the cynics who blame the hardship in the country on the ineptitude of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Two, optimism is high among the PDP supporters that the election would be used as a launch pad to national reckoning. But unfortunately, the party is bogged down by its protracted leadership crisis, which has led to the emergence of two rival candidates. While Ize-Iyamu belongs to the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led national caretaker committee of the party, Mathew Iduoriyekwemwem emerged as the candidate of the Senator Ali Modu Sheriff faction. Technically, the party might have shot itself in the foot as against the APC’s flag bearer who has an assurance of one single block vote by the party faithful.
The Chairman of the INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, giving clarification on the quagmire said: “PDP’s logo will be on the ballot papers for the Edo State governorship election because the issue is about candidates. At the end of the day, the court will tell us which candidate to give certificate of return.” This implies that Abia State scenario may likely play out in Edo State if the PDP wins the election. It’s really a dicey situation.
The Edo State governorship election will be the first statutory election to be conducted under the new leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission. In the recent times, the commission has had a trail of inconclusive elections.
While the electoral umpire has promised to review the security architecture of the election and deliver a transparent and peaceful election on September 10, 2016, it has also stressed that its biggest challenge ahead of the governorship election is security. The Edo State Resident Electoral Commission, Mr. Sam Olumekun, however, assured that security issues would be resolved before the commencement of the election. He said that the commission had compiled flashpoints in the state for security agencies to monitor in order to prevent violence during the process.
Meanwhile, reports say the INEC has commenced distribution of non-sensitive materials to the 18 Local Government Areas of Edo State ahead of the election. Assistant Director of Voters Education and Publicity, Sule Imoudu, said the distribution of non-senstive materials and other protective items was to enable the various local government areas prepare well ahead of the poll.”
On the issue of controversy trailing inconclusive election, INEC boss said: “We will never declare results just for the sake of concluding elections. We will play by the rules. INEC will only conclude elections according to the electoral laws and within the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is votes that must count.”
If experience is anything to go by, there will be a heavy deployment of security operatives to ensure a violence-free election.
Factors that will determine success of candidates
One strong factor that may work in favour of Obaseki is his 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 and parcel of Oshiomhole’s success story.
Again, unlike the PDP that will be going into the election with a divided house, Obaseki commands the full backing of APC members. After the initial horse trading and disagreement that followed the primary, the governor was able to reconcile the aggrieved aspirants and secure their support for Obaseki.
In his outline of programmes, Obaseki promises a fair tax system that will be devoid of extortion being currently perpetrated by certain agencies, particularly those representing local governments. He also promised to create jobs through agriculture. According to him, no fewer that 200,000 jobs will be created within the first four years of his administration. Stressing the importance of agriculture in job creation, he said: “By investing in the sector, the state will not only put its economy on the path of sustainable growth and feed its people; it will also increase our employment capacity.”
In terms of support base, Obaseki also stands in a good stead in two major senatorial zones known for having highest number of voters. These are Edo South senatorial district with 58 per cent of the voting population and Edo North with 26 per cent of voters in the state. Edo Central which has the likes of Chief Anthony Anenih, Chief Tom Ikimi, Mike Onolememen, Senator Clifford Odia, Senator Odion Igneous, and others with the exclusion of former governor and senator, Prof. Osunbor controls only 16 percent of voters. The people of Edo North, with 26 per cent of voters, are likely to cast their ballots overwhelmingly for Obaseki because of the Oshiomhole factor and the area where his deputy hails from. Already, people from the zone through their traditional rulers were said to have pledged their support for Obaseki and his deputy, Phillip Shaibu. In both North and South Senatorial zones, the developmental strides of Oshiomhole as against the alleged dismal performance of the PDP-led administration in the last 16 years of democracy may also work in favour of Obaseki.
One major limitation that may work against Obaseki is the declining popularity of the APC at the national level. Although the federal might may eventually come into play, the economic hardship in the country will force many to have a rethink. Some people also see Obaseki as a stooge of Governor Oshiomhole.
By no mean, Ize-Iyamu, a pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church of God
is not a push over. Since campaign started, he has proved himself as a formidable mobilizer. As a former official of the PDP government in the state, where he served as chief of staff and secretary to the Edo State Government during the administration of Chief Lucky Igbinedion, between 1999 and 2007, he has a strong base at the grassroots. Before his nomination as candidate of PDP, he was a member of the All Progressives Congress and the National Vice Chairman, South-south zone, of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria. He also served as director-general of Adams Oshiomhole’s second term campaign organization as well as coordinator of Goodluck/Sambo Campaign Organisation.
One factor that may work in favour of Iyamu is his blue blood. His father, Chief Robert Osayande Ize-Iyamu, was a revered high chief of the Oba of Benin, ranking second in command until his demise as the Esogban of Benin. His mother was a trained teacher who later distinguished herself as a successful trader. Ize-Iyamu is likely to reap bountifully from the outstanding record of his father to the community and society.
His campaign promises centres on agriculture, tourism, sports as well as land assets. In the area of education, he promised to introduce new skills as subjects into the curriculum of secondary schools in the state so that graduates can be self employed and earn a living instead of searching for jobs. He promised to introduce income generating skills like catering, hairdressing, plumbing, tiling, computer and graphic etc.
He said: “We need to diversify the economy of our state. We need to focus on agriculture, tourism and sports as well as our land assets. Land is one of the most veritable sources of revenue for Lagos State. So, we need to invest in our land assets, make it attractive and this will bring a lot of revue to the state.”
One other factor that may work in favour of Ize-Iyamu is the economic situation of the country, which is largely responsible for the dwindling popularity of the ruling APC. The PDP in the state is capitalizing on the general despondence in the country to campaign against the APC, warning the people that further hardship lies ahead, if they vote APC. The tax policy of the present government of Oshiomhole, which is biting hard on the people, is another sore point for APC, which PDP is harvesting strongly. So also is the issue of pension arrears.
His major limiting factor is his alleged role in the mal-administration of the state under the regime of former governor Lucky Igbinedion. To an average Edo State voter, Ize-Iyamu is a continuation of the Igbinedion administration that spent eight years with nothing to write home about in terms of development. This allegation may not be unfounded as he occupied two strategic positions, chief of staff, and secretary to the state government. By virtue of these positions, he was alleged to have been the one that signed most of the fictitious multi-billion naira contracts in that administration, which were never executed.
Another thing working against Ize-Iyamu is the factionalisation of PDP at the national level, which has rubbed off on the party in the state. The fate of the two candidates of the party is hanging in the balance. According to the Chairman of the INEC, Prof Yakubu, the decision as to who would be given certificate of return is a prerogative of the court. It’s really a dicey situation.
Consequent upon the lingering leadership crisis between the Sheriff-led faction and Senator Makarfi national caretaker committee, very many prominent PDP politicians from his zone and beyond have deserted him. His supporters are largely from Edo Central district that may not be able to win the election for him because of population disadvantage.
His success is even more dicey in Edo South where personalities like two-time governor of the state, Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia, former deputy governor under Prof. Oserhiemen Osunbor, Lucky Imasuen, and a host of others had dumped the PDP.
Saturday is the D-day. Eligible voters will decide who controls the destiny of the state in the next four years. APC is at a moment of reckoning. If Ize-Iyamu wins, it will not just mean a rejection of APC, it will be a call to action on the issues that he raised against the incumbent administration.
At the same time, APC enthusiasts are optimistic that Obaseki has all it takes to win the election. They see the election as a walkover for the party.