In Edo State, it is a mixed bag of feelings after Wednesday’s governorship election. On one hand, the governor-elect and All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Godwin Obaseki, and his supporters are basking in the euphoria of their victory. On the other hand, governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Osagie Ize-Iyamu, and his supporters are mourning and seething in anger. And the electorate, many of whom do not belong to any camp but voted according to the dictates of their conscienc, are also divided over the result of the election. Indeed, it is case of different stroke for different folk.
However, no matter how people feel, the fact is that a winner has emerged in the much talked-about governorship election. A governor has been elected and awaits inauguration on November 12, 2016. He will be the new sheriff in town, who will preside over the affairs of the state for four years, if the courts also affirm his victory. The battle will shift to the election petition tribunal, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, as the losers will, most certainly, seek what they would term justice.
To be sure, one of the people who would be extremely happy over the outcome of the Edo election is outgoing governor, Adams Oshiomhole. Oshiomhole has every cause to rejoice and celebrate. He worked tirelessly to install a successor. He worked round the clock to ensure that his political party, the APC, retained Edo State. He has made true his promise or vow that the opposition PDP would not return to power in the state under his care. He has established himself as a political giant, who came, saw and conquered.
However, in the midst of Oshiomhole’s celebration, for not only installing a successor but also ensuring that his political party holds sway at Dennis Osadebey Government House, is the contradiction that will trail his exit and personality. He had come to power, declaring that the era of godfatherism had ended. He is leaving office with the toga of a new political godfather in the state. Indeed, it is only a few people in Edo, who would not believe that Obaseki’s candidacy was the product of “political anointing.” The manner of his emergence as candidate of APC is a redefinition of Oshiomhole. No doubt, the governor-elect emerged in a transparent election, where delegates voted and he got the highest votes. However, many APC members still think that it was the will of Oshiomhole that prevailed. And their conclusion is this: A man who opposed imposition of candidate in PDP and Edo State, in general, has, directly or indirectly, got embroiled on the controversy of imposing a candidate in his political party and governor on Edo State.
Now, the question remains: Are the people really happy with Oshiomhole, as he leave office in the next couple of weeks? Well, it is becoming apparent that the glory with which Oshiomhole came to office in 2008 and won re-election in 2012 has diminished terribly. The governor, whether he likes it or not, has become a man, who came to power on the crest of populism but now bowing out, eight years after, as a near villain. His unpopularity has made PDP, which was a pariah when he assumed office eight years ago, stronger in the state.
For the avoidance of doubt, would anybody say for sure that the APC victory in the September 28, 2016 governorship election was resounding and resonating? In the election Obaseki won, there were only 66, 310 votes difference between the APC and Ize-Iyamu’s PDP (APC scored 319, 483, while PDP got 253, 173 votes). In 2012, the difference in the votes APC and PDP garnered was 333, 225 (the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) had scored 477, 478 votes, while the PDP recorded 144, 253 votes, even with an incumbent president). What this means is that in the last four years, the PDP waxed stronger, while Oshiomhole’s popularity dwindled. This could have accounted for PDP winning two out of the three senatorial seats in Edo State in 2015. This is also why the PDP produced more state lawmakers, in 2015, than it did four years earlier. That is the kind of result one gets when one figuratively turns round to neglect those who helped one to power, an action, which is like kicking down the ladder that takes one to the top.
I am persuaded that Oshiomhole’s politics is not progressive enough. A man, who disconnected the majority of the people that brought him to power, does not need anybody’s commendation. The market women are not happy with Oshiomhole. Drivers or members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) are angry. Property owners in the state are furious. The elite across political parties are ill at ease with him. Some of those that worked with him as commissioners and other aides are not also happy with him. Labour congress is not too happy with him, after the role he played during the fuel price hike brouhaha. In fact, as he is leaving office, Oshiomhole has descended almost from hero to zero. The majority of those who stood by him before now feel betrayed by his actions and inactions. Former President Goodluck Jonathan, for instance, may not have said anything, but he would be surprised at Oshiomhole’s conduct since President Muhammadu Buhari came to power. The governor, who was praising Jonathan for ensuring transparent and credible governorship election in 2012, did make Jonathan a subject of his criticism, another president was elected, to the extent of branding his government corrupt-ridden.
Indeed, Oshiomhole’s declining popularity is a study in political tragedy. It is lesson for those who find themselves in public office or corridor of power, especially those who take it for granted that they could do anything. The message from Oshiomhole’s waning popularity is that the people are not stupid. Obviously, the people know when to be happy with their leaders and when to be angry. When they feel alienated, they show their anger, just like the Edo voters did on Wednesday. APC won the governorship in Edo quite all right, but the popularity of PDP in the state has increased, which is tantamount to a vote of no confidence in Oshiomhole.
For Obaseki, he fought a good fight. He overcame sentiments and prejudices to thriump. However, he needs to learn from Oshiomhole’s mistakes. The manner of his emergence may not make him too popular now, but his conduct in office will redefine him. And the redefinition of himself positively is a task he must tackle with all seriousness.