Eric Elezuo and Ajibade Morakinyo Temilorun
Come September 10 2016, the people of Edo State will be trooping to the polling booths to exercise their franchise once again as the tenure of the incumbent Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiohmole, is fast coming to an end. As a result, political parties have concluded primaries and have elected their various flag bearers for the all important governorship election. Consequently, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has recognized 19 political parties and flag bearers for the all important election.
Without an iota of doubt, the epic battle will sure centre on the two biggest rivals; the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
On June 18, APC conducted its Governorship primaries amid tension. At the end of the exercise, Godwin Obaseki, currently chairman of the Edo State Economic Team, beat 11 other aspirants, to emerge the APC governorship candidate. Obaseki scored 1,608 votes to beat other prominent aspirants in the primaries, like the Deputy Governor of the state, Dr. Pius Odubu, who got 471 votes; former Governor of the state, Prof. Oserhiemen Osunbor, who got 247 votes; former Minister of State for Works, Dr. Chris Ogiemwonyi, who got 137 votes; PDP candidate in the 2012 governorship election in the state, who later defected to APC, Gen. Charles Airhiavbere, who got 11 votes and several others.
Though crisis was envisaged during the exercise, but it never happened as accreditation of delegates was well managed as a result of an innovation introduced by the electoral committee to accredit at three different locations before voting at the Samuel Ogbemudia stadium in Benin City, with the standard security officers in the area.
This process was also adopted by the PDP, which on June 20, 2016, conducted its own primaries, producing a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu with a total vote of 584 votes, defeating two other aspirants; the President of Nigeria Institute of Welders, Dr. Solomon Edebiri, who polled 38 votes to come third, and the two-time state lawmaker and former Commissioner representing Edo State on the Niger Delta Development Commission, Mr. Matthew Iduoriyekemwen, with 91 votes at second position.
The way it is therefore, the battle is pitched between Mr. Godwin Obaseki of the APC and Pastor Ize-Iyamu of the PDP.
Edo State, better known as ‘The Heartbeat of the Nation’, has been under the control of the then Action Congress (AC), which later metamorphosed into the All Progressives Congress, since March 20, 2008, after an election tribunal nullified the election of Oseheimen Osubor of the Peoples Democratic Party, and declared erstwhile Labour Leader Comrade, Adams Oshiomole, of AC as the winner. The decision was based on several voting irregularities. Oshiomole was re-elected for the second term in 2012.
Battle Line and Strength of the Candidates
Ize-Iyamu, no doubt, secured the votes of the PDP delegates because of his antecedents. In 2007, he was instrumental to the formation of Grace Group with the slogan “No Man Is God”, which later fussed with the then Advanced Congress of Democrats, Action Congress, which later became Action Congress of Nigeria, the platform on which Oshiomhole contested and won the governorship election. ACN later merged with All Nigeria Peoples Party and Congress for Progressive Change as well as factions of All Progressives Grand Alliance and Democratic People Party to form APC.
When Ize-Iyamu left APC and went back to PDP, the party’s hierarchy, which hitherto did not want to see him because of the role he played in the 2007 governorship election, accepted him as a force that could give the Oshiomhole led APC a run for their money. That was why during the primaries, he was said to have been favoured by the party’s leaders, who, as gathered, instructed delegates to ensure he won the delegates election. It is believed that he knows the in and out of the APC as a party, and can cause an upset. That alleged instruction was behind the anger of the other two contestants in the race.
In his remarks, he confirmed that he was ready to upset the apple cart to favour PDP. In his acceptance speech, he boasted that the days of APC in Edo was over, adding that the September 10 election is PDP’s chance to keep the aspiration and hope of the people alive.
However, Iyamu is bedeviled by several odds, which could pitch the electorates against him. Among such include his years of stewardship as a former Chief of Staff and Secretary to the Government of Edo State during the administration of Chief Lucky Igbinedion, who is widely believed to have grossly underperformed. The PDP flag bearer such has a lot of explanations to make to convince the Edo electorate that he would be better than his former boss.
Also, Ize-Iyamu would have tough time in convincing the other aspirants, who are aggrieved, to work with him in the forth coming governorship election. Shortly after the declaration of the result of the primaries, one of the contestants, Edebiri, declared that the result was unacceptable, alleging that the state executive of the party, led by Chief Dan Orbih, coerced delegates into voting for Ize-Iyamu.
Furthermore, Ize-Iyamu is currently in controversy over a N700 million 2015 presidential election campaign fund that Edo State received, which was allegedly signed by him. Severally in the build up to the party primaries, he had been invited along with other leaders of the PDP in the state for explanations regarding the money.
Another odd against Ize-Iyamu and PDP in Edo State is that there is currently no clear-cut leadership of the party at the national level following the crisis that has engulfed it. As it is, the gladiators in the war of attrition; ousted National Chairman of the party, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, and newly appointed National Caretaker Committee Chairman, Alhaji Ahmed Makarfi, have vowed to fight on. And concerns are mounting over the effect of the crisis on the party, especially, as governorship elections in Edo draws dangerously closer.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recognized Osagie Ize-Iyamu as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate for the election.
Nick Dazang, INEC’s deputy director for Voter Education and Publicity, disclosed this in an interview with NAN. Dazang said the decision to accept Ize-Iyamu, candidate of the PDP National Caretaker Committee, led by Ahmed Makarfi, was informed by the court’s decision on the matter.
The flag bearer for APC, Godwin Obaseki, may also have lots of internal ghosts to contend with. As at date, nearly all those that contested the primaries with him feel he is a usurper, and not well grounded in politics, only handpicked by Governor Oshiomhole.
Just before the primary election of the party, there were accusations and counter accusations among the contestants regarding the propriety or otherwise of the aspiration of Obaseki. Some said he was not a party man and politician, but only a technocrat who by chance found himself in government as chairman, Edo State Economic Team. The assertion erupted protest by other contestants when Obaseki was declared winner of the primaries.
Those who championed the protest were Ogiemwonyi and Imansuangbon. It was, however, gathered that the inability of the other 11 aspirants to drop their ambitions for a single man to slot it out with Obaseki was what robbed them of victory. In a quick move to douse the tension however, the APC leadership begun a quick reconciliation move to bring together the aspirants to form a common force.
“This is in order to position the party to confront the general election which comes up on the 10th of September 2016,” the Party Chairman, Mr. Anselm Ojezua said.
Presumably, the greatest advantage of APC and its candidate seems to be the incumbency factor, and of course pockets of notable performances of Oshiomhole in the State, which many have praised. Some political analysts believe the PDP may find it difficult to convince the electorate it can surpass. Besides, there is a general expression of confidence in the APC national leadership and the National Electoral Committee that conducted the primary election by all the aspirants, even those that have reservations about the result.
“The APC can easily ride on many factors to return to power on September 10; some of these include the incumbency factor and the fact the Oshiomhole is touted in some quarters to have traces of achievements. Again, the crisis bedeviling the PDP could also create a frontier for the APC to triumph,” said Godspower Ehimen, a Lagos based political commentator.
Furthering his argument, Ehimen said that while in the APC, the aspirants are aggrieved against one another, in the PDP, the aggrieved aspirants and members do not only nurse grievances against the candidate that emerged, but also against the national leadership and the electoral committee sent by the national body. It would be recalled that one of the aspirants, Matthew Iduoriyekemwen, rejected the outcome of the primaries, which produced Ize-Iyamu, and decamped to the Modu Sheriff camp where he was elected as a parallel candidate, also for the PDP.
The former Majority Leader in the state House of Assembly described the primary election as a “comedy” which was “clinically manipulated” to favour a preferred candidate of the state leadership of the party.
While It seems the PDP may be its own greatest opponent at the September 10 election in Edo State,
they could still cause a swing as the Igbinedions and Ikimis may take the 2016 governorship contest as a medium of furthering the personal political battles they have fought with Oshiomhole in the past seven years.
But according to a political analyst, Dr. Francis Edosoma, based in Benin, the results of the last elections confirmed that each of the two parties is strong enough to produce the next government of the state to succeed Oshiomhole. But given Oshiomhole’s superlative performance, his party remains the party to beat in 2016.
Dr. Francis emphasized that, a lot depends on the level of unity of each of the parties, how far they would be willing to carry the people along, the quality and acceptability of their candidate and the level of their preparedness for the election.
“So, I think the winner will be the one that prepared better and the one that made the right choice of governorship candidate.
“It must however be clear to APC that PDP is still strong in this state. So, if the party wants to continue to occupy the Edo Government House after the Comrade, it must prepare well and be wise and fair when it wants to pick its flag bearer,” he concluded.
The strength of the two political parties, APC and PDP in Edo State could be determined from the result of the 2015 Presidential and National Assembly elections. In those elections, PDP won the presidential poll in the state and got two out of the three Senate seats, plus five House of Assembly seats. This brilliant performance is said to be influenced by former President Goodluck Jonathan. But how far those results could be replicated will depend on how far the parties and their flag bearers can go in convincing the electorate.
Osagie Ize-Iyamu – PDP
Osagie Ize-Iyamu was born on the June 21, 1962. He attended St. Joseph Primary School and Ebenezer Nursery and Primary School in Benin City. He had his secondary education at Edo College. He graduated with an LLB (Hons) from the University of Benin, and proceeded to the Nigerian Law School, Lagos.
He was Chief of Staff in Edo State Government from 1999 to 2003 and Secretary to Government from 2003 to 2007. He was the National Vice Chairman, South-South Zone of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
He is also a District Pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God and in charge of the Edo Province I Headquarter Church, Benin City.
Godwin Obaseki – APC
Mr. Godwin Obaseki was born in Benin City, Nigeria to the famous and illustrious Obaseki family. Education He had his early education in St. Matthews Anglican Primary School Benin City from where he proceeded to Eghosa Anglican Grammer School, Benin City for his secondary school education. He attended the University of Ibadan where he obtained a BA in Classics.
Mr. Obaseki attended the Columbia University and Pace University in New York and has an MBA in Finance and International Business. He is also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Stock Brokers, Nigeria and an alumnus of the Lagos Business School Chief Executive Program.
He was nominated a Global Leader for Tomorrow (GLT) by the World Economic Forum in 2001. Mr. Obaseki is presently the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the firm which won the Best Asset Management Firm in Nigeria (2014) Award by the Wealth & Finance International Magazine Finance Awards.
He currently serves as the Chairman of the Edo State Government’s Economic and Strategy Team (EST), a position he has held since March 17, 2009 Pro bono publico.