By OBINNA EZUGWU
The September 19 governorship election though will ostensibly be a contest between the incumbent governor and candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Godwin Obaseki and his main challenger, candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, is one that will more than anything else, determine the political future of Adams Oshiomhole, the new ‘godfather’ of the state’s politics and it doesn’t appear that any outcome could count as a win for him.
Oshiomhole, a two term governor of the state and former national chairman of the APC had practically imposed Obaseki as his successor in 2016, but both fell apart leading to a battle that cost the governor the APC ticket and forced him to the PDP, and which also ultimately provided a leeway for Oshiomhole to be kicked out Such APC chairman.
Though he is no longer APC chairman, Oshiomhole remains apparently the strongest factor in the election as his influence is very likely to decide the outcome in favour of his now adopted godson, Ize-Iyamu. In a clime where elections are increasingly being decided by federal might, Oshiomhole’s Abuja connection will almost certainly be brought to bear, a fact now more validated by a recently leaked video in he was heard, while walking briskly alongside the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Prof Ibrahim Gambari at the presidential villa Abuja, muttering “arrest…deal with and the whole… will change.” To which Mr Gambari responded “we will go beyond…”
The video, though not audible enough, is apparently both men discussing using the state apparatus to “arrest” and “deal” with PDP figures in Edo as a means of ensuring APC victory. It may very well happen and Ize-Iyamu could become the next governor of the state. The threat of violence has continued to heighten, and the APC has an upper hand. Campaigns, especially those of the PDP are increasingly being disrupted by thugs.
On Thursday, the Department of State Services (DSS) invited 10 leaders APC in the state, including Tony Kabaka, a well-known though man whose hotel Obaseki’s government pulled down months ago, and who has obviously been preparing for a showdown on election day.
The DSS in the invitation letter dated August 20, 2020, with reference No 171/B/122, addressed to Tony Adun (Aka Kabaka) read in part, “I am directed to invite you to an important meeting with the State Director of Security.
“You are to come with the following persons: Osakpamwan Eriyo, National Chairman, RTEAN; Ehis Adams, APC Leader Oredo; Osaro Idahosa, APC Leader Ikpoba-Okha; Okunbor Roberts, APC Leader, Ovia South West LGA; Atarodo, APC member; Kingsley Amedo, APC member; Richard Obe, APC member; Osarobo Idehen, APC member; Dr Emma, APC member.”
Though the agenda of the meeting was not disclosed, it couldn’t be unconnected to the polls and the preparation for what might come on the election day.
Indeed, the electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), on Friday, warned there was fierce tension brewing in the state, which may lead to a declaration of a state of emergency if not carefully managed.
The commission’s National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr Festus Okoye, gave the warning in interaction with heads of media organisations in the state capital, Benin.
“We don’t want anybody to jeopardise their health during the exercise and the commission will continue to fine-tune the electoral process within the ambit of the constitution,” Okoye said.
“We have advised political parties not to play with end-of-tenure elections because anything that disturbs election from being conducted and concluded on or before November 19 will create a constitutional crisis that may lead to a state of emergency.”
The Buhari government seems apparently interested in the polls, and is bringing federal might to bear while Obaseki is somewhat losing grip. A few days ago, BusinessHallmark conducted a survey which showed that Obaseki would win a free and fair election, but expecting a free and fair election now appears unrealistic. And even Obaseki who profited from strong arm twisting of the electoral system in 2016 knows that popular support counts for little in governorship elections under the current dispensation.
Recent events suggest it would be a war between whatever force the governor can muster within the state, and the evidently superior firepower of the federal government, which is poised to see Ize-Iyamu pay him back for the 2016 outcome.
But while Ize-Iyamu’s victory may seem like a win for Oshiomhole, and which would seemingly cement his godfather credentials in the state, such ideas in reality appear farfetched, given that the APC candidate apparently has other ideas and doesn’t as much recognise Oshiomhole as a superior political player to himself while he is still only a candidate.
Speaking in an interview on Channels on Friday, Ize-Iyamu practically made it clear for the umpteenth time that he doesn’t see Oshiomhole as his godfather and would not recognise him as such.
“I am too big, too exposed for anybody to be my godfather. My pedigree is there for everyone to see. Oshiomhole is not my godfather. To say he is my godfather presupposes that I’m his godson. In the context of Edo politics, do I look like a godson?” he wondered.
The APC candidate maintained that he is himself a kingmaker who helped Oshiomhole in his bid to govern the state and cannot therefore be said to have him as godfather.
“I am a kingmaker. Can you call a kingmaker a godson? Oshiomhole that I supported to be governor Oshiomhole is a former governor of Edo State, his position matters. He is one of the people supporting me. There are many others who are also supporting me.”
It may be convenient to dismiss Ize-Iyamu’s submission as mere political talk aimed at giving the Edo electorate assurances that he is not going to dance to Oshiomhole’s tunes as governor, but that would be a simplistic way to look at it. A governor Ize-Iyamu is not likely to give the former governor space to play godfather, and with APC chairmanship out of his grip, it seems apparent that whoever emerges winner on September 19, Oshiomhole will be the real loser.