Remote factors shaping Edo guber race
The political history of the 29-year old Edo State is again up for review as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) strategise for the September 19 governorship election.
But PDP, which regained control of the state just two months ago, thanks to the defection of incumbent governor Godwin Obaseki, is making the contest a keen one to watch. APC, which governed the state between 2008 and May 2020, is equally promising to give a tough fight, particularly with its former National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, leading the charge alongside the party’s governorship candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
In the camp of PDP, all six governors of the South-South states and the remaining 10 from other parts of the country are teaming up to prevent APC from making another in-road into the state. Led by the Chairman of the Campaign Council and Rivers State governor, Nyesome Wike, PDP has affirmed its high motivation, saying the party is determined to reverse the political trend, which made it impossible for it to win off-season elections since 2015.
The party believes it has better chance, not just because of its incumbency factor in the state, but the performance of Governor Obaseki so far.The Edo governor, after emerging as PDP candidate, expressed optimism that he would win the governorship contest for the party, as the people of the state had promised to support him irrespective of his political platform.
The desire of PDP governors in ensuring that one of them, Obaseki, is returned as Edo governor is recording a major boost from Governor Wike, who has vowed to stop APC in Edo State. A party source said since Wike’s appointment as chairman of the campaign council, the Rivers’ governor has been working round the clock to mobilise support for PDP’s candidate.
Ongoing exchanges between him and Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, who is leading APC campaign council, further demonstrates the resolve of the Wike-led PDP Campaign Council. In his reaction to Wike’s appointment as chairman of PDP governorship campaign council, Ganduje had said APC would quarantine the Rivers’ governor until the September governorship poll was over.
Swiftly and without missing words, Wike interpreted Ganduje’s statement to mean that APC was plotting to use security agents to cage voters during the election, even as he vowed that PDP would not be intimidated and urged the electorate to remain steadfast and firm.
Analysts say PDP has three major factors going for it in the September 19 gubernatorial poll. These include the rancour-free primary election that produced Obaseki as candidate of PDP in the state, Oshiomhole’s massive de-marketing four years ago of the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate, Osagie Ize-Iyamu during the 2016 governorship contest, and the quest for power shift to Edo Central in 2024.
The inability to hold a generally accepted governorship primary has been the bane of PDP since it lost the governorship seat in 2008.
For instance, in the 2012 governorship primary, the emergence of Charles Airhiabvere as PDP candidate led to the defection of Professor Julius Ihonvbere and Oserheimen Osunbor and their supporters from the party. Both men had challenged Airhiavbere for the party’s ticket.
Similarly, the emergence Osagie Ize-Iyamu as PDP’s gubernatorial flag bearer in 2016 also sparked off protest in the party, leading to the defection of Matthew Iduoriyekemen and Solomon Edibiri and their supporters from then opposition party.
However, the political scenario seems to have changed for the better in favour of PDP. Declaration of support for Obaseki by the trio of Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, Kenneth Imasuagbon and Gideon Ikhine, who had earlier obtained the opposition party’s nomination forms for gubernatorial primary, is a pointer to the source of hope for PDP.
Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed, who presided over the committee that conducted the primary election, had noted, “for the first time in Edo, we have a rancour-free election where there was no mistrust, no suspicion, no infighting. Everybody was in line and of course, even our elders were there; members of the Board of Trustees, elders of the party, the youth, the women, everybody applauded the election.”
He added: “We observed that at the end of the day, we are ready and Edo is ready for capture, to be won by this very important party, the PDP. I am very sure and confidently sure that Edo is going to fall in line within the realm of good governance of PDP.”
Besides, analysts say the campaign of calumny mounted against Ize-Iyamu by Oshiomhole during the last governorship poll is a minus for the APC candidate. Regardless, Oshiomhole, who is leading the campaign of the APC candidate in the state, is trying to downplay his acerbic campaign against Ize-Iyamu in 2016.
Wike gloatingly drives home this point, saying there is no strong opposition to the PDP candidate in the state, when he said, “Adams Oshiomole’s sudden U-turn is a great insult to Edo people. This is an opportunity for Edo people, both at home and in the diaspora, to use their votes to tell Oshiomhole they cannot take his lies anymore.”
Rivers’ governor, while speaking at the flag-off of Edo PDP’s governorship campaign in Benin City recently, said, “Obaseki has done well. He disappointed the godfathers in Edo. We will retain the state as PDP’s. Let’s replicate what we did in Rivers State by staying back and protecting your votes. Nothing will happen to anybody. The election will be won by Obaseki’s achievements.”
It is Wike’s belief that godfatherism will not rise again because the fact that Obaseki resisted godfatherism, that alone shows that he has the interest of Edo people at heart.
Edo Central Senatorial zone, which is currently a stronghold of PDP in the state, has only held the governorship position for 17 months since 1999. And that was during the short tenure of Osunbor as governor. On the flipside, Edo South, where both PDP and APC’s governorship candidates hail from, has held the governorship seat for 12 years, while Edo North, where Oshiomhole hails from, has occupied Government House, Osadebe Avenue, GRA, Benin City, for eight years.
There is no doubt that the former opposition party, now turned ruling party, is not leaving any stone unturned in its quest to retain the governorship seat beyond the November 12 inauguration date, when the tenure of the current administration in the state elapses. All the various organs of PDP say the party is poised to wining the September 19 contest. PDP stakeholders have, however, called on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the security agencies to be fair to all the parties in the coming contest.