Nigeria: Edo 2020 - the Politics of Performance vs Scheming

With all the national socio-economic issues surrounding the current COVID-19 pandemic, the goings on at state level have quite understandably been relegated to the background. State elections for Governorship, Senate and House of Representatives give the clearest indication of the manner in which "grass-roots" politics is played these days.

The level of intrigue and malice within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the run up to the Edo State 2020 governorship election highlights the ills associated with modern day Nigerian politics. No one should be deceived into believing for a moment that the primary consideration in all this infighting is the interest of the Edo electorate.

Neutral observers predict that the matter of the APC Governorship candidate will likely end up having to be settled in Court, especially in light of Governor Obaseki's supporters having reportedly filed an ex-parte motion to restrain the National Working Committee from conducting primaries despite the mandatory 21 days' notice having been submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). It's important to bear in mind that there are yet no candidates for the upcoming elections. The electoral law doesn't allow independent candidature, and none of the parties has conducted mandatory primaries.

The ruckus within Edo State APC lends credence to allegations that Nigerian political parties lack underlying values, principles, or practices. Its beggars believe that there are no clear unambiguous guidelines concerning the mode of selecting governorship candidates. APC governorship primaries are scheduled to be conducted on the 22nd June 2020. If party members choose to actually believe what the candidates say about each other, then the only possible conclusion would be that none of them is fit for office!

Accusations, counter accusations, hate speech, slander and derogatory statements have been bandied around to dismay of the general public, and amusement of opposition parties. To add to the suspense there is every possibility that two primaries will take place! While the APC State Chairman and Executives are loyal to the governor and claim they have the right to conduct primaries in any way they see fit, the APC National Chairman who endorsed Pastor Ize-Iyamu as a "consensus candidate" claims the Party Constitution confers such powers on the National Working Committee.

Ize-Iyamu is being used by Oshiomhole to vent his anger on Obaseki whom he wants to deny a second term. The two of them are at loggerheads as Obaseki has severally tried but failed to remove him as National Chairman. Even though primaries only concern party members, candidates are being endorsed by all sorts of irrelevant groups. Perhaps with an eye on their own re-election, APC governors insist that every incumbent deserves a self-serving "right of first refusal" for Party tickets. Notwithstanding that they aren't resident in Edo State, can't vote in the election, and don't have first-hand knowledge of the governor's performance, they "endorsed" his re-election. In the gale of endorsements, Obaseki was "unanimously endorsed" by leaders of Esan South-East APC who contended that the party can't conduct direct primaries because there is no comprehensive membership register!

If this is true, then it's definitely a stain on the records of the Party State Chairman and Secretary. The Electoral Act which mandates all parties to conduct primaries recognises both direct and indirect as being legal. The nature of the primaries is crucial for Obaseki's supporters who believe he is guaranteed victory with indirect primaries which are reputedly more prone to corruption because delegates tend to sell their votes. Direct primaries are considered more democratic because they dispense with delegates and give all registered members the opportunity to vote for the candidate of their choice.

In Edo State, those who support direct primaries claim that Governor Obaseki is afraid to test his popularity amongst party members whom he ignored since assuming office. Furthermore, they argue that holding a State Congress at this time goes against the current social-distancing, movement restriction and curfew laws. They in turn are accused of faking concern about the health of delegates, and promoting the interests of Pastor Ize-Iyamu who favours direct primaries.

Deputy governonr, Phillip Shaibu, has claimed that Oshiomhole already has the result of the direct primaries in his possession! He and his supporters dismiss all endorsements of Ize-iyamu, maintaining that despite not being a pastor, Obaseki has been "ordained by God" for a second term! The level of rancour within the rank and file of Edo State APC was further emphasised by a press statement allegedly signed by all APC local government party chairmen.

They publicised that as far as they are concerned, Pastor Ize-Iyamu isn't a member of the Party and that any purported agreement to return him as a consensus candidate is totally false and without foundation. Furthermore, as far as they are concerned, the waiver granted him by the National Working Committee is ultra-vires, null and void. Oshiomhole's volte face to support Ize-Iyamu is confirmation of the adage that in politics there are no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests.

During the 2016 governorship election when Ize-Iyamu was the PDP candidate, Oshiomhole referred to him as a good for nothing thief who had never had a tangible job all his life other than working for Lucky Igbinedion who was convicted for corruption. His newfound love has quite rightly been derided. There are rumours that if all else fails, Oshiomhole may try to ensure that Obaseki doesn't pass screening this time round. As is the habit with many of today's politicians, he has been unable to present copies of his academic credentials. Instead he produced an affidavit stating that they were lost in a fire. There are discrepancies in some of the dates.

However, if perchance Ize-Iyamu becomes the APC candidate after decamping from PDP to APC, back to PDP and now back to APC, it would be the death knell for party loyalty in the APC. It would confirm that success in Nigerian politics is as likely to come as the result of a good previous record and laudable manifestoes, as it is to come as the result of scheming.

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