Nosa Osakpomwan, a political analyst who writes from Benin City tips the All Progressives governorship candidate in Edo State, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu to defeat Governor Godwin Obaseki by a slim margin in the impending governorship contest
Between 2016 and 2020, a lot has taken place in the murky waters of politics in Edo State. The changes are so dramatic that some of the gladiators are going under or may have their political career eclipsed.
Among the victims of the sudden change in the political clime of the state is the former national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who lost in a battle initiated by Governor Godwin Obaseki, his estranged political godson. Even though he has lost the leadership of the APC, which he would have used to demolish Obaseki's political structure, He is still a major decider of the winner or loser of the forthcoming governorship election in the state.
The woes of Oshiomhole and followers could, however, be compounded in September if the APC does not deliver its candidate, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, in the Edo governorship election.
For the humiliated Oshiomhole and other Edo APC chieftains, victory in the election is sacrosanct and iIf Obaseki is re-elected, it would be a double humiliation for them.
It would be recalled that Oshiomhole and his die-hard supporters helped the incumbent Obaseki to succeed him as a governor in 2016 against all the odds. That fierce contest was between Ize-Iyamu and Obaseki on the platforms of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and APC respectively.
Oshiomhole and Obaseki fell apart, fought for the control of APC in Edo State and then Oshiomhole got suspended at his ward, apparently through Obaseki's prompting, which led to his eventual sack from office as the APC chairman by the court and the party leadership.
Both Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu went through a tough time to secure the governorship candidacies of the two major political parties in Nigeria. The two men even had to switch party, dramatically Ize-Iyamu moved from the PDP to APC, while Obaseki left APC for the PDP.
In 2016, supporters of APC rooted for Ize-Iyamu before Oshiomhole turned the table against him, despite the fact that Ize-Iyamu led his 2012 re-election campaign. Obaseki was considered an outsider in the APC but was recruited into Oshiomhole's administration as a technocrat from the banking sector.
Obaseki, who was once a darling, has become Oshiomhole's worst political enemy. He was eventually disqualified from contesting in the APC governorship primary, thereby forcing him to defect to the PDP.
Already exhausted Obaseki, after his battle with Oshiomhole and the APC, entered the PDP, only for him to encounter another challenge - the uncertainty about him getting the PDP governorship ticket - with some of the aspirants who were already in the party before him vowing that they would not step down for him.
Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State who initially backed Obaseki's defection to the PDP, angrily pulled out of the process, accused other PDP leaders of trying to blackmail him because of Obaseki. He labelled the unnamed PDP leaders as "tax collectors". Wike said that he was no longer interested in getting the Edo governor to secure the PDP ticket for his re-election.
However, the spokesman of Obaseki, Crusoe Osagie, reaffirmed that the governor did not pay any money to anybody in the PDP.
The PDP had in the past described Obaseki's educational certificates as being fake.
"He claimed that he entered the university the year he left secondary school. How could he have gained admission with such result? The result was not even good enough for any form of preliminary studies.
"This can only mean that Obaseki forged the certificates to gain admission. It is obvious that the man has no academic qualifications as he had only three credits," Mr Dan Orbih of the PDP had said.
However, the APC, which defended Obaseki's certificates in 2016, latter deployed the same controversy to disqualify him in 2020, and the PDP, which started the controversy, made him its governorship candidate for the forthcoming September election.
"If you remember, Pastor Ize-Iyamu was the DG (director-general of my campaign organisation) in 2012, (my) second term," Oshiomhole proudly said in December 2019 after a rally to welcome him back to APC.
"I won in all the 18 local government areas, I won all the wards in Edo South. I scored 74.6 per cent in the total votes cast. In 2016, the man left us and stood against us, we only managed to defeat him with about 50,000 votes.
"So, if he is bringing on board as he has done, that his goodwill, his energy, his resourcefulness, and his own electoral base to join the APC, I am much more confident now about APC continuous hold on the governance of this state than ever before," Oshiomhole said.
On the part of the PDP, the last of the three governorship aspirants to step down for Obaseki was Kenneth Imasuagbon, a legal practitioner who said he used the past 16 years to work on his ambition to "serve" the Edo people and it would amount to a political coup if Obaseki is given a waiver.
Imasuagbon said before the party primary, "If there is anyone who should step down for the other, it is Obaseki."
Imasuagbon eventually stepped down at the venue of the primary saying "Obaseki is a performing governor, he has worked hard for the state, he was distracted by the godfathers while he was in APC."
The Chances Of Obaseki And Ize-Iyamu
The sacking of Oshiomhole as APC chairman could be tagged an advantage for Obaseki but this could propel Oshiomhole to fight with all his might and with everything he could possibly deploy to his advantage in the election.
Also, incumbency factor could work for Obaseki, but Ize-Iyamu would be anticipating the 'federal might' based on the ruling party.
Another big factor for Ize-Iyamu is PDP chieftain in Edo, and former spokesman to the party's 2019 presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, Prince Kassim Afegbua, who vowed to support Pastor Ize-Iyamu against Obaseki who he said the PDP had branded a failure only to come round to appoint him as the leader of the party in the state.
Peeved by Obaseki's emergence as the PDP governorship candidate, he explained how the governor who while in APC accused party faithful of corruption but allegedly came to the PDP with money bags to get waivers
"We will join hands collectively with the APC candidate to ensure that Godwin Obaseki does not return. I am a PDP member, but I will vote APC. A man with the humility of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is better than a governor who fights everyone who disagrees with him.
"Edo has become too polarised over avoidable and needless battles. Let us have a new leadership that will usher in quietness and peace to everyone. The noises from the Obaseki aspiration have become too polluted and cannot be in the best interest of anyone," Afegbua said.
Afegbua who backed Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama for the governorship ticket said that he (Ogbeide-Ihama) ought to have stuck to his guns by running in the primaries.
"Ogbeide-Ihama got swallowed up by the politics of money that has become the bane of Nigerian politics. He was ambushed by Governor Obaseki's desperation who was ready to use any amount to railroad people in the party to buy into his aspiration.
"How can someone who did not buy nomination form, who came in when the sale of forms had closed, screening had closed, congresses for the election of delegates had closed, and all of a sudden, because he has state resources to spend, rules were bent to accommodate him and made to become the candidate?
"Only yesterday Edo PDP scored Obaseki F9 in its sectoral analyses, and today, the same man who scored F9 all through in terms of performance, has suddenly become the head of the PDP corner.
"A governor who the PDP challenged in 2016 for discrepancies in his submissions has suddenly become the candidate of the party. How do you explain such scenario? For me, I still hold the view that Ogbeide-Ihama had better opportunity to pull through if they had allowed Obaseki to settle for another party.
"It would have been a matter of three candidates and PDP would have had a better grip. I was shocked to see all three aspirants stepped down in the face of pressure. Even Kenneth Imasuangbon who was shouting on top of his voice that he would pull through, buckled suddenly and swallowed his misplaced pride.
"The same governor who has been accusing his former APC leaders of wanting him to share money, came to PDP and started doing same. Delegates were given money, situations were traded off, and everyone was fighting head over heels for peanuts.
Another threatening factor to the re-election of Obaseki is the call for probe by a group in an open letter for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate PDP/Obaseki primary.
The group in its letter to EFCC to probe the alleged multi-billion naira primaries of the PDP that saw Obaseki as its governorship candidate, which political observers interpreted as what Governor Wike meant when he tagged the PDP as "tax collectors".
The group opined that EFCC to probe organizers of the primaries to solve the puzzle behind the billions alleged to have been expended in the PDP primaries.
They claim it was an act of money laundering which the agency frowns at and cited references of money laundering in past elections which the agency fought against.
The group called on the EFCC to do the needful and invite the PDP state chairman to clarify the insinuations that Edo State treasury was the victim of the charade primaries.
While some distant observers feels is difficult, for anyone, to predict, perhaps with these threatening factors, and for Oshiomhole readiness to regain relevance in APC, the Edo election, is a must win for Ize-Iyamu who is also an experienced politician, with a strong connection with voters across party lines.
However, the winner of the election will be decided by Edo Central Senatorial District as Oshiomhole and Philip Shuaibu, Obaseki's deputy will share the votes in Edo North for the PDP and APC while Ize-Iyamu and the governor, both from Edo South, will share the votes from the zone, leaving Edo Central as the decider of the contest.