Clem Igie writes that the chance of the PDP candidate of winning the election is increasingly becoming thinner
One after the other they desert his camp. Godwin Obaseki has become a wearied general without formidable troops. How would he triumph in battle? Mr. Joseph Ikpea, the Commissioner for Minerals, Oil and Gas, resigned his appointment from Obaseki's government and moved to his Ubiaja hometown in Esan Southeast Local Government where he returned to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and joined other members to celebrate his return to the party.
The Governor's Chief of Staff, Taiwo Akerele opened the floodgate of defections. Paul Ohonbamu (Communication and Orientation) and Ms. Omua Oni-Okpaku (Environment and Sustainability) also resigned their appointments.
The camp of the governor continues to deplete as the opposition All Progressives Congress' (APC) Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu gains traction with swelling support across the state. Several Special Advisers also left the government.
In June when Ohonbamu declared for Ize-Iyamu, he wrote in his resignation letter: "Whenever we shall meet again I know not. Therefore, our everlasting farewell takes. If we do meet, why, we shall smile, if not, it is true this parting was well-meaning".
Giving reasons for quitting Obaseki's cabinet, Ikpea said "Politics is all about interest, trust and respect for one another, but I have never seen any of this till date, and I am also not sure of it even if there is tomorrow.
"Moreover, the party that is known today as APC was brought to Esan South East by me and over 90 percent of my supporters are APC members till date. So, it is difficult for me to leave the house that I built. Considering also that this administration didn't recognise my leadership role," said Joseph Ikpea.
Even in the PDP where the governor sought solace, he is not totally welcomed. The manner in which he clinched the party ticket caused division within the party which is yet to be resolved till date. A former commissioner in Edo and prominent member of the PDP, Kassim Afegbua kicked when his party handed Obaseki a ticket and vowed to work against his interest.
Despite threats and failed attempts to sack him from the party, Afegbua has been campaigning for the APC candidate. Afegbua said, "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 for 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 quiet and peace to everyone. The noises from the Obaseki aspiration have become too polluted and cannot be in the best interest of anyone".
The massive defections that rocked Obaseki's camp are indications that the governor has failed. Why would people desert a seemingly pretty comfort terrain to an 'unknown' or unpredictable territory? No doubt, they must have seen a credible alternative to the current systems of things.
The pecks and allures of political office were not sufficient as they reportedly found it extremely difficult to market their boss. What message of developments would they take home to constituents when the facts speak for themselves? Is it in the areas of infrastructure, health and education that Obaseki scored abysmally low that will be the talking point?
The penchant of the government is to sell empty hope which has become trite. Perhaps, the governor did not read the scripture to appreciate that, "Hope deferred makes heart sick". He has continued to regale the people of his ambitious plans on paper under the guise of Memoranda of Understanding (MoU).
The MoUs that could not come to fruition in the last four years are nothing but fluke to hoodwink the electorate. Alas, the people of the state can see through his deceit and have resolved to reject him at the polls.
The governor also lost his grip over the State House of Assembly when his impunity was checked. The seven members loyal to him whom he had hitherto imposed on the majority APC lawmakers were subdued. He had thought of compromising the APC lawmakers to defect to the PDP but the loyal party men ignored the governor's overtures and tempting offers. When reality beckoned that he could not triumph at the polls without the political machinery of the APC which he wanted to poach, Governor Obaseki and his deputy deployed strongarm tactics and violence to intimidate the opposition and to suppress the popular will.
The Chairman of the Media Campaign Council of APC, Mr. John Mayaki, recently raised the alarm on how the governor has been camping thugs in Government House and other locations ahead of the polls. Mayaki said, "Buses loaded with strange faces have been spotted entering Benin City, capital of Edo State. The buses with unidentifiable registration numbers have been increasingly sighted around Ring Road, making their way to the Government House, Benin as well as other major cities in the three senatorial districts of the state.
"We have it on good authority that within the space of two weeks, Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have ferried into the state busloads of thugs from neighbouring PDP states.
"According to our findings, nearly a thousand thugs are being housed across sections of Government House in Benin, and at designated hotels across the three senatorial districts of Edo State. The only mission they have is to function as disruptive and destructive elements at polling centres during the election".
The allegations are weighty. The revered Benin monarch, Oba of Benin, Ewuare 11, recently convened a peace meeting at his palace where he warned all political actors in the state to shun violence and rein in their thugs.
If after the revered monarch's appeal, and the government was still planning to unleash terror on opposition parties then that is wilful. If truly he has delivered in his mandate, the governor should not be jittery but be confident of victory without stress.
The desperation in the camp of Obaseki is a clear indication that he is not the man of the people. Everywhere in Edo, the APC candidate Ize-Iyamu's SIMPLE agenda, the uncomplicated and clear-cut policy and development agenda for Edo State is gaining acceptance.
The major political actors who are trooping to the APC are not fools. They are not neophytes. They have gauged the pulse of the people and decided accordingly. This game is straight and the permutation clearly favours APC candidate, Ize-Iyamu. Elections are about the people both as voters and mobilizers.