Adedayo Akinwale writes on the implication of the loss of the All Progressives Congress in the just concluded Edo governorship election on its quest to retain power in 2023.
The Edo state governorship election has come and gone, while the winners and the losers have equally emerged. The success of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the election has no doubt changed the political calculation and permutation ahead of the 2023 elections.
In the build up to the election, there were apprehensions that the election would be marred by violence, rigging, ballot box snatching, thuggery and all other vices associated with the Nigeria electoral process. But at the end of the day, the Edo election has been adjudged as the freest and most transparent gubernatorial election conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in recent times by election observers.
The new innovation introduced by the electoral body which allows the result to be uploaded on the server right from the Ward level as earned it some accolades. It has so far helped in no small measure in increasing the transparency of the process, while also restoring the confidence of Nigerians in INEC. Nigerians now believe that indeed, their votes are beginning to count.
The governorship candidate of the PDP, Godwin Obaseki has been able to weather the political storm and had his mandate renewed, having defeated his main rival and candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. Obaseki won in 13 local government as against Pastor Iyamu's victory in five. In all, Obaseki polled 307, 955 votes, while Ize-iyamu got 223, 619 votes.
However, the triumph of the PDP in Edo election has changed the political calculation and permutations ahead of the 2023 elections. It has equally nailed the coffin of the presidential ambition of the national leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, while the former national chairman of the party, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole has been sent to a political oblivion, no thanks to Obaseki and the PDP.
Prior to the election and when it was becoming clearer that the National Working committee (NWC) of the party led by Oshiomhole was bent on forcing Obaseki out of the party by denying him the second term ticket, APC governors rallied round their embattled colleague, pleaded with Oshiomhole and even Tinubu but their plea fell on deaf ears.
The Progressives Governors Forum (PGF) which has Kebbi State governor, Atiku Bagudu, as its chairman, even though not a statutory organ of the party, wields a lot of influence. The eventual sack of Oshiomhole from office during the emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting held at the Presidential Villa apparently had the governors signature on it.
Despite, the humiliation of their colleague by Oshiomhole, who denied Obaseki of his right of first refusal for the party's ticket by disqualifying him from the party primary that produced Ize-Iyamu as the APC candidate, the governors did not desert Obaseki, who later defected to the PDP from the APC.
It is no longer news that Ize-Iyamu's campaign did not enjoy the support of the APC governors, hence, the failure of the ruling party to hold its mega rally before the election. It was only the Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodinmma, and his Kano State counterpart, Abdullahi Ganduje, that were visible around Ize-Iyamu in the heat of his campaigns for the votes of the Edo electorate.
Initially, Edo state was controlled by PDP, but the party lost the state to the defunct Action Congress (AC) in 2008, following the judgment of Edo State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal of Justice Peter Umeadi, which nullified the victory of the PDP candidate, Professor Oserheimen Osunbor, in the April 14, 2007 election, hence, the emergence of Oshiomhole.
ACN was part of the political parties that metamorphosed into APC, and since then the party had been ruling the state with the hope of making further inroads into the South-south region by winning more states. The former national chairman of APC spent eight years as the governor of the state before handing over to Obaseki, his estranged political godson.
Nevertheless, all efforts by the ruling party to win states in the region in previous elections had proved abortive as the PDP maintained a firm grip on the region. With Obaseki's victory, the main opposition party in the country, the PDP, has now regained its lost ground in the South-South.
Beyond that, political analysts believe that losing Edo to PDP was part of the grand plot to clip the feathers of Tinubu and Oshiomole, who many believe had amassed too much influence within the party ahead of 2023. With that political coupe successfully executed against the duo, Oshiomole has now been politically decapitated, and it has also invariably diminished Tinubu's influence and his presidential ambition in 2023.
Without mincing words, the future of the ruling party looks bleak and also considering the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari who is the only unifying factor will not be on the ballot in 2023, this reality is already a source of concern for the stakeholders of the party.
Former Governor of Imo state, Senator Richas Okorocha, had while addressing journalists after the Edo election said that it was the respect for the President that is keeping the ruling party together.
He said, "There is no more APC, what we have is the respect for President Muhammadu Buhari, that is what is keeping us together. What we have is our respect for the person of President Buhari and we still believe that something can be done.
"That trust and respect is what we still call APC, outside that, respect for President Buhari and the trust and believe that he could wake up one day and correct all these injustices and make it fine. That is the only thing that is keeping the APC, if not that, I don't think there is anything like APC because people are beginning to get fed up. Again, PDP is not even better, the party has its own challenges."
Aside the Buhari factor, the policies of the APC-led Federal Government which has been been described by many as anti-people policies have succeeded in plunging more Nigerians into poverty, while ensuring that the country remains the poverty capital of the world.
The APC-led government has not feared better in the areas of security, economy and anti-corruption, which are the cardinal areas the government promised to address. With the current level of insecurity in the country, Nigeria is not safer than it was in 2015. While the then administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan battled Boko Haram insurgency throughout his tenure, the Buhari administration has also continued to battle the Islamic sect, while Fulani herdsmen, kidnappings, banditary continued to wreck havoc in different parts of the country.
Even, the home state of the president is not spared. The terror sect had recently revealed that it has links with the bandits in the North-west. Some governors from the North have to pay millions of naira to reach a peace accord with the bandits, while even posing for a photograph with the criminals as part of a landmark achievement. This was not the case under former President Jonathan who was described as "clueless" by the party in power now.
The APC administration is also notorious for its skewed political appointments to favour the north. This is believed to have opened up the fault lines that were already dissappering before Buhari came to power. The core supporters of the APC are beginning to have a rethink, and have realised that Buhari may not be the Messiah they were expecting to transform Nigeria.
Worthy of note, is the threat by the United States (US), United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU) to impose visa ban on election riggers, which appeared to have worked the magic in Edo and made the election more transparent. With the threat of visa ban, it is expected that subsequent elections and even the 2023 elections will be devoid of violence and rigging as political actors would be afraid of being sanctioned.
According to a political an analyst, Mr. John Samuel, "Looking at the bigger picture one is tempted to also say what is happening in Edo is to send a clear message to the ruling elite to stop taking Nigerians for granted. Increases in fuel price, electricity tariff, taxes and trying to shut us up with laws that outlaws free speech and to add insult to injury, a water bill targeting river basins for animal use. Aside this, the determination of Edo people and the "threat" of visa restrictions by UK and US also played a role."
Also, the former Governor of Kano state, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso said, "Let me also thank the representatives of the international community in Nigeria, especially the United State embassy in Nigeria and the United Kingdom embassy in Nigeria for their timely advice to merchants of election malpractice and perpetrators of electoral violence. Your advisory to election riggers and promoters of election violence to know that there are consequences, beyond the borders of Nigeria, for their ignominious action was very effective. We thank you for your interest in deepening democracy in our country."
A political analyst, Mr. Jide Ojo, was of the opinion that the triumph of the PDP would impact on ambition of APC in 2023 to retain power at the centre. He added that between 2013 and 2015, APC was in control of 24 states, but they are only in control of 20 at the moment.
He said, "PDP is controlling 15 and APGA is controlling one. If they had won on Saturday, the tally would have been increased to 21. As it is said, all politics is local and where do you get to locals if not at the state level. So, it is the sum of the state that makes the centre and God forbid, if APC should lose in Ondo again on October 10, then that means there will be diminishing returns on APC, which is why there was a lot of scolding of Oshimhole that under is watch as a national chairman the party has lost ground. They lost in Zamfara, they lost in Rivers, Bauchi, Adamawa, Oyo.
"When you look at Ondo, Ondo is too close for comfort, APC lost Presidential election in Ondo last year, even though it is an incumbent governor that is there. Nobody can be too sure of what will happen on October 10 in Ondo. So, coming back to your question, it definitely will impact negatively on 2023 ambtion of the APC to retain power at the centre."
While it is too early to predict how all this will play out in 2023, Edo was a good outing for PDP and a bad omen for APC ahead of 2023.
The policies of the APC-led Federal Government which has been been described by many as anti-people policies have succeeded in plunging more Nigerians into poverty, while ensuring that the country remains the poverty capital of the world. The APC-led government has not feared better in the areas of security, economy and anti-corruption, which are the cardinal areas the government promised to address. With the current level of insecurity in the country, Nigeria is not safer than it was in 2015