With the governorship election in Edo State just 17 days away, Hendrix Oliomogbe gives an insight into a number of factors that may determine the shape and direction of the epic contest.
THE campaigns are on and in less than a month, the governorship election will hold in Edo State. Fourteen political parties are scheduled to partake in the election which comes up on September 19 but from reality on the ground, it’s a two-way race between incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the rival All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
Both Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu are of Benin descent from Edo South senatorial district. Politics is a game of number and the South senatorial district has over 57% of the landmass and the population. With seven of the 18 local government areas, there is no doubt that the district holds the ace as regards who triumph in the polls.
With a total of 2,210,334 registered voters, only potential voters who have so far 1,726,466 have managed to collect their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) will determine the winner while the remaining who 483,868 are yet to collect theirs will be disenfranchised.
While Governor Obaseki, the governorship candidate of the PDP, is from Oredo Local Government Area and ran on the ticket of the APC in the 2016 election, Ize-Iyamu, on the other hand, flew the PDP flag before making a move to the APC where he was a founding father. He hails from Orhionmwon Local Government Area.
For the running mates, incumbent deputy governor, Philip Shaibu is pairing with Obaseki while state lawmaker, Gani Audu, (Etsako West 1) constituency is running with Ize-Iyamu. The two running mates are from Edo North, the second largest and populous district in the state with six local government areas. The two major parties chairmen are from the Central district with five local government areas.
Both Governor Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu didn’t waste time in crossing the length and breadth of the Heart Beat of the Nation-State when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) sounded the bugle, wooing voters all the way from the northern fringes of Akoko Edo Local Government Area to Iyeke-Orhionmwon. First to kick-start is Governor Obaseki who officially commenced his campaign for a second term on Saturday, July 25, at the lawn tennis court of the refurbished Ogbe Stadium, Benin. On hand to however lend a hand of support at the event where the party’s national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, presented the flag to Governor Obaseki were Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State; his Bayelsa State counterpart, Senator Duoye Diri; Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike; and Oyo State governor Seyi Makinde.
Others were Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal; Bauchi State Governor Bala Mohammed; Senator Dino Melaye; Ondo State deputy governor, Agboola Ajayi; Senate Minority Whip, Enyinnaya Abaribe; and a host of others.
Ize-Iyamu, a former South-South zonal chairman of the APC, flagged off his second time bid for the governorship seat on a promising note with a cheering crowd at the University of Benin (UNIBEN) football pitch. Buoyed by the large turnout of party faithful, Yobe State governor, Mai Mala Buni, predicted an overwhelming victory for the APC candidate in the forthcoming election. Immediate past national chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, seemed to have stolen the show as ecstatic broom waving party supporters ululated and crowded round his vehicle when he arrived the venue, which was more of a carnival, in an open roof vehicle.
Impressed by the turn out of the party faithful who waited patiently for hours in the sun for the commencement of the ceremony, Ize-Iyamu declared that the party would win all the 18 local government areas of the state. It was a gathering of who is who in the ruling party from governor of neighbouring Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, to Ogun State’s Dalo Abiodun; his Osun state counterpart, Gboyega Oyetola; Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Imo State Governor Hope Uzodinma. Others were Kebbi State governor and chairman of APC Governor’s Forum, Atiku Bagudu; Kaduna State Governor Nasir el Rufai; Niger State Governor Abubakar Bello; Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amechi; Kogi state deputy governor, Edward Onoja; former Edo State deputy governor, Pius Odubu, and a host of others.
In the 2016 election, the image of the former national chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, loomed large over the political horizon of the state and was instrumental in Governor Obaseki’s grabbing of the ruling party’s ticket and eventual triumph over Ize-Iyamu before they parted ways over sundry issues. Left alone to paddle his canoe, the governor seems to be learning fast. The major thrust of his campaign appears to be his duel with his hitherto godfather and his developmental strides since he took over the reign of government in November 2016. In the last election, Obaseki triumphed over Ize-Iyamu with the solid support of Oshiomhole who, from the political arithmetic of the state, still remains a very strong factor as he has a way with the masses.
With Obaseki and his main challenger coming from the South senatorial zone, chances are that the votes in the seven local government areas will be split between both men this time around. In Edo South, the three Benin municipal local government areas of Oredo, Egor and Ikpoba Okha will, no doubt, be keenly contested as they have the highest number of votes. The three local government areas used to be one, Oredo, before it was split.
There is no doubt that Godwin, a scion of the popular Obaseki family whose ancestor, Chief Agho, Obaseki, played a prominent role in the history of Benin Empire during the British occupation, will seek to consolidate the three local government areas where he hails.
Ize-Iyamu, on the other hand, who was born and raised in Benin City, where his grandfather was a top chief, Esogban of Benin, will be all out to prove that he is equally a homeboy, notwithstanding the fact that he associates with his ancestral hometown of Ugboko, Orhionmwon Local Government Area.
The two Ovias, South West and North East local government areas may also turn out to be a battleground as the Esama of Benin, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, a PDP chieftain, is from Okada but a youthful Dennis “Denco” Idahosa currently representing the area in the House of Representatives will want to prove a point that, as a Young Turk, his triumph over Ms Omosede Igbinedion in last year election was not a fluke.
Oshiomhole and the running mates of the two main parties are both from Etsako West Local Government Area. Shaibu who used to be a protege of the immediate past governor of the state hails from Jattu (Ikpe), the traditional headquarters of Uzairue clan while Oshiomhole is from Iyamho, also in Uzairue. Audu, on the other hand, is from Aviele, near Auchi. APC easily won the three Etsako local government areas of West, Central and East in 2016 due to Oshiomhole’s towering influence.
The choice of Audu appears to have satisfied the Muslim elements who are mostly from Edo North. They have, for long, demanded the deputy governorship slot. Their prayers seemed to have been answered when Ize-Iyamu, a Redeemed Christian Church of God clergyman, chose Mallam Gani Audu, as he is fondly called, as his running mate. With former deputy governor, Mike Oghiadomhe, Edo State ex-chairman of the PDP, Chief Dan Orbih and a host of other big wigs rendering their support to Shaibu, there seems to be a balance of force between the two parties, at least on paper as a former House of Representatives member, Alhaji Abubakar Momoh, is once again back to the APC.
In other parts of Edo North, the three local government areas of Owan East, Owan West and Akoko Edo, the oldest local government area in the state will likely determine the outcome of the senatorial zone when voters joined the line on September 19 to cast their vote.
In Akoko Edo, the duo of ex-Senator Domingo Obende and former Speaker, Kabiru Adjoto, are busy, wooing voters for the PDP candidate but are, however, being close marked by former Chief of Staff to Governor Obaseki, Mr Taiwo Akerele, who resonates with the youths. Akerele, who made a move to the APC after his celebrated resignation, is certainly not alone as he is working assiduously with House of Representatives member, Mr Peter Akpatanson, factional deputy speaker of the State House of Assembly, Mr Emmanuel Agbaje and Mr Yekini Idiaye, a former deputy speaker.
For the Owans, incumbent House of Representatives member, Professor Julius Ihonvbere from Owan West and two former House of Representatives member, Pally Iriase, and Abdul Oroh are with Ize-Iyamu while another federal lawmaker, Mr Johnson Abolagba is on the campaign trail for the PDP candidate, drumming support.
Edo central, the home turf of Chief Tony Anenih, the late chairman, Board of Trustees of the PDP went the way of the opposition party in 2016 but chances are that the two parties will slug it out in a keen contest, come September 19. The state PDP chairman, Dr Tony Aziegbemi hails from Esan North East Local Government Area just like Leader as Anenih was fondly called.
The two members of the House of Representatives and incumbent PDP Senator Clifford Ordia for Edo Central and ably supported by a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Tom Ikimi, from Igueben.
Standing up for the APC are Chief Francis Inegbeneki, former Speaker Thomas Okosun and ex-Action Congress (AC) state chairman, Mr Tony Omoaghe and a host of others.
Again, for the APC, the two contending state chairmen, Anslem Ojezua and David Imuse, are from central while the two men, Frank Okiye and Victor Edoror, also laying claim to the speakership of the State House of Assembly are also from the district.
The lure of power shift to Edo Central is also capable of determining the outcome of the poll as the zone is yet to produce a tenant at Osadebe Avenue seat of power since 1999 except for the brief stay of Professor Oserhemien Osunbor between 2007 and 2008. His tenure was cut short by a court verdict in favour of Oshiomhole.
While the PDP dropped a hint that the governorship slot would go to the zone in 2024, the APC, on the other hand, countered, maintaining that deputy governor, Shaibu, is already warming up and will immediately throw his hat in the ring for the party’s ticket in the event of Obaseki winning.
In an election, a winner must emerge as there is no draw. The hard fact is that whoever wins a solid majority in Edo South and North stands in a better position to clinch the governorship but in the event that both parties run neck and neck in the two senatorial districts, then the emphatic winner of central will run home with victory.
Buoyed by what he insisted was a clear demonstration of love and deep appreciation shown to Governor Obaseki everywhere he went during the campaign stump, state publicity secretary of PDP, Mr Chris Nehikhare said he was optimistic of victory. Sounding upbeat, Nehikhare declared: “So far, we have gone round Edo North and Edo Central. We are in Edo South where we also intend to campaign in all the wards. So far, the reception has been tremendous. The governor’s achievement speaks for him. He has built fantastic roads almost everywhere in the state.
The chairman of the media campaign team of the APC governorship candidate, Mr John Mayaki, was acidic, dismissing the PDP candidate with a wave of the hand: “The APC, for its part, has the right candidate – Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu – while the PDP has chosen to embrace the lure of incumbency and fielded Governor Godwin Obaseki. We in the APC who were happy to be rid of him,’ are not illiterates and we are not poor in judgment.
“When we made Obaseki our standard-bearer for the 2016 campaign, he was the dark horse; no one knew anything about him. He was the mysterious technocrat with an air of sophistication and we thought he was the man for the job. The party developed a mandate and sold the mandate to the people of Edo State because we had confidence that he could execute the mandate to the letter, represent the party’s ideals and consolidate the developmental strides that the party has been able to undertake in the state.”
With the energy-sapping campaigns attaining a crescendo, both parties have been pulling crowd. If only the number of people attending rallies is a measurement of support, there is no doubt that the outcome will be hard to tell.