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This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series Edo politics
  • Edo 2020: 9 positives from Pastor Ize-Iyamu’s defeat to Governor Obaseki

Nine takeouts from the electoral rematch between Edo state Governor Godwin Obaseki of PDP and APC’s Pastor Ize-Iyamu which the former won.

Edo 2020 gubernatorial of Saturday September 19, 2020 has come and gone, with Governor Godwin Obaseki of the PDP duly returned as the winner with over 300,000 votes. His closest rival, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the APC polled over 200,000 votes.

This was a battle royale that pitted political titans of the two major Nigerian parties, the PDP and the APC, against each other.

The headquarters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) drafted Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State to lead Obaseki’s reelection quest, while Kano State Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje led the All Progressives Congress (APC) onslaught.

Edo 2020: Governor Obaseki has had the last laugh over Pastor Ize-Iyamu

There are many lessons to be taken from the chastening PDP gave to the APC in this election. And these are what we are going exhume in this piece.

Has godfatherism really been vanquished?

When the then Action Congress candidate Adams Oshiomhole snatched victory from the jaws of irregularities through a Court of Appeal verdict in 2009, and was sworn as the 4th democratically elected governor of Edo state, he preached that the end of godfatherism has come.

Hitherto, Chief Toni Anenih, aka Mr. Fix It, had held the state in its throes, anointing and dethroning the state’s chief executives at will. It was also alleged that he held the state’s finances in the jugular, starving the state of funds direly needed for development.

Even though the ex-governors, including Chief Lucky Igbinedion and Professor Oserheimen Osunbor, are complicit in their inactions and alleged profligacy, the late ‘Mr Fix It’ took the crux of the blame.

Obaseki has paid back Oshimhole for retiring Anenih

Albeit being a beneficiary of Mr. Anenih’s power play against ex-governor Osunbor, Comrade Oshiomhole went about dismantling the former godfather’s tentacles across the state the moment he stepped into office.

In one of the rallies leading to the 2012 gubernatorial elections, Oshimhole quipped, “A father who refuses to accept that the children have grown up is not a good father.” He thence vowed to preside over the political funeral rite of the godfather.

True to his words, Oshiomhole took the 2012 PDP’s candidate, Charles Airhiarvbere, to the cleaners when he secured over 70 per cent of the 647,698 total votes cast. He garnered 477,478 votes to the PDP’s 144,235 votes, thereby nailing the political coffin of Mr. Fix It.

The birth of a new godfather

At the expiration of his second term in office, Comrade Oshiomhole singlehandedly anointed and campaigned hard for his successor, Godwin Obaseki against the PDP’s Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu in 2016. Ultimately, Obaseki narrowly edged past his then closest opponent with 319,483 to the latter’s 253,173.

In a meeting with traditional rulers from Edo South recently, Oshiomhole apologized to Edo people for campaigning for Obaseki’s election in 2016. He said “I am sorry I sold the bad product. I am telling you, any of us could have made that mistake,” adding that Obaseki was a green snake in a green grass.

Oshiomhole said he had hoped his successor would continue his worthy policies of building roads, schools, tackling floods and erosions, and empowering the unemployed.

But the governor countered back, saying his predecessor is fighting him only because he refused to share the money. Speaking through his special adviser on media and communication, Crusoe Osagie, Obaseki added that when Oshiomhole nominated him in the 2016 election, he did so to “enthrone himself as the ultimate godfather of Edo politics”.

In the end, Governor Obaseki vowed to inter his predecessor politically. “We will bury Oshiomhole politically. We have retired him and on September 19, 2020, we will bury him politically,” he said.

And as it turned out, just the way Oshiomhole retired Anenih in 2012, Tom Ikimi, Gabriel Igbinedion and Raymond Dokpesi in 2016, his former protégé has performed his political burial rite.

Will this bring the end of political godfatherism in Edo state and Nigeria at large? This will be a hard knock to crack.

Is Governor Mai Mala Buni learning the ropes of electioneering?

When the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) was in turbulent waters over the suspension of its ex-National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, and the takeover of its national headquarters by warring factions, the National Executive Council (NEC) of the party led by President Muhammadu Buhari elected Yobe state governor, Mai Mala Buni as its interim chairperson. The NEC also ratified the primary election which produced Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu as the party’s governorship candidate in Edo state.

One of the first actions Buni undertook as the national chairman of the APC was to inaugurate committees to prosecute the party’s participation in the Edo and Ondo statess gubernatorial elections scheduled to hold September 19, 2020 and October 10, 2020, respectively.

Governor Ganduje got the nod to lead Edo’s effort, while his counterpart of Lagos state, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, will lead Ondo’s. On the part of the PDP, Governors Wike and Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Oyo state) were appointed to lead the party to victory in Edo and Ondo states, respectively.

Is Buni still learning the ropes?

Now, political analysts are questioning the rationale behind appointing a governor of a far northwestern state (Ganduje) to prosecute an election in the south-south of the country.

Unlike his counterpart, Wike, who is from Rivers state and can take a ride of about 50 minutes to arrive Benin City, the capital of Edo state, Ganduje will have to endure a rough ride of about 8 hours or charter a flight to the state.

Furthermore, Ganduje being a northerner, the PDP were accused of fanning the embers of division, saying the ‘Hausa/Fulani’ have come down to colonise the state through Ize-Iyamu.

There is also the corruption tag hanging over the Kano state governor’s neck. In 2018, DailyNigerian uploaded videos which showed the governor tucking away wraps of dollar notes which were alleged to be kickbacks. An investigation by the Kano State House of Assembly was stopped immaturely by a Kano State High Court. Even though the governor denied any wrongdoing, his image has already been smeared.

As an old maxim which says “those who come to equity must come with clean hands,” political analysts believe the Mai Mala Buni-led APC interim leadership shouldn’t have nominated Ganduje to prosecute its election in Edo state, and are thus questioning his political sagacity.

Will Obaseki’s joy be short-lived?

Immediately INEC announced PDP’s victory in the 2020 Edo state gubernatorial elections, Premium Times reported that Governor Obaseki alongside his colleagues, Wike and Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta state) danced to the Government House conference where he formally accepted his victory.

In the November 16, 2019 gubernatorial election of Bayelsa State, INEC declared that David Lyon of the APC polled 352,552 votes to defeat Duoye Diri of the PDP who polled 143,172 votes.

But barely 24 hours to his inauguration on February 14, 2020, a five-member panel of the Supreme Court led by Justice Mary Odili nullified the election of Mr Lyon on the grounds that his deputy, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, presented false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in aid of his qualification for the November 16 governorship election in the state.

David Lyon’s joy was short-lived

If you recall, Governor Obaseki was disqualified from the APC gubernatorial primary because of a “defective” certificate. The chairman of the APC Screening Committee, Jonathan Ayuba, said “In our view of the issues raised, we concluded that the higher school certificate was defective. The NYSC certificate and act of the aspirant taking the party to court… are some of the issues we… recommend that Godwin Obaseki is not eligible to participate in the governorship primary.”

The University of Ibadan came out to defend the governor, stating that the governor was an ex-student of the institution and the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) issued a fresh certificate to correct the governor’s name. But by then, the governor has jumped ship to the PDP, where he was given the party’s ticket and is now its freshly minted governor.

Now, can the APC prove that Governor Obaseki has defective certificates in the court of law and upturn his victory just like Bayelsa’s Lyon? Or was it just a posture by the then Oshiomhole-led APC National Working Committee to help their leader exact his pound of flesh on the governor?

Will POI position himself for Edo 2024?

Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu (POI), a native of Benin City, has run twice for the governorship election of Edo state against the incumbent, Godwin Obaseki, and got floored in both cases. The first one was in 2016 and the second, the just concluded election.

Normally, when politicians lost elections they or their parties rush to the courts of law to seek redress. Some succeed, others do not.

In the case that POI does not approach the courts, or if he does and he doesn’t scale through the hurdle, what will be his next plan?

Will Ize-Iyamu borrow a leaf from DSP Omo-Agege (right)?

Will he contest again in 2024? Or will he borrow a leaf from Senators Chris Ngige and Ovie Omo-Agege? When both failed perennially to win gubernatorial elections in Anambra and Delta states respectively, they switched their attentions to the Nigerian Senate which they won without much sweat.

Today, Ngige is a second term minister of labour, while Senator Omo-Agege is the current deputy senate president.

Will a Wike/Kwankwaso PDP’s presidential ticket bolster PDP’s chance in 2023?

Governor Nyesom Wike is positioning himself as the undisputed national leader of the PDP. After singlehandedly installing its national chairman, Uche Secondus, Wike ensured the party’s last presidential election was conducted in Port Harcourt, his state capital.

In order to stop the APC making more inroads into the south-south, Wike bankrolled the election of his current Bayelsa state counterpart, Duoye Diri. After the ex-senator failed the first hurdle of the election, Wike financed his legal battles at the tribunal, appeal and the supreme courts.

A Wike/Kwankwaso PDP presidential ticket could carry the day

Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso is an ex-governor of Kano state and the immediate ex-senator representing Kano central senatorial district. Even though he took a distant fourth place during the last presidential primary of the PDP, he is an influential voice in the north.

During the time he and Atiku Abubakar were still in the APC, he polled second ahead of Atiku and a place behind Buhari during the 2015 presidential primary of the party.

Till date Kwankwaso is popular in the northern region, most especially in Kano state where Muhammadu Buhari always gets his the highest votes, even in the 2019 elections.

So, if Wike, a darling of the south, and Kwankwaso, a heavyweight from the north, should team up in the PDP, they could floor a combination that APC or any other party will bring forth in 2023.

Both Wike and Kwankwaso were on ground in Edo state to campaign for Governor Obaseki’s successful re-election.

Will Obaseki change from an MOU governor to an executive one?

One accusation fingers pointed at Godwin Obaseki was that his administration ran an ‘MoU government’ were projects were signed without requisite actions to turn them into tangible results.

“Obaseki is MoU (Memoranda of Understanding) governor, but Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is a man of God that will ensure good governance in Edo State from November 12 this year,” ex-governor Oshiomhole was reported saying during a political rally recently.

Memorila also reported extensively that Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu’s campaign was the only one that had a concrete manifesto that itemized the activities it will carry out if elected into government.

Sensing a defeat in that regards, the Obaseki/Shuaibu campaign subsequently released their manifesto, which it tagged ‘The MEGA Manifesto’.

Will these MEGA manifestoes turn into verifiable results? Only time will tell.

Has Buhari’s charm offensive faded?

In the run up to the 2015 general elections which brought President Muhammadu Buhari to power, the PDP was in a state of total disarray, losing the majority of both chambers of the national assembly to the then new party, APC. The latter also wrestled away many states from the grip of the PDP, including many states in the southwest and north central, which Buhari had perennially failed.

In his northwest and northeast stronghold, all the candidates that stood under the platform of APC were duly elected. The joke that was flying around then was that even if a dog had been nominated by Buhari’s party that dog would have carried the day against a PDP’s candidate.

Buhari’s charm offensive has withered

But after witnessing the economic and political policies of Buhari government, his cult of followers have dwindled drastically, with the covid-19 pandemic further plummeting his popularity.

Alhaji Sani Dumus, who contested for the seat of the member representing Tarauni at the Kano State House of Assembly under Buhari’s defunct party, Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), told Memorila he regretted campaigning for him.

“Even though I was a die-hard supporter of Buhari, right now, I will never campaign for him again. Whether you like him or not is your prerogative,” Dumus said.

As it is, experts are saying that Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu probably failed to win the 2020 Edo state gubernatorial election because he associated himself with Buhari.

Will PDP take over Nigeria in 2023?

Many Nigerians are experiencing hardships occasioned by the economic policies of Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. The covid-19 pandemic which has crippled world economies has further worsened the situation.

The security situation of the country, which was one of the issues that catapulted Buhari to power, hasn’t improved drastically. States which were relative peaceful prior 2015 are now experiencing one security challenge or the other.

Travellers today are scared of traversing the Kaduna-Abuja expressway because of kidnappers. Katsina (the president’s hometown), Zamfara, Sokoto and Kebbi states are under bandits’ siege. The northeast, particularly Borno state, is still under the pawn of Boko Haram. Killer herder men are still rampaging the north central, parts of the southeast, south-south and southwest.

Even though some of these security challenges predate the president’s regime, being a security expert, many Nigerians thought his ascension to power will obliterate any of such challenges.

The conditions of internally displaced persons (IDPs) haven’t improved as under-aged girls are either forced to sell their bodies to survive in IDPs camps or return to terrorists’ hideouts.

PDP is in a prime position to grab power from APC

An angry Kano resident, Haruna Idris, said he feels for the masses of the country. “Anybody you see today is only out to look for food to give to his or family. Worst still, these foods are not affordable for the common man.” He decried the situation whereby a plate of maize flour which had never risen more than N300 pre-Buhari now sells for over N650.

“Right now, rice is not a staple food of the commoner any longer,” he groaned.

But government officials say the administration is investing on infrastructure like roads, railways, electricity and empowerment schemes which in the long terms will bring economic succor to the nation.

Government supporters also cite Ghana which also passed through such economic stalemate in the 1980s but which now serves as a business destination for many Nigerian emigrants. Hence, they plead with the nation to exercise patience that soon enough we will gleam light at the end of the tunnel.

But with the hunger and anger in the country and the security situation not improving, it will not be a surprise to see the PDP bounce back to power at the centre if the party puts its house in order and field a very strong presidential pair in the 2023 elections.

What will become of the rebel members in Edo State House of Assembly?

With the re-election of Governor Godwin Obaseki now set aside, all eyes will now turn on how he will resolve the state house of assembly’s political impasse.

Immediately after the 2019 general elections, 24 members of the state house of assembly were all elected under the APC ticket. Initially, the governor refused to send a proclamation letter to the clerk of the house which would have inaugurated the members. Analysts said the governor feared that his predecessor will arm-twist the members into electing his preferred member as speaker.

After some of the members protested, in the dead of the night, the governor sent a proclamation which saw to the inauguration and swearing in of nine members, ostracizing the remaining 15. These nine members went on to elect Mr. Frank Okiye from Esan North East I as Speaker, and Yekini Idiaye of Akoko-Edo I as Deputy Speaker.

But in the run-up to the just concludes election, two members of the governor’s faction switched over to the other faction thereby bolstering their numbers to 17. These two then inaugurated their colleagues which went ahead to elect its own speaker. This was after the faction had impeached the erstwhile ‘Speaker’ Okiye.  

ESHA rebel members being inaugurated

But Okiye kicked back, saying the group doesn’t have the prima facie to impeach him, and that he still remains the authentic speaker of the house. A speaker of seven, out of a house of 24 members!

As it is, of Pastor Ize-Iyamu had won the September 19 election and was sworn in, experts believed he would have sided with the anti-Obaseki group. But with his defeat and that of his godfather, Oshiomhole, what will now become their fate.

In essence, what will become the fate of Edo State House of Assembly?

Prior to the 2020 election, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, an ex-governor of Lagos state and the national leader of the APC, had accused Obaseki of murdering democracy. He said, “The recent actions of the Governor of Edo State represent the gravest possible assault on constitutional democracy and the rule of law”.

But the governor defended his action by saying that the other faction was being sponsored by Oshiomhole in order to impeach him.

But now that he has defeated his arch-enemy, his former benefactor, it is high time the governor sheath his sword, formally inaugurate the splinter group and allow them to properly represent the people that voted for them and him.

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By Faruk Ahmed

Faruk Ahmed cut his teeth at National Review, a Kano-based magazine now rested, where he rose to become Operations Manager and then Business Developer and Strategist. He is a keen watcher of political events.

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