Sunday, 2 October 2016

Battle for Edo: The secret behind Obaseki’s victory reveals

Benin-City Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State is a happy man.  On Thursday, after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), through the Returning Officer, Prof. Kayode Soremekun, declared the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr Godwin Obaseki, winner of the governorship election in the state,  Oshiomhole ran to the streets in wild jubilation sharing bottles of beer with youths.

The reason for his obvious joy is not far-fetched. Since he assumed office as governor in November 12, 2012, Oshiomhole has never rested, he has been fighting wars. Soon after he was sworn-in, he promised to end god fatherism, demystify poor governance and improve infrastructures and welfare of the people. After winning the case at the Court of Appeal which sacked the then Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governor, Prof. Osarhiemen Osunbor, the former President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), had thought the war was over. He never knew the war was just starting.

The  governor was immediately faced with the challenge of managing the political god fathers in the state.  Any one who knew Edo, since 1999, will know that it was the hub of the PDP in Nigeria. Chief Tony Anenih was Chairman, Board of Trustees of the PDP for years and, as a matter of fact, his Uromi residence was political Mecca for PDP politicians. You have Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, the Esama of Benin; his son, Lucky, and Dr Samuel Ogbemudia. But while Ogbemudia, who was impressed with the developmental strides of Oshiomhole, joined forces with Oshiomhole, the Igbinedions and Anenih remained in the trenches after they fell out with Oshiomhole.

The god fathers waited patiently for Oshiomhole’s tenure to wind up so that they could install a successor. The signal they gave Oshiomhole that they were going to be ruthless came during the last National Assembly and presidential elections. The PDP, with President Goodluck Jonathan then in power, deployed the ‘federal might’ to capture the entire National Assembly seats in Edo Central, Anenih’s domain and picked four of the five  House of Reps seats in Edo South, including the Senate seat. APC was only able to pick the House of Reps seat in Uhumwonde/Orhiomwon. However, as the political bulldozer he has been, Oshiomhole secured for his party the entire National Assembly seats in Edo North.

The result of this election rejuvenated the ailing PDP in Edo once more, even though in the election that held after the National Assembly election, which was the state House of Assembly election, Oshiomhole’s APC won 21  of the 24 seats. Infact, the PDP was alleged to be plotting to impeach Oshiomhole if the House of Assembly election results had gone like those of the National Assembly.

But despite losing the House of Assembly seats, the PDP remained strong with the National Assembly results. The PDP leaders decided to focus on the governorship election. Anenih’s initial plan was said to be to field the then Minister of Works, Arch. Mike Onolemenmen, from Uromi, in Edo Central, like Anenih to face whoever APC will field. This plan, it was learnt,  was mooted in anticipation that Jonathan was going to win the election so he was going to use his influence to push Onolemenmen to the party even though the Binis in the PDP may resist it. But luckily for Oshiomhole, Jonathan lost the election and that  changed the calculation of the PDP.

The PDP went for the second option, that is, to field some body from Edo South, a Benin man. Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu was, according to a source, not the PDP leader’s first choice particularly after his experience with Ize-Iyamu, who formed the Grace Group within the party to fight the Anenih-led PDP in Edo in the past.

That fight led to the destruction of the PDP in the state and the emergence of Oshiomhole who was loved across board. Sunday Vanguard learnt that Anenih would have preferred Solomon Edebiri as the PDP governorship candidate so as to use his high profile and popularity to convince the electorate, but Anenih was allegedly pressured by the state leadership of the PDP, led by Chief Dan Orbih, to pick Ize-Iyamu following the belief that Ize-Iyamu, who actually is a smart politician and a mobilizer, had the key and ruggedness to cause upset for the APC. That was how the leadership of the party dumped Edebiri, Matthew Iduoriyekemwen and settled for Ize-Iyamu.

The secret 

Oshiomhole, on his own, was battling with himself on who will continue his good works. His deputy, Dr Pius Odubu, and incumbent Commissioner for Works, Osarodion Ogie, were the early favourites but the governor made a u-turn after painstakingly looking at his two options, Ogie and Odubu, and, like a political tactician that he suddenly became, he asked Obaseki to put on his jersey and join the race, just like Antonio Conte of Chelsea will order any player to warm up when he wants to make a tactical change.

Odubu and Ogie already had the APC structure; therefore it would have been easier to market any of them. But Oshiomhole, like a man with vision of Edo after his exit, opted for Godwin Obaseki, who was the Chairman of the state Economic Team. Obaseki is a technocrat and not a politician, so it was not surprising when some APC leaders almost told Oshiomhole he was mad when he told them that Obaseki was the man.

Though Oshiomhole would have anointed Odubu or Ogie, he believed that the high regard of  politicians, particularly from Edo South, for some political leaders in the state may influence Ogie and Odubu which may derail development in Edo.

He saw the political leaders as among the major problems of the state and, knowing that, as Binis, who have played politics for long, it will be difficult for Odubu and Ogie to fight dirty with the political leaders just like he did.

Oshiomhole believes strongly that if not that he stepped on toes, he would not have achieved all he did in Edo. His view is that Obaseki, though a Benin man, had lived outside Benin for long, and therefore has no  allegiance to any of these leaders. He can easily call the bluff of any leader irrespective of his status if the action of the leader negates the bench-mark created by Oshiomhole.

That was how Obaseki emerged as the APC candidate. Though it was difficult for Oshiomhole to explain this fact to his political son Ogie, and his loyal deputy, Odubu, that is the truth behind his decision.

The APC candidate was lucky to have had behind him  all the aspirants who contested the primary with him during his campaign unlike the PDP which tore apart after the primary where Ize-Iyamu emerged as candidate. Osaro Onaiwu left the PDP to become the APGA candidate, Solomon Edebiri resigned from the party while Matthew Iduoriyekemwen became the  candidate under the Modu Sheriff faction of the PDP.

Understanding that Ize-Iyamu, due to his understanding of the APC where he belonged for a long time before returning to the PDP when it became obvious that Oshiomhole was not going to give him the governorship ticket, Oshiomhole and Obaseki, campaigned vigorously across the state. While the PDP had little or nothing to campaign against Obaseki, they rolled out an attack line to discredit Oshiomhole’s government.

That affected Lucky Igbinedion because the APC had to remind the people of Edo the role played by the PDP candidate in the Igbinedion administration which many believe performed abysmally.

Unfortunately for the Igbinedion’s, when Oshiomhole commences his war, he rolls out his arsenal until he sees the end. Therefore, it did not come as a surprise that Obaseki won because, apart from the fact that Oshiomhole’s administration performed in the past eight years, credibility was well appreciated by the people.

Secondly, unlike those days when the PDP deployed the ‘federal might’ against  APC leaders, it was helpless this time. The focus of the parties were to pick their candidates from Egor, Oredo and Ikpoba Okhai, since the three local governments have the highest number of votes in the state, but the PDP lost in the three LGAs. What also even went wrong with the PDP was that some of its leaders and agents abandoned the field for the APC in some of the local governments and that gave the APC the edge.

APC’s strategy was to pick the seven local governments in the South and  the entire six in the North and battle for any local government in the Central. And the strategy worked. The party only lost Orhiomwon in the South and that happened partly because Ize-Iyamu is from that axis but you could see the slim victory there with about one thousand difference. APC cleared the two LGAs in Ovia including the Igbinedions  Ovia North East, picked Chief Tom Ikimi’s Igueben LGA in Edo Central and the  six local governments in Oshiomhole’s Edo North.  That means 13 local governments for Obaseki as against Ize-Iyamu’s five. The APC candidate polled 319,483 total votes against his PDP counterpart’s 253,173 votes.

Oshiomhole, who defied the rain, on Thursday, to storm the streets with the governor-elect, with thousands of supporters of the party, embarked on a road show just as the governor described the emergence of Obaseki as his successor as the final burial of the PDP. Addressing the crowd at Ring Road, Oshiomhole said: “God Almighty has vindicated me when I said the lies of the evil people will never triumph. Edo people have spoken today loud and clear that never again will they go back to the dark days”.

In his acceptance speech, Obaseki called on all Edo people, especially the opposition, to join him to move the state forward.  His words: “Let me, at this point, sincerely salute the courage of all those who came out to exercise their franchise in spite of the intimidating manoeuvres of merchants of violence to derail the conduct of a peaceful, free and fair election;you are the heroes of this election.

You saw through their propaganda and lies, and you made the right decision. I am happy that the elections were generally peaceful with no loss of lives;I salute the spirit of Edo people. I also want to commend the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), as well as the security agencies, for their role in maintaining peace and order during the elections.

Let me also commend President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, for his profound commitment to a new order in Nigeria. Mr. President, we deeply appreciate your presence at the grand finale of our campaign at SamuelOgbemudia Stadium on September 6th 2016; that singular honour served as a tonic to our campaign. I wish to also acknowledge and appreciate the support received from all the APC Governors as well as the leadership of our great party. Your efforts collectively laid the foundation for this victory.

I reserve very special appreciation to our Comrade Governor, Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, for his vision and single-minded focus on the progress and development of our state. When everyone thought it was impossible, you proved to Edo people that government could, indeed, work for them. I want you to know that the legacy that you have built will live on forever. I thank my campaign team, led by the Director-General,Barrister OsarodionOgie; my amiable wife, Betsy; my entire family, friends, volunteers and all supporters who worked tirelessly to help us achieve this victory. Your hard work and dedication has set the tone for a new era of development in Edo State.

“I also wish to use this opportunity to salute my fellow contestants for putting up a gallant fight. This competitive campaign has helped us to sharpen our focus on some of the most important issues affecting our people. The elections are over; it is time to bury the hatchet and close ranks for the good of our dear state. Our state is superior to all other interests and we must, as individuals, subordinate our personal ambitions to that of the collective.As I end this address, let me say that a new future beckons.

I pledge to work tirelessly for the good of ALL Edo people, irrespective of gender, social status, ethnicity, religion or political affiliation. But the success of Edo State does not depend on government alone but on each and every one of us. I therefore ask for your support and prayers in the challenging task of leading our state and charting a refreshing future for our children. So help me God”.

From all indications, Oshiomhole has become the political leader in Edo and he has his men, deputy governor-elect, Philip Shuaibu, Ogie and Charles Idahosa to keep close watch on the remnants of the PDP when he is out of power.

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