As the countdown ticks for the 19 September gubernatorial election in Edo State, Correspondent JETHRO IBILEKE review the bitter struggle between a political godfather and his godson and the likely end of the political war
The die is cast, the battle line is drawn, the gladiators, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and his erstwhile political godson, Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, are battle-ready. The dateline is the gubernatorial election in Edo state slated to hold on 19 September.
Like the biblical Kings of the North and South, the gladiators have engaged each other in pushing and bitter war of who controls the party structure in the state, that culminated in the removal of Oshiomhole as national chairman of the APC.
Obaseki drew the first blood, gave Oshiomhole the upper cut when his then faction of the party announced the suspension of the former national chairman at the ward level. Rather than contesting his suspension in a court of component jurisdiction, Oshiomhole who appeared to himself as untouchable, ignored the grave consequences of his suspension order, forgetting that his being national chairman is contingent on his good standing with his ward.
Of course, members of the Edo People’s Movement (EPM), who are his foot soldiers in the state, did not help matters, as they egged him on, querying the audacity and authority of a common ward chairman to suspend his all-powerful national chairman. Regrettably and unfortunately, he paid the heavy price of overconfidence and negligence, as President Muhammadu Buhari ratified his removal as national chairman of the party, after several cases in courts of equal jurisdiction produced injunctions and counter injunctions.
The removal of Oshiomhole was seen as victory for Obaseki: one zero, in favour of Obaseki. But, the governorship election will be the final showdown, the battle to decide if Obaseki would have totally buried Oshiomhole’s relevance and his political future, as he boasted. It will also be Oshiomhole’s only opportunity to redeem his image and prove that he is still a political strategist, winning the election for his candidate and his party.
Not minding the fact that Ize-Iyamu is the one contending with Obaseki in the journey to Osadebe Avenue, the battle is actually between Obaseki on the one hand, and Oshiomhole on the other. Just as he campaigned vigorously against Ize-Iyamu in 2016, he now has the herculean task to campaign for Ize-Iyamu, against Obaseki, to market him to the electorate, especially so, that videos of negative statements he made against Ize-Iyamu in the past are now surfacing and going viral, the former national chairman now has the herculean task to sell his candidate to the electorate.
About 58 percent of the voting population in Edo State are found in the seven local government area in southern senatorial district. Any governorship candidate that wins the majority here will only need complimentary votes from the north and perhaps the central.
Incumbent governor Obaseki is from Oredo Local Government Area, while Ize-Iyamu of the APC is from Orhionmwon, both in the south. For this reason, it will be 50-50 thing for both. But, some are of the opinion that it will take the miracle to get fat out of a raging fire for the PDP and Obaseki to win the majority in Edo South.
Edo central senatorial district which has just 16 percent of the voting population, is predominantly considered home of PDP. The party has always won all the national assembly seats since 1999. Besides, opinion poll shows that the people are worried that if Ize-Iyamu wins the election, he might likely want to come back for a second term, which would jeopardise their chance of producing the next governor of the state, unlike Obaseki who is seeking his second and final term.
However, the two candidates have been variously endorsed by various interest groups.
Edo North Senatorial District always determines who win in any election. With its 22 percent of the total voting population of the state, all that a political party needs do is to strike an agreement with it.
The duo of Prof. Julius Ihonvbere who represents that federal constituency at the House of Representatives and Palley Iriase, will definitely put up a strong fight to deliver the Owan axis of Edo North to the APC, just as Peter Akpatason, the member representing Akoko-Edo Federal Constituency will do the same for his party.
But, it is not over until it is over, as loyal members of the PDP in these areas will certainly not just fold their hands and look on.
A political analyst who chose to be known simply as Gabriel, said Etsako West Local Government area will be the modern day Marathon where the real battle will be fought and won.
He said: “Generally speaking, this year’s election will not be a roller-coaster for the APC. Unlike in the past when the party swept votes from across the 18 local government areas at the expense of the PDP, the game has changed.
“I think Etsako West Local Government will be the hottest battle ground, as Oshiomhole will want to show that he still has control over his polling booth, his ward and his local government area. Anything short of overwhelming victory in the area will be the last nail in the coffin of his political relevance.
“But, remember that Philip Shaibu who comes from the same local government area with Oshiomhole, is also a force to contend with, not just a push over. He will want to justify reasons for his breaking away from Oshiomhole.”
Also, the acting Deputy National Chairman of PDP, Chief Dan Orbih will want to prove that he is not just a chieftain of the party that is known only in Benin the state capital, but is also on ground in Etsako Central, by delivering his people to Obaseki.
It is also expected that the Minister of State for Budget and Planning, Prince Clem Agba, will give PDP chieftain, Chief Raymond Dokpesi a hard fight to win Etsako East for APC.
But, should things turn out the other way round, what the veteran journalist and publisher, Dele Momodu wrote, would have been true, that Oshiomhole failed to dig two graves the day he decided to embark on the voyage of revenge.
Quoting Confucius, he wrote: “By playing dirty and wrestling in the mud with Obaseki, Comrade [Oshiomhole] has diminished his status and importance in the eyes of onlookers nationally and internationally. In fact, Comrade has provided some lethal ammunition for his many vociferous critics and rabid enemies who have now, apparently, finally, gunned him down. How fatally he has been dealt with remains to be seen. I do hope that he heals quickly and bounces back
“I believe that if Oshiomhole had left Obaseki alone, he would not have been suspended by his ward and there would therefore have been no basis for his removal as Chairman. Instead he went further to disqualify Obaseki as APC Governorship aspirant as APC Party Chairman. Comrade would have done well to listen to Confucius who wrote, “Before you go on a journey of revenge, dig two graves”!
“I feel that Comrade was fighting, like a poor General, on too many fronts. He should have read the handwriting correctly to see that Obaseki was now a pawn in the game but he didn’t. This is unlike a man with his maturity in politics. I thought he was a master tactician and strategist but his performance as Chairman of APC totally belied this. The APC he presided over had become nothing but a “Fuji House of Commotion.
“For Comrade, that is not a sign of political craftsmanship but brinkmanship. It is called political harakiki!”
As the countdown to the 19 September gubernatorial election continues, confrontation and pushing among the two eating sides will continue, as they both engage in virtual and house-to-house campaign to woo voters to their respective sides. But the electorate will decide who gets the key to Denis Osadebe Government House, and who carries the day between Obaseki and Oshiomhole.