Less than 48 hours to the governorship election in Edo State, the two major contestants, the APC and the PDP are not leaving anything to chance in their effort to outwit one another, in what analysts and political watchers, believe will turn out to be the most keenly contested elections in the political history of the state, barring any unwholesome practice. If anything, the postponement of the governorship election from September 10 to September 28, has succeeded in demystifying the two major contestants, Godwin Obaseki of the APC and Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the PDP, exposing them to the whims and caprices of Edo State voters who, ultimately, will determine their fate.
On the eve of September 10, when the election ought to have taken place, both camps exhibited exhaustion from the intensive campaigns which, not only sapped them of physical strength, but also resources, and just when they were about squaring up for the last battle that will usher in a winner and thereafter some rest, INEC came up with the postponement. They had to go back to the drawing table to confront new challenges, mobilize more funds, undertake more daring moves, explore new tactics and reach, break new grounds and above all, fall back on experience. Indeed, the two weeks interval looks like an eternity.
What could be the gains and losses from the interlude? What constitute the areas of strengths and weaknesses of Obaseki and his APC and Ize-Iyamu and his PDP during the break? The New Diplomat’s analysis hereunder may provide an insight.
APC current position in Edo North
As home to the outgoing governor, Edo North remains a traditional stronghold of the APC and promises to produce an overwhelming victory for Mr. Godwin Obaseki. Give and take, the party may coast home to victory in this senatorial district with over 70% of the votes in its kitty. It is estimated that Governor Oshiomhole who maintains a cordial relationship with his people would struggle less to secure their votes for Mr. Godwin Obaseki his proposed successor.
Analysts are however of the view that the above result would have been achievable without much qualm were the election held in September 10. Our investigation reveals that the postponement of the election actually exposed the weakness of the APC rather than boosted its chances. For instance, one critical conclusion drawn and propagated by the opposition PDP following the postponement is that Oshiomhole and the APC, being afraid of defeat, connived with the security agencies to arm-twist INEC to submission. In Edo North, this has become a new campaign slogan for the PDP as well as a charging tonic for the likes of High Chief Raymond Dokpesi in Etsako East, Alh. Momoh and former deputy speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon. Omogbiraye from Owan whom, analysts see as already trying to be sympathetic to the PDP even though he has been in APC. This new development, The New Diplomat gathered, may have been responsible for the increasing physical confrontations between the two parties in Edo North recently. Which is why, it is now strongly believed that notwithstanding the fact that Edo North is home to APC, it may not be as easy as envisaged prior to the postponement that it will meet little or no resistance.
PDP current position in Edo North
As has been analyzed above, the postponement of the election not only exposed the weakness of the APC in the North, it also acted as a booster to some PDP heavyweights in the area who are encouraged and motivated to match the APC strength for strength in their respective areas. Armed with the message that Oshiomhole worked behind the scene to have the election postponed because he was afraid of defeat, PDP in Edo North have been emboldened to come out of their shelves to woo more support from the grassroots. Like someone remarked, “the election is not going to be a tea party for either of the parties even in Oshiomhole’s unit.” If the indicators emerging are to be relied on, barring any unwholesome practice, some believe the PDP may secure more than the one-third votes it required from Edo North.
Whatever additional gains the PDP can garner from Edo North within the period of the extension may likely be dwarfed by Governor Oshiomhole’s renewed aggression to secure victory for his party, if not for anything, but for the sake of self-pride and ego. This goes to say that the PDP in Edo North may not find it convenient to withstand the forays of political fireworks which the Comrade may deploy to garner and secure the votes from the six Local Government Areas in Edo North. Indeed, many believe it may be an uphill task for PDP to secure the required minimum votes from Oshiomhole’s Edo North.
APC current position in Edo Central
Those who are familiar with Esan politics told The New Diplomat that the seven years of Comrade Oshiomhole in government was remarkable in the lives of the people of that area. Much have been spoken about of the network of road infrastructure which Oshiomhole’s government extended to the Esan people. Oshiomhole was also credited with the provision of potable water for most part of Edo Central as well as empowerment for the people. His achievements in the area, a source told The New Diplomat, have been acknowledged even by his most vociferous critics. Like it would be said in a latin maxim, res ipsa loquitor, the fact speaks for itself. Oshiomhole’s good work speaks for itself in Edo Central, some are wont to say.
Aside his good work, Oshiomhole also maintains a string of strong political allies in Edo Central. For example, Mr. Victor Eboigbe, his in-law, is a political juggernaut of high repute. An APC chieftain, Eboigbe has a significant grassroots support, and working side by side with a former governorship aspirant, Comrade Esele, Prof. Osunbor, among others, the party may just spring a surprise in the area and pick for keep more than the minimum required one-third votes.
Traditionally, Edo Central is home to the PDP heavy weights. In 2007 and 2011, The New Diplomat source revealed that Oshiomhole was able to make meaningful impact in Esan land because of some aggrieved PDP stalwarts who gave their support for the Comrade by way of protest votes. Our source disclosed that Chief Ikimi and other PDP pundits introduced Oshiomhole to the then PDP presidents. As of today, the Ikimis, the Anenih, the Onolememen and many other PDP heavyweights pose an impregnable squad which might be difficult for the Oshiomhole machinery to break. Analysts are of the view that the APC, Obaseki and his backer-in-chief, Oshiomhole may not be able to secure the required minimum one-third votes to be cast in Edo Central.
Another factor which watchers of political events associate with Esan politics is the issue of self-pride. The government of Oshiomhole may have impacted positively on the people of Edo Central but it is believed that the people are known for sticking to their own. Juxtaposing this political propensity to the fact that they were denied the chance to produce the governor as well as that of the deputy governor, by Oshiomhole and the APC, a reliable source told The New Diplomat that notwithstanding his good works in Edo Central, the people might just tell Oshiomhole and his governorship candidate, Mr. Obaseki with their votes on September 28 to go to hell.
It also believed that the ominous message which suggests that Oshiomhole was instrumental to the postponement of the poll due to an alleged fear of defeat, has spread far and wide in Edo Central and may have forged a stronger bond among the PDP faithful in the area. “They have sworn to turn the table against the APC. If Oshiomhole likes, let him postpone the election twenty times, it will not change the result. PDP will win”, a PDP chieftain told the newspaper.
In addition to the above, our source reveals that a chieftain of the APC in Edo Central who also contested the governorship primary, Mr. Ken Imasuagbon (the Rice man) has taken a detour and presently working for Mr. Ize-Iyamu of the PDP. If this is true, then the APC will surely put in extra effort to secure the minimum votes required against several forces.
APC current position in Edo South
Previous analyses have indicated Edo South as the battle ground which shall determine the direction where victory will swing. Not much have changed in that direction since the postponement of the poll. However, Oshiomhole’s presence in the state capital, his overwhelming influence on the civil servants as well as non-Edo residents in Benin plus his landmark achievement, remain a campaign strategic factor being propagated through the media and massive rallies which only the APC can afford. His enforcement of a new minimum wage of N25,000, his regularity of payment of workers’ salaries including his latest effort to clear the arrears of Local Government workers and pensioners, place the APC governorship candidate, Mr. Obaseki on a good winning stead.
Furthermore, in recent times, Obaseki folks in Oredo Local Government Area, Ikpoba-Okhar, Uhwuonmwode LGA among others have taken it as a challenge to ensure victory for their son. Only recently, an elder statesman, Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia was quoted as throwing his support behind Obaseki.
Considering that Oredo LGA and indeed, the entire Edo South, controls nearly fifty percent of the state voting strength, Obaseki may just be heading for victory with extra effort to woo the people to come out and cast their votes.
At the moment, what seems to be a weakness for the APC particularly is the factor of hunger and hardship ravaging Edo State and indeed, the entire country. A hungry man is an angry man, the popular saying goes, and in Edo State, just like most part of the country at the moment, the APC is associated with hardship and people are loathsome in attempts to rationalize the causes of the unprecedented hunger and lack. Edo people may just unleash their wrath on the APC and its candidate, Mr. Obaseki and they can express this by casting their votes for the PDP.
In fact, a cross section of the masses on the street who spoke to The New Diplomat during the visit of Mr. President to Benin City for the grand rallies of APC recently, expressed disgust with the party and all it stands for. They asked rhetorically “who invited Buhari to Benin?”, “Has he come to see if we are already dead?”, and so on. Except there is a significant change in the economy to reverse the level of hunger among the Edo people before September 28, the result may be shocking to Oshiomhole and Obaseki.
PDP current position in Edo South
Although the postponement of the election may have adversely affected the pockets of the contestants, the PDP and its candidate, Ize-Iyamu may have succeeded in turning it into a strong campaign strategy by shouting it loud and clear that it was the handiwork of Oshiomhole and the APC whom, they claimed, were afraid of defeat by the PDP. This belief has sunk into the psyche of most people and has seemingly swayed their feelings towards the PDP and its candidate. This factor is likely to cause a major upset in the September 28 election.
As we have analyzed in our earlier editions, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion factor and other chieftains in Edo South tend to create a strong pillar of support for the PDP and its governorship candidate, Ize-Iyamu. He will also draw massive support from his highly populated Orhionmwon Local Government Area.
Ize-Iyamu and PDP’s weakness in Edo South may be viewed from its seeming difficulty to take on Oshiomhole’s government machinery on ground in Oredo and other Council areas as well as Obaseki’s home influence, particularly in the heavily-populated Oredo Local Government Council.
General factors that might sway the election in either direction
The traditional institution
The stand of the Benin kingdom palace chiefs has been played up in recent times. Although the chiefs ought to be non-partisan, recent claims and counter-claims on the endorsement of the PDP candidate, Ize-Iyamu by different groups is capable of swaying the mindset of voters in the forthcoming election. Worried by the development, the palace chiefs met on Wednesday September 21 during which they resolved that they have not endorsed any governorship candidate. This, The New Diplomat gathered, has put paid to the confusing situation it almost created but like someone observed, the palace chiefs are already divided as to who to support.
Influence of Associations/organizations
Another factor which some believe may play a major role in swaying voters disposition is believed to be in area of the relationship of the two political gladiators to different associations and organizations. While Obaseki who, many believed is more of a technocrat than a politician and not very well connected to social cultural associations, Ize-Iyamu is indeed, an old political war horse who is believed to be a member of several religious, socio-cultural organizations who may enjoy the patronage of his members in terms of votes.
Shortly after the postponement of the election, both parties have boasted in their own different ways. Oshiomhole who claimed that PDP governors of neighbouring Delta State and Rivers State had exported militants to Edo State to rig the election, assured Ize-Iyamu and the PDP that although they were lucky the election was postponed, they would not be twice as lucky on September 28 as the APC was ready to sink the PDP boat with defeat. On the other hand, Ize-Iyamu and the PDP state chairman, Chief Orbih who claimed the postponement was at the instance of Oshiomhole whom they said was afraid of defeat, assured that PDP had already won the election and that the postponement would not change the result.
All of these boasts, permutations and analysis can only take form and confirmation on September 28, 2016 when Edo voters take the driver seat.