Edo 2016: A postmortem
The governorship election in Edo State has been won and lost. Accordingly, there were hailing and wailing in the streets of Benin City and elsewhere in Edo State. While the APC hailed, the PDP wailed. The candidate of the APC, Mr. Godwin Obaseki polled 319,483 votes to defeat his PDP counterpart, Mr. Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who had 253,173 votes. The PDP is kicking, alleging electoral fraud, but the APC has advised it to go to the Election Petition Tribunal instead of resorting to self-help by mobilizing supporters onto the streets to protest the result of the election.
In the election that produced Governor Adams Oshiomhole in 2007, the legal fireworks that followed lasted for about 17 months. Oshiomhole had challenged the victory of the PDP candidate, Professor, Oserheimen Osunbor and got the Appeal Court in Benin to declare him governor on November 12, 2008. This was when post-governorship election matters ended in the Appeal Court. Now that the Supreme Court has become the final destination for the resolution of such matters, it could take longer for the judiciary to finish the Edo 2016 postmortem.
Meanwhile, nothing has changed about the legal foundations. He or she who avers must prove. In the case at hand, it is the PDP’s camp which lost the election that is saying the electoral processes were massively compromised to produce the results announced by INEC last Thursday. And so, they are the ones to assemble all the evidences, both concrete and circumstantial, to convince the court to annul the decision of the electoral umpire.
The court is waiting to hear the revelations and make its decision. My concern today is not about what the court will say finally. I only want to trace a brief history and say the PDP in Edo State should not be heard complaining. Before becoming governor, Oshiomhole had been President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). Perhaps, till date, he ranks as the most popular NLC president. As he planned to climb down from the leadership of Labour in the mid-2000, he thought of another public platform that would offer him equal limelight as the NLC’s presidency. In the end, he settled for the governorship of Edo State.
But in Nigeria, people do not aim to become governors because they are unionists or they merely sound good. What matters is the financial war chest to constantly oil the machinery of politics from start to finish in every electoral season. Oshiomhole was not bringing anything much outside populism from NLC. He had only his tongue and therefore needed a consortium of political investors to have a buy-in and provide the essentials, namely men and material also called POLITICAL STRUCTURE in everyday language to prosecute the battle ahead. Specifically, Oshiomhole was up and against the most dreaded political miracle worker in Edo State and even in Nigeria, the indefatigable Chief Tony Anenih, who had unequivocally anointed Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor as the next governor of Edo State after the eight years of Lucky Igbinedion.
Until the advent of Oshiomhole, Edo politics stood on a powerful tripod constituted by the trio of Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia and Chief Tony Anenih. The only problem was their coming together to agree on a point. But once that was achieved, their position was a fait accompli. It would happen as they had agreed except God got angry with them and cast a spanner from heaven into their works. Other players were just dispensable variables in the power calculus of the state. But regarding the 2007 governorship election in Edo State and who became governor after Lucky Igbinedion, the trio could not sign on the same page. And this was the first major signal for Adams Oshiomhole who had been itching to go fishing for power.
For reasons not explained, Chief Anenih never wanted Lucky Igbinedion to have a say in who became his (Igbenidion’s) successor. The choice of Osunbor as the PDP flag in 2007 election was in spite of Igbinedion. The story was that Igbinedion wanted some respite from the suffocating grip of Anenih on the state machinery. Consequently, a crack had opened between Anenih and Ogbemudia on one side and Governor Igbinedion on the other side after all three had worked to secure a mandate renewal for Igbinedion in 2003. Thus, as he planned to end his second tenure as Governor on May 29, 2007, what perhaps was upper most on Igbinedion’s mind was to stop the Anenih anointed candidate from succeeding him even if it meant working against the PDP.
Given this background, the 2007 governorship in Edo State was not so much a race between Oshiomhole’s then ACN and PDP, as it was a contest for supremacy between Anenih and Igbinedion. This was the big window Oshiomhole needed. He simply sneaked in-between the fighting giants and appropriated their respective strengths for his purpose. It was the awesome Igbinedion political structure that delivered Oshiomhole in 2007 and even when the mandate was usurped for almost a year and half, Oshiomhole rode on the same machinery to retrieve it.
The degeneration of the PDP in Edo State continued even more rapidly. Somehow, the romance between Chief Anenih and Prof Osunbor could not last past the short period of honeymoon. Mainly over issues of political appointments and strategic placement of loyalists, both men began to pull apart and in desperation, the Chief was prepared in the short run to cut his nose to spite his face. He and Igbinedion got united behind Oshiomhole in the historic judicial push to liquidate all the gains of PDP in the 2007 election in Edo State. And it happened on November 12 2008, effectively marking the ascendancy of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole in the politics of Edo State.
Steeped in art of subterfuge, Oshiomhole began to manifest gradually after dangers of his being vanquished had been kept at bay. In the main, the third leg of the tripod, Dr. Ogbemudia was left stranded as the only enemy of Oshiomhole. He suffered all alone the initial heavy verbal artillery of the new sheriff. In their desire to cancel each other, the duo of Lucky Igbinedion and Tony Anenih could not establish the difference between the powers of a man as an underdog and his powers as a champion.
Oshiomhole had moved from the corridors into the house of power. He had also become a new being; the old things, including pre-election alliances, having passed away. Nothing, but himself and God, stood between him and his desires. And one of his foremost desires was to dismantle the so-called power tripod and remain the only inevitable factor in Edo politics. With the event of September 28, he is already there, except the PDP arguments in the courts become too compelling to be ignored.
The failed PDP candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu was part of the Igbinedion political bulldozers that cleared the path to power for Oshiomhole in 2007. In fact, Ize-Iyamu who served as Secretary to Government under Governor Igbinedion had decamped from the PDP to ACN and in 2012 directed the campaigns that returned Oshiomhole for a second term in office. It is only in moral studies that the teeth do not bite fingers that fed them. In politics, the teeth do not only bite but chop off the fingers that fed them. Oshiomhole in a most ruthless expression of Machiavellianism has turned around to bite off the fingers that fed him. It is a legitimate act in the power game.
The real men in Edo politics could not manage their egos. In naivety, each invested in the same ill wind to take out the other. Now from a wind, a whirlwind has developed and none is safe. It was the same picture at the national level in 2015, when the PDP sold its entire heritage for nothing to enemies just to punish one man called Goodluck Jonathan. In Edo State and at the centre, it was the choice of the PDP to sell its birth right. What has been done cannot be easily undone. I can only advise the party members to bear the moment with philosophical equanimity, bearing in mind that when princes fail, paupers are propped up. In 19th Century France, an upstart called Napoleon Bonaparte rose to the pinnacle because planners of the French Revolution got stuck in self-destruction.