Edo2016: Judgment day in the big heart

Osagie Ize-Iyamu

Osagie Ize-Iyamu

Violence! That is the one word that should not feature in the September 10, 2016 Edo State governorship election. But given the virulent verbal attacks that characterised the campaigns, chances that there will be disruptions come Saturday September 10, are remote. However, it would not surprise a lot of Nigerians if the election comes off delightfully.

It is probable that the election would not produce a winner at the first ballot. And this could be a direct result of actual violence or threats the smooth conduct of the election. Various incidences in the recent past raised the possibility of physical exchanges or recourse to self-help in the poll.

Experts say the psychology of voters is very similar to that women of and children; it depends a lot on perception more than on reality, therefore on heart more than on head. If so then, would the physiognomy of the major contenders guide the voters as they make their electoral preference or content and character?

On the one hand is an egghead and technocrat, with an inhibiting visage, who parades a kind of sophisticated alienation from the holloi-polloi. On the other is a young man with cherubic face that conjures the image of a man about town, who has had many handshakes with the commoners through diverse interactions.

Between Dr. Godwin Obaseki and Pastor Osagie Izi-Iyamu, therefore, the people of ancient Benin Kingdom would ordinarily not have problems selecting who should replace Governor Adams Oshiomhole as governor for the next four years, at least.

But like everything that has to do with human beings, issues of choice are not usually cast in black or white; there are often grey areas, of overlap. That is why Economists usually qualify their recommendations with the proviso, all things being equal.

Party Platforms
The first point of differentiation among the frontline governorship candidates in the forthcoming Edo election is their political platforms. Obaseki stands on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), which is not only the ruling party in Edo State, but also in the federation. He is being challenged by other candidates of opposition political parties.

Leading the pack of the contending opposition platforms is the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which is putting forward Ize-Iyamu. Until November 11, 2008 and May 29, 2015, PDP was the ruling party in the state and country. The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Labour Party (LP) are at best fringe parties that paraded no dominant political structures in the length and breadth of wards, local government councils of Edo State before the buildup to the governorship election.

In terms of strengths and weaknesses, both APC and PDP could be said to be slightly at par. Despite the fact that the APC is holding forte as the ruling party in the state and country, there is nothing to prove that the party achieved its feat without the active inputs of the PDP.

Prior to routing the PDP as the federal ruling party, APC, through one of its legacy parties, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) depended on the extensive grassroots reach and dominance of PDP to mount the saddle in Edo. As it happened, the outgoing administration of former governor Lucky Igbinedion while protesting that barefaced imposition and display of impunity by some highly placed party chieftains in Abuja, decided to throw its weight behind the former national president of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Comrade Oshiomhole, to defeat the PDP candidate in the 2007 governorship poll.

Similarly, following the disaffection within the PDP towards the build up to the 2015 general election, especially the decision of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party to exclude aspirants from the presidential ticket, some prominent stakeholders moved over to the fledgling APC and helped the new platform to trounce their former party.

Sixteen months after those political transactions, the trends have turned full circle. Those who assisted Comrade Oshiomhole and APC forebear, to defeat the PDP and its candidate in 2017, Professor Oserheimen Osunbor; seem to counting their losses and recounting their political scars. Also, the political balance sheet of those who defected to the APC in 2014 does not look so prettifying.

So, assuming that voters in Edo would be basing their judgment on platform, they would run into the difficulty of gauging the implications of the political excursions across the platforms. To what extent did the foot soldiers that worked against Osunbor get entrenched in the Oshiomhole camp? If the federal power of incumbency made an unsuccessful attempt to impose Osunbor, are there reasons to believe that such powers could play out in the current scenario? Within the past eight years, was Oshiomhole able to grow new political leaders that would help him and APC deliver their candidate? How far did the last (April 20, 2013) local government council election in the state reflect the choice and expressed will of the people?

Looking at the control of grassroots political structures, it does not seem that PDP lost its foot soldiers entirely. It is not easy to conclude that every political tendency in the PDP moved over to APC. Having been out of reach of political moisture, some of these foot soldiers would be eager to render helping hands in attempt to grab political power and thereby relevance once again.

The consideration of grassroots political structures is where the two other contending political platforms, APGA and LP; would find things a little scary. The absence of such points men would most likely negatively affect the ability of the two parties to reticulate their messages and promises to the hinterlands. And closely allied to reach is the factor of finance. There is a close affinity between availability of grassroots presence and campaign finance. Studies have shown that paucity of even volunteers has a direct relationship with minimal funding. Maintenance of functional party structures in the wards and local government councils cost money.

Consequent upon the foregoing therefore, unless under extreme and extraordinary circumstances, the winner of the September 10 Edo gubernatorial election is most likely to emerge from either APC or PDP. Such considerations, may in part, explain the very bitter exchanges between the two parties, their candidates and promoters.
Candidates’ Content and Capacity
The front row candidates in the governorship election, Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki, (APC); Osagie Ize-Iyamu, (PDP); Onaiwu Osaze Osaro, (APGA) and Odibo Cyril Eromhon; have deposited their credentials and running mates with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Apart from their various perspectives to how best Edo State could be governed in the next four years, the documents with INEC are the major entry points to the content and their capacity to deliver, because they serve as their distinctive selling point.

As on the score of platform, the APC, PDP and LP candidates seem to be highly recommended by their résumés. Obaseki and his running mate, Philip Shaibu, parade Masters and bachelors of Science degrees. PDP flag bearers, Ize-Iyamu and John Ehibhatoman Yakubu submitted LL.B, BL and Masters of Business Administration certificates respectively. With LL. B, BL and B. Sc, Odibo of LP and his running mate, Ogbalor Kelly Stephen Erukpe, believe that they are more than qualified academically to govern Edo.

It may be to run away from the usual controversies that surround information on nomination forms that APGA candidates, Onaiwu and Okpebholo Oyemen Gladys indicated NECO and WASC certificates. They may have been compelled by the experience of Obaseki to toe the path of least resistance and submitted the constitutional minimum academic qualification to run for governor.

Some issues were made of Obaseki’s certificate, which distracted from his ideas and focus of governance if elected. Even when the governorship candidate announced that he had found the missing certificates, his rivals were unrelenting in asking for a demonstration of certitude.

The Edo State chairman of PDP, Chief Dan Orbih, dwelt on the matter perhaps deriving some vicarious joy in alluding to the missing certificates, which he said has become a ready alibi for APC candidates to evade extended public scrutiny. In a statement, the PDP publicity secretary, Mr. Chris Nehikhare, followed up by demanding that Obaseki should “publicly display to Edo people the original copies of his educational certificates, which he said he was expecting from the US city of New York.”

PDP said the APC candidate should “come out of his shell and tell the whole truth about his educational certificates, which he said in an affidavit got lost while he was moving from one office to another in Lagos, which certified true copies he now carries about.”

If Edo voters should feed on the age range of the candidates, they may decide for the oldest or youngest. Obaseki is plus 59, Ize-Iyamu plus 54, Onaiwu plus 57 and Eromhon plus 49. All the candidates chose running mates younger than they, except LP’s which running mate is four years older than the flag bearer.

Then talking of experience, Obaseki was prior to his nomination, the chairman of Edo State Economic Strategy Team. He was not known to have involved himself directly in electoral activities at state or federal level. All that was known of his public service was serving on the board of Afrinvest. On the part of his main challenger, Ize-Iyamu, has rotated around the seat of government, having served as Chief of Staff Government House and Secretary to the State Government.

It was on account of his stint as the Director General of Oshiomhole’s governorship campaign that made a lot of people to believe that the Comrade Governor’s electoral feat received the helping hands of certain power brokers in the state. Those knowledgeable in Edo politics say Ize-Iyamu is a well-heeled grass roots politician.

In their separate electioneering visits the two front row candidates conveyed different policy approaches. While Obaseki believes the best way to develop Edo is by focusing on infrastructure, the PDP flag bearer says development must revolve around the human person, through capacity building and welfare programmes.

Further contrast was seen in their styles. The APC candidate, like a loyal political godson of Oshiomhole subsumed his visibility to the outgoing governor such that those not very conversant with the build up to September 10 would think the battle is between Oshiomhole and Ize-Iyamu.

The APC and Oshiomhole had tried to situate Ize-Iyamu’s emergence as the PDP governorship candidate on the fact that he served former governor Igbinedion as Chief of Staff and SSG, so as to draw the former governor into the fray. But as if to drive in his belief that Edo people are capable of electing their governor, a trait which made him to side with the people against imposition in 2007; the former governor spurned the bait.

It is against the background that the fight for Edo 2016 gets its curious billing and concerns for possible violent display. From the inconclusive verdict that would be visited on the election and the after math of the rerun if any, it would be seen how far Edo people have mastered their leaders and things they need from government.

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