PERSPECTIVE – Edo 2020: Between Obaseki and likely his successor

Pastor Ize-Iyamu, Edo APC’s guber candidate.
Governor Godwin Obaseki, Edo PDP’s guber candidate.

By Kashetu Momoh
I am an ardent follower of Nigerian politics, especially because of its murky nature. Having read series of write ups on the emerging political brouhaha between Obaseki and his ousted god-father in Edo State, Adams Oshiomole, I have come to an un-researched conclusion that politicians in Nigeria would stop at nothing to get what they desire.

Many people have said horrible things against the ruling party, whose candidate Godwin Obaseki emerged as Governor in the 2016 General elections in Edo State. Especially against his god father, who ensured his emergence in 2016.

Who is a God-father? A God-father, is a father figure who provides guidance and mentorship to his god-son. A writer had made a detailed analysis on the genesis of god-fatherism, which dates back to the yore days of Roman Catholic. He referred to god-fatherism as an ecumenical concept; a cosmopolitan reality. But it has been misplaced and wrongly deployed in Nigerian politics.

Perhaps, we should go back to history. In 2016, Mr Ize-Iyamu, a former secretary to the Edo State Government, had a bright chance to become the APC governorship candidate for that year’s election.

Most likely, he would have won the general election, but for Oshiomhole who, as governor then, imposed Mr Obaseki on the party.
Several APC members and supporters, including Mr Oshiomhole’s allies, preferred Mr Ize-Iyamu in 2016, before Oshiomhole favoured his opponent, Obaseki. This was despite the fact that Ize-Iyamu led Oshiomole’s 2012 re-election campaign.

Governor Obaseki, Adams Oshiomhole’s favourite then, was widely considered as an ‘outsider’ in the APC and in the politics of Edo State since he was recruited into Oshiomhole’s administration as a technocrat from the banking sector.

Governor Godwin Obaseki rode on the back of Oshiomhole, his predecessor and former Governor of Edo State. I opine that he owes the State a huge apology for stepping on the toes of his destiny helper.

It is worthy of note that in his new party, People’s Democratic Part, Godwin Obaseki’s selection has also been kicked against by some stakeholders. They described his emergence as seeming favoritism.

Governor Godwin Obaseki joined the PDP after he was denied the chance to seek re-election under the platform of All Progressives Congress, the party under which he governed Edo state for the past four years.

It becomes worrisome to think god-fathers in Nigerian politics receive some sense of ingratitude in return, after helping their protégées to the exalted stool they covet.

Away from the tussle between god-father and son, the big question is does APC still have chances to win in Edo State? It is a question that baffles many minds, which only September election has clear answers to.

Starting with PDP structure, the emerging facts that PDP may split up before September, just because a strange force, called Obaseki has intruded.
A ticket he clinched after many insinuated that he must have been made to pay a huge amount of money to join the PDP. In fact, some people have interpreted Governor Wike’s ‘tax collectors’ comment to mean that the Edo governor paid so much to get the party ticket.

Sources within the party said although they have nothing against Obaseki joining PDP, they however opposed the illegality to impose him on many who have been on ground and working for the party through thick and thin.

Allowing Obaseki to purchase nomination form and emerge as the candidate of PDP shows how weak PDP’s party structure is. They apparently do not have a strong structure, capable to combat the already existing structure APC has in place.

Rather than put the State’s interest first, Obaseki spent the meagre resources of the State to get into the camp of the political enemy; a camp to which he had been a complete alien until he began to look for a platform for his re-election.

Obaseki did not win the last general elections, APC did. The party, most especially Oshiomhole threw its weight behind Obaseki, not the other way round. A swerve in parties would still not alter the perception of the people of Edo State of Obaseki, who today, is seen as a political learner, who because of his selfish interest did not mind destroying a party structure. In 2016 when Oshiomhole practically campaigned for Obaseki, as if his name was going to appear on the ballot.

APC’s choice of Osagie Ize-Iyamu, a pastor, politician, and former Chief of Staff and Secretary to the Edo state government is a brilliant idea. Note that in the 2016 Edo State Gubernatorial election, Ize-Iyamu was the gubernatorial candidate of the Edo state People’s Democratic Party.

He was the National vice-chairman, South-South Zone of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, who served as Director General of Adams Oshiomhole’s 2nd term Campaign Organisation. A victory that was landslide.

Ize Iyamu has fought many political battles, which he had tremendous wins. He was also the Coordinator of Goodluck/Sambo Campaign Organisation.

A graduate of University of Benin, where he graduated with an LL.B (Hons), Ize Iyamu definitely has a rich experience in the Nigerian politics, especially the Edo kind.

His defection back to the APC in November 2019 further worsened the wrangle in the state branch of the party, as it narrowed Obaseki’s chances in his previous party. He became a threat to the incumbent.

In the wake of the jostle for the party nomination form, seven aspirants stepped down to endorse Ize-Iyamu as the faction’s consensus candidate, an agreement that was terminated by three of the aspirants that later went ahead to purchase the party form.

A party member had revealed that APC started with Ize-Iyamu as their consensus candidate because they believe with unity, APC can remove the current governor.

In 2016, Pastor Ize-Iyamu ran against Obaseki in the governorship election. Many observed that the process which culminated in his “loss” to the State APC machine superintended over by Oshiomhole and backed by the Federal Might.

Even at that, Ize-Iyamu proved himself to be a difficult opponent to beat. Although Obaseki was declared the winner, Ize-Iyamu got the people’s approbation.

In a reversal of parties, Ize-Iyamu is in APC, and has emerged as the party’s standard bearer while Obaseki has controversially emerged the candidate of the enemy camp- the PDP.

Now, this is 2020 and the political game has completely changed for the trio of Oshiomhole, Obaseki, and Ize-Iyamu. There has been a reversal of roles.

Obaseki, who was once a darling, has become Mr Oshiomhole’s political nightmare. They have fought a protracted political battle that sapped the strength from the Edo governor. He was eventually disqualified, most likely through Oshiomhole’s prompting, from contesting in the APC governorship primary, thereby forcing him to defect to the PDP.

Obaseki, already exhausted after his battle with Oshiomhole and the APC, entered his new party, the PDP, only for him to encounter another challenge –some of the aspirants who were already in the party before him vowing that they would not step down for him.

Ize-Iyamu at the moment, is a candidate with state-wide appeal, which is a function of his grassroots network and mobilizational dexterity. With his agenda, Pastor Ize-Iyamu is set to take the lead in the urgent task of transforming our state and taking it to the next level in infrastructure and human capital development.

Governor Godwin Obaseki has made some miscalculated steps in the course of governing the State that has affected his love by the Edo people.

Another emerging question is what brand would Obaseki flaunt during the September 19 governorship election? An already dented brand, soiled by selfish interests, bickering and political misdemeanour.

Obaseki, should have learnt from the likes of former President, knowing fully well that the power of incumbency may not guarantee his victory. Incumbent leader such as former President Goodluck Jonathan was dethroned from their exalted positions.

Obaseki bit the finger that fed him. He took on his god-father, leaving the State in an abysmally low level of leadership. He made the blistering heat of politicking take over the administration of the State.

He embraced PDP, a decision that places him on an untrustworthy stead. Of course, PDP members and leaders should also be ready to receive a raw deal from Obaseki and be barred or banned from the Government House in case Obaseki wins.

• Kashetu Momoh, is a political analyst and an indigene of Edo State.

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