Whichever way the electoral fortune swings in the forthcoming Edo State governorship election for either Godwin Obaseki , the incumbent chief executive, and his main challenger, OsagieIze-Iyamu, a pastor and former secretary to the Edo State government, Edo Politics will never remain the same. For the average voter, as he goes into the polls, the choices are clear cut: putting an end to godfather politics in Edo or perpetuating godfather politics. Under Adams Oshiomole, former governor and immediate past party chairman and by extension the Bourdillion Coven in Lagos; making a choice between visible records of achievements under a recalcitrant godson but fiscally prudent governor or making way for the old order of governance by political patronage; leaving political fortunes in the hands of voters or leaving the fate of political aspirants in the hands of conclave politicking, writes Francisca Elabor from Benin.
Here is a prevailing wrong impression: that the current political tiff between Godwin Obaseki, governor, Edo State, on the one hand, and his former godfather, political benefactor, Adams Oshiomole, his former party and party men in the All Progressives Congress, APC, began just recently. Nothing can be farther from the truth than such impression. If insiders in Edo politics were to put a time span on the origin of Obaseki and Oshiomole political differences, it would be a period around the second anniversary of the governor’s incumbency. And they will also narrow it to a particular event one Sunday in 2018, at the expansive cathedral of the Church of God Missions International, Benin. On this day, as one could recall, the church session marked the end of the week long second year anniversary of Obaseki as governor. The orderly church procession was brought to a sudden halt after a stormy entrance by Adams Oshiomole. Then like now, the former governor and the All Progressives Congress, APC, was embattled. Some days earlier, Oshiomole had been a guest at the Abuja office of the Department of State Services, DSS, at the instigations from governors under the auspices of APC, allegedly over treasonous and fraudulent conduct of the party primaries for the 2019 general election. Only Obaseki and his counterpart from Kogi, Yahaya Bello, stood with the then APC Chairman. So for his weeklong anniversary which was meant to showcase development in the state and market the state’s potentials at the now famous Alaghodaro Economic Summit created and made popular by Obaseki, Oshiomole was not expected. However, on that Sunday morning, the party chairman made a sudden and stormy appearance. Aside breaching safety protocol meant to save guard the governor, it disrupted the church service to the consternation of many who attended the programme that day. Had it all ended at that, there wouldn’t have been much ado as matter later turned.
Moments later towards the end of the church service, Adams Oshiomole was the first to leave the church obviously to address a press conference prearranged for him just at the single entrance and exit of the church. For almost an hour, Obaseki, church ministers and others that attended the event at the Church were stranded. “Adams (Oshiomole) is neite a known Christian adherent or a Muslim. He claims either of the religions any time it suits him. He is the type we call Chrislam in Benin. But to bring politics into the house of God in such brazen manner was the height of recklessness that no decent person will stand for,” explained a media aide to Obaseki at the time. It was not long after the incident that strain in the relationship between the governor and his erstwhile benefactor became more manifest. But lately, as the Edo governorship dateline appears closer, the matter has become an open street fight.
Unknown to many, Oshiomole was sprung from the DSS detention by a coalition led by Bola Tinubu, former Lagos State governor and national leaders of the APC to just one end: 2023 Presidential election. Despite denials, Tinubu’s is rumoured to have an abiding interest in becoming the president and requires a more pliant footman in Edo, the only state in the South – South that has an APC governor. Tinubu had Akinwumi Ambode, then governor of Lagos, thrown out of electoral contest because of his independent mindedness. Obaseki has the same frame of mind like Ambode. Seeking an encore in Edo for his 2023 ambition became Tinubu’s priority and a bargaining point for springing Oshiomole from imminent disgrace at the DSS custody. So when he appeared at the church service in Benin, it was to tacitly serve notice to Obaseki that he may not get his support for a second term.
The turn of event and the eventual ouster of Oshiomole as chairman of the ruling party is a case for reference. It also went ahead to affirm Victor Giadom as authentic acting chairman of the party. Obaseki, before the ruling, had been disqualified to run for a second term by the party’s screening committee. Regardless, the party has since presented OsagieIze-Iyamu as its candidate for the election.
Though Giadom has since nullified the screening by the committee, Obaseki has not only resigned from the party but also taken up membership of the opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP, where he has been cleared, screened and emerged as party flag bearer. While the election day is just two months away, Obaseki appears to be fully ready for the challenge. The governor of Edo State, said the forthcoming governorship election in his state would determine whether incumbency would be a factor for him or not in the election.
“Let us go to the polls and Nigerians will see,” Mr Obaseki responded, recently at the presidential villa when reporters told him that Oshiomhole said incumbency isn’t a factor that works for the governor, in an election.
He also affirmed a cordial relationship and backing with governors in the opposition party. When asked about his recent visit to Rivers State governor, Nyisom Wike and some PDP governors, Obaseki said,“These are my brother governors who are from my sub-region, some of them have gone through similar experience that I’m passing through. With the situation of this nature you’ll go and talk to people who have gone through similar experience for advice.”
Now that Godwin Obaseki, has secured PDP ticket to actualize his plans for second term, the calculation or call it Political Mathematics on hand will be for the people of Edo to end godfatherism in their state and become pace setters for other states.