Ahead of the September 19 governorship election in Edo State, there are indications that the contest will be a fierce one between incumbent Governor, Godwin Obaseki, now of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Pastor Osagie-Ize-Iyamu of the All Progressives Congress.
The stakes are very high but how far can they go?
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What are the odds for and against them?
For pundits, the forthcoming election in Edo State promises to be an interesting contest to look out for given the current development in the political arrangements in the state which saw the incumbent governor crossing from the ruling APC to PDP to contest against the anointed candidate of his political godfather, Adams Oshiomhole.
Apart from Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu who are believed to be the major gladiators in the forthcoming election, there are other political parties that are fielding candidates in the election.
The parties include the African Action Congress (AAC), African Democratic Congress (ADC), Action Democratic Party (ADP), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Allied Peoples Movement (APM), Action Peoples Party (APP), Labour Party (LP) and New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).
Others are the National Rescue Movement (NRM), Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Social Democratic Party (SDP), Young Progressive Party (YPP) and Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).
Currently, the table has turned as Ize-Iyamu who was the PDP’s candidate in 2016 is now the flag bearer of the APC while Obaseki, who was of the APC is flying the PDP’s flag this time around.
Ize-Iyamu before the 2016 election decamped to the PDP and became the flag bearer.
But late 2019, when the crisis between the national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, and Governor Obaseki became tense, Ize-Iyamu, it was learnt, joined the APC apparently on the invitation of Oshiomhole’s faction of the state APC.
Ize-Iyamu had served as Chief of Staff and later Secretary to the Edo State Government between 1999 and 2007.
He served as the Director General of Oshiomhole’s re-election campaign in 2012 and fell out with the latter in 2014 during which he defected to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) where he picked the party’s governorship ticket and contested against Obaseki, but lost.
His dramatic return to the APC alongside his supporters in December last year, came as a surprise to many, even as pundits believe his return was to checkmate Obaseki following the lingering crisis that broke the party into two factions.
Strikenly, Ize-Iyamu while joining the APC, said he was not coming to contest any position but not long after that, he joined the governorship race and other aspirants, such as former deputy governor Pius Odubu, Charles Airhiavbere, Chris Ogiemwonyi, who were prevailed upon to step down for him as a consensus candidate.
To this end, a mock primary was conducted in Benin in March by the faction of the APC loyal to Oshiomhole but it was disrupted over allegation that the process was skewed to favour Ize-Iyamu.
To actualize the consensus quest, another mock primary was said to have been held in Abuja and Ize-Iyamu emerged as the consensus candidate for the group.
But barely 24 hours later, the consensus agreement collapsed, as other aspirants in the arrangement picked nomination forms along with Governor Godwin Obaseki.
Meanwhile, to make the coast clear for Ize-Iyamu as a consensus candidate, it was learnt that the party’s screening committee disqualified Governor Obaseki and Chris Ogiemwonyi believed not to have been favourably disposed to the consensus arrangement.
The development forced the incumbent governor to resign from the party and joined the PDP, amid intrigues and horse trading from the three aspirants who had already purchased nomination forms for the primary election.
Pundits believe that the aspirants, namely Kenneth Imasuangbon, Gideon Ikhine and Ogbeide Ihama’s resistance was due to their worries that they might be prevailed upon to step down for the governor who had just been granted waiver by the PDP to contest the election.
Following the intrigues, Ihama filed a suit at the Federal High Court Port Hacourt, seeking to restrain Obaseki from participating in the party’s primary.
But after consultations, he discontinued the case while the three aspirants stepped down for Obaseki as the consensus candidate of the party.
Governor Obaseki, a technocrat was not a politician before he was elected in 2016 under the APC before he fell out with his political godfather, Adams Oshiomole.
But he was quick to master the acts of politics from his master hence, it wasn’t difficult for him to navigate his way through the murky waters of Edo politics, especially the battle of supremacy with his godfather.
While Ize-Iyamu is widely seen as a grassroots and experienced politician having supporters across the 192 wards of the 18 LGAs in the local governments, Obaseki is believed to have won the hearts of the people especially for his stance against god-fatherism, among others.
Pundits are divided on the chances of the two gladiators who they said have equal chances of winning the governorship election.
A school of thought believes that one major hurdle Obaseki may face would be from the political class who view him as being “tight-fisted” and not favourably disposed to political patronage.
On the part of Ize-Iyamu, one major odd according to pundits is how to launder his image ‘dented’ by Oshiomhole during the 2016 governorship election coupled with an EFCC case hanging on his neck.
Oshiomhole had told Edo people during the last election not to support Ize-Iyamu on the grounds that he could not be trusted with public funds.
But now that the same Oshiomhole is backing, the people would be waiting to hear what he would say.
Speaking with Daily Trust on Sunday on the chances of Governor Obaseki, a political analyst, Osadolor Osunde, said “It is very bright.”
He said due to the intrigues that play out in political parties, Nigerians have come to realize that service delivery is not an important factor for re-election.
“So, when the intrigues of partisan politics that pervaded our politics played out in Edo, the people could not close their eyes to Obaseki despite all the things politicians said he did to them”, he said.
He said an average Edo man is at home with Obaseki irrespective of political gimmicks of the political class.
“When he was frustrated out of APC, if he had gone to any other party than PDP, he would have still enjoyed the same sympathy he is enjoying now across the divides,” he said.
According to him, the PDP which had been waiting in the last 12 years to win back the number one seat in the state would do everything to ensure victory for Obaseki.
He said apart from the PDP factor, Edo people after the late Samuel Ogbemudia and Prof Ambrose Alli, now see Obaseki as a genuine governor doing good things in the state.
“We can’t use N1 to cover N10, Obaseki has delivered and he is taking Edo somewhere.
“Comrade governor (Oshiomhole) laid the foundation and Obaseki has built a magnificent building on it which Edo people appreciate and that is why you see everybody cutting across all sectors of Edo gunning for Obaseki,” he said.
Also speaking, the media aide to the governor, Crusoe Osagie, noted that Obaseki’s governance rating now is above 80 percent.
He said Obaseki’s chances of winning the election are bright but that they hope the electoral umpire and security agents would be neutral during the election, adding “Once that is guaranteed, Obaseki will return as governor.
“Obaseki’s first legacy is his commitment to the people which has translated to infrastructure development in all parts of the state.
“Aside his performance, the governor had fought godfatherism which has been the phenomenon of preventing the good deeds of government from getting to the people and so come September 19, Obaseki will be reelected,” he said.
On his part, Henry Idahagbon, a loyalist of Oshiomole, said APC and Ize-Iyamu will win the election because it’s the dominant party in the state.
“We have been in governance for about 12 years and I believe in those 12 years, we have delivered the dividends of democracy to the people of the state,” he said.
According to him, Ize-Iyamu remains a “very popular politician in the state” and his chances of winning are very bright.
“He is an experienced politician with a listening ear, he is a team player and would listen to the political class and the ordinary people while responding to the yearnings and aspirations of all,” he said.
Also speaking, the director-general, Ize-Iyamu Campaign Organisation, John Mayaki, said Ize-Iyamu has complete acceptance of all members of the party in the state.
He said now that the primary that brought Ize-Iyamu has been ratified by the president alongside other leaders of the party, stakeholders will unite behind his governorship bid to ensure he is elected in September.
Mayaki described Ize-Iyamu as a “well-grounded politician who has devoted his life in service to the state,” noting it is time for the people to reward him.
As it stands, the stage is set and only time will tell who emerges the governor of Edo State on September 19.