Edo 2020: Obaseki, PDP vs Ize-Iyamu, APC

September 17, 2020
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By SUNDAY ODIBASHI

The political parties and candidates for the September 19 governorship election in Edo State have concluded their campaigns and mobilization of support across the state. Clearly, the Ides of March resides in Edo State as the voters go to the polls on Saturday. Uncertainty hovers over the candidates and political parties as the pendulum of victory swings between the candidates of the two leading parties, incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Candidates of other parties were noticeable invisible during the electioneering campaigns.

Governor Obaseki of the PDP has scores to settle with Pastor Osagie of the APC on Saturday after heated campaign and electoral fireworks; by extension, including former Governor Adams Oshiomhole, the symbolic godfather.

In the political conflagration, incumbent Governor Obaseki has virtually all the apparatuses of the Edo State government at his behest. If properly coordinated, they are capable of reinforcing confidence building for the incumbent governor in the shores of the grassroots population in the hinterlands.

More so, the incumbency ‘advantage’ provides more active stakeholders in the state body politic among office holders in the state. Such reinforcing variables are not available to opposing candidates or their parties who are fighting from the outside while the incumbent is fighting from the inside.

On the other divide, the incumbency factors may be balanced off by the federal might available to Pastor Ize-Iyamu and the APC. The federal might provide facile access or influence of public institutions, namely, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Nigeria Police, the Nigerian Army, and others, involved in election administration controlled by the APC government at the federal level. However, utilizing the federal might advantages may be amenable to manipulation of the electoral process or subversion of the popular choice of the voters. Apparently, if the federal institutions are to be properly utilized to encourage free and fair election, the directive should be to be unbiased and strictly objective in supervising the election to forestall undue advantage to any party or candidate. Such directive protects the candidate and ensure transparent, free and fair election can be guaranteed.

However, in the Edo circumstance, the federal might is not an exclusive to Ize-Iyamu alone. Despite decamping to the PDP, incumbent Governor Obaseki has sustained very cordial relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari and APC governors. This constitutes a blockade to influencing the relevant federal institutions in favour of the APC candidate.

More so, the internal rancour in the APC, the latent rivalry between some APC leaders, could scuttle the mobilization of the federal might for the APC candidate in Edo State.  Essentially, opponents of the APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and former APC national chairman, Oshiomhole, are not likely to fold their hands and allow these two APC leaders take advantage of the federal might in Edo State. The APC governors appeared not to have commitment in the Ize-Iyamu project. The tendency is that they may abandon the Edo APC to Oshiomhole. These variables could work in favour of incumbent Governor Obaseki.

The PDP and APC candidates have demonstrated their popularity during the campaign. The campaign showed that both Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu scores high on voters cognition, evaluation and affection. The APC suffered early relative negative evaluation over the caustic statements of former Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State made against Ize-Iyamu in 2016, which were played up at various stages of the electioneering campaigns. Again, the N700 million alleged corruption trial of Ize-Iyamu in the court of law created relative political liability for the candidate and the party. However, the logic that he has not been convicted exonerates the APC candidate of any culpability, in addition to the defence of the APC candidate that he cannot return what he did not take, implying that the allegation is substantiable. However, all these evaporated with the heat of the campaigns.

In any case, intensified campaign messages and promises of building a new Edo State being articulated in the POI SIMPLE AGENDA provided premium to underwrite the Oshiomhole 2016 castigation liability and silenced the alleged N700 million corruption trial. The APC candidate in the middle of the campaign storm recovered and bounced back strongly on the evaluation scale.

Also, the caustic criticism of incumbent Governor Obaseki on ‘poor’ performance by APC leaders created relative burden on the PDP candidate on the evaluation scale. The governor’s persistent accountability of his first tenure performance with ‘visible’ projects and policies lightened the perception burden, making him a candidate to reckon with in the election. This was reinforced by new promises to do more given what were already done. In fact, if Obaseki’s words could not convince the people, the visible projects or policies provided evidence on why the people should re-elect him for a second tenure; except the people are deceiving themselves to believing non-existent projects.

Pastor Ize-Iyamu had more job to do in persuading the people because he is up against an incumbent who has score card to present to the people. Invariably, it was an issue of accountability and display of achievement report card by Obaseki, in addition to new promises versus new promises by Ize-Iyamu of what he intends to do.

Both candidates scored high on affection scale. They pulled large crowd to campaign venues. Hypothetically, large campaign crowd seldom wins election; not all participants have voters’ cards.

Then, the communal interest of the Edo people may be critical in determining the winner of the election if the process is transparent, free and fair. The PDP candidate is battling for a second tenure, which implies that he has one tenure to serve and power shifts to another district in the state. So, others are waiting for a chance in the next four years. The APC candidate is going for a first term, which may take eight years for power to move to another district. Both candidates are from the same district. One tentative political calculus is that bringing on board a new governor may distort or subvert the power rotation mathematics in the state. Thus, one district may be taking 12 years while keeping others waiting for another eight years, which include extra four years. A hypothetical choice may be to round up four years and let others have it.

Structurally, the PDP maintains it cohesive structure and membership going into the election. The APC lost a proportion of the party structure to the PDP following the defection of Governor Obaseki and Deputy Governor Philip Shaibu, including commissioners, other appointees, and APC leaders in local governments. Invariably, APC is going into the election with decimated party structure and depleted membership. However, Obaseki lost some commissioners and other political appointees to the APC which may reinvigorate the opposing candidate and party. Albeit the APC returnees are not proportional to the defections from the APC to the PDP. This is still a minus for the APC.

The disarticulation of the godfather syndrome may be crucial in the election. The Oshiomhole, Bola Tinubu external domination conundrum, is a factor the Edo people will be expected to resolve at the Saturday polls. The campaign slogan of “Edo is not Lagos”; “Edo State will not be given up for the domination of one  man”;  sent strong messages to the people on the war against political godfathers which the PDP attributes to Oshiomhole and Tinubu.

Strategically, the PDP within 72 hours to the governorship resumed payback of the campaign tapes of Oshiomhole speaking on the leadership potentials of Obaseki and mobilizing support for the PDP candidate in 2016.

Moreover, some political instruments in the PDP may be to the advantage of the incumbent governor. Party leaders like Raymond Dokpesi, Tom Ikimi, Dan Orbih, Kenneth Imasuagbon, and others may be instrumental to generating grassroots votes for the incumbent. Also, in the APC, a Benin renowned billionaire businessman, Captain Nosa Okubo, has been giving the PDP nightmare over his support or sponsorship of Pastor Ize-Iyamu.

Obaseki may have costly price to pay for the demolition of houses, including big hotels and property of some APC leaders. Victims of that government action, such as Tony Kabaka, are already boiling to avenge the seeming political antagonism.

A critical factor is political violence which may scare voters. Studies have shown that low voter’s turnout favours the incumbent. To unseat an incumbent, the candidate will need large turnout of voters on election day. This strategy was noticed in the Kogi State governorship election where it was taken too far to the point of killing the PDP Women leader in the state. Thus, electoral violence is one phenomenon APC should resist the temptation of encouraging or deploying supporters for action; scientifically, it works in favour of the incumbent for several reasons.

Ultimately, the Edo people decide!

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