The return of Adams Oshiomhole to Edo State to throw his weight behind All Progressives Congress’ governorship candidate, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, has further charged the political atmosphere ahead of the September 19 Governorship Election and may force PDP’s Governor Godwin Obaseki to change strategy, reports Associate Editor, SAM EGBURONU and BISI OLANIYI
Edo State’s political atmosphere has become highly charged since former National Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, returned to the state to formally throw his weight behind his party’s candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, ahead of the September 19, 2020 Governorship Election.
We gathered that the ripple effects of his homecoming, including his recent visit to his country home and to Benin, which an observer described as ‘impressive carnivals,’ has not only elicited increased confidence in his party, the APC, but has also sent jitters in the camp of the PDP.
When he stepped out to address a mammoth crowd that gathered to welcome him at his Iyamho country home, in Edo North Senatorial District, Oshiomhole lit a fresh political fire when he said: “I have made a mistake by supporting a man who has no vision for my people. So, I want to correct my mistakes by making sure a servant of God, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, is elected as governor and kick the snake out of the Government House.
“From now till September 19, I am here in Edo State because a political lion that I am, I am not scared of anything.”
He added that his party’s candidate, Ize-Iyamu, is not a stranger to Edo politics. “He campaigned for me in 2012 and I won all the 18 local government areas of Edo State. He knows the roots, unlike the current governor, who just became governor and does not know the efforts people made to make him governor. We will kick out this MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) governor and replace him with a pastor who will sweep out the Coronavirus party by the grace of God.”
According to him, “I have come home to join you and start the process of reclaiming the house back to the family of APC. And if the people say, yes, and God says yes, there is no man born of a woman that can say no.
“So, now I have only one mission and I know it is our common mission: to bring Edo back to the part of sustainable development. We want to return to the government of the people by the people and for the people.”
Although Oshiomhole spoke in his usual combatant style, an observer, who was a prominent official in the state government and is now a PDP chieftain, said Oshiomhole’s reception, which he admitted was grand and the issues the former governor raised will not only shape the electioneering campaigns but will help the PDP to re-strategize. “We all know Oshiomhole’s manner of talking, so we are not perturbed. But you will agree with me that no serious political party will ignore or fail to realise that his actions and utterances have actually set the tone for the governorship campaigns. I do not want to say the PDP is unaware of Oshiomhole’s style, but let me just say, we must learn from the current tempo set both by the carnivals that heralded Oshiomhole’s return and by his combatant words,” he said.
Oshiomhole had, for example, accused PDP candidate, Governor Godwin Obaseki, of demolishing the house they labored to build together through alleged high handedness. “The governor was demolishing the houses of our members while some were being jailed for trump-up charges; these are the people who fought for him to become governor. I even pleaded with those who were being persecuted to take it easy, that they shouldn’t burn the house we all laboured to build because they wanted to smoke out the snake. But now, the snake has been smoked out of the house,” he said, adding, “my mission for now would be to ensure the governor’s defeat in the governorship election scheduled for September 19.”
Managing sentiments over Oshiomhole’s ouster as APC chair
Aside the grandeur of the celebrations that marked Oshiomhole’s formal ‘return’ home to Edo State for the campaigns and for the governorship election, an insider told The Nation that one of the major challenges facing both APC and PDP in the state ahead of the governorship elections, would be how to manage people’s sentiment over the circumstances that led to Oshiomhole’s removal as the National Chairman of APC.
The source said some Edo electorates are still holding grudges against Obaseki, the PDP candidate and Oshiomhole, the arrow head of APC campaigns, for their hardline roles which cost the state the privilege of producing the National Chairman of the ruling party in Abuja.
Corroborating our source’s claims, Elder Eghosa Abieyuwa, a community leader from Uhunmwonde Local Government Area, told The Nation in a telephone chat that one of the major challenges in Edo State’s political theatre today is how to manage the people’s sentiment over the way former Governor Adams Oshiomhole, the immediate past National Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), lost his plum seat.
“While some angry Edo voters are yet to forgive the inability of the major actors to resolve the state APC crisis before it cost the state the position of the National Chairman of APC, it remains to be seen how this will impact on their voting pattern. It would take proper explanation to dissuade some of them in both APC and PDP from voting against anybody they consider responsible for that unfortunate loss,” he said.
He added that “the incumbent governor, Godwin Obaseki, and the PDP must not take lightly the fact that they had to contain with Oshiomhole and his ardent supporters in Edo Peoples Movement (EPM), who are ready to avenge Oshiomhole’s ouster and are said to be desperate to reclaim relevance and ensure that the state remains in the mainstream politics.”
The extent to which Abieyuwa’s view tallies with other Edo voters’, will determine the extent to which the candidates and the two leading political parties (APC and PDP) would have to work before the governorship Election Day.
Battle shifts to grassroots
Our investigation in the state during the week confirms that APC has already made impressive mark in its grassroots mobilisation.
Sources from most of the local governments visited said group leaders in APC have already been briefed to go to the villages and wards, to persuade electorates one-on-one on why voting for their candidate, Ize-Iyamu, is the right thing to do in order to right the political wrongs committed against Edo State during the APC leadership face-off in the state. As at Friday, we learnt APC mobilisation groups have been combing most of the villages in Edo South Senatorial District, Edo North Senatorial District and Edo Central Senatorial District.
A source explained the development this way: “Taking cognizance that Edo South, the senatorial district of both Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu, will be the major battle ground during the elections, frantic, though discreet mobilisation has been ongoing there. But it seems APC is more visible in the rural areas of this strategic district. Of course, PDP is also visible there mainly in Benin City, the state capital, but if you move to the hinterland very little is heard of the PDP today.
“The situation is almost the same in Edo Central, which is supposed to be a PDP stronghold, given Chief Tony Anenih’s looming influence. Ironically, even here, it seems Ize-Iyamu’s supporters are everywhere. If you add Oshiomhole’s large influence in his Edo North Senatorial District, the situation becomes clear that APC seems to be working too hard to tackle Governor Obaseki and his platform, the PDP.”
Obaseki, PDP may re-strategize
Confirming the scenario, Abieyuwa confided that he is aware PDP top leadership has been alerted of the development and the obvious deceit of some of the party’s field men, who gave the governor the impression that the party has actually reached out to the grassroots. “Everybody, including the governor, is aware today that PDP mobilisers have concentrated in Benin City, where they occasionally share handbills. This is not enough and the governor is paused to take concrete action,” he said.
Responding, to the claims that PDP and Obaseki’s handlers will soon move to the grassroots to match APC’s arsenal, Godfrey Amenaghawon, an APC supporter said “It is too late. We are aware the governor is still grappling with the issues surrounding disagreements over his controversial emergence as PDP candidate at the expense of many leaders in the party.
“Today, I can confide in you that PDP in Edo State is still in disarray. By the time the governor succeeds in keeping his house in order, everybody in the rural villages would have voted for APC’s candidate. The people still love Oshiomhole passionately and Ize-Iyamu’s mobilisers have so far done a good job to endear him to the common people. As it is today, it seems the election would be between an elitist political leader and a grassroots mobiliser. Don’t ask me what the result would be.”
As is the case in any issue-based political campaign, informed observers said another factor that is today being used to mobilise the electorates in the rural communities is the candidates’ agenda. “It is interesting to note that today, almost every Edo person talks about Ize-Iyamu’s SIMPLE agenda.”
Although it has not been confirmed how far average voters would vote because of formal agenda presented to them during campaigns, no one can deny that APC members are using it to effectively tackle PDP’s Obaseki, who they allege has no formal agenda.
It remains to be seen how these strategies would eventually impact on this crucial election where former governor, Oshiomhole, wants to re-emphasis his political clout by ensuring Ize-Iyamu’s victory while Governor Obaseki would do anything to be re-elected and to assert his independence as a political leader.