Edo Guber Watch: Photo credit: channels

APC, PDP in battle royale

All eyes are on Edo State and it is for obvious reasons. Today, voters in the ‘Heartbeat of the Nation’ would file out to exercise their franchise in selecting Governor Adams Oshiomhole’s successor in the next four years. It is one governorship election that Nigerians have been waiting for.

It is no more news that the long awaited election which was scheduled to hold two weeks ago, precisely on September 10 is here.
After campaigning for about three months in which they explained their manifestos and programmes to the people of Edo State, the political parties and candidates taking part in the election would test their popularity; it is one rare opportunity to know whether their messages have been well received by the voters.

Expectedly, the reward of the candidates and their parties will show through the number of votes they get at the end of the election when the results are collated and the scores are announced.

Before delving into analysing the likely outcome of the election, it is imperative to state from the outset that though 19 candidates and political parties are recorded by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as contesting the election, in reality, only two political parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), are in serious contention for the governorship seat at Osadebey Avenue.

Obaseki versus Ize-Iyamu
For those who have followed events in the state since the campaigns for the hot seat started, objectively, the race is between Godwin Obaseki of the APC and Pastor Osagie Ize- Iyamu.

But putting today’s exercise in perspective, the voters would base their judgment on how the PDP managed the affairs of the state for 10 years it held sway in comparison to eight years under the All Congress of Nigeria (ACN) which later metamorphosed to APC. For the voters, it is time for stocktaking in which they would look at how the administrations of the two parties have impacted on their lives and the overall development of the state in the periods under review.

Apart from that, the voters would also be constrained to look at the two major candidates, Mr. Godwin Obaseki of the APC, a technocrat and chairman of Governor Oshiomhole’s Economic and Strategy Team, and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the PDP, a former Secretary to Government in Lucky Igbinedion’s administration. Interestingly, both are Binis from the Edo South Senatorial District.
The contest is a Bini affair when it comes to the people of the senatorial district voting for the two. Here, lies the dilemma for the voters in making a choice. Who between the two candidates will they vote for?

Perhaps, an x-ray of the scenario that played out in the 2015 general elections may give an inkling to what direction the voters may go in this election. In the general election, there was a strong feeling among some notable people that the state, particularly the Binis, had not got much attention from the Federal Government in Abuja because the state government was not aligned to the centre, which was then controlled by the PDP while the state was under APC.

Those who were the champion of that position, including Pastor Ize-Iyamu, were able to convince their people to tow their position, hence the PDP won most of the National Assembly seats and the Presidential election in the South Senatorial District. But it turned out that their hope of PDP retaining power at the centre failed. However, the proponent of the agenda of Edo aligning with the government at the centre were realistic enough to return to their people to convince them once again to vote for APC in the remaining House of Assembly election, in pursuance of their vision, hence the APC won the Assembly seats in the South Senatorial District.

The necessity of the above narration is to put in perspective what transpired and informed the voting behaviour and pattern of the South Senatorial District in the last general election and to see whether in this election, the Binis will stick to their vision of aligning with the centre or return to vote for the opposition, which they earlier rejected but which has gained a lot of grounds in this election.

If they choose to vote for alignment with the centre, then APC will carry the day but if they choose to vote for the opposition and a fresh party, PDP will carry the day. Certainly, the contest in this Senatorial District will be keen.
Again, political observers are curious to know the extent Oyegun’s position as National Chairman of the APC will contribute to APC’s victory in the South.

Running mate factor
For strategic reasons, the APC and PDP picked their running mates from Edo North and Central, respectively.
The Edo North has six local governments and is the home of the incumbent governor, Adams Oshiomhole. The North has more population and voting strength than the Central Senatorial District with five local governments. In this area, Oshiomhole is adjudged to have performed very well in terms of roads and other projects, though the Owan and Akoko-Edo axis of the district had some initial misgivings in the decision of the party to give the running mate slot to the Etsakos, where Oshiomhole comes from.

Nonetheless, the feeling is that the APC may have an edge over the PDP, in the North Senatorial District, as the people have resolved to show appreciation to Oshiomhole with their votes. The running mate to the APC governorship candidate, Philip Shaibu who hails from here, is also popular among his people and seen as a tested person, who served two terms in Edo State House of Assembly and currently a member of the House of Representatives.‎

Notwithstanding the dissatisfaction of a segment of people of the North Senatorial District, there is a strong feeling in the air that the APC will prevail here.

The Central Senatorial District has been a stronghold of the PDP, where Chief Tony Anenih held sway until the 2012 governorship election, when Governor Oshiomhole won in all the 18 local government areas in a landslide fashion during his re-election for a second term in office, in which he defeated Charles Airhiavbere of the PDP.

The APC again won in all the 18 local government areas during the 2013 council election, though the party’s victory in Esan North East, Chief Anenih’s home local government was controversial, as the PDP claimed it was robbed of its victory there.
In the current dispensation, things are however different. The PDP governorship running mate and former Chairman of Esan North East, Mr. John Yakubu, is from the Central Senatorial District and popular among his people.

In the months leading to the election, the people of the Central Senatorial District felt a strong sense of marginalisation, for removal of the position of Speaker of the State House of Assembly from the area to Edo South and second, APC’s decision not to concede the position of Deputy governorship seat to the area. Sensing danger, the APC has however restored the speakership position to the Central Senatorial District.

Nonetheless, with the combination of John Yakubu’s acceptance and coupled with a sense of marginalisation in the minds of many in the District, as well as Chief Anenih’s factor, the PDP may run away with victory in this area but the APC, whose State Chairman and House Speaker are from the area, is expected to put up a strong showing.

Oshiomhole’s performance
One strong factor the APC is banking on for electoral success is the performance of the Oshiomhole’s government in its two terms in office. During the campaigns, even some opposition political parties openly acknowledged Oshiomhole’s impressive performance. How the people appreciate the performance and reward the APC again with their votes would tell from the result of the election.
Some critical observers argue that the country’s current economic downturn occasioned by the crash of international price of crude oil is a huge factor in the Edo gubernatorial election that could help the PDP. The opposition parties, particularly the PDP, took advantage of the economic crisis in its campaigns by adopting the slogan of “change the change”, urging the people not to vote for APC. Whether the people believed the PDP, would tell through their votes.

The primaries backlash
There is apprehension in the air that some members of both parties who are dissatisfied over the outcome of the primaries may play the spoilers’ role from within the two parties by working for the opposition against their own parties. This fear is very real, as some party members are alleged to be working against the interest of their own parties, but no one knows the degree the alleged anti-party activities could tilt victory for or against the two parties today.

The initial security report which almost forced a postponement of the election created suspicion in the minds of the opposition, especially, the PDP, which claimed that the ruling party connived with the security agencies to shift the election because it was afraid of imminent defeat.

But whatever happens, the time of decision has come and the two parties have showed their strength during campaigns and boasted enough. The result of the election will prove who truly owns ‘papa’s land’.

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