Edo 2016: As PDP, APC tie loose ends…

The postponement of the Edo State governorship election by 18 days has afforded the  parties participating in the election and their anchormen to tie-up some lose ends while perfecting their strategies. BANJI ALUKO writes on happenings in the camps of the two leading candidates in the election since the postponement.

T HE blame game regarding the postponement of the Edo State governorship election has ended and the candidates have again turned their attention to their campaigns. For the candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who are the two leading applicants for the office of the Edo governor, the added days provided them an opportunity to X-ray their campaigns,work on their perceived weaknesses and consolidate on their advantages. The postponement has also afforded the two sides an opportunity to make strategic political moves targeted at galvanising support for their ambitions, while making the other

For the APC, the biggest political move made so far was dragging the voice of former Governor Lucky Igbinedion into the campaign. The ruling party had, before now, laboured in vain to make Igbinedion speak on the ambition of the PDP’s candidate, Pastor Osagie Iyamu, who was his Secretary to State Government (SSG) when he was governor.

The party  chided the former two-time governor for his refusal to campaign for his associate, Ize-Iyamu, challenging him to lead the PDP’s campaign the way Governor Oshiomhole has done for the APC’s candidate, Godwin Obaseki. At a time, Governor Oshiomhole even challenged Igbinedion to walk the streets of Benin with Ize-Iyamu, while he does the same with Obaseki, and see who the people would stone.

The reason APC so much desired that Igbinedion campaign for Ize-Iyamu are not far-fetched. The notion that Igbinedion allegedly failed as a governor could be said to be popular in Edo and the APC wants Ize-Iyamu to share parts of it along with his boss. The APC calculated that great damage would be done Ize-Iyamu if Igbinedion moved from the behind-the-scene support he had been giving Ize-Iyamu to open endorsement.

APC’s prayer was finally answered on Sunday, September 11, the day after the original date picked for the governorship election. Igbinedion spoke at the residence of his father and the Esama of Benin, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, during the latter’s birthday ceremony. He said “INEC can postpone the election but they cannot cancel it. I can assure you the result will remain the same. I made it clear before that the next governor will come from our political family. That has been my prayer. Come September 28, the margin of victory will be higher than if the election had held on September 10.

“Edo people should vote wisely. Be rest assured that the insults that has taken place since 2008 will stop. The brutalization of our psyche, of our women will stop. Unemployment of our youths will be a thing of the past. Lack of focus in educational and sports sector will be a thing of the past. We are bringing in a PDP government that can represent the people, build human development and industries.”

It was the first time the former governor had spoken on the ambition of Ize-Iyamu. It was a short speech he gave when journalists cornered him for comments on the postponed election, but it was enough for the APC to go to town with. He had barely finished talking when the APC turned the video of the interview to advertorial jingles, alerting the people of the state to an alleged plan of the Igbinedion family to return to power in the state. The APC used the jingles to remind Edo people of the alleged underdevelopment that accompanied the reign of Igbinedion as governor and what awaited them if they allowed him to seize power again. The APC also alleged that Ize-Iyamu said that further birthdays of the Esama would be sponsored by the state government.

The Benin palace seldom endorses candidates, at least in the open. While the Benin palace remained neutral, some of the powerful chiefs in the palace have not. Notably, they have been declaring their support for the PDP’s candidate, Ize-Iyamu.

First to come was the endorsement by Nedoghama Nedo, a socio-cultural group made up of Chiefs from the Benin palace, traditional priests (Igiehon-Ohen), businessmen and other professionals. The were led by the Eson of Benin kingdom, Chief Amos Osunbor.

At the end of a meeting last Friday, members of the group endorsed  the PDP candidate because, according to them, he possessed the capacity to restore the lost glory of the state and take it to the future of its inhabitants’ dreams. Chief Osunbor said: “We have painstakingly assessed the two candidates (APC’s Godwin Obaseki and PDP’s Osagie Ize-Iyamu) and we have found that Ize-Iyamu is the man for the job.”.

Other notable Benin chiefs, who attended the meeting were the Odeobawu of Benin, Chief Douglas Usoh, and the Uhenmure of Benin, Chief Uwadiae Albert. Barely, 72 hours after the Nedoghama Nedo’s endorsement, another set of Benin palace chiefs belonging to the Egha Evbo’ Nore declared their support for the PDP’s governorship candidate.

The palace chiefs that gathered at the residence of the Esama of Benin kingdom, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, included Odobaiwu of Benin, Chief Solomon Ogbewe, the Uwayoba of Benin, Chief Jackson Igbinovia Amure and the Eson of Benin, Chief Amos Osunbor. Chief Amos Osunbor, who prayed for Ize-Iyamu on behalf of the other Chiefs said, his father, late Chief R.O. Ize-Iyamu who until his death was the Esogban of Benin, was a notable member of the Egha Evbo Nore palace society.

Expectedly, the APC camp rubbished the endorsement, saying it was done by card carrying members of the PDP. The Obazelu of Benin kingdom, Chief Osaro Idah, said the chiefs were speaking for themselves and that their views did not represent the views of the Benin palace chiefs.

Idah, who is the secretary of the Edo APC, pointed out that if the palace must speak on any issue, it would either be done through the Iyase or the Esogban who is the head of the Benin Forum. Idah also disclosed that the palace was in search of a palace attendant, Arase, who he said went to some villages to tell them that the palace requested its subjects to vote for the PDP.

He said: “Arase has since been suspended from participating in palace activities. He wore palace dress and put on some beads to be seen as a chief. He started going from village to village to meet the elders to vote for the PDP. We have been looking for him to face the full wrath of the law because he is not a chief.

“I am the Obazelu of Benin kingdom. I am qualified to know who is the Igiehon of Benin. I deal more with Igiehons and others. The palace will never call for support for any candidate. We always pray for the best to emerge. We are going to report to appropriate sections of the Palace to look into such defaults.”

Quite noticeable since the postponement of the election is the new role picked up by wives of the candidates. The duo of Mrs Betsy Obaseki and Dr (Mrs) Idia Ize-Iyamu, wives of the APC and PDP candidates, have become involved in the campaign than ever before. It seems that their husbands suddenly realised that a lot could be achieved by the women and have dispatched them to the field soliciting votes for their husbands.

The two aspiring first ladies had been involved in their husband’s campaign before now, but they have taken a step further. The PDP candidate, on his own, has been able to establish a campaign unit for his wife. Along with leaders of the women arm of the Edo PDP, the women have been traversing the nooks and crannies of the state campaigning for their husbands.

Ize-Iyamu also used the postponement of the election to take his campaign to some important sectors such as the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) and okada riders under the aegis of the Bike Riders Association. Addressing NMA members, he regretted that the last set of doctors were employed by the state government when he was in government as far back as 2006, arguing that the employment of doctors and allied health personnel went beyond saving scarce resources of reducing cost of governance.

The PDP candidate was also able to win some APC members to his side, such as a former agitator, Chief Henry Binidodogha (Egbama I) from Ofunama Ward in Ovia South West Local Government Area and Prince Musa Braimah from Governor Oshiomhole’s Ward in Etsako West Local Government Area. He also used the window to take his campaign to little known communities in the hinterland of the state soliciting for votes.

The APC candidate, Obaseki, has not rested as well. Somehow, he made an audacious move by proving that he could speak for himself. Leveraging on his background as an investment banker, he has sustained his message that Edo needs a financial guru to manage her affairs at a time the country is facing recession. With the support of Oshiomhole, he has   taken his message to the artisans, farmers and manufacturers that he has the key to their economic growth.

He said: “With a successful career of over 30 years as an investment banker and wealth management expert, and the valuable experience I have garnered as chairman of the state’s Economy andStrategy Team in the last eight years, I am very clear on the direction that we should be looking in order to move Edo State to the next level of infrastructural development, industrial growth and technological advancement.

“Lagos has shown itself as a model, and I don’t see the reason why we can’t have other models in Nigeria with Edo blazing the trail as a mini-sized Nigerian state that can survive as a country. To achieve this status, we require competent, credible and hardworking managers, and that is what I am.”