TODAY, a good number of the 1,924,072 voters who have secured their permanent voter cards (PVCs) will file out in the 2,627 polling units scattered across over 200 wards in the Edo State to cast their votes in the eagerly awaited governorship election.
The vote ritual would have been done with, as it was initially fixed for Saturday, September 10, but two days before the said date, an advisory from the police and the Department of State Services (DSS) forced a postponement which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) put the cost as close to N200 million.
Today, the die is cast and the electoral body has got its job well cut out for it.
The police announced the deployment of 25,000 officers and men, while the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) announced it was deploying some 20,000 officers and men for election duty. The DSS, Army, Air Force and the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) are also involved with varying number of officers and operatives.
The major question on the lips of all is this: who wins the poll? The answer to that question may not be available until some 24 hours after the votes are cast, but one certain thing though is the buzzling enthusiasm in the camps of the two main candidates in the election.
There are 19 candidates on the ballot as INEC has said, but the reality on ground, as far as major elections are concerned in Nigeria right now, is that the two dominant parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are the clear front runners.
Indeed, Edo was classified as a “PDP state” until the former Labour leader, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, stole in and swept the voters off their feet. Those who saw him haggle with former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, over incessant increase in pump price of petroleum products, as well as the many battles he led the NLC against the government, easily backed his election in 2007 and 2012.
In nearly eight years, Oshiomhole has turned over from the greenhorn politician to an aspiring political godfather and the jury remains the nearly two million voters who file out today for the all-important election.
Though INEC data shows that 19 parties are vying for votes in the election, the APC and the PDP have shot ahead as the main contenders and so are their candidates; Mr Godwin Obaseki of the governing party and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the PDP. It is quite easy to conclude that either of the two main contenders will emerge winner of the election.
Since the beginning of the year up to the party primaries in June, the two candidates have bombarded the people with series of issues they feel should dominate the focus of the voters in the election. They have talked about their agenda, priorities and programmes. The pre-election permutations played a major role in the emergence of the candidates.
In Edo, just as is in all the 36 states, there are three senatorial districts. There is Edo North, South and Central.
At the beginning of the current democratic era in 1999, political bigwigs in the state, including Chief Tony Anenih, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion and Chief Sam Ogbemudia, had grouped themselves in PDP, in order to dictate the pace of political power in the state. They were said to have agreed on a power sharing formula that would see each of the bigwigs produce the governor one after the other.
Incidentally, Ogbemudia and Igbinedion are from Edo South, which is reputed to also control some 56 per cent voter population. Thus, in 1999, Chief Lucky Igbinedion, son of the business mogul, Gabriel Igbinedion, took the first shot at power. He governed for eight years and handed over in 2007. But the power sharing arrangement had snapped along the line, as Igbinedion decided to team up with the Oshiomhole challenge ahead of the 2007 race. Though Professor Oserhiemen Osunbor, Anenih’s candidate who hails from Central senatorial district was declared winner of the election, in less than two years, he was sacked by the Court of Appeal and replaced with Oshiomhole.
With Oshiomhole’s emergence, power shifted to Edo North. Ordinarily, many had expected that Edo Central would make its strong bid for power in 2016 but the fear of the huge voter population in Edo South forced the leadership of Edo Central to drop the bid and opt for a candidate from Edo South, following the realisation that the APC was rooting for a candidate from South. Thus, the two major candidates have equal stake and access to the huge voter figures warehoused in Edo South.
Since the candidates hail from Edo South, you may want to think that there is not much separating them. Quite a lot does, if their presentations, campaigns, ideas and agenda are anything to go by.
So who are these two main contenders?
The candidate of APC was born in Benin City to the famous Obaseki family. He had his early education in primary and secondary schools in the city and attended the Premier University of Ibadan, where he bagged a BA degree in Classics after which his resume shows that he attended the Columbia University and Pace University in New York, United States, where he earned MBA in Finance and International Business. His work experience, which spans some 30 years so far, has seen him dabble into the business world with experience in Investment Banking, Asset Management and Securities Trading. He has, since March 2009, held the position of Chairman of the Edo State Government Economic and Strategy Team (EST) under Oshiomhole’s administration, a position he said is held pro bono public.
Some of the key achievements he recorded in office as contained on his resume include; documentation of State Economic Development framework through Sectors’ Strategic Planning, which is reviewed and updated on an ongoing basis; introduction and enculturation of retreats as a platform to ensure all parties engagement, not only in planning and executing state development initiatives, but also in monitoring and evaluation of outcomes; N25 Billion Infrastructure Development Bond from the Nigerian Capital Market in 2010; $225 million Concessionary rates Development Loan from the World Bank with the first tranche of $75 million already accessed; successfully hosting of Sector based Economic Summits and Policy Dialogue Series, including the Power Roundtable in 2010, 2011 Education Round Table and 2012 Agribusiness Round Table, among others.
Those who canvass his candidature would say that his position as head of Economic Team should give him great insights into the workings and the state of Edo finances currently.
The profile of the PDP’s candidate is equally as intimidating as that of his APC opponent. The Pastor was born on June 21, 1962 in Benin City to the family of a Benin chief just like his main challenger. He was educated at the Ebenezer Nursery and Primary School, Benin City; Edo College and the University of Benin, where he read Law. He graduated in 1985/1986 and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1987, after completing Law School.
In 1995, Osagie Ize-Iyamu became a pastor and has since been known as the Pastor in political circle. As he grew in politics, he has also been growing in the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), where he has been established as a Pastor.
In 1999, his activities as a Student Union leader in his undergraduate days and link-up with Chief Lucky Igbinedion when he served as council chairman in Oredo Local Government were said to have informed his appointment as Chief of Staff to the governor and later Secretary to the State Government (SSG).
He is reputed to own a Farms Training Institute – a model farm settlement which trains young agriculturist and has the objective of agricultural training, skills acquisitions and youth empowerment.
Before returning to the PDP, he had served as national vice chairman, South-South zone of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and was the Director-General of Oshiomhole’s second term campaign in 2012. He was also the campaign coordinator of the Goodluck/Sambo presidential campaign organisation for the 2015 election.
So, how would a race that pitches a lawyer and pastor against a business and investment personality pan out? Perhaps, a glimpse of the way to go would be gleaned from the campaign statements and agenda released by the duo.
While Obaseki has premiered his campaign on the ICT revolution in the state, Ize-Iyamu premiered his campaign on what he called the SIMPLE Agenda, encompassing Security; Infrastructure; Manpower development; Public Private Partnership; Leadership by Example; Employment Creation and Social Empowerment. Obaseki described his new agenda thus: “The first innovation I want to introduce as the governor is the use of ICT, so that we can get more efficiency from the little money we have. The other thing I want to do is to focus government mostly on what government should do, which is to provide the enabling environment for the private sector to thrive, because we will need a lot more private capital to thrive the economy.
“Look at two investments we have made in the state. The two projects alone are worth two billion dollars. If we can bring in a lot more of such types of investments, then the whole issue of unemployment will reduce. I will dedicate a lot more of my time to bring private investments into the state. We need to focus on the economy so that we can take advantage of the unique position of Edo State.”
And for Ize-Iyamu, the SIMPLE agenda is aimed at shifting the focus of government towards comprehensive and sustainable development that encompasses aspects including infrastructure, health, education, human resource development job creation, security and agriculture.
He said of his plan: “In line with established global best practices, we have decided to roll out a simplified model of long-term people-centric economic growth and empowerment plan. Henceforth, the emasculation of our people will no longer be condoned or tolerated. Our SIMPLE agenda will halt and reverse the dwindling fortunes of our youths, women and pensioners.”
The forces at play
The political union that gave birth to an all-conquering PDP in Edo in 1999 did not last for too long, as we saw the breakaway of the Igbinedion camp off the Anenih ensemble in 2005/2006, ahead the 2007 election.
Right now, there has been lots of fluidity to that arrangement. Chief Ogbemudia has since pulled off and teamed up with the Oshiomhole camp, while Chief Tom Ikimi, who was on the platform of the defunct All Peoples Party (APP) at the start of the current democratic rule, has teamed up with the PDP. Also, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, a former governor of the state, who was on the outside platform of Alliance for Democracy (AD) in 1999, has also joined the AC/ACN platform, which metamorphosed to today’s APC.
As things stand, the two candidates are not lacking the number of godfathers of note as promoters. Behind Obaseki is Governor Oshiomhole, who has emerged the chief promoter; the national chairman of APC, Chief Oyegun and the revered former governor of Old Bendel State, Ogbemudia. There are also reported backings for Obaseki from the traditional rulers of Oshiomhole’s senatorial district, Edo North, as well as what is usually trumpeted by politicians as the “incumbency factor and federal might.”
Behind Ize-Iyamu is his political experience as well as the loyalty of Chief Tony Anenih, Chief Tom Ikimi and the Igbinedion’s political force.
For the PDP, the decision to pick Ize-Iyamu was as a result of its desire to make a huge haul of the votes located in Edo South. Ize-Iyamu was seen as an emerging grassroot leader in the senatorial district, thus it was not a difficult decision for the leaders of Edo Central to yield the slot to Edo South, so as to ensure victory. The party hopes to draw huge dividends from the strengths of its chieftains, including Anenih, a former Board of Trustees (BoT) chairman of the party; Ikimi, and the Igbinedions, as well as forces from Edo North, including the state PDP chairman, Chief Dan Orbih.
A combination of Anenih, Ikimi, Senator Clifford Ordia and the deputy governorship candidate, John Yakubu, is expected to yield the PDP a near total control of Edo Central votes, while the Igbinedion and Ize-Iyamu factors should fetch them votes from Edo South. The battle ground for the PDP remains Edo North, which has the two sides of Owan and Etsako axes. Incidentally, PDP state chairman, Orbih is also of Etsako stock.
The two candidates wish to draw from their strengths and personality. The APC believes it could draw huge votes from Edo North, the district of the outgoing Governor Oshiomhole, while also making a calculated sweep of Edo South, where Obaseki hails from.
The party had nearly neglected Edo Central, which is seen as harbouring fewer votes than the other two districts, but it recently made up by pushing the position of Speaker of the House of Assembly to the area.
The battle appears a balanced one as the level playing field opens for the contenders. The two leading parties see themselves as having the edge and wherewithal to pull through with heavy hulls of votes from at least two of the three senatorial districts, while making the third senatorial district a battleground. Who triumphs at the end of the day is a decision for the Edo people.