By Tonnie Iredia
This year’s governorship election in Edo State to fill the vacancy that would result from the end of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole’s tenure will no doubt be keenly contested. For the first time in recent years, many well tested citizens have already shown interest in the position. In particular, the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) and the main opposition party- the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are set to give each other a hot chase as both parties are strong in the state. But before the political scene begins to boil, no one should forget that the state has so much to thank God for.
The first cause for joy concerns the huge leaps recorded by Adams Oshiomhole. Although the outgoing governor had cause to ponder severally over the critical articles in this column about his performance, there is no better time than now to say that on a general note that he has done well as he got quite close to the excellent performance of the legendary Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia.
If so, why was this column so critical of Adams? The best way to explain it is to affirm that our attacks and those of other well-meaning citizens were designed to keep the governor on his feet. Today’s commendations notwithstanding, there is so much he couldn’t do making it obvious that public expectations in the state will continue to be high.
But then, there is need to thank God for the array of distinguished aspirants that would carry the burden
of keeping the flag flying. Interestingly, the possibility of mud-slinging is already discernible. That should not be; instead, Edo people should raise their heads above partisanship and vote for the very best because once elected, the governor will not be for any partisan group but the governor for all. Thus neither Governor Adams nor the self-styled king maker elders of our community should be allowed to as before, usurp the power of the people by seeking to impose a governor on them. Oshiomhole has only one vote which he is free to cast in favour of only one candidate in line with his popularized one-man, one-vote slogan. To do otherwise, may soil his past contributions to the development of the state. So, when one Edo compatriot told me last week that the governor was the main sponsor of a would-be candidate Godwin Obaseki, I earnestly urged him to avoid spreading such negative rumour because Obaseki is my considered opinion better qualified in several respects to win an election than his so called sponsor. He doesn’t in reality need any godfather – a trend we hear ended long ago.
A second argument that an Obaseki may not get the support of ‘true’ Benin citizens by virtue of the alleged role played by one of his ancestors, Agho Obaseki in Benin history was similarly dismissed by me. My position is that whatever was the alleged 1897 offence, the candidate we are discussing now is not Agho but Godwin and as such no one should for political campaign instigate people into visiting the ‘sin’ of a father on a son. This is because such a mundane posture will no doubt stop us from identifying candidates by their credentials and proven capacities. Besides, many other Obasekis have diligently held public office since 1897. Supreme Court Justice Andrews Obaseki and Jackson Obaseki who served as group managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) during the Obasanjo years are good examples.
The point to be made is that whoever wins the APC primaries, should be assessed on his own merit instead of undue stigmatization provided the primaries are credible.
The argument is thus also valid for Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, one of the frontline aspirants in the opposition PDP who has been so grossly maligned. For all that I have heard, I am yet to be persuaded that there is a better prepared candidate for the state governorship position in any of the political parties than Ize-Iyamu. Having served in the past as Chief of Staff to the Governor and later Secretary to the State Government (SSG), the man had piloted the engine of governance and would therefore need no induction course to swing into action from day one just as no one can bamboozle him to derail governance as can be done to a typical green horn. Perhaps, the most popular criticism is that he served in an alleged discredited past administration-a government in which all the critics themselves served or garnered immense advantage.
For instance, apart from occasional outbursts which many do not comprehend, no one has so far disproved the story that it was the said discredited government that paved the way for the present administration. Besides, where were those who have phobia for the Igbinedions when a full-blooded daughter of the family was voted by our people into the House of Representatives not more than a year ago? If no one stopped her in spite of her membership of the family, it is malicious to stop Osagie under the guise of being close to the same family. In any case, the same person that people are being manipulated to oppose now was the Director-General of the Oshiomhole Campaign Organization during the last election.
Is it a case of he is good when working for X and bad for having worked for Z and very bad for seeking to work for himself?
The focus on Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu in this article must not be misunderstood to mean that other aspirants are less endowed. Future articles will in due course talk about such other aspirants. The two names highlighted today are the most talked about for the wrong reasons. They have more virtues than their critics are willing to concede.
Such virtues ought to be pointed out before politicians particularly those who delight in misleading the public on who to vote for by laying claims to supernatural powers. Edo has developed beyond the level of winning elections through the oracle. The people must reject all the fake prophets and take their own destiny in their own hands by rationally picking the best candidate that can move the state beyond where it is now.