By Victor Ajihromanus
As Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, prepares for his re-election, he appears oblivious of more traps that may scuttle his ambition
He started what was seen as the process of removing impediments to his re-election by defecting from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
That was a few days after he was disqualified by the APC screening committee.
Obaseki’s disqualification was the climax of what was seen as a battle between him and the immediate past National Chairman of APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
The disqualification was occasioned by discrepancies in the certificates presented.
It was a factor the committee believed could compromise his chances.
Such an error had cost the APC a state in the past. No serious political party would risk the implications of such a grave error in an attempt to please its members.
Although Obaseki and his deputy, Philip Shaibu, made the disqualification from the contest look like a witch-hunt by Oshiomhole, it was obvious the APC was not ready to allow itself win the election for another party. This is bearing in mind its experience in Zamfara and Bayelsa states.
“In our interaction with issues raised, we concluded that his HSLC was defective. And based on the party’s constitution, this has made us recommend that Obaseki is not eligible to participate in the election,” Chairman of the committee, Prof. Jonathan Ayuba, said in defence of the action.
Governor Obaseki’s spokesman, Crusoe Osagie, described the outcome of the screening as a mockery of the democratic process, which he claimed Oshiomhole was superintending over in APC.
“It has been an unfortunate, disheartening and dreadful spectacle,” Osagie said. While Osagiesaw Obaseki’s disqualification as a show of shame, illegality, and travesty of justice, he failed to see the obvious.
When Obaseki defected in his desperation to clinch to power, not a few people said his road would be rough, especially with the absence of Oshiomhole, who brought him into politics.
In 2016, he was one of the most unpopular candidates, but Oshiomhole’s image covered that deficiency. Now that the former APC chairman has withdrawn his support, Obaseki is back to unpopularity.
He faces grave hurdles that are most likely to stop him from coming back as governor of the state in September.
Pitching his tent with the PDP offers him some semblance of stability or leeway to succeed in the coming election. But in the real sense of it, Obaseki’s candidature is like a structure built on nothing.
By making him its candidate, the PDP has settled for defeat.
Obaseki is currently like a general without a command. He has no political structure to drive his ambition.
The governor is still facing stiff opposition within his new party, the PDP. Many PDP members area verse to his emergence as the party’s standard-bearer in the governorship election.
Except for the intervention of top interests from within and outside Edo State, picking the ticket would have been a shadow chase, largely because he was not proactive enough to build friendship across party lines like his predecessor.
Many still see his coming into the party as an imposition by those who want to take over leadership of the state at all costs.
A former Commissioner for Information in the state, Kassim Afegbua, is among the PDP members, who are opposed to the adoption of Obaseki.
Like Afegbua, who has vowed to join forces with the APC to ensure the defeat of Obaseki, many PDP members are not happy over his coming into their party. Obaseki will need to work harder to convince such opposing voices, to be able to get their votes at the polls.
Those who belong to that group wonder how Obaseki the PDP once branded a failure, suddenly merited the ticket so much that all three aspirants stepped down for him.
“We will join hands collectively with the APC candidate to ensure that Godwin Obaseki does not return. I am a PDP member, but I will vote for APC. A man with the humility of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is better than a governor who fights everyone who disagrees with him,” Afebgua said.
On the flip side, without Oshiomhole’s support, Obaseki is standing on an empty stage without followership or congregation to call his own. That is the truth. Not a few people would agree that he now faces his toughest political battle.
He rode on the popularity and goodwill of APC in Edo State to become the governor in 2016.
Apart from the overwhelming support for the APC in the state, Obaseki’s access to Government House was also largely aided by the legacies of his predecessor, who took the state to higher heights.
Oshiomhole made Edo one of Nigeria’s fastest-growing states in terms of road network, education, job creation, economic growth, youth empowerment and security, among others. As it stands, he has destroyed the legacies of his predecessor and elevated politics above governance.
Obaseki is actually walking a tightrope at the moment.
There are indications that he is not even as popular as his major rival, Ize-Iyamu, among the Benin people.
Those, who described him as a political weakling, are quick to recall that on February 23, 2019, he lost his ward, local government area, federal constituency and senatorial district in the
Presidential/National Assembly elections.
On March 18,2019, he purportedly suspended Gen. Charles Airhiavbere (retd) from APC. That aside, on October 6, 2018, the governor was accused to have allegedly imposed his preferred candidates for National/House of Assembly elections on the party in several local government areas.
At the height of his political adventures, on July 3, 2019, to be specific, he sacked those he believed were loyal to Oshiomhole while accusing the state APC leaders of fighting him for access to the state treasury.
Governor Obaseki sacked eight commissioners, Special Advisers and many Local Government Chairmen believed to be Oshiomhole’s loyalists.
On July 4, 2019, Chris Okaeben, was suspended from the APC by the Oredo Local Government chapter of the party.
On July 23, 2019,Obaseki was fingered in the fight against the ministerial nomination of Clem Agba by President Muhammadu Buhari.
On July 31, the chairman of Etsako West LG, Yakubu Musa, was suspended.
Another factor that will make it harder for Obaseki to win the election is the growing level of unemployment and its resultant effect on security.
Afegbua aptly captured the situation when he said as a solution to the myriad of challenges, Edo need snew leadership.
How the governor hopes to win the people’s confidence remains to be seen.
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