By Joseph Iyowe
AS politics heats up in Edo State, the question of who wins the September 19 gubernatorial election becomes more difficult to answer. It is, therefore, beyond a shadow of a doubt that this election would be the most fiercely contested probably in the history of the state.
Since the creation of the state in 1991 by General Ibrahim Babagida’s military government, no less than six gubernatorial elections have been held in the state, and never before have we seen an intense atmosphere in the electioneering in the state like we are currently witnessing in this one.
So, the question is: what has changed this time? Although there are many governorship aspirants of various political parties contesting to be the next governor of the state, it is apparent that the battle for Dennis Osadebay Avenue is between two candidates who stand out the most among the electorates.
One is the incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the All Progressives Congress, APC. Obaseki was little known by Edolites before the 2016 governorship election, when the then outgoing governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, presented Obaseki as the brain box behind the achievements of his (Oshiomhole) government of the state for eight years, namely 2008-2016.
However, the relationship between the governor and his former boss has since taken a negative turn. This is evident in the way the former governor, Oshiomhole,who was also the national chairman of the ruling APC at the time, worked against the second term ambition of the incumbent governor.
Obaseki was disqualified from running for a second term in office on the platform of the APC, on the grounds that there were discrepancies in the governor’s credentials, allegedly by Oshiomhole’s constituted committee.
This, of course, did not go down well with the Edo electorates. The question was: how can a sitting governor who was well presented in 2016 as the brain box behind the Oshiomhole government is no longer qualified enough to be a governor?
The move was a terrible mistake on the part of Oshiomhole because it angered many people and it was seen as a move by the former governor to single-handedly decide who becomes governor of the state. Especially so is his choice of Pastor Ize-Iyamu as his anointed candidate to be governor of the state.
Ize-Iyamu was also a formidable candidate of the PDP in the 2016 governorship election. Oshiomhole who supported Obaseki’s candidacy then, said many unprintable things about Ize-Iyamu during the electioneering campaigns. Oshiomhole repeatedly warmed the people of Edo State in 2016 that under no circumstances should an individual like Ize-Iyamu be allowed near the government treasury.
The question now is: what has changed four years after Oshiomhole told the world that Ize-Iyamu was not fit to be governor? How has he suddenly turned a saint? It is important ”to be cautious of people whose action do not match their words”.
Comrade Oshiomhole probably did not know that “if you speak when you are angry, you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret”. It is now crystal clear that the Comrade’s assertion about Ize-Iyamu in 2016 has made him unsellable to the Edo electorates.
He should have known that there is a phrase that says in politics: ”There are no permanent enemies, and no permanent friends, only permanent interests.” As Abraham Lincoln said: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”
Obaseki on his part seems to be living his name GODWIN, because the Comrade’s antagonism towards the governor only seems to have helped boost his popularity among the people.
Although, this is also due to the fact that Obaseki won the hearts of the Edo electorates in what is largely attributed to the achievements of his government since he took office in 2016.
People seem to be very well pleased with the way the governor has maintained financial discipline, especially when considering the reckless borrowing of his predecessor that has made Edo one of the most indebted states in the country today.
Due to the ruthless borrowing the state, there is no longer the financial autonomy to independently seek loans for developmental purposes without the consent of the Nigerian Senate. As such, Governor Obaseki has not borrowed since taking office.
It is, therefore, important to note that despite the drastic drop in federal allocations, and the huge amount the state currently spends in servicing debts, the governor was still able to deliver the dividends of democracy to the people in the three senatorial districts of the state.
This is particularly evident in the area of youth empowerment, construction of roads, renovation of government buildings, including schools throughout the state. There is also a stop to the collections of illegal levies which engulfed the state during the regime of his predecessor. This is apart from the disbandment of constituted thugs operating under government cover in the state.
Despite the huge achievements, the governor was denied the opportunity to seek re-election on the APC platform. For this reason, Governor Obaseki left the APC for the PDP, and he was subsequently given the ticket to contest for re-election on its platform.
The governor’s move turned the APC from a ruling party into an opposition party in the state. It was also a big disappointment to the ruling national party, considering the fact that it has lost states in similar circumstances to the main opposition party, the PDP.
This prompted President Muhammadu Buhari to take drastic action in order to save the party from self-destruction. This subsequently led to Oshiomhole being removed as the national chairman of the APC, and he has remained in a posterior position of the party ever since.
What is paramount right now is for the good people of Edo State to be on guard and always read between the lines. Because for those who play mini-god, the Edo State gubernatorial election on September 19 is not about the people of Edo State. Rather, it is about how they can bounce back to political relevance in Nigeria.
It is therefore important to note that it would be fair to say for Obaseki, this election is about promoting the welfare of all the people of the state,because the well-being of the common man has been a priority of his administration. As such, we must ensure that the transformation continues with Obaseki. Edo must be taken to the next level.
Iyowe, a political commentator, wrote from Benin City