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Edo 2020: Desperate marketers with discredited products battling for market share

Edo 2020: Desperate marketers with discredited products battling for market share
July 10
17:36 2020
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One of the most spectacular aspects of Nigeria’s politics will be playing out in the coming weeks in Edo State as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) this week opened the floor for campaigns towards the September 19, 2020 governorship elections.

It would be interesting to see two embattled and disgruntled marketers, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), try to sell to the electorate two discredited products, Osagie Ize-Iyamu and Godwin Obaseki. These products had previously, while in opposite camps, been painted with the vilest of colours by the same marketers now displaying them for sale.

It is no longer news that Ize-Iyamu, who is now the flag bearer for APC, was in a similar position for PDP during the last governorship election (2016) in the State. Obaseki was for APC four years ago. During half time, in a game that has a maximum tenure of eight years, the players have changed teams, not sides as is normal in sports. Ize-Iyamu is now flying the APC flag while Obaseki is doing same for PDP. This is where the spectacle begins.

As is usual in politics, and very much so in the Nigerian landscape, focus of electioneering campaigns is often not on issues about governance, it is usually about the supposed past of the persons contesting. The more muck raked about the opponent, the better for those raking and worse for the raked. The darker you can paint the opponent, the more exciting the campaign would be. The gullibility of a larger segment of the electorate gives impetus to this indulgence. The lack of interrogation of issues and the ample display of sentiments oil the blackmail machine instead of encouraging issue-based campaign.

However, while APC will be approaching the contest with butterflies in its belly, PDP will be on a merry gambit. If PDP wins, it would be celebrating a regional conquest, not just Edo governorship victory. It would be effectively controlling more states and in fact more resources because of the buoyant nature of the states in its captive region of influence. APC on the other hand will remain the ruling party only because it has the President. So, the joke really is on APC. It had so discredited its current candidate while in opposition such that it would take a die-hard faithful to buy the new narrative.

During the 2016 gubernatorial campaign, the APC painted Ize-Iyamu in colours that even the devil would think twice before having an affair with him. The then governor of the state, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, shouldered Ize-Iyamu in his usual boisterous manner and dumped him in the dunghill, rubbed his palms to shake off the lingering dirt and swaggered away. He embraced Obaseki and eulogised him to high heavens to the envy of the angels. Obaseki won the election and was sworn in as governor to succeed Oshiomhole who had served his eight years. Now Obaseki has taken the regalia of Ize-Iyamu and the later has taken that of the former.

During his tenure, Oshiomhole was a pain in the neck of those who presented themselves or were recognised as godfathers. He promised his tenure will see the end of that notorious indulgence in the state. He claimed success when people like Chief Tony Anenih (of blessed memory) and Chief Gabriel Igbinedion were no longer dictating the direction of affairs in the state. Oshiomhole became the sole administrator, only differing slightly on traditional matters to His Royal Majesty, the Oba of Benin. It was then thought that the monster called god-fatherism had been killed and buried, little was it known that the monster has the spirit of a Phoenix.

When Oshiomhole became the national chairman of APC, the spirit of the godfather overwhelmed and inhabited him. He could not resist the allure of the spiritual powers. He did not just become a colossus, he became a monster, bestriding the political spectrum and eclipsing the bright colours of his party. The APC looked weak when Oshiomhole took over the reins. He brought momentary life and energy into it; and like a monster, began to trample on lesser mortals that had reared their heads. The excitement of victory did not allow him to know that even though he was advancing, he was not making progress. He mistook shouts of caution for ovation. He was prancing on until he was stopped in his tracks by some overriding powers. Oshiomhole suddenly became like a weather-beaten fowl that found no warmth anywhere. He is a typical example of the masquerade that danced in the arena for too long and in the process revealed its real identity.

It is a common saying in the local communities that the spirit of the homestead is the most potent, no matter its familiar nature. Oshiomhole had whipped others into line and in the excitement wanted to cap it all with a home duel. He thought he knew the strength of those at home and saw an imminent walk-over. He was mistaken! He forgot that he had rendered the spirit of the godfather impotent. He had removed the scare factor from godfatherism. The godfather was no longer powerful, even a Ward chairman can kick the godfather in the arse.  And it happened!

When he was suspended by his ward, he must have regarded it as a joke taken too far. To him it was; but he was oblivious of the drummers in the nearby bush. He was perhaps only looking at the little bird prancing around in his Etsako West Ward 10. He did not see the hand of Esau in the gamble. He was banking on the old adage that ‘a young man who wrestles with an elder risks being blinded by the helm of the old man’s loin cloth.’ He forgot the wisdom of Eneke the little bird who said ‘since men have learnt to shoot without missing, he also has also learnt to fly without perching’. Unfortunately both Oshiomhole and Obaseki did not see accommodation of each other as a sensible thing. The cookie crumbled and both caved in.

Oshiomhole’s dogfight with Obaseki, whom he propped up, lasted longer than necessary. As an old warhorse, Oshiomhole must have thought himself a long distance runner, but Obaseki took the spirit of the vulture and ate patience as his three-square meal. The rofo-rofo fight got to a ridiculous extent when Obaseki was disqualified from participating in the governorship primaries in the state. A sitting governor disqualified from taking part in his party primaries? That sounded ridiculous. There were other ways of getting that neatly done; but at that stage it was obvious some fellow was wielding the big stick. Obaseki was harassed out of the party and Oshiomhole stampeded out of office as the national chairman of the ruling party. What a pity!

APC claimed Obaseki had discrepancies in his academic and national service papers. After the University of Ibadan had cleared him as having graduated from there, the APC hung onto a missing “i” in his NYSC certificate. The Professor Jonathan Ayuba-led screening committee claimed the NYSC certificate dated August 6, 1980, had Obasek Godwin instead of Obaseki Godwin.

Even if Oshiomhole had good reasons to hit Obaseki, this was a sledge-hammer hit! Reactions issued from all corners and consultations to save the situation failed. Obaseki had to fight for his political life. Oshiomhole wanted him buried like a COVID-19 patient, but the celebrated political undertakers were waiting in the wings. They grabbed Obaseki, revived him and celebrated his exit from the “dungeon”. They cleaned him up and presented him as their main man for the September 19 encounter. This is the same person the PDP had all along described his four year tenure in the state as a monumental disaster.

With Obaseki disabled, the Oshiomhole group formally presented Ize-Iyamu whom they had been playing up all along. They made him the APC flag bearer for the upcoming governorship election. Interestingly, this is the same Ize-Iyamu that Oshiomhole personally described in very horrendous terms when the man was in the opposition camp. So, with what scouring powder would Oshiomhole, who is also a member of the APC Campaign Council for the state, use in cleaning up Ize-Iyamu before formally presenting him to the Edo electorate for consideration? If Oshiomhole and his team think it was all politics, will the Edo people also see it as such? Are there no facts to interrogate? Same with PDP; if they thought Obaseki was such a waste-pipe while in APC, what on God’s green earth would now make him useful to the Edo people? The Edo people seem to have been thrown into a one-chance conveyor operated by political buccaneers whose only interest is to grab power with whatever instrument at their disposal.

Public Relations gurus often say you cannot carve a rotten wood; but the Edo people are known to be master craftsmen and may find a way of handling the two thoroughly discredited options they have been saddled with, even if hurtfully. Both parties already have their campaign materials assembled for them. They might not need creative hands to do it this time. PDP should just take what Oshiomhole said about Ize-Iyamu; and APC should similarly take what PDP said about Obaseki, and the campaign is done. It is only the electorate that will worry about what to do – embrace the devil or jump into the deep blue sea. What a choice! Edo people deserve better than the toxic political atmosphere that would herald the elections in September.

As indicated earlier, the issue here seem to be beyond the Edo governorship election. The situation in Ondo State is also very dicey. APC seem to be looking at the issue currently as a state by state matter but the big picture should be scary. If Edo and Ondo fall to PDP, the main opposition party will automatically have more state governors than the ruling party. APC used to have 24 states; it lost six to the opposition and now has 18. Even as it is, apart from Imo and Anambra States, all the states in the South South and South East are controlled by the main opposition party. If APC fails to retain Ondo, it would mean that all the oil producing states covered by the NDDC, apart from Imo, would be controlled by the PDP. With the power that state governors wield and the amount of money available to oil producing states, then APC is in a bigger trouble than they are toying with, as 2023 beckons.

At the recent National Executive Council (NEC) meeting where the National Working Committee (NWC) was dissolved (putting a final nail on Oshiomhole’s chairmanship), President Muhammadu Buhari told members that they must be alive to the time and task that is before them. “As we know, we are immediately confronted with the upcoming gubernatorial elections in Edo and Ondo States. Therefore, this is the time to get our acts together and ensure that we are united and not working at cross-purposes.” He directed that all controversial matters in the law courts by party members be withdrawn. That directive from the party having been ignored before, the President wanted it made a resolution of the party which must be effectively enforced with dire consequences for those who choose to ignore it.

If the party has to remain relevant in the days ahead and in the future, it has to embark on a thorough house-keeping exercise. The Edo and Ondo cases would determine how far the party can remain relevant, going forward. With Obaseki, an incumbent governor in the opposition camp, the battle looks tougher for the APC in Edo; although not entirely insurmountable. Historically Edo State has been a PDP State right from the days of Chief Anenih. Even now, two out of the three senators – Edo South and Edo Central are PDP members; only Edo North, Oshiomhole’s constituency, has an APC senator. APC has 24 out of the 24 State Assembly members but a good number of them (about 14) operated from Abuja since last year when the face-off between the national chairman and the state governor assumed a neck-twisting dimension. Some of them have followed Obaseki to PDP. Looking back now, it is likely that Oshiomhole would have realised he made some tactical errors.

As the sitting governor, Obaseki can deploy the resources of the state to his advantage. A good number of Edo people seem sympathetic to his cause owing to the way he was humiliated by the APC. They are also saying no to godfatherism and the Oba of Benin confirmed that much. With the defection of quite a number of members to PDP recently, the APC structure in the state is on feeble stilts. To also think that APC thoroughly demonised its current candidate while he was in the opposition camp, it will take a great deal of wits, resources and energy to pull through.

If Obaseki wins in September, it will be a clean sweep for the PDP in the South South and that is why all the PDP governors and their sympathisers in the zone are throwing their weights behind him. It would not just be a win for Obaseki; it would be a matter of territorial control for PDP. It would have created a very potent power block. In the whole of South South/South East zone, it will be PDP nine (9), APC one (1) and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) one (1).

Given what is playing out in Ondo, as they also prepare for their gubernatorial primaries, APC must avoid a situation where it adopts a candidate that local politicians will find difficult or reluctant to sell. All politics is local. If APC loses Ondo, it would be left with four (4) states in the South West; PDP will have two (2). Out of the 17 states in the South, PDP will have 11, APC 5 and APGA 1. Overall, PDP will have 18, APC 17 and APGA 1. That does not look great for a party at the centre. If it happens, APC will have itself completely and conclusively to blame. It would be a self-inflicted malady fostered by irascible rascality.

It definitely will be battle royal; INEC must therefore be vigilant and prove clearly that it is up to the task of conducting free and fair elections.

James, a communications consultant, lives in Abuja ([email protected])

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