Why APC’s Obaseki won Edo governorship election after fierce battle with PDP’s Ize-Iyamu
Posted by Nelson Dafe, Benin City | 7 October 2016 | 2,611 times
The Independent National Electoral Commission has done its job. After organising the hotly contested Edo State governorship election, INEC declared All Progressives Parry (APC) candidate Godwin Obaseki as the duly elected governor of Edo State. The electoral umpire gave Obaseki a score of 319,483 votes, besting his main challenger Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who got 253,173 votes.
Obaseki popped into the consciousness of most of the Edo people just this year when rumours of his backing by incumbent governor Adams Oshiomhole began to fly. So and how why did Obaseki win?
Obaseki, hitherto not very well known, was never familiar enough to be overwhelmingly voted for, but wasn’t hated enough to be overwhelmingly rejected.
From the political experience of the country, unseating the ruling party demands a seismic shift in public sentiment against the incumbent party and its candidate. That’s what PDP didn’t manage to achieve in Edo, even though it’s to their credit that they made the race tighter, and not a few believe that they may have scored the highest number of votes despite the INEC-declared figures.
When Obaseki was being touted to be the APC chosen one and when he eventually won his party’s primary election, there was a feeling within PDP ranks that this was an unconventional political upstart who could more easily be contained. And so the party strategists began to work out a plan which saw them attack Obaseki on the basis his low-name recognition, his background (coming from a family with a complex history of relationship with the generally revered monarchy of the Benin kingdom) and later his academic background, as they levelled the accusation that the APC candidate did not pass his WAEC.
In addition to these hell-raising raising charges, was the biting economic situation in the country, which has been particularly felt by Edo people with soaring prices of goods, foodstuff and services making life really tougher.
Despite these factors which had the real possibility of hampering the chances of the APC’s candidate, he still managed to keep a steady head and didn’t collapse into a self-destructive mode in the lead up to the polls.
Obaseki rode on the back of some strong positive support, including that of the incumbent Adams Oshiomhole, whose tenure is widely believed to have been an improvement on that of the PDP era.
Obaseki represents a fresh face in the summer slam of Nigerian politics and though not so colorful and overtly energetic as Oshiomhole (who did most of the talking and dancing during the campaigns), he was nonetheless impressive in his poise and delivery when he spoke.
In every person that felt he was a stooge to Oshiomhole, there were others who were of the view that he sounded smart and savvy enough to carry on from the comrade governor. There's this gentleman mien of his and it was perhaps in fullest display during the Channels TV debate with Ize-Iyamu, when he refrained from any personal negative attacks on his opponents despite the attacks he was coming under himself during the debate. Though, the PDP sought to play it up as a sign he was choking.
The biggest threat to the PDP perhaps was the PDP itself. The general perception that the PDP failed in the years in which they ruled the state never really went away despite the best efforts of its candidate to turn attention away from that fact.
And to add to the fact that Ize-Iyamu was a central figure of the PDP tenure as Secretary to the State Government didn’t really help his cause as he struggled to shake off the accusations that he would simply return the resources of the state to the distrusted and disliked cabal that held sway in those days.
So, to cut a long story short, the last governorship election was a close race and with the candidates running neck-to-neck, it was always going to go either way. It’s hard to prove allegations of electoral malpractices, given PDP’s cry of foul play and claims that they actually won the election. That would be a matter for the courts to settle. The close nature of the race could have made it susceptible to so little manipulations from either side.
What is however clear is that unlike the election that brought in Adams Oshiomhole as governor 8 years ago, this was a much tighter race and it’s tough for the PDP to get general opinion in their favor. When Oshiomhole was denied his mandate at that time, the state rose in unison to protest. Hundreds of thousands poured into the street in rejection of the INEC results and that contributed perhaps to influence the tribunal and appeal court’s decisions to restore the comrade’s mandate.
Today in Edo there’s a more divided opinion on the fairness of the process that has brought Obaseki in as governor, but he is governor-elect now, and unless the courts decide otherwise, he’s set for at least four years in charge of the affairs of Edo State.