By Lawal Ogienabon
Make no mistake, the impending Edo State governorship election will be tough and rough. The signs are already manifesting. It will be a poll like no other in the annals of the state known as the Heartbeat of the Nation.
The major gladiators are well known to each other. Governor Godwin Obaseki, who will eventually get over the mines laid for him in his new club, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu were in the trenches in 2016 on different platforms which they have now swapped for the September 19 battle.
Four years ago, Obaseki was the beloved of the All Progressives Congress (APC), while Ize-Iyamu, who along with others, built the party from scratch and was already seeing himself as the next governor, became an outcast.
The man behind that was former Governor Adams Oshiomhole, who is now APC national chairman. He sang Obaseki’s praise to high heavens, waving the governor’s credentials, the same credentials that could not get him the party’s ticket for second term, as his strength.
Obaseki was a political nobody when Oshiomhole tapped him for governor. He came from the business world and he brought his expertise to bear on the Oshiomhole administration. The former labour leader was impressed.
From that point, he made up his mind on his successor – Obaseki, who close friends call Seki Gee – all the way. There was no either or in the matter. No ambivalence whatsoever. In his support for Obaseki, Oshiomhole threw caution to the wind. He was not ready to listen to others’ views.
He had made up his mind and that was it. His followers, not the least Ize-Iyamu, who had been made to believe that he was the governor in waiting, were shocked. Ize-Iyamu defected to the PDP, the same platform Seki Gee ran to last week, to contest the election.
How could the leader just wake up one day and say Obaseki would succeed him? Oshiomhole’s men wondered. What qualities does he have that we do not possess? they asked no one in particular, as they bemoaned their fate.
Yes, they agreed that he is an economic wizard, which informed why he headed the state’s economic management team then. But to them, economic wizardry is not the only quality required to be governor.
They were not in support of their leader’s choice and they made their feelings known to him. Oshiomhole was unperturbed. As far as he was concerned, he had found his man and those not satisfied with that can go look for another party.
Ize-Iyamu returned to PDP from whence he joined APC and lost the election to Obaseki in that first round of their electoral battle four years ago.
What Oshiomhole’s loyalists held and still hold against Obaseki is that he is not a politician. They seem to have forgotten that man is a political animal. Many claim not to be a politician when they are still testing the waters.
Once, they get what they want they become the most power-hungry politician you can find anywhere. What Oshiomhole’s men were saying in effect is that Obaseki lacks the political sagacity to handle the high office of governor.
It takes a lot to be governor. There are so many tendencies a governor must pander to considering the huge number of people that would help him into office.
Apart from being a good administrator who must husband state resources well, he must also oil party machinery and cater to the interests of the political crowd around him. It will be politically suicidal for a governor to abandon his party men and women to patronise only his friends and associates after getting into office.
This is not to say that he must dip his hands in the till to satisfy them. Far from it. The fact is, a governor, no matter how good he may be, must remember where he is coming from.
In most cases, governors do not build the structures that bring them into office. Those structures are usually controlled by more entrenched interests who determine who gets what and how. It is not easy for political infants to take over or break those structures
So, a governor, on getting into office cannot do away with those structures because he may need them again and again to remain politically relevant. It is a well known fact that the Oshiomhole structure got Seki Gee into office in 2016.
Perhaps, Oshiomhole was not a godfather when he was propping up Obaseki for governor then, but today Seki Gee, who benefited most from that political patronage, has tagged him one.
Time and tide, they say, wait for no one. The man, who was given APC’s governorship ticket four years ago on a platter of gold, has today found it impossible to get that same ticket despite being a sitting governor.
He was said to have been unfaithful with little and so could not be trusted with much by giving him a second chance. I do not pretend not to know why Oshiomhole and Obaseki parted ways.
From what is in public domain, it has to do with the usual problem between two political friends who feel that they can no longer work together.
Obaseki accuses Oshiomhole of playing the godfather in a state where he as governor fought people who styled themselves as such to a standstill.
Oshiomhole denies the claim, arguing that he only wanted Obaseki to take care of those who worked for his election as governor.
Obaseki has found a home in PDP, just as Ize-Iyamu did in 2016. To him, there is no ideological difference between APC and PDP as both parties are “all about sharing the money”. Meaning that he fell out with Oshiomhole because the APC wanted him to “share” public funds among party members.
Obaseki believes that he is now strong enough to stand on his own and become a political leader in his own right. This is why when he defected to PDP last weekend, he said he was now the party’s leader in Edo.
There is nothing bad in being ambitious. But he should remember that the control of state resources alone is not enough to make a president or governor a political powerhouse.
If in doubt, let him ask former President Goodluck Jonathan and immediate past Lagos State Governor Akinwumi Ambode.
Obaseki has chosen the path he wishes to take to return to power in September. If he overcomes the problem created by his defection to PDP, he and Ize-Iyamu will, again, be the leading contenders for the top job.
Ize-Iyamu picked APC’s ticket on Monday; Obaseki is expected to get that of PDP today at the party’s primary, if it holds. As in 2016, the second round of their governorship battle remains a two-horse race.
The other contestants are not likely to spring any surprise at the poll. Will Obaseki be second time lucky or will the pendulum swing in Ize-Iyamu’s favour?
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