Lessons from Edo 2020 governorship election
Saturday 19 September, 2020 was the D-day for people of Edo State and the many key actors who had an axe to grind in the 2020 Edo state Governorship election.
One slogan that the People’s Democratic Party in Edo state rode on was “Edo no be Lagos”. Perhaps a slogan that underlined that the people frowned at outsiders attempting to decide their destiny and a subtle way of saying in pidgin language ” our matter no concern you if you no from Edo” meaning it is not your business if you are not a native of our State.
What possibly qualifies me to write on this subject as a son of Akwa Ibom State when their “matter no concern me”? My answer, I lived in Edo State for years as a student of the great University of Benin. I played my part in the emergence of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as Governor of Edo State in the 2007 Edo state Governorship election even when electoral fraud delayed his victory. Should this reason not be enough, just like Governor Nyesom Wike and other PDP Governors who were in Edo State during the election and are not indigenes of the State but their “matter concern them” so it is for me. Lastly I am a Nigerian who should be concerned with matters of any of the unit within the federation because events at each unit can be an a litmus test for the whole.
Now to the crux of my subject matter, Governor Godwin Obaseki has returned elected after defeating his closest rival, Pastor Osagie Ize Iyamu of the All Progressives Congress polling 307,955 votes as against the later’s 223,619 votes. What are the lessons from this election? In attempting to answer this, I will want to itemise it in no particular order:
1. Adams Oshiomhole factor.
3. The Tinubu Video message to Edo people.
4. The Presidency
5. The People.
6. Popularity of the Candidates
8. The threat of Visa ban by the US
Adams Oshiomhole factor:
I was privileged to meet Comrade Adams Oshiomhole in 2007 as a final year student of the Department Political Science and Public Administration, University of Benin. Professor Oserheimen Osunbor had been declared winner of the Governorship election in Edo. As a part of the student community who massively supported the candidacy of Comrade Oshiomhole, we were too convinced he won the election. On this day my course mate Amos Amahdin Cole had set up a meeting with Comrade Oshiomhole and a group of us from the Department of Political Science and Public Administration. I was chosen by my colleagues to speak on our behalf. Comrade confessed that this was one of the most uplifting meetings for him after his mandate was stolen. I saw from close range how determined he was to end godfatherism in the state and enthrone people centric governance.
How Comrade has become the victim of what he fought against is still baffling to me thah is if he is a political godfather. When the whole fight with his successor Governor Godwin Obaseki began, much as I wished it never degenerated to what it was, I was too sure that if the situation was allowed to continue, it will consume Comrade Oshiomhole politically. He was blinded to this reality and true to it this victory sounded the death knell for the towering political clout of Comrade Oshiomhole in Edo State.
Comrade fought so hard to discredit a successor he fought harder to sell to the people of Edo State in 2016. It became a case of his words against his words. How could he have possibly marketed a Pastor Osagie Ize Iyamu who in 2016 he said all manners of unprintable things to the same Edo people. He suddenly saw himself fighting himself. A tool the PDP took full advantage of.
One of the easiest card to sell to electorate in Nigeria today is for a candidate to play the victim card that the perceived political godfather(s) of the State is against his reelection because he has refused to do his or their bidding. Nigerians have suffered so much of economic deprivation that once they identify a common enemy they go all out against the enemy in the best manner they can.
This worked out perfectly in the Edo State election on Saturday. The people would have recalled the days of Tony Anenih when he held sway in the politics of the state and would have concluded that it will not happen again. Comrade Oshiomhole was viewed as a godfather that didn’t mean well for the people. Even if he did mean well for the people, Governor Godwin Obaseki’s camp had painted the picture they wanted the people to see of Comrade Oshiomhole.
I have heard people call out immediate past Governor of Lagos State Akinwunmi Ambode to say that he lacked the courage to fight his political godfather Asiwaju Bola Tinubu like Governor Obaseki did with Comrade Oshiomhole. That argument is anchored on a faulty premise. It is entirely two different scenarios. Governor Obaseki had prepared the grounds well for this fight when he took total control of the Legislature in the state. Allowing only the inauguration of members he knew were loyal to him and kept Comrade Oshiomhole’s loyalists out of the Edo State House of Assembly up till now.
With the total control of the Legislature, Governor Obaseki could easily defect from his party APC to another party with the assurance that the Lawmakers will follow him and there will be no threat of impeachment. Why did Ambode not do same? Ambode was elected the same time with he Legislators in Lagos State while the Legislators in Edo were elected just one year to the Governorship election and the battle line had already been drawn between the Godfather and son. Governor Obaseki had enough time to strike his godfather.
Had Ambode summoned the courage to resist his godfather’s move to deny him a second term ticket which he realised late, the Legislature he didn’t have a control of would have booted him out of office and his case would have been more dishonourable. There would have been no guarantee that the main opposition party the PDP will hand an impeached Governor their ticket. Like Edo people will say “Edo no be Lagos” so I will also say “Lagos no be Edo” in this matter of Ambode/ Obaseki comparison.
The Tinubu video message to Edo people:
Who on earth advised Jagagban to do that video? In my opinion it was one of the greatest undoing for the APC campaign. Let me put myself in the shoes of Edo people, I will be irritated by that call from an outsider for me not to support a sitting Governor of my state for reasons that did not hold waters. There was hardly any concrete reason Tinubu gave for Edo people to support Pastor Osagie Ize Iyamu. The video was more rooted in greed and vengeful vituperation. At that point the slogan “Edo no be Lagos” could resonate with the people. The video was needless. It has gone to demystify Asiwaju’s influence beyond Lagos. Perhaps a signal that he should watch out for in the coming days ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Don’t take this credit away from President Muhammadu Buhari. Under his watch, we have seen signs of an improved electoral system. The man has remained neutral in the affairs of states, that elections can hold without the once dreaded “Federal might”. Ironically even the proponents, Governors in particular of free and fair election in Edo state are beneficiaries of “Federal might” . Federal might brought them to power but because ours is a country that he who goes to equity does not necessarily need to go with clean hands as long as he can draw enough public sympathy when his turn comes. Some Governors of the party it favoured have commended President Buhari and INEC for the outcome of the election in Edo State. It is my hope that baring the outcome of the coming of Ondo State Governorship election, the same actors will commend the President and INEC.
President Buhari deserves some credit for the Edo State election. He did not interfere with the party’s choice of candidate. He gave his support to the candidate of his party by handing him the party flag as the Standard bearer and wished him well without any assurance that his government will deliver him. The President allowed the people of Edo state to choose their Governor . He also has gone ahead to congratulate the winner Governor Obaseki.
Power is gradually returning to the people in Nigeria. I have consistently argued that because of the monumental fraud we have witnessed in elections in this country, that the massive vote buying experienced in the 2019 General elections was a sign that the political class now realise the people are important if they must achieve their political ambitions. Unlike before when ridiculous figures will be brandished as election results without recourse to the number of total voters in a polling unit, today with card reader technology the people’s votes now count.
Edo people knew that the power to decide the next Governor was in their hands and not the political gladiators that were seeking to settle scores. They went into the election with this thought. The party platform played a minimal role. As a matter of fact with the situation on ground if Governor Obaseki had defied Comrade Oshiomhole to get the APC ticket, he would have still won the election same way he won with the PDP ticket perhaps with a wider margin.
The power to rule in any democracy must be derived from the people. The people are sovereign and any sovereign authority must draw its powers from the people. Nigeria is marching towards enthroning the people as gods during election. This victory belongs to the people of Edo State.
Popularity of the Candidates
The Obaseki/Shiabu ticket appealed to the Edo people. As incumbent they were popular and the sentiment of the victim of the mechanism of a godfather reverberated with the people. Moreover Comrade Oshiomhole had marketed this pair so well in 2016 that the goodwill was still speaking for them.
The PDP leveraged on the popularity of the candidates to earn this electoral victory. Testament to this is that the same candidate that the PDP presented in 2016 and failed was the same candidate the APC presented and failed in 2020.
The Independent Electoral Commission under the Chairmanship of Professor Yakubu Mahmood has made frantic efforts to improve the electoral system and elections in the country. With the credibility and integrity the likes of Mike Igini, Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Akwa Ibom State have earned for themselves in the country and beyond, I want to believe that there is now a subtle competition amongst the RECs to do well. It now pays more to conduct a free and fair election under your watch as REC than live with the stigma of the man that conducted a fraudulent election. REC of Edo State, Johnson Alalibo will be holding his head high today for what he did on Saturday . His children will also reap from the good name their father has earned from conducting a credible election.
The threat of Visa ban by the US :
Most of our political elites cannot afford not to be able to travel to the United States or the United Kingdom. The threat from the US to deny Visa to any politician found to have disrespected the democratic process in the Edo and Ondo elections was palpable. Sadly the list of politicians blacklisted by the US arising from the Bayelsa and Kogi elections of 2019 were not published, so the fear increased further.
It was now a case of I don’t even know my fate or that of my family until we apply for a visa from the US embassy for the politicians. It became safer to allow the process go smoothly than be responsible and bear the brunt in the international community. The US lead the international system a visa ban from them may translate to some advanced countries joining suit. A security report on an individual held by the US embassy may most likely be syndicated amongst her allies.
In the end the lessons from Edo election are valuable to all . We must all learn from it, least we think that only Comrade Oshiomhole and his supporters should.