When the legendary musician and revolutionary singer, Sonny Okosuns, dropped the hit song, “Papa’s Land”, little did he know that the song would capture the public mood in his beloved Edo State at this time. In a few days, precisely on Saturday, September 19, 2020, we, the good people of Edo State, will go to the polls. Yes, we will go to the polls to perform our civic responsibility of electing someone to govern us for the next four years.
Although there are several other candidates in the race to the Government House at Osadebe Avenue, let’s simply cut the chase and state what is obvious. The imminent election is a two-horse race. It is a straight fight between effervescent Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and the incumbent governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki. The good pastor is the candidate of the party at the centre, the All Progressives Congress (APC), while Obaseki, represents the governing party in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a status achieved by stealth.
Intriguingly, four years ago, Ize-Iyamu was holding the umbrella as the candidate of the PDP; whereas, Obaseki waved the broom as the candidate of the APC. There is something here to learn by those stupid enough to risk their lives for most ambitious members of the political class. The flipping of political platforms by the two leading candidates is, however, not the significant feature in this Edo governorship election. With what has transpired in the last four years of Obaseki as the governor, perhaps what is most significant in this particular election is the final determination of who is who in Edo State or put more appropriately, who owns the land?
About four years ago, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, as a sitting governor, was traversing the nooks and crannies of the state, marketing a relatively unknown product. That obscure product was Godwin Obaseki. Against reasoned advice by people who, from what is clear now, had the benefit of hindsight and, perhaps, foresight, to boot, Oshiomhole opted to support little-known Obaseki as his successor in Edo state as governor.
That fatal miscalculation further exposes the weakness in every mortal. You cannot know it all! Regrettably, there were other more qualified candidates who the Comrade had known for much longer periods, and who were even more loyal to Oshiomhole. But, because the former governor was thinking more of his state and the collective welfare of Edo people and less of his own self, he thought an Obaseki, who was his Chief Economic Adviser, would be in the best position to adopt and run with his continuity philosophy; and, in the long run better serve the interest of his people. Alas, he was wrong and, in humility, Oshiomhole has courageously raised his hands to acknowledge that. While it is easier to condemn the former governor for his error of judgment, it is also necessary to advert our minds to the Shakespearean injunction that “power changes the nature of men”.
Indeed, Obaseki changed. The first sign of his shadowy character was his gruesome assault on the most important arm of democracy, the legislature. Obaseki, without any regards for the rights of our Edo people whom he is now begging for votes, blatantly refused to inaugurate fourteen of our elected members in the state House of Assembly, thus denying us representation in his government. So, for four years, Obaseki has been governing Edo state, stricto sensu, without a legislature.
And, the imprint of that dictatorship can be clearly seen in the lacklustre performance of his government in these past four years. Philosophers knew years ago that as a system of government, democracy rests on the principle of restraint exemplified in the checks and balances provided by the three arms of government, that is, the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. Without any of these organs, what obtains, at best, will be a monarchy. But Obaseki should be reminded that there is already a monarch in Edo state, a respected one at that, personified in the great Oba of Benin, Ewuare II. But in the usual character of the Obasekis, this Godwin, perhaps, wants to create another monarchy in Edo state in himself by flushing out the legislature. By the way, how does Obaseki look at our people whom he locked out of his government by refusing to inaugurate our elected representatives in the eye and ask us for votes again? But, he has been doing it, anyhow. My take is that it is either the governor has no shame or he possesses tremendous guts.
Again, Governor Obaseki has been strutting around our state, shooting himself in the foot and lying to himself by claiming that some respected sons and daughters of Edo state contributed nothing to his election as governor four years ago. In fact, he had challenged the like of Comrade Oshiomhole and business mogul, Captain ‘Hosa Okunbo, to mention just a few, to a wrestling match like the proverbial over-fed Nwanza, the bird. Beyond that, he had gone further to blackmail Captain ‘Hosa, encouraging his aides and hirelings to call him all sorts of unprintable names; he had boasted of ending Oshiomhole’s political career and even insinuated that this Saturday, the people would decide who owns Edo State.
Of course, Obaseki is being goaded into this fantasy by some politicians who are not telling him the truth. These deceptive politicians are aware that Obaseki, as governor, is still dispensing “cash” and in targeting that largesse, the easier stratagem to accessing that cash is to conceal the truth from the governor by telling him what he wants to hear. Or haven’t we seen this before? The landscape in Edo state now is similar to what we had in the country in 2015 when all the numbers and permutations pointed to President Goodluck Jonathan’s loss at the polls; yet, those around him kept deceiving him with lies and false sense of victory just to grab their own piece of the election slush funds.
It is understandable that people like Senator Daisy Danjuma, a member of the PDP Board of Trustees, is supporting Obaseki, a member of her party. An endorsement in a national newspaper by Danjuma, Senator Ehigie Uzamere (whose son is Obaseki’s Chief of Staff), Senator Roland Owie (who perhaps has an axe to grind with Ize-Iyamu) and Senator Matthew Urhoghide (PDP senator representing Edo South in the National Assembly) is not extraordinary, except if Obaseki needed a public reassurance. The idea is good to that extent. And, he got the reassurance. But on Saturday, it is going to be secret balloting.
However, it is a shame that a former governor of the state and also a former national chairman of APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, in what is clearly an anti-party message, has urged Edo people to vote according to their conscience.
The good thing is that Oshiomhole and other worthy sons and daughters of our State have graciously accepted Obaseki’s challenge. These people know what they went through four years ago marketing a hard-sell like Obaseki. And they also know how difficult it was defeating a grassroots person like Ize-Iyamu. Now that the table has turned, they know that they have the popular candidate and require less hard-work (though they are not resting on their oars) as against four years ago given the likely trajectory of the votes this weekend. And so, truly, on Saturday, we, the Edo electorate, will vote our conscience as Odigie-Oyegun advised.
Our conscience as Edo people is governed by a sense of gratitude as we do not recompense good with evil. The four years of Obaseki in Edo has been defined and typified by gross ingratitude both to the people that elected him and to some respected Edo sons and daughters who facilitated his victory. Again, we, Edo people, respect our traditional institutions, especially the Oba of Benin. This weekend, we will speak in no uncertain voice that we do not want a governor who wants to compete with our revered Oba by transforming himself into another monarchy. On Saturday, we, Edo people, will decide who truly owns the land by electing Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, resoundingly, as our next governor. This is my significant endorsement. And, by the grace of God, this shall be the verdict.
▪︎Ojeifo sent this piece via [email protected]