Godwin Obaseki, Saturday, sailed through a fierce opposition to secure his second mandate as the governor of Edo State.
Mr Obaseki, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), polled 307,955 votes to defeat his main rival, Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who had 223,619 votes.
Mr Obaseki won his first election in 2016 as a candidate of the APC, principally supported by Adams Oshiomhole, the immediate past governor and former National Chairman of the APC. Mr Ize-Iyamu was then the candidate of the PDP.
Mr Obaseki later fell out with Mr Oshiomhole with both men becoming adversaries.
However, Mr Obaseki’s reelection victory on the PDP platform could be attributed, in part, to the role played by Bola Tinubu, many people believe.
Mr Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos, who is revered as the national leader of the APC, released a recorded broadcast shortly before the election where he described Mr Obaseki as a “dictator” and called on the people to reject him at the polls.
A PREMIUM TIMES’ reporter, Nicholas Ibekwe, who covered the Edo election, said Mr Tinubu’s remarks against Mr Obaseki in the video played out very well in favour of the governor.
#EdoNoBeLagos, an anti-Tinubu movement led by pro-Obaseki groups, became energised during the election because of the Tinubu video, as many voters interpreted Mr Tinubu’s remarks as an indication that he wanted Edo to be a “subdued territory” under Lagos State,” Mr Ibekwe said.
Oshiomhole factor, APC’s internal wrangling
Closely related to this is the Oshiomhole factor in Mr Obaseki’s victory.
Mr Oshiomhole’s dominance in the APC campaign negatively affected the visibility of the party’s candidate, Mr Ize-Iyamu, so much so that the election was viewed by many as an Obaseki-Oshiomhole fight.
“If you come to Edo, if not for the billboard, you would think it’s Oshiomhole that was contesting against Obaseki,” said the PREMIUM TIMES’ reporter, Mr Ibekwe.
“You hardly hear anybody call Ize-Iyamu’s name, it was only Oshiomhole, Oshiomhole, and Oshiomhole.
“He (Oshiomhole) was not the right person to lead the campaign,” he added.
The picture of Mr Oshiomhole being a powerful ‘godfather’ bent on removing his estranged protégé from office naturally made Mr Obaseki look like an underdog in the election and consequently attracted sympathy and support for the governor.
Comparatively, Mr Oshiomhole, more than Mr Ize-Iyamu, appeared to have had a higher stake in the Edo election hence analysts believe he wanted to use the election to extract his pound of flesh from Mr Obaseki whose fight with him contributed to his removal from office as APC chairperson in June.
The internal power struggle within the APC – with many APC governors and chieftains seeking ways to ‘retire’ Mr Oshiomhole from politics and cut Mr Tinubu’s influence ahead of the 2023 presidential election – also contributed to the party’s defeat in Edo.
While Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers, other PDP governors, and leaders were providing funds, mobilising voters for Governor Obaseki and PDP in Edo, their counterparts in the APC quietly distanced themselves from Mr Ize-Iyamu which they apparently saw as a Tinubu/Oshiomhole project.
Although it could not be confirmed at the time of filing this report, some APC governors were said to have secretly provided financial support to the PDP candidate, Governor Obaseki.
Saturday’s election was also, among other things, a referendum on Governor Obaseki’s performance. Many of those who voted for him said they did so because of his performance in the past four years.
“I voted for Godwin Obaseki because of his exceptional performance in almost four years. We only had governors like this during the time of the late Samuel Ogbemudia and since then we never had this kind of opportunity,” Magdalene Barrah, a retired health worker in Benin City, told PREMIUM TIMES, Sunday.
Ms Barrah said Mr Oshiomhole was “okay” when he was the governor, but not “exceptional” like Mr Obaseki.
“We have seen nearly all abandoned projects being completed. I attended the School of Nursing in Benin City and some critical buildings were abandoned in the school until the coming of Obaseki. Same with the School of Health Technology that has been transformed. So it is with many other structures.
“In terms of payment of salaries and pensions, Obaseki got it right too. During the era of Oshiomhole pensions were not paid for more than one year, but during the era of Obaseki it changed,” she said.
Rodsimeon Idaewor, a journalist in Benin City, said he travelled to vote for Mr Obaseki because of the governor’s “performance level”, even though PDP lost in his (Idaewor) ward.
“This is the kind of person who should rule Nigeria, persons who are answerable to the people, and not to godfathers. He has built new roads, completed old buildings in the state, and he is doing a refinery,” Mr Idaewor said.
Joseph Elegide, a lawyer, said he voted for Mr Obaseki because the “because the man has worked and he has impressed me.”
“Some people felt that they are kings, but in fairness to them, they had the goodwill to have brought Obaseki in the first instance even when he was not known, but having done what is required of him as governor and he did not disappoint, why would they now turn around to begin to demonise him?” he said.
“Prior to his (Obaseki) emergence as governor of Edo, touts took over the streets of Benin terrorising people to the extent that we became afraid,” Gani Momodu, a businessman, said.
“When Obaseki came, he eradicated all these people and stopped them from collecting all these illegal levies. With that alone, it is sufficient for me to vote for him.”
The election outcome confirms Mr Obaseki’s popularity, especially in Edo South District, where he won even in Mr Ize-Iyamu’s Orhionmwon Local Government Area.
In Edo North, where many saw as an APC stronghold, Mr Obaseki’s running mate, Philip Shaibu, with his enormous political clout, was able to checkmate Mr Oshiomhole.
Edo Central, besides their traditional support for the PDP, ‘fully’ supported Mr Obaseki because of the understanding that the district will produce Mr Obaseki’s successor in 2024.
If Mr Ize-Iyamu had won the election, he would have naturally wanted to do two terms in office, which would have disrupted the aspiration of the people in Edo Central to produce the next governor of the state.
Since the ouster of Oserheimen Osunbor as governor after about a year in office in 2008, the central senatorial district has not produced the state governor. As a result, the people of the district are hoping that one of their own would be governor after Mr Obaseki’s second term in 2024.
The Edo voters, it is good to mention, displayed vigilance – they voted, monitored the electoral process, and protected their votes.
The impartiality and professionalism of the election commission and the security agencies, many Nigerians say, also contributed to Mr Obaseki’s victory.