With the woeful performance of the Peoples Democratic Party in Edo State in the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections, ADEYINKA ADEDIPE writes that the state Governor, Godwin Obaseki, has hit the streets soliciting votes as the popularity of his party dwindles in the state
The battle for the soul of the Edo State House of Assembly has become fierce as two political heavyweights in the state, Governor Godwin Obaseki of the Peoples Democratic Party and his predecessor, Adams Oshiomhole of the All Progressives Congress, are locked in a battle of wits. They are both campaigning vigorously to earn their parties enough votes to control the 24-member Assembly.
With the governorship election not taking place in the state until 2024, it has become more important for the governor to ensure he gets majority-seats in the assembly to avert any impeachment move.
The governor, whose party failed to win any of the National Assembly seats or deliver the state to the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, in the presidential and National Assembly elections on February 25, knows he has to double his efforts if he intends to get the majority in the state assembly, which is looking unlikely considering the voting pattern in the last election, where the APC dominated in Edo North and Edo Central while the Labour Party candidates held sway in Edo South, while the PDP finished a distant third in the presidential poll.
All hope is not lost, as the state PDP, headed by the governor, is making efforts to reverse the situation.
However, the lukewarm attitude of the Legacy Group, led by PDP Vice Chairman South-South, Dan Orbih, towards the election may have greatly contributed to the poor showing of the party. What is clear is that this week is crucial for the governor and his faction.
Obaseki has taken his campaign to the markets and streets to tell the traders and residents about the need to vote for his party in the March 18 election, noting that achieving this would help him continue the development of the state.
However, some traders have not bought his idea, as he was greeted with chants of Obi (the LP presidential candidate) when he went to the Uwelu spare parts market recently. He was eventually granted an audience after frayed nerves were calmed. However, he had a better reception in some other markets he took his campaign to, which could be a good sign for the candidates of his party in the March 18 election.
On the other hand, the emergence of Oshiomhole as the Edo North representative in the Senate appears to have galvanised the APC, which was before now doing poorly as the main opposition party in the state. Having secured Edo North and floored the Deputy Governor, Comrade Philip Shaibu, who is from the same local government area as the former APC national leader, in the February 25 election, Oshiomhole relocated to Benin, the state capital, where he has continued to campaign at markets and open spaces. Wherever he went, he was met by an enthusiastic crowd that chanted his name. What Oshiomhole has going for him is the way he captivates the crowd and holds them spellbound with his energy and rhetoric.
Adding to the fierce battle is the acrimony generated by the exclusion of 14 APC members from the assembly in 2019 and the fallout between the governor and Oshiomhole, which led to the APC denying Obaseki a second-term ticket. Obaseki defected to the PDP, where he realised his second-term ambition.
As expected, both camps are firing salvos at each other as they are locked in a battle of words and wit.
The Special Adviser to the Edo State Governor on Media Projects, Crusoe Osagie, in a statement, said moves by Oshiomhole on the House of Assembly poll exposed his (Oshiomhole’s) insidious plan to oust Governor Obaseki through impeachment.
Osagie expressed confidence that the Edo people, as they did in 2020, would again rise in defence of the governor at the polls on March 18 and vote massively for the PDP by electing a House controlled by the PDP.
Osagie said, “The recent statement by the former Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, on the fate of Governor Godwin Obaseki in the Edo State House of Assembly polls exposes his insidious plan to oust the current governor through impeachment.
“We are, however, confident that, as it happened in 2020 when Edo people stood with the governor despite the bullying and intimidation by Oshiomhole and his paymasters, Edo people will again rise in defence of the governor at the polls on Saturday, March 18, vote massively for the PDP, and elect a House controlled by the party.
“Obaseki has never placed his confidence in any man or godfather. He has placed his confidence in God and the people.”
However, Victor Oshioke, the Chief Media Aide to Oshiomhole, said Obaseki was scared of the looming consequences of his reign of terror.
He said, “Godwin Obaseki is a corrosive politician whose attitudes are patently leprous. He contaminates and destroys any party, place, or person that he associates with. For almost seven years, he governed Edo State like Herod, insensitive to the aspirations, frustrations, and cries of the people who elected him.
“But on February 25, 2023, the Edo people unambiguously rejected him and his PDP faction in the presidential, Senate, and House of Representatives polls. For the first time since the return to democracy in 1999, the Edo State PDP failed to win any seats in the national assembly, a direct consequence of Godwin Obaseki’s cantankerous, vicious, and reckless use of state power to intimidate, oppress, terrorise, and pauperise our people.
“On March 18, Edo people will once again go to the poll to put the final nail in the coffin of impunity, hatred, insecurity, maladministration, destruction of private properties, economic retrogression, infrastructural decay, and disrespect for traditional institutions, which are the unfortunate hallmarks of Godwin Obaseki’s two tenures in office.
“No man is God, and Oshiomhole is not God. He has never pretended to have godly powers, so he cannot install or decree who becomes a member of the House of Assembly. That is for the electorate to do. But as a leader, Oshiomhole is calling on all Edo people to come out and vote for all APC candidates so that true democracy can once again be restored in Edo State.”
To also underline the importance of the assembly election to the Labour Party, its presidential standard bearer, Peter Obi, was in Edo State on Saturday to drum up support for the party’s candidates. The LP candidates did well in the Edo South axis in the February 25 election, and the party would prefer that he also get the majority in the assembly as a prelude to the ultimate battle in the governorship election in 2024.
While speaking to party supporters and residents, Obi urged them to remain resilient and focused despite his loss at the polls. He also called for support for all the LP candidates in the House of Assembly election, noting that the wave of change sweeping across the country cannot be stopped by anyone.
Also, the state LP chairman, Kelly Ogbaloi, denied vehemently that the party is working with the PDP in the assembly election, describing news that made the rounds recently as “mere rumour.”
Obi said, “I must urge the Labour Party supporters not to be discouraged by the outcome of the presidential election.
Nigeria must not be allowed to remain the way it is. There must be a paradigm shift from the present state to a better and a prosperous Nigeria.
“We have begun the journey of a new Nigeria. The movement is real, and nobody can stop it. We will not allow Nigeria to remain the way it is. We will continue to vote for the Labour Party.”
Despite this high-powered ‘politicking’ between the parties, especially the PDP and APC, the Edo State Chapter of the Civil Society Organisations called on the electorate to vote credible candidates into the state House of Assembly and resist any attempt to impose candidates on the people.
A Marxist, Kola Edokpayi, who spoke on behalf of the group, described Saturday’s election as an exercise between the oppressed people of the state and those in power.
He said, “The March 18 election is an exercise between the oppressed people of Edo State and those in power who have used anti-people’s policies to render the masses impotent, helpless, and make them refugees in their land of birth.
“Edo people cannot continue to be governed by the likes of King Pharaoh, Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, and Idi Amin, who adopted the principle of Niccolo Machiavelli that the end justifies the means.
“This time around, we need a robust state House of Assembly that can represent the interests of the entire Edo people and not a rubber stamp assembly tied to the apron string of the executive.”
Edokpayi also pointed out that the election would awaken the consciousness of the people that power belongs to God and the people.
He said, “We are using this opportunity to call on the Edo people to vote credible people into the House of Assembly in the state. The recent political proceedings in Nigeria are a lucid transmogrification of the political status quo since 1960, when political vampires imposed their stooges on the people.
“The March 18 election is another milestone in the history of Nigeria where Edo people will come out en masse to express their displeasure and dissatisfaction with the pattern of governance over time and vote for their representatives who will represent their interests in the Parliament.
“Those who want to represent us should be people with character and vision, as well as the courage to speak truth to power no matter whose ox is gored. I appeal to security agencies to protect lives and properties before, during, and after the election. Any attempt by an individual, a group of individuals, or the government or government agents to manipulate and subvert the will of the people would be resisted.”
It is surprising, however, to see that the governor is battling very hard to appeal to the same people who voted for him massively almost three years ago. What is certain is that the battle for the soul of the state House of Assembly will go down to the wire.