It is unbelievable how ego trips and intrigues of 2023 made the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to lose Edo State to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It all started when the party acquiesced to the machinations that led to the disqualification of its own Governor on frivolity. Governor Godwin Obaseki was disqualified based on the same certificates he used in 2016 to become the Governor of Edo State. Such flimsy excuses were used to attempt to repeat what happened to Akinwunmi Ambode as Governor of Lagos State who was denied the return ticket by the APC at the pleasure of godfather Ahmed Bola Tinubu. It has proved to be fatal and overreaching as voters of the ancient kingdom just said, ‘Edo no be Lagos’.
Using the Lagos precedent without looking deeply into its disparities with Edo State has proved to be a very costly political mistake as Edo people rejected the plot to sacrifice Obaseki on the altar of ego and political inexpediency. Once the APC denied their Edo State governor ticket, the opposition PDP, like a vulture waiting for a dying sick animal, moved in and prevailed on all other aspirants to give way to the Governor.
It thus became obvious that the Edo governorship election is the most instructive in recent years and once more brought to the fore the problem of godfatherism in the present democratic dispensation. It pitted former Governor of Edo State Adams Oshiomhole and his presumed godson and incumbent governor Godwin Obaseki against each other, which created grave anxious moments.
In their political battle for supremacy, both men threw caution to the wind and were not prepared to take prisoners. While Oshiohmole controlled the APC national turf, Governor Obaseki controlled the State turf and eventually proved that every politics is local when he got Oshiomhole’s ward chairman to suspend him. This suspension started the dispatch of the erstwhile party chairman to political oblivion, which the court ruling and the defeat of Pastor Ize-Iyamu by Obaseki sealed. While the battle raged, what was clearly at issue was the control of the soul of Edo state and positioning of camps.
Several other factors joined the constellation. Many suspect that the calculations for 2023 presidency is a major portent force, which played an important role in why the APC leadership under Chairman Adams Oshiomhole (as he then was) refused to be placated and was determined to shove Obaseki under the bus and why the PDP stopped at nothing in ceasing the moment.
For the Oshiomhole group in the APC, it is still not clear why they couldn’t work with Obaseki and wanted him out at all costs. One thing is however clear: there are groups in the APC, which are working round the clock on the post-Buhari presidency. There are camps working for retention of Power in the North and yet, others are predisposed to letting power move South in the spirit of the principle of rotation. Even for those acquiescing power to the South, not all agree to power going South East. The aim of each group is to produce Buhari’s successor and it is possible that Obaseki and his erstwhile godfather belong to different camps.
Groups carved out by the 2023 presidential quest like Christmas turkey are not limited to the APC alone; PDP has such camps working also for retention of power in the North and others for power shift to the South.
So, Obaseki was more likely to have been caught in the 2023 crossfire and seen on the wrong side of the divide. His exit from the APC is a major blow because it has led to their losing the only Governor the Party once had in the entire South South.
Obaseki was not fairly treated and this may be what angered Edo people, who are known for their political courage and sagacity. They once dumped PDP following the poor performance of Lucky Nosakhare Igbinedion as governor and backed Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole and his Action Congress of Nigeria to become governor for 8 years. Edo people know precisely what they want and how to go about it and such is the future of democracy in Nigeria.
In all normal political culture, the serving Governor or President is given the right of first refusal of the ticket by their political parties. Only rarely, are the incumbents dropped by the parties and most often when they are, it usually produces unsavory consequences. When the PDP dropped Chinwoke Mbadinuju of Anambra State in 2003, it paved the way for the taking over of the State by APGA till date.
What this scenario shows is that Obaseki won more out of protest by the people that were irked and felt insulted than for his wonderful performance. This happened in Nigeria at national level in 2015 when President Muhammadu Buhari was voted into power by Nigerians in protest of massive corruption and insecurity going on in the country under the Jonathan government.
There is certainly a very strong lesson from the Edo governorship election, which must be understood for the benefit of the future. Commendably, the security agencies led by the Nigerian Police did a professional job and remained neutral and as a reward, nobody died and the Police positively signposted itself for posterity. INEC also did a great job; giving much hope that electoral years ahead are years of promise. Not that the election was perfect but it disappointed those who expected and predicted a bloodbath.
The Oba of Benin, Omonoba na Edo, played a vital role too by refusing to take sides and for insisting on peace, not forgetting the God (X) factor, which makes Obaseki a child of circumstance and beneficiary of some strange forces.
There seemed not to be any interference ‘from above’ and such allowed Edo people to exercise their franchise and defend their votes in the atmosphere of civility. Performance of Edo people is superior to similar feats delivered by Rivers and Bayelsa people for the election and reelection of Nyeson Nwike and Seriake Dickson because in the later cases persons died. For this reason, one cannot but dough hat for Edo people for setting the pace in the voter revolution that will enable Nigerians take over the process and decide who governs them at all levels.
If this feat is repeated in Ondo, Anambra and, ultimately, in the 2023 general elections, the nation’s democracy will be honed and power will return to the people for good and as democracy demands.
Dr. Law Mefor is an Abuja based Forensic/Social Psychologist and Journalist; email: drlawmefor[email protected]; Tel.: +234-905 642 4375; tweet: @LawMefor1