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Edo: Waiting for a mixed bag


Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State.

Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State.

In 2015, the myth behind the power of incumbency was shattered when the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan lost to the major opposition challenger, General Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Being the first time the APC was featuring in a presidential poll, the outcome was historic, especially in the light of the fact that its presidential flagbearer was a serial loser.

In Edo State, the 2016 governorship election would be the first time APC is facing the state wide constituency. Although incumbent Adams Oshiomhole would not feature on the ballot, the election holds much in store for him and the party.

At a time when the ruling party has just turned one year in office, the outcome of the Edo governorship could be a reflection of the people’s estimation of the party’s performance in governance. To some extent, the result of the election as well as the processes leading to the emergence of APC flag bearer would also serve as a ready indication of how Edo people think the incumbent has fared in the state.

There has been the perception that Oshiomhole actually came on the scene at a time when public disenchantment with the displaced ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was very high. Many believe that the attempt to impose a governorship candidate on PDP provided the enabling environment for Oshiomhole to emerge as a compromise candidate.

Recent events in Edo point to the possibility that the 2016 governorship would present a mixed baggage. While APC gives the impression that it is the party to beat, speculations that the incumbent governor may interfere with the selection process have thrown up various tendencies.

A central feature of the dicey state of things in Edo is the activities of the Edo Mass Movement (EMM), being anchored by Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia. Ogbemudia, a former governor of the state, resigned his membership of PDP and when speculations became rife that the governor of old Bendel State may pitch his political tent with APC, given his prodigious praise for Oshiomhole, he elected to serve a statesman.

Ogbemudia’s stated plans to help select a capable candidate that would enjoy the confidence of every Edo indigene, sparks off speculations that the governorship would end up a three-horse race. Again, despite the avowals of EMM to help select popular candidate for one or more of the mainline political parties, indications have emerged that the group may rally a third party in the poll.

The new strategy to seek a fresh platform, sources said, followed the intricate infighting within APC, especially the insistence of Oshiomhole to block every opportunity to have his deputy, Dr. Odubu succeed him. Last week Odubu obtained his intent and nomination forms for the governorship ticket of APC.

Though most APC chieftain insists that a transparent governorship primary would throw up the flag bearer, some aspirants believe that the governor’s interest in who emerges might have propelled EMM to seek alternate platform.

The question on the lips of Edo people is whether Dr. Ogbemudia floated EMM in the first place to help push Oshiomhole’s preferred candidate in APC. It is perhaps against the background of these speculations that EMM has scheduled to make its position public on June 8, 2016.

Already three political parties, the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Labour Party (LP) and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) are said to have been penciled for possible consideration by EMM.

But one of the frontline governorship aspirants in APC, who did not want his name in print so as not to geopardize ongoing reconciliation efforts of the National Working Committee, told The Guardian that only APC can stop itself from winning the governorship.

The governorship aspirant remarked that what EMM was doing should not worry anybody, noting that the national leadership of APC would what is right so that the schemes of pressure groups would not affect the party.

He said: “Edo Mass Movement is not a political party; that it is led or being propelled by Dr. Ogbemudia does not make it a political party. What I can tell is that Edo State is an APC state, and it is only APC as a party that can make itself lose the election.

“We believe that APC will manage the governorship primaries very well; the national leadership has stepped in and we believe they would do the right things. After all the party has set a template with the presidential convention, a similar thing would obtain in Edo.”

The governorship maintained that there was no crisis in Edo APC, stressing that even if the governor has preference for any aspirant that person must go through a transparent primary election. “I am not speaking for the NWC, but there must be an open primary. Even the governor’s preferred candidate would be subjected to the primary process. Governor Adams Oshiomhole does not look like somebody that can manipulate the system; so no cause for alarm,” he added.

Yet with the few aspirants on the platform of PDP, the party may not witness a divisive primary election. The manageable number of aspirants would also help the party to focus on the candidate that would help it return to power after eight years in the cold.

Moreover PDP may want to use the Edo governorship to show that its loss of the 2015 election was caused by inexplicable political miscalculations. Governors of the South/South geopolitical zone, recently said it would do all in their power to ensure that Edo comes back into a common political fold as others.

A lot would depend on the capacity of the various interests to capture the mood of the state and mobilize voters effectively to determine the direction and dynamics of party politics in the state. Top of all the permutations is the fear of violence.

The exchange of words, accusations and counter-accusations between the governor and his deputy seemed to set the tone of possible electoral violence, especially against the background of the shooting in Edo north and power play in the House of Assembly.

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