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Despite huge obstacles to his re-election, Obaseki rallies support

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Barely three weeks after he moved from All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), there are indications that more obstacles could be thrown on Governor Godwin Obaseki’s path to realizing his second term ambition.

Other political parties taking part in the electoral process, including the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Action Alliance (AA) have been making utterances that suggest their support for either All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, or the governor and PDP.

Getting a ready platform after his disqualification by APC was not an issue, because sources disclosed that no fewer than three political parties were eagerly waiting to receive the governor. But, although joining PDP put the governor’s second term ambition back on track, the challenges thrown up by the grave inconsistencies in his credentials do not seem to be over.

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With the Bayelsa instance at the back of their mind, APC said it disqualified the governor to avoid a possible post-election litigation. It is generally believed that burden, which the PDP inherited by fielding Obaseki, could compromise its chances in the September 19, governorship poll.

While Governor Obaseki and his deputy, Mr. Phillip Shaibu, presented the entire episode as a witch-hunt cast in the mold of a godfather, the committee’s report did not provide reliable interpretation.

The committee, headed by Prof. Jonathan Ayuba, had stated: “In our interaction with issues raised, we concluded that HSLC was defective; the NYSC certificate and based on the party’s constitution, this has made us to recommend that the above candidate therefore, Obaseki, is not eligible to participate in the election.”

The Special Adviser to the governor on Media and Strategy, Crusoe Osagie, had dismissed the report not only as “a mockery of democratic process,” but also as further evidence of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole’s excesses in the running of APC.

Also a PDP chieftain in Edo South Senatorial District, Owere Dickson Imasogie, expressed optimism that PDP would defeat the APC gubernatorial election. Owere Imasogie had also contrasted the peaceful PDP congresses with the crisis in APC and concluded that PDP “was on the right and genuine path to produce the next governor.”

Sounding upbeat, Imasogie maintained that PDP was at the verge of harvesting even a greater number of defectors from APC, stressing that APC is swimming in crisis of confidence.

Imasogie, however, lamented the advent and intensity of COVID-19 pandemic, remarking that it brought about a lull in comprehensive campaigns. He praised the balanced distribution of positions within the PDP, saying that with state chairman from Edo Central, the governor and his deputy from Edo South and North respectively, the political permutations favour Obaseki. 

Imasogie therefore enjoined party leaders and members in the state to remain firm and loyal to the PDP, noting that the chances of the party securing victory in the governorship election were very bright.

Also the state PDP chairman, Tony Aziegbemi disclosed that about 20,000 citizens have joined the party after Governor Obaseki joined PDP on June 19.Aziegbemi noted that ever since, defection from other parties to PDP have been a daily occurrence in the state, adding that the party’s national headquarters handed him more than 20,000 membership cards before the primary election, which has run out.

“Every day people are defecting in the various wards across the 18 local government areas in the state to PDP,” Aziegbemi disclosed. “Our party and the governor are enjoying massive support from the electorate and the people of the state. I can say that 90 per cent of the electorate is ready to return the governor to the government house during the September 19, 2020 governorship election.”

The PDP national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbodiyan recently commended Edo people for the “massive defection from APC to PDP”, stressing that the “mass defection marked the end-of-the-road for APC and its candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.” According to Ologbondiyan, the movement from APC to PDP is evidence of the increasing popularity of Governor Obaseki and PDP across the state.

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Titanic battle
BUT at the point of his disqualification by APC, most observers remarked that Obaseki had set himself up for a titanic battle, especially given that it took Oshiomhole’s clout and connection to make him governor in 2016. Analysts believe that given the role played by Oshiomhole to make him governor in 2016 and the nature of Edo State politics, Obaseki may be toying with the chances of his re-election.

Opinions are, however, divided on whether the change of platform from APC to PDP would make things easier for the governor, just as some APC members believe that fielding Obaseki after his rejection by APC will turn out as a big burden on PDP.

For instance, rights activist, Mr. Benson Aigbekaen, said on its face value PDP seems to offer the governor a stable platform, “but in the real sense of it, Obaseki’s candidature is like a thing built on nothing.

“Obaseki is currently like a general without command. He has no political structure to drive his ambition. The governor faces and will continue to face stiff opposition within his new party. Some PDP faithful appear unenthusiastic about his emergence as the party’s governorship candidate for the forthcoming election.”

Aigbekan noted that if not for the intervention of powerful elements from outside Edo State PDP, it would have been very hard for Obaseki to clinch the party’s ticket, stressing that up until now the governor has not built a network of friends around the state. He stated: “As an incumbent, the governor has not been proactive to build friends across party lines like his predecessor. Many still see his coming into PDP as an imposition by those who want to takeover leadership of the state at all cost.”

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Also, a suposed PDP chieftain and former Commissioner of Information in the state, Kassim Afegbua, has continued to voice his opposition to Obaseki’s emergence on the party for the election. There are said to be other PDP renegades like Afegbua, who have vowed to join forces with the APC to ensure Obaseki’s trouncing at the polls to demonstrate their distaste for his entry into the party.

How far has the governor gone to win over these internal opponents? All this point to the reality that the governor has to work really hard to convince the voices of dissent and be able to convert them to potential votes during the polls.

Twisted campaign
UNTIL three weeks ago, for PDP, Obaseki was a failure. Three weeks ago, three governorship aspirants on the party’s platform stepped down for the governor. And the story changed.

Although the major feature of the political reports from Edo State revolved around the altercation between Oshiomhole and Obaseki, some residents of the state think that governance suffered in the past three years under the governor.

That could explain the bitterness of some politicians in PDP, particularly Afegbua, who feels that Obaseki’s entry disrupted their internal arrangements to battle him at the September 19 gubernatorial election. Afegbua’s remonstrance betrays deep pain, whenever he reflects on the events that led to the adoption of the incumbent as PDP’s standard-bearer.

For instance, in a recent media interaction, the Okpella-native stated: “We will join hands collectively with the APC candidate to ensure that Godwin Obaseki does not return. I am a PDP member, but I will vote APC. A man with the humility of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is better than a governor who fights everyone who disagrees with him.”

There are indications that if Afegbua’s tantrums is anything to go by, Obaseki may not have a cheerleader to pilot his campaigns as Oshiomhole did in 2016 and this could make him a lone performer on an empty stage without an enthusiastic following or audience to call his own.

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With such likely scenario, Governor Obaseki could face his toughest electoral battle of his political career yet come September. If the governor rode on the back of Oshiomhole’s goodwill and APC’s bourgeoning influence to become governor in 2016, it is left to be seen how his incumbency and the PDP platform would catapult him to victory four years after.

Backlash, more disqualifications
DURING the election, there is the possibility that some politicians, who were sacked from the government for their closeness to Oshiomhole, may go for their pound of flesh.

These include party leaders booted out on July 3, 2019 in the guise that they were not only loyal to the former national chairman of APC, but also troubling him for “access to the state’s treasury to share Edo money.”Eight commissioners and special advisers as well as many local government councils’ bosses believed to be Oshiomhole’s allies were also sacked from the cabinet.

It would also be recalled that on July 4, 2019, Chris Okaeben was suspended from the APC by the Oredo Local Government Area chapter APC, just as the governor was fingered in the July 23, 2019 fight against the nomination of Clem Agba by President Muhammadu Buhari for ministerial appointment. The bazaar of suspension culminated in the July 31, 2019 removal of the chairman of Etsako West Local Government Area, Mr. Yakubu Musa. Apart from the backlash from those political attacks, other indicators that could win votes are unemployment and insecurity.

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