The question of who succeeds Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo state when his tenure expires is expected to be answered by voters in Edo State on September 10, as they choose from the array of 19 candidates contesting for the governorship election there
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Sep 12, 2016 @ 01:00 GMT |
BARELY one week to the governorship election in Edo State slated for September 10, the political temperature in the state is rapidly shooting up. Already, campaigns of the major political parties in the state are in top gear. But the question on the lips of stakeholders in the state and across the country is which of the governorship candidates is well positioned to take the baton and replace Adams Oshiomhole, the incumbent governor of the state.
Although about 19 political parties registered for the election, only two are considered to be strong contenders. They are Godwin Obaseki of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Others in the race are Ishaka Ofemile, Action Alliance, AA; Amos Aroloegbe, Labour Party, LP; Richard Oronsaye, Mega Progressive Peoples Party, MPPP; Cosmas Irabor, Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, ACPN; Onaiwu Osaro, All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA; David Okoror, Citizens Popular Party, CPP; Tobi Adeniyi, Independent Democrats, ID; Thompson Osadolor, KOWA Party, KP; Peter Omoragbon, National Conscience Party, NCP, and Akhalamhe Amiemenoghena, People for Democratic Change, PDC.
The rest are Thomas Sadoh, Progressive People Alliance, PPA; Ebun Agol, Peoples Party of Nigeria, PPN; Omorogieva Gbajumo, Social Democratic Party; Shadrach Efogie, United Progressive Party, UPP; Andrew Igwemoh, Advanced Congress of Democrats, ACD, and Nurudeen Inwanefero, Young People Democratic Party, YDP.
Although the APC controls power in the state and its candidate is enjoying the power of incumbency, the lingering economic hardship and inability of the APC-led federal government to deliver on some of its election promises, are likely to affect Obaseki’s performance in the governorship election. The National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, on Wednesday, August 31, confirmed that the Nigerian economy has slipped into recession. Figures released by the NBS showed that the second quarter 2016 Gross Domestic Product, GDP, declined by -2.06 percent. The decline means that Nigeria has now recorded two consecutive quarters of declining growth in the GDP.
That notwithstanding, Obaseki, a seasoned investment banker and chairman, Edo State Economic and Strategy Team, is undoubtedly a new comer in politics and so far has no ugly political baggage like his arch rival despite serving in Oshiomhole’s government since 2009. He believes that his years of experience in the banking and capital market as well as his friendly disposition will endear him to the electorates and help him deflect political missiles that will come his way either from his fellow political gladiators or from the media.
His experience as a risk manager, investment banker and technocrat, a proven public policy leader on economic development, financial accountability and human resource development are all the good attributes that are expected to help him steer the affairs of Edo State if elected as the governor.
His game plan is anchored on continuity. This implies that he will continue with the implementation of the programmes and policies of Oshiomhole. Obaseki, who is the founder of Afrinvest West Africa Limited, formerly Securities Transactions and Trust Company Limited, SecTrust, has more than 30 years experience and a proven track record in investment banking, asset management, securities trading, and the public sector both internationally and in Nigeria.
His vision is to make Edo State the first choice investment destination and a hub for industrialisation and commercial activities. According to his mission statement, Obaseki wants to create a socially-stable and business-friendly environment that will attract indigenous and foreign investors to the state.
His achievements as the chairman of the economic team in the state have shown that he wants to improve investments in the state. He has helped to formulate the documentation of the Edo State economic development framework through sectors’ strategic planning which is reviewed and updated on an on-going basis.
He oversaw the N25 billion infrastructure development bond the state issued in the Nigerian capital market in 2010, $225 million concessionary rates development loan from the World Bank with the first tranche of $75 million already accessed, successful hosting of sector-based Economic Summits and Policy Dialogue Series, including the Power Round Table in 2010, 2011 Education Round Table and 2012 Agribusiness Round Table.
The summits have translated into immeasurable outcomes including Azura-Edo IPP project with over $1 billion in foreign direct investment currently under development in Ihovbor, Uhunwode Local Government Area. He also brought about education reforms, which have translated to significant improvement in educational infrastructure and student performance in WAEC and other exams.
Despite the intimidating profile of Obaseki, he is largely seen in some quarters as a stooge of Governor Oshiomhole. Without the family name, nobody seems to know him in the state. Obaseki is also seen as a shrewd tax collector who would not only continue the tax policy of Oshiomhole, but in fact take it to a higher level, if elected.
The current economic situation in the country is not helping matters for the APC candidate because one of the campaign slogans of the PDP is that the high cost of living Nigerians are witnessing under the President Muhammadu Buhari administration will be worse in Edo State if the APC is allowed to continue as a party in government.
The PDP, with Ize-Iyamu as its flag-bearer, is no doubt, a strong opposition to the APC-led government in the state. Ize-Iyamu is a formidable politician. He is a pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church of God and a former official of the PDP government in the state, where he served as chief of staff and secretary to the Edo State government during the administration of Governor Lucky Igbinedion between 1999 and 2007.
Before his nomination as candidate of the PDP, Ize-Iyamu was a member of the APC and the national vice-chairman, South-south zone, of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria. He served as director-general of Adams Oshiomhole’s second term campaign organisation. He was also the coordinator of Goodluck/Sambo Campaign Organisation.
The PDP candidate’s strength in the forthcoming election rests mainly on his political sagacity. He was a member of the party he is now contesting against and could be said to know the party’s strength and weaknesses which he may capitalise on to win the election.
Besides, the sorry state of the economy now may favour Ize-Iyamu more than Obaseki since the ruling APC is being blamed for not being able to salvage the tattered economy, which its problems started in the time of the PDP-controlled federal government. Nevertheless, this has not stopped the PDP in the state from using the harsh economic downturn as a campaign weapon against the APC state and federal governments.
Ize-Iyamu is also using the tax policy of the Oshiomhole government, which is biting hard on the people, against the APC candidate. Closely allied to this is the problem of pension arrears being owed by the state government. In addition, some local governments in the state owe their workers arrears of salary.
It is believed that all these factors may work against Obaseki if nothing is done fast by the APC to alleviate numerous problems facing electorate in the state. In any case, the pensioners who are captured in the pension scheme have started to receive their pensions alongside state workers and local government workers have also started receiving some of the backlog of salaries owed them. But it may also be too little too late for Obaseki.
Nonetheless, Ize-Iyamu may not fare better. It is believed that an average Edo voter would like to see the election of Ize-Iyamu as a continuation of former Governor Igbinedion, who spent eight years in office with nothing to show for it in terms of development. The PDP governorship candidate occupied two strategic positions, as chief of staff, and secretary to the state government in that administration. Besides, he was alleged to have been the one that signed most of the fictitious multi-billion naira contracts in the Igbinedion administration, which were never executed.
Another thing that may work against Ize-Iyamu is the factionalisation of the PDP at the national level, which is affecting unity of the party in the state. Although Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has recognised him as the candidate of the party, many others who contested with him in the primaries have deserted him. First to leave was Osaro Onaiwu, followed by Solomon Edebiri and the factional PDP candidate from the Ali Modu Sheriff camp, Matthew Iduoriyekemwen.
As the election draws near, the electorate appear to be at the receiving end as they denied the opportunity of knowing which of the party would serve their interest. Manifestos of both candidates are shrouded in darkness as politicians resort to personal attacks instead of debating issues.
For instance, on Monday, August, 29, Oshiomhole lashed out at Ize-Iyamu, saying: “I did not appoint Ize-Iyamu because of his past record. I would not be comfortable to put government money in his hand. That is why I kept him completely out of government. I did not even give him a board appointment. He was part of the government that looted the Edo State treasury. Do not put the key to your kitchen in the hands of someone you do not trust. Usually, a governor appoints the director-general of his campaign after his election. But I did not appoint him into government because I have his records; I do not trust him.”
He also faulted criticisms over the sighting of a new university in his hometown, arguing that state funds were better invested in human capital development than in private pockets. The governor said: “I read Ize-Iyamu complaining that I have developed my village, Iyamho. Yes, because Iyamho is part of Edo State. But I did not put the money in my pocket. But what did they do in Okada (community)? They said they wanted to do a dual carriageway. They collected the money and put it in their pocket and they did not do the Okada road.”
Oshiomhole also accused the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, Edo Region 13 headquarters (Trinity Sanctuary) in Benin City, Edo State, of converting the church building into the campaign office of Ize-Iyamu.
Reacting, the PDP candidate on Wednesday, August 31, said: “Governor Adams Oshiomhole and his puppet APC candidate, Godwin Obaseki, should not drag RCCG into their dirty, unholy politics. The allegation is a cheap blackmail from those who want to bring the name of the church into disrepute, and they will surely fail.”
However, he said in the middle of untold hardship and fast deteriorating socio-political, cultural and economic institutions in Edo State caused by the unholy and anti-people policies of Oshiomhole/APC-led government; good Christian leaders could not continue to remain in the middle-of-the-road and aloof. Asserting that pastors could give direction in the face of bad governance, he said: “Why can’t pastors be part of our efforts to rescue Edo State? Just yesterday, three more pensioners in Edo state died while others are presently languishing in penury and different ailments following the long wait for their arrears of pension and gratuities after retirement from active service.”
Ize-Iyamu had on July 23, vowed to probe the administration of Oshiomhole if elected. The PDP candidate also urged the governor “to probe my time in government and look at everything that I did. Let him do it because by the grace of God, when I am governor, I will probe him; every kobo that has come to Edo State must be accounted for. That is his fear; that is why he can no longer sleep.
“Adams Oshiomhole believes that the more he attacks (us), the more he can hide the truth. Only recently in a Catholic Church, he met Chief Anenih and apologised to him on the altar; days after, he was abusing Chief Anenih. He says Pastor Ize-Iyamu is bad; Ize-Iyamu is useless. When he appointed Ize-Iyamu DG (Director-General) of his campaign, he did not know about these then. When he made him national vice chairman of his party, he did not know then. Now that Ize-Iyamu has left him, Ize-Iyamu is suddenly bad.”
Ironically, Obaseki appears to be aloof as Oshiomhole and Ize-Iyamu engage in endless tirades. Indeed, one would think that the governor and the PDP candidate are actually the contenders as their verbal war takes the centre-stage of the election campaigns.
Will the power of incumbency work in favour of Obaseki or will Ize-Iyamu be strong enough to pull the rug off the feet of Oshiomhole? The election in Edo State promises to be a litmus test not only for the umpire but also for the APC federal-led government whose strength be called to account. The battle for Denis Osadebe Avenue, seat of government of Edo State, will be a fight of the titans. But the ultimate power rests in the people of Edo State, who are waiting for the Election Day to choose who will pilot the affairs of the state for the next four years.