Edo State Election: Adams Oshiomhole’s Last Dance By Osahon Pius Airewele

Politics is the choice between the lesser of two evils (George Orwell).

It is a settled matter now that Godwin Obaseki and Pastor Ize-Iyamu.aka POI, will present Edo State electorate with a binary choice in the forthcoming gubernatorial elections, both of them arranged under their new party leaders, with renewed and concerting measures in opposition to each other.

The Edo people, like four years ago, are again presented with the same candidates in swapped seats. Winston Churchhill once said: “Some men change their party for the sake of their principles; others their principles for the sake of their party.”  I do not know or understand which of these candidates is changing party because of principles or which of them is changing his principle to soothe the party. I do not even know the principles they advocate, that is, if they have any.

There is no difference between the parties other than the name they choose to call themselves. All of them are bereft of any discernible ideology but it is expected that there ought to be differences in the people vying for this office that will guide the decision of the electorate on who to entrust with their destiny via their votes for the next four years. The Edo electorate should be asking themselves now what kind of people these candidates are and what direction they want to move the state. A fatalistic attitude to the process of choosing a lesser evil between these two makes our quest for a better society a Sisyphean mission and a dangerous one. 

This scenario in Edo state is interesting to watch, though it has created a peculiar mess for Adams Oshiomhole.

The campaign leading to the election will for sure test the political mettle of Oshiomhole; as this election might as well define his place in the history of Nigeria, nay Edo politics.

A little less than four years ago, we were reminded of the past mismanagement of Edo State by POI and his party, the PDP. Adams Oshiomole, who was then the outgoing governor, minced no word in denouncing POI as a thief, renegade, a squanderer who cannot be trusted with the treasury and it was the reason he did not nominate him for an appointment when he was still a chieftain of APC in the State. Shortly before rejoining the PDP, POI was a member of APC and rejoined the  PDP to realize his ambition and now he is back to APC to further his lingering desire to govern the state.

It was a difficult season for POI when he was in PDP during the last election. The specter of the Igbinedion era of mismanagement, graft, and wanton pillaging of state resources was a dark cloud that prevented his campaign from shinning. POI’s problem was also worsened by accusations of cultism and rape while he was still a student at the University of Benin. These accusations and innuendos may not have sunk his ambition then, but without a doubt pushed some votes beyond his reach.

Oshiomhole did not so much speak of Obaseki’s skills other than the fact that he was a Technocrat who headed the economic council under his administration. It would have been perfectly worthy of note if Edo state witnessed an economic resurgence under Oshiomhole’s government that we could remotely attribute to Obaseki as the chairman of the economic council.

Oshiomhole effectively deployed and amassed all means for propulsion to coalesce voters in the direction of Obaseki.   While Obaseki was the one who sought the office, Oshiomhole was nevertheless, POI’s opponent.

The candidates have changed seats, the issues remain the same but the man who was the focus of the last election, who despite his recent humiliation at the federal level, will still retain his status as the campaigner in chief of the party but this time, change the direction he deploys his arsenal with vengeful anger at his former protege.

The caustic relationship that has developed between Oshiomhole and Obaseki will unfold interestingly. Accusations will fly around like kites on a windy day.

The battle lines have been drawn. The rhetorical weapons of war are clear and the vitriolic targets of each side are obvious. What is uncertain is who the spectators will cheer for.

Obaseki will attempt to fend off the attack from his former boss and erstwhile campaigner-in-chief. As much as the governor wants to ignore the hues and cries over alleged forgery and falsification of academic credentials, which Oshiomhole defended in the last election, it will likely be a veritable arrow in his quiver this time around. This is one issue court rulings will not silence.

Obaseki’s two prongs attack will focus on the allegations of godfatherism and Oshiomhole’s demand for the key to the treasury.

His attack on POI will most likely be left to his surrogates and there probably won’t be any new angle other than his role in the Igbinedion era and his university days.

I am at a loss on how POI candidacy can be evaluated by any other way other than his stewardship under Igbinedion; he was his assistant when he was a local government Chairman, Secretary to the government, and Chief of Staff during his two terms as governor. If that is all the credentials he parades as justification for seeking the office it has to be squarely measured against a governor under the cloud of certificate forgery and who yet demands a second term based on his performance.

Politics is an interesting game in Nigeria and the most unimaginable things have been known to happen and unexpected people have sometimes attained positions of power that even the politicians themselves are surprised that they are believed. In a society where probity is not a determining factor for elective office, Obaseki and Iyamu can conveniently switch chairs; however, it will not be so easy this time for the man that ensured the victory of one over the other in the last election.

Oshiomhole is a consummate political marketer and despite his fading energy and disappearing clout, his quagmire is obvious. How well will he clean his vomit on POI and how much can he denigrate the performance of a governor he lauded four years ago and helped install.

Oshiomole in his present despondency, must continuously wonder how he will take back and reverse not only what he said about both candidates in the past election but also how to convince his followers that he is right this time.

“I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant”, was how Alan Greenspan, once tried to wiggle out of a similar situation.

Oshiomhole can and will try to take back all that he said about Iyamu. That we heard and understood what he said is of little doubt, but what I don’t know is if he believes that we know what he meant.