The return match

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TRACKING_____IN 48 hours, the people of Edo State will go to the polls to elect a new governor or retain the outgoing one. Outgoing Governor Godwin Obaseki is contesting on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In 2016, he flew the flag of the All Progressives Congress (APC). His arch opponent Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the APC was the standard-bearer of PDP then. Though, there are other candidates contesting under the banner of other parties in Saturday’s election, the duo of Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu stand out in the pack.

One does not need to be a seer to say either Obaseki or Ize-Iyamu will win. Their parties are the main political associations known to many across the country. Though there are scores of other parties, many of them are only so in name. They participate in one election only to go into oblivion before the next one. In the country today, the parties are APC, PDP and others. In the past, many who won election under the other platforms defected to either APC or PDP depending on which is in power in order to remain politically relevant.

PDP was in power in Edo State from 1999 up till 2008 when Adams Oshiomhole became governor after the Court of Appeal voided the election of Governor Osarhiemen Osunbor. Oshiomhole came to office in a hostile environment. APC was unknown in the state. PDP was the party to associate with as that was where the movers and shakers were. These powerful men determined who became what and who got what. They put puppets in power and pulled the strings from behind the curtain.

Even though, he did not come to power on their platform, Oshiomhole did the bidding of these influencers in order to get things done. Moreover, a governor can only be governor as long as he enjoys the confidence of the House of Assembly. With the ‘enemy’ party in control of the assembly, Oshiomhole learnt to walk the tightrope to survive. His labour union background came in handy in negotiating his way out of a tight corner. He dislodged PDP and the godfathers that ruled the state from the seat of power and set APC on the throne. His job done after his two terms of eight years, Oshiomhole made Obaseki, his economic czar in whom he was well pleased, his successor.

By that action, he sacrificed Ize-Iyamu for Obaseki. In politics, there are no permanent friends, but permanent interests. But today, he is regretting his action. The horse that he put money on is today his biggest political foe. Though, Obaseki is facing Ize-Iyamu in this election, the face he is seeing is that of Oshiomhole. He is enamoured of his predecessor who he has sworn to “bury politically”. According to him, he retired Oshiomhole from politics when the former governor was removed as APC national chairman. The final act, he said, was to bury Oshiomhole politically by defeating him and APC in Saturday’s election.

There is tension in Edo ahead of the election in which a lot is at stake. Pride, honour, ability, capability and relevance are at play. Obaseki believes he has come of age politically and can square up to Oshiomhole whose legacy he pledged to build on at his inauguration in 2016. As governor, he has enormous resources at his disposal. He can make and unmake people. This is where his fight with Oshiomhole is believed to have started from. Nobody gets to power solely by his strength. He is helped by stalwarts who are more experienced in the game than him. These people are the ones who make things happen through their foot soldiers. These henchmen do the running around for the anointed candidate with the understanding that they will be settled if he wins.

The Oshiomhole political machinery went into full throtle after Obaseki became the candidate. Nothing was spared to sell him, while everything was done to demarket Ize-Iyamu. Now the candidates have swapped positions. Ize-Iyamu is back in APC and Obaseki, who came from the business world is out of the party. The countdown to the election began long ago. Two years before the exercise, things started heating up in Edo APC. The crisis spilled to the party headquarters in Abuja. All efforts to resolve the rift even by the Presidency and the revered Oba Ewuare 11 of Benin Kingdom failed.

Obaseki insisted that only Oshiomhole’s exit from the party would appease him. It was another way of saying he wanted to be the undisputed APC leader in the state. That the electoral process is riven by violence today can be traced to this fight of estranged political bedfellows. What the people of Edo want is a peaceful and credible election in this return match of these two political gladiators. If the election is free and fair, it would have been a well fought contest. But if it is not, it will leave a long lasting bitter feud. The people do not want such a feud. They have suffered for too long to be saddled with a political problem which is not of their own making. The security agencies have a key role to play to ensure that the will of the people prevails on Saturday.

The public expects them to be neutral and to avoid lending support to any of the contestants so that nobody gets a upper hand in the election. The transparency of the exercise lies with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Eveything that INEC does will be scrutinised to ascertain if it meets global best practice. The conduct of an election is no child’s play. It is serious business. No matter what it does, the parties and their candidates will always suspect INEC. Some will accuse it of favouring a party or a candidate to others. When they lose, they will blame it on INEC, but when they win, they will praise the agency to high heaven.

INEC should not listen to any complaints as long as it does the right thing. Its only worry should be how to conduct a free, fair and credible election. The candidates have been campaigning all over the state and as expected Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu are the most visible on the campaign trail. On Sunday, they engaged on a television debate where they spoke of their vision for the Heartbeat of the Nation. Yesterday, they featured on another television debate. Edo, as the Heartbeat of the Nation, deserves the best. Did Obaseki give his best in the past four years? Will Ize-Iyamu do better if he is elected? The pastor, many believe, is the best man for the job.

The way he tackled Obaseki during the first television debate shows that Ize-Iyamu is well prepared for the job. He reeled out facts and figures to support his submissions. He bested Obaseki in that debate as the governor looked ordinary and drab in his presentation. The governor Edo deserves is the man that can take it to where it rightly belongs. The man that will deliver on his promises and not the one that will hound and hunt his backers when he gets into office. That man, the people believe, is Ize-Iyamu. The people have seen the four years of Obaseki and they are not impressed with what they saw. To them, he came, he saw, and he did not deliver. Another four years of him will be a disaster.

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