By Omeiza Ajayi
It is no longer news that Governor Godwin Obaseki of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the All Progressives Congress, APC, first locked horns in 2016 when they both contested the governorship of Edo State.
Today, they have traded places as both have ditched the platforms they used in 2016 with Ize-Iyamu now going for Obaseki’s APC and vice versa.
In the 2016 governorship election, of the 18 local government areas, the APC which then had Obaseki as its candidate polled 319, 483 votes winning in 14 LGAs viz: Owan West; Egor; Igueben; Uhunmwonde; Oredo; Owan East; Ovia North East; Etsako East; Etsako Central; Etsako West; Ikpoba-Okha; Akoko-Edo; Ovia South-West; Owan East.
Ize-Iyamu polled 253, 173 votes and won in the remaining four LGAs.
Did the APC win the election in 2016? Or did the people vote for Obaseki as an individual? The outcome of today’s election could shed light on whether the people actually voted for political parties or individuals in 2016.
However, both candidates do not have the sole power to swing votes as there are other stakeholders and opinion moulders within both camps who would determine where the votes would swing today.
For the APC, Pastor Ize-Iyamu is from Edo South (just like Obaseki) which has the largest voting population, 58 percent, in the state.
In Edo South where both candidates hail from, the APC with Obaseki in 2016 got 48 percent of the votes while the PDP which then had Ize-Iyamu got 49 percent of the votes cast. Today, both men have traded political parties. While there are people who would vote along party lines, there are those who would vote for individuals.
Like they went neck and neck in 2016, both candidates are also likely to repeat nearly the same feat today.
While Obaseki is from Oredo local government with two state constituencies, Ize-Iyamu comes from Orhiomwon, also with two state constituencies. These might appear even, however there are other undercurrents. For instance, in Uhumwonde where the state assembly member, Washington Osifo hails from, the governor could have some challenges especially as a two-time federal lawmaker and APC chieftain, Barr. Samson Osagie hails from the area. What might help the governor is the influence of a grassroots politician, Hon. Charles Idahosa, but can he withstand the duo of Osagie and Osifo?
There are others who could swing the votes either way. One is Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, a former Governor of the state and former National Chairman of the APC. Although he remains an APC chieftain, he had never hidden his disdain for the way Obaseki was “eased out” of the party. While he is a member of the APC National Campaign Council, Chief Odigie-Oyegun has not been active in campaigning for the party’s candidate, Ize-Iyamu. Though he served out his four-year tenure as APC National Chairman, the former Governor was constantly assailed by Comrade Oshiomhole, his successor as party chairman. Since then, the gulf between both men has widened. It is therefore safe to conclude that the body language of Chief Odigie-Oyegun suggests that his heart is not with Ize-Iyamu.
Then, there is the Esama of Benin, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion. While his family has been aligned with the PDP in the past, Ize-Iyamu, the APC candidate is seen as his godson. Curiously, his children, Chief Lucky Igbinedion, a former Governor of the state and Hon. Omosede Igbinedion, a former federal lawmaker were among those who paved the way for Obaseki’s entry into the PDP. It is not very clear, where the older Igbinedion stands.
What might work for the APC candidate is his experience in the political field having managed the 1999, 2003 and 2012 campaigns of Chief Lucky Igbinedion and then Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
Also in Edo South which has 10 state constituency seats, only four were inaugurated by Obaseki. The remaining six had aligned with Oshiomhole and Ize-Iyamu in the APC. However, it remains to be seen if these six from Uhumwonde, Oredo East, Oredo West, Ovia North East I, Ovia North East II, and Ovia South-west would be able to deliver for the APC.
In Edo South, there are other powers and principalities with their various spheres of influence. For instance, Dr Pius Odubu who sought the APC ticket alongside Ize-Iyamu was a two-time deputy governor of the state under Oshiomhole. He was also a two-time federal lawmaker.
Patrick Obahiagbon, a former federal lawmaker and deputy spokesman of the APC Campaign is also there. Then, there is Mrs Elizabeth Ativie, who was at the state assembly on two occasions and was once its Speaker.
Other APC leaders in the zone include former Minister, Engr. Chris Ogiemwonyi; former deputy governor, Mr. Lucky Imasuen; member representing Ovia Federal Constituency, Dennis Idahosa; member, Uhumwonde/Orhiomwon federal constituency, Patrick Aisoweren and retired Maj. General Charles Airhiabvere, retd.
The PDP would attempt to clip their wings using Senator Matthew Urhoghide; former NDDC Commissioner and ex-Majority Leader of the state Assembly, Matthew Iduoriyekemwen who was disqualified from the race for the APC ticket and consequently defected to the PDP with Governor Obaseki.
Then there is Hon. Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, a federal lawmaker who was in contention to pick the PDP governorship ticket before Obaseki joined the party.
However, the projections for Edo are not cast in stone. If anything, they appear confusing when viewed against the backdrop of the 2019 general elections. In that election, the APC which was then in charge of the state (before Obaseki defected to the PDP in 2020) lost the presidential election. While it polled 267, 842, the PDP won by polling 275, 842 votes.