From an underdog to a giant killer: How Obaseki won reelection

From an underdog to a giant killer: How Obaseki won reelection

Wednesday, September 23, 2020 6:49 am


Governor Godwin Obaseki

By Richard Elesho
There is an ancient dictum that when a man wants to dig a ditch for an enemy, it is advisable he does not make it too deep, lest he be the one that will eventually fall into it. The wisdom of that saying came to the fore in the  just concluded Edo State Governorship election.

In the election result declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the Returning Officer, Prof. Agofure Ukeh of the Federal University of Petroleum Technology, Effurun returned incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP elected for a second term. Obaseki polled 307,955 votes to beat his main challenger Pastor Osagie Ize Iyamu of the All Progressives Congress, APC who garnered 223,619 ballots.

Ize-Iyamu

The acrimony and treachery that attended the electoral process was legendary. Video clips of opposition leader and former National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole campaigning for Obaseki went viral on the social media and other platforms. For instance giant screens were mounted at the popular Sekpomba junction in Benin-City, the State capital and other strategic points. In the clips Oshiomhole was saying great things about Obaseki while condemning and completely running down Pastor Iyamu as a thief.

Adams Oshiomhole

The videos were shot during the last guber contest in 2016 when Oshiomhole and Obaseki were soulmates in the APC against PDP Iyamu. Four years down the line, the godfather has turned full circle and the candidates have exchanged positions. But the clips remained useful as at the first time. Efforts by Oshiomhole to cry foul about the propriety of broadcasting the clips failed.
The common phrase on the lips of analysts was that the former Governor did all the campaign for the reelection of his estranged successor. Indeed, those classical campaign stunts helped in selling Obaseki as the underdog and victim of power greed before a highly sensitive Edo electorate.
“Oshiomhole did all the campaigns for Obaseki the same way he de-marketed Iyamu. Four years ago he described Obaseki as a well educated young man full of ideas that can move the State forward. Then, he said Iyamu was an acid bather, cultist, fake pastor and thief who can not be trusted with public patrimony. Once people understand come they don’t want to hear go..
What he said four years ago is what the electorate held on to and not what he is saying now…”  Osa Akenzua a journalist and public affairs Commentator said.
Other factors accelerated Obaseki’s walk to success. The electorate found  his record of performance in all sectors of the economy impressive. Obaseki is a celebrated economist who brought his wealth of experience to bear on his work as a Governor. Among his touch on infrastructure development are the construction of many roads, the new phase of the State Secretariat and modern court buildings.

The former stockbroker pioneered the establishment of a modular refinery expected to take off by the end of this year. The administration has a robust youth empowerment programme which take touts away from the street and engage them in the Edo Innovation House scheme. He also turned around the face of Benin Technical College into an institution in a unique class.

Governor Godwin Obaseki

More than anything else however, the Governor struck the right chord with the populace by his prompt payment of salary and other welfare emoluments. He is also said not to joke with payment of pension benefits and gratuities to the elderly.
His MEGA (Make Edo Great Again) campaign slogan was apparently a a familiar ground to the Edo electorate. They chose not only to embrace but to also defend it against the incursion of Iyamu’s SIMPLE agenda.
John Osadolor a 50-year-old taxi driver in Ehor told this magazine that although he had never voted once, he made up his mind on voting Obaseki because of his performance. “All these problems is because the governor refused to share the State money to the so called leaders. If he surrenders the money to them, how would he work?”
The agitation for power shift also favoured Obaseki. Edo is made up of three zones namely north, south and Central. The Governorship rotates among the zones. Former Governor Oshiomhole is from the North while both Obaseki and Iyamu are from the South. The central is eagerly waiting for its turn and opines that only an Obaseki second term will accelerate it. The thinking is that if Iyamu wins, he will naturally seek a second tenure, thereby postponing the turn of the central.
Obaseki also chose a strong platform to run. The PDP has been a major party in Edo State since the return of Democratic rule in 1999. In the 2016 Governorship the party lost to the APC by far less than 70,000 ballots. It was thus a masterstroke that when he lost his bid for APC ticket, Obaseki picked safety nest in the PDP. The party strong presence and structure without doubts accelerated his victory at the polls.
The elections are now over and the victory drums are loud on the street of Edo. It is time once again for Obaseki and his team to roll up the sleeves and get back to work. That is the only way to guarantee true dividends of democracy for the Edo people.
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