Now the much-anticipated governorship election in Edo State has come and gone, won by God-win (yes God has won!) Obaseki, I guess it’s time for the motley crowd of soothsayers and neo-necromancers, stargazers, palm readers, and so-called pollsters, to tell the rest of us ignorant Nigerians just how right they had been all along that the re-elected governor was the people’s choice.
They could point to the vacuous projections they never lifted a finger to explain in any meaningful way to anyone that the last-minute video address by the All Progressives Congress, APC, leader, Bola Tinubu, to the people of Edo State to reject Godwin Obaseki in favour of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu was the nail in the coffin of the latter’s hope that he could be governor of Edo State at this time.
These would-be forecasters and pollsters-by-hindsight could now hope to convince the rest of us of what stroke of political genius Obaseki and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, stalwarts who rallied round him from different parts of the country executed in Edo State. Or just how effective was the so-called situation room of the PDP in Edo State that neutered the minutest bit of the stratagem that the APC had up its sleeves, making members of the PDP sing different tunes from both sides of the mouth- one side lamenting (as alleged by the PDP) that the notorious APC rigging machine had been turned on and it was only a matter of time before Obaseki was denied his God-given mandate in a blatant rape of democracy. All of this while the other side of the mouth sang a different tune- praising the general conduct of the polls as both well-organised and violence-free.
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Obaseki appears to have surpassed himself, gone beyond his own wildest dream. He can now breathe a sigh of relief having endured and left behind the most grueling one year or thereabout of his political career, harassed, hounded, and beleaguered by the very man who brokered his way into politics. Mostly soft-spoken and apparently given to a decent mode of politicking and, perhaps, living, Obaseki was determined to stay out of the gutter in his utterances. His harshest statements sounded like the mild rebuke of an indulgent man of his half-brother. Beyond posturing as the purse keeper of Edo State, promising to keep political ‘devourers’ and ‘cankerworms’ out of the vault of Edo State, outside his rejection of what he called the bullying of a would-be political godfather, he uttered no vile criticism of his estranged predecessor, Adams Oshiomhole.
He came across as the underdog during his televised debate with Ize-Iyamu who appeared to take the gloves off, nearly hitting below the belt a couple of times during the debate. He smiled off the deliberately provocative statements of Ize-Iyamu and yielded to him right on the cue of the timer. He launched no counter-attack of his own and was satisfied just explaining his side of any issue without slinging mud. Looking back now, one could say Obaseki was sure of his place with the people of Edo State and, therefore, of his victory at the polls. Or he was just a smug politician who was content to do his ‘best and leave the rest’. In one word, Obaseki never gave as he took and the little fire he gave in return for the consuming conflagration directed at him must have been at the behest of his supporters or hardened and battle-scarred leaders of the PDP like Nyesom Wike.
Would it be an understatement to say that Oshiomhole saw Obaseki as a small fry in the implacably hounding manner he sought to overwhelm him, rejecting many and almost all peaceful overtures? Oshiomhole must, at a time, have come to the conclusion that he could ‘tame’ Obaseki and ‘retire’ him from politics. But in the end, its Oshiomhole that Nigerians are now saying has been retired from politics by his former protégé- just in the same manner that Oshiomhole sent the late strongman of Edo politics, the ultimate Mr. Fix-it, Tony Anenih, into a long-overdue retirement from politics.
Oshiomhole is a warhorse that has earned his epaulets in politics. It takes a grizzled warrior to make 360 degrees turn and walk straight in the opposite direction of a path he had trodden. That was exactly what he did with his gambit to get Ize-Iyamu elected and Obaseki rejected. And he almost succeeded in doing the impossible- selling back at a huge profit a product he had condemned as contaminated to the same buyer.
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Obaseki’s gentle mien belies his determination. His move to the PDP, aided clearly by the huge attraction value of his incumbency status, was achieved in a relatively short but carefully executed time. There is no doubt that he has worked hard to be re-elected in the face of the unrelenting onslaught from his opponents, especially Oshiomhole. I do not have the uncommon favour and facility of a Femi Fani-Kayode that allowed him to travel the length and breadth of this country to assess projects executed by members of both the PDP and APC, whether bankrolled or not. I therefore cannot confirm or deny the claim by many that Obaseki has done well (by which such supporters mean he has ensured that the dividends of democracy have been widely shared to the people).
But he has worked hard to ensure that his term in office is not truncated. In the electoral terms of a governorship election, 82,000 votes, the margin by which Obaseki humbled Ize-Iyamu, is huge. It is, perhaps, also well-deserved for a man that could have been run out of town by political machinery that took no prisoners. Yet, it must be said that no matter how hard-working Obaseki was, no matter the level of support from the PDP or the threat of a travel ban from the West (which I believe must have been a factor that could not be ignored), Obaseki’s triumph could and would have been compromised or denied outright had President Muhammadu Buhari actively chosen to win the election for the APC.
In other words, the whole difference in this Edo election saga is that Abuja, symbolised by Buhari, chose to play by the rule. Otherwise, we would be telling a different story now. Both Obaseki and the PDP as a party recognise this in their effusive praise of the president. Suddenly, Buhari has become a defender of democracy and the Edo election is being described in superlatives as the first in which a godfather was retired from politics and is being offered as a template for the retirement of implacable political godfathers and godfatherism as a political ideology.