by Sufuyan Ojeifo
Many Nigerians, especially Edo indigenes and residents, had patiently waited for the gubernatorial campaign flag off of the All Progressives Party (APC) in Edo State, so as to make some sensible inference and possibly a starter-opinion-projection on the likely candidate to beat in the September 10 election. This was after the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had flagged off its own electioneering in the State capital, of course, rescued by a hurriedly secured venue-the Baptist Convention ground, which was the saving grace after the state government in a last-minute show of shame, denied PDP the use of Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium.
Interesting conversation ensued in the social media during the APC campaign; and, first to be noticed was the glaring lack of composure by Godwin Obaseki, its governorship candidate. Beside natural elements which threatened that very day, as heavy rainfall nearly marred the event, Obaseki’s address turned out a dismal anti-climax as he virtually relied on a written speech to reel out his campaign promises to the scanty crowd. He even laboured hard to flow through it. It was his first official outing and, indeed, an opportunity to make a good impression of his personality and confidence. But to the chagrin of APC leaders present and viewers who watched the live telecast of the rally at home, he displayed such timidity as never seen in campaign rallies in recent times. A full-paper speech in an age where the norm is gradually becoming how effectively and smoothly a leader can deliver extemporaneously, is to say the least disappointing! A bitter pill for APC supporters, no doubt.
So the conversation continued till evening in the social media. But it was not in contention that the incumbent Governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, had stolen the show and without any doubt taken the shine off Obaseki. In aggregate, Oshiomhole spoke for over an hour addressing an apparently uninspired crowd, while Obaseki could only utilise 20 minutes or thereabout to read his prosaic speech. Unfortunately for the APC candidate who is still operating under the controversial shadow of Oshiomhole as a “puppet-candidate” (apologies to Twitter folks), PDP’s Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu continues to be in firm control of his own campaign structure as the main actor. Ize-Iyamu who was about the same time addressing a rally of enthusiastic PDP supporters and sympathisers in Uromi, was in his full elements speaking to issues that will shape his administration when elected and exposing the failures and failings of Oshiomhole’s government as well as the political deficits of his crony-candidate, Obaseki.
Back to the PDP flag off in Benin,notwithstanding the last-minute change of venue, the PDP campaign was well organised and it was one of the best moments for the party in the last eight years. Pastor Ize-Iyamu, who was the bulwark of the political machinery that produced Oshiuomhole’s eight-year governorship, did not disappoint as opposition’s battle axe or arrowhead. He used the occasion to showcase his personality as a candidate who is effectively prepared for the job.
Aside his characteristic rendition of political cum religious songs to enliven the mammoth crowd, he virtually took control of his speech and did not waste time to bury himself in paper presentation. Believe it, the fact that Edo State is now winnable for the PDP has rekindled the hope of the party members not only statewide but also nationwide. Since its flag off, the PDP campaign train has wasted no time in hitting different parts of the State, in clear steps ahead of the APC campaign train.
Still on the online conversation, before the end of that day when APC flagged off its campaign, there was an interesting conclusion, which is that It was not so difficult for online and social media influencers who had also watched the PDP campaign flag off to conclude that: “It would be easier for Adams Oshiomhole to win a third term than for Godwin Obaseki to win on September 10, 2016.” It was a damning, hurting verdict for the APC governorship candidate. And except there is a change in campaign strategy, which will require Oshiomhole who has assumed a new false role as the political lord and Kingmaker of Edo, to step aside, Obaseki’s campaign may never fly. Even if Obaseki is a political neophyte, he should be allowed enough time to speak to the people he wants to govern and not made to make feeble appearances from behind Oshiomhole or the comrade governor’s shadows.
Added to the campaign burden of Obaseki who is battling to gain public approval is actually the question about his sense of preparedness to preside over the “Heartbeat” of Nigeria. If his poor showing at the flag off is anything to worry about, then his second major campaign in Auchi was a disaster back-to-back: “One key infrastructure which I will bring to support our youths to create business will be internet,” says Mr. Obaseki, who has now been baptized with a new name, to wit: Internet Governor.
Obaseki’s gaffe is a ten-second video that is trending in the social media. It has become one of his undoings. APC social media warriors have tentatively given up, and except a miracle happens and Obaseki discovers a new form that can revive their spirit, so shall they remain disconsolate.
In a likely repeat of PDP’s exploit in Ekiti State in 2014 in an election that saw Ayo Fayose defeat an incumbent ACN (APC) governor, Kayode Fayemi, the possibility of a landslide victory for the PDP is looking feasible ahead of the Edo governorship election. The APC has suffered its worse public acceptance in Edo since May 29, 2015 when it took power at the centre.
By every measure of political projection, it is in a defeatist mood, even as core members have come to admit that a rigging of any sort will only reduce the gap of defeat. But then, credible reports indicate that Edo people who rallied support for Oshiomhole in 2007 in his fight to reclaim his mandate in court in 2008 are ready to resist any Machiavellian electoral strategy by the governor.
As it is, the Edo verdict even before September 10 election, is a nay vote for Oshiomhole who sees Obaseki as his third term project and the APC candidate who is relying on the Internet as his proposed infrastructure to create jobs.
The people are tired of Oshiomhole’s lies and propaganda packaged as truth all these years, especially in his second tenure. They had given their mandate in 2007 to a supposed labour leader who would govern them with the compassionate heart of a labour man, and one who would not amass wealth at the expense of the masses and to the detriment of good governance. Unfortunately that is not the story today.
It is alleged that his mansions and property in Nigeria and abroad are worth billions of Naira. Accountability is said to be far away from governance in Edo, while transparency, especially in costs of projects, has become elusive. What is currently beating in the Heartbeat of Nigeria is the real fear that Oshiomhole has mortgaged the future of the state and its people as they have begun to buckle under debt burden.
Today, the once very popular comrade governor has become increasingly unsecured as a governor because he is afraid of the future. The fear of an independent-minded successor exposing the alleged sacrilege that he has committed in the financial sanctuary of Edo State appears to be plaguing him. But instead of nursing a founded fear, Oshiomhole can start doing the needful by returning the purportedly pilfered commonwealth of Edo people.
Only by this act of penitence can any form of squander mania in Edo be forgiven. The disposition in several quarters is that Oshiomhole should not contemplate gambling with a likely victory for his “puppet-candidate.” The governor, as contended, even has more to fear because the enemies within his own camp are enough to cause him a scandalous defeat on September 10. Anyhow, the nays (to him and Obaseki) have it….
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija
Ojeifo writes from Abuja.