Edo As A Prelude To 2023

There is so much violence and uncertainty surrounding the upcoming governorship election in the state that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has threatened it just might call it off.

Men removing the Edo State House of Assembly on Thursday / Photo credit: theeagleonline.com.ng
Men removing the Edo State House of Assembly on Thursday / Photo credit: theeagleonline.com.ng

No one can say for sure who the Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly is.

The mystery extends to which faction of the warring parties is presently in control of the assembly complex.

There is so much violence and uncertainty surrounding the upcoming governorship election in the state that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has threatened it just might call it off.

Four or five months ago, the election was strictly a battle of egos between Godwin Obaseki and Adams Oshiomhole.

And with just over a month to the election, it has already cost Obaseki his membership of the All Progressives Party (APC) and Oshiomhole his chairmanship of the party.

Yet, neither seems to be backing down.

Obviously, they won’t stop until one or the other hits rock bottom.

They are digging deeper in a political battle that is almost certainly now bigger than them and the politics of Edo.

Three weeks after the September 19 governorship election in Edo, another one will be taking place in Ondo.

READ ALSO: Edo Poll: Avoid Zamfara, Rivers Pitfalls, Buhari Warns APC Leaders

But you wouldn’t know it going by how all attention is focused on Edo and with key political players going as far as suggesting that the future of constitutional order in Nigeria is under threat because of what is happening in the state.

It is undeniable, the rule of law has been battered in how the state has been governed in the last several months, maybe claims can even be made that democracy has been subverted.

How else can it be explained that for over a year, 14 duly elected members of the state house of assembly were unable to take their oath of office and represent their constituencies?

It was Atiku Abubakar who described events in Edo as a threat to constitutional order and a grave danger to the coming election in the state.

And in his opinion, everything legally possible should be done to preserve the status quo.

He placed no blame on anyone in particular.

READ ALSO: Edo 2020: Obaseki’s Conduct Impeachable – Tinubu

But considering that both he and Obaseki are in the same party, what the status quo would mean is maintaining the governor’s political advantage in the state and all its institutions, including the state assembly.

But not long after the former vice president said this, Bola Tinubu issued his own statement, only he directly accused Obaseki of using strong arm tactics of dictators in refusing to allow duly elected members of the state assembly perform their constitutional duties.

That both politicians would take a keen interest in the governorship election and described the political confrontation there is such strong terms says a lot about where they are both headed and why the outcome in Edo 2020 matters.

Coming up with half a dozen names of politicians rumoured to be nursing presidential ambitions within the APC could be relatively easier than naming two serious contenders for the PDP presidential ticket for the 2023 election.

That is not good for the PDP.

And that is why the only name that keeps popping up is that of Atiku Abubakar.

In APC, Bola Tinubu’s name is on everyone’s lips.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has adopted a wait and see approach.

Ekiti governor is rumored to want it and reportedly has the backing of some northern governors who are vehemently opposed to a Tinubu presidency.

Even worse for the PDP is that no names from the south are coming up as possible presidential contenders.

There aren’t even rumours of anyone considering a run, unless Ayo Fayose is taken as a presidential hopeful.

The PDP, again and again had vowed to make a southeast presidency a reality.

READ ALSO: Edo House Of Assembly Roof Stripped Off After Dramatic Impeachment

It has done nothing in the last year to promote a power shift to the region.

Peter Obi, on his part has done nothing to step out of Atiku Abubakar’s shadow.

If the PDP lacked options in the number of people it can present as potential candidates, it could very well be forced to stick with Atiku even if at the time of the election, the politics and mood of the country doesn’t favour a northern candidate.

Still, if one party presents a candidate from the north, and the other has one from the southern party of the country, it becomes of great consequence, which party wins the governorship election in Edo and whether or not, the APC has a foothold in the south-south.

The question now becomes how committed is PDP to the idea of rotating the presidency between the north and south?

Does it want power bad enough to sacrifice an arrangement that was its creation?

Ahead of the 2019 presidential election, Atiku Abubakar, candidate of the PDP had one strategy to propel him to victory; splitting the votes in the north and winning the south in a convincing fashion.

It was no secret, and the former vice president openly strategised on splitting the votes in the north and sweeping the south, particularly the south-south and southeast.

In part, aiming only to split the votes in the north was an acknowledgement that the PDP could not defeat Muhammadu Buhari there.

READ ALSO: Edo 2020: Nigerians Should Hold APC Responsible For Any Election Violence – Wike

But it allowed the PDP to focus all of their energies and resources where they were needed most, in the southwest of the country, assuming the south-south and southeast votes were already in the bank.

The strategy didn’t really work out as planned. So, where did the votes fall short?

It wasn’t that he didn’t win votes in the north, the problem was that he lost with bigger margins than the PDP had projected.

Take Kano for instance, the PDP lost it by more than a million votes.

And in the south, where the campaign strategy was to sweep virtually all of the votes, Atiku could not win convincingly.

Yes, the PDP won two or three times more votes than APC in each state of the southeast, but the same could not be said in the six states of the south-south.

The margin of victory for Atiku in the Niger Delta region was just not big enough to give him victory at the election.

Timipre Sylva, Rotimi Amaechi and Godswill Akpabio helped minimise the PDP’s victory margin in their respective states.

The biggest disappointment to the Atiku campaign was in Edo, the only state in the region governed by the APC.

The PDP barely managed to scrape in a victory.

The coming up now offers an opportunity to completely push APC out of the region.

READ ALSO: Buhari Meets Ize-Iyamu Amid Turmoil In Edo

Until Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo defected to the opposition PDP in June 2020, he was the only governor the APC had in the Niger Delta region.

APC could afford to head into the 2019 general elections with very little representation in the south-south because, to a certain degree, it was assured of victory in the north.

Now presenting Osinbajo or Tinubu as the 2023 candidate won’t guarantee it victory in the north if it had to face a candidate like Atiku Abubakar.

That is why the APC has woken up late to the game.

And even the anti-Tinubu camp now realises they cannot afford to concede Edo to the PDP.

Doing so is good as losing the whole of the south-south, maybe the southeast too, to the opposition two whole years before the 2023 contest begins.

Written by Shuaib Shuaib

Shuaibu, a former Editor of the LEADERSHIP Newspapers, is based in Abuja.