By Ebomhiana Musa
It’s no longer news that the postponed governorship election in Edo State now holds on Wednesday, September 28. As we count down to the D-Day, gladiators jostling for the plump job in Osadebe Avenue have been making last minutes efforts to reach out to the electorate in what football enthusiasts will call injury time. From the campaigns and the recent TV debates held in the state, it is crystal clear that some of the candidates are nothing but clowns who are in the race only for the pecuniary gains and of course, to become part of their CV as “former Governorship candidate of …..party”.
The TV debates simply exposed them as comedians who are in the race to entertain the electorate following their responses to the questions put to them. Some of them are barely known beyond their immediate household or at best in their street. Yet, they want to be governor of a politically sophisticated state like Edo. With all sense of modesty and without begging the issue, the only candidates in this race to Osadebe Avenue are Godwin Obaseki of the All Progressive Congress, APC, and Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the People’s Democratic Party.
These two candidates bear the flags of the two dominant political parties in the state, at least in terms of popular support. However, the PDP support in Edo of today is a far cry from what it used to be before the birth of the APC. Then, the PDP was all and all. The APC has come to pose a serious challenge to the dominance of the PDP in the state and indeed at the national level. Here in n Edo State, the PDP frittered away the golden opportunity given it by the people when it occupied the Osadebe Avenue for close to a decade , bungled social contract. A chance which may not come its way again, at least, not now!
Edo was on ground zero when Oshiomhole of the then Action Congress, AC, like a hurricane swept away the PDP from Osadebe Avenue in a popular vote freely given in April 2007. Unfortunately, the PDP stubbornly and criminally held on to power for 18 months until it was forcefully ejected through the Appeal Court verdict of November 2008. Ever since, Edo has never been the same in terms of infrastructural developments across the nooks and crannies of the state.
To say the least, Hurricane Adams and the APC has been embarrassing the PDP with dividends of democracy and they will continue to embarrass them, hence, the gospel of continuity being preached in the course of these campaigns. But has anybody bothered to find out why the former governor, Lucky Igbinedion is not leading the PDP campaigns like Oshiomhole? Some say it’s because he is ashamed of his pasts while others say it’s because he is not proud of him as his product unlike Oshiomhole and Obaseki.
So far, Hurricane Adams who has been the nightmare of the PDP has successfully toured the 18 council areas of the state and the 192 wards, selling the APC brand, Godwin Obaseki, telling the people of the need for continuity. According to him, he has not done half of what the APC needs to do to bring total developments to Edo state. With that done, he has embarked on the third and perhaps, the final leg of the mobolization which is the street to street and door-to- door discussion with the people. The grand finale tagged mother of all rallies held at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin had sent a very strong message that indeed the APC is solidly on ground in Edo. Sad enough, as the APC and its brand are painstakingly reaching out to the electorate, the PDP is busy with its campaign of certificate and plotting how to import thugs from neighbouring states.
Beyond all this, I believe the most important thing at this stage is the voter education, the need for a good turn out on the election day and of course, the need to reduce to the barest minimum the number of void votes. If statistics gleaned from INEC office, revealing the voting pattern from the 2011 general election are anything to go by, then, all the candidates and their foot soldiers have a lot on their hands to ensure a good turn out of the 1.9 million registered voters across the three senatorial districts of the state.
Edo south with seven heavily populated council areas has 57 per cent of the voting population in the state. These areas are predominantly populated by the binis and they hold the ace in any election in the state. And I do not see this election presenting a different scenario from what happened in the second election of Oshiomhole in office because 75 per cent of the projects in the state are executed in these seven councils.
It is therefore not surprising that the PDP candidate is trying hard to play up wicked ethnic card of hate in his campaign, painting his main opponent as an outcast. Yet, it’s an open secret that Godwin is from the authentic popular Obaseki lineage of bini kingdom . Hard as the PDP has tried, the people keep on putting a lie to this cheap and wicked campaign of hate.
The next in terms of voting power is Edo north senatorial district, comprising six council areas with a voting population of about 25 per cent .The running mate to the APC flag bearer, Phillip Shaibu who is from here is solidly on ground politically. As a man who currently represents the good people Etsako in the House of Representatives, one does not need to consult an oracle to say that the north will come out en mass to queue behind their own having proved to be a worthy son, especially when he served as the Majority Leader of the state house of assembly. With these two districts in one accord in support of a candidate, the Tsunami votes for the Obaseki/Shaibu ticket on Wednesday is better imagined than described.
Again, if endorsements are to be taken seriously, one can safely say that the APC has made a major inroad into Ishan land in the last five weeks. With a voting population of 18 per cent, the least among the three senatorial district, yet ,the most closely knitted when it comes to voting. This area has been the PDP stronghold in Edo state since the advent of this democracy in 1999 but it took a resilience Oshiomhole to break the jix in 2012 when he won all the 18 council areas in the state including Ishan land.
However, with the level of decampment of political heavyweights into the APC, coupled with the massive endorsement by traditional rulers and opinion leaders who have high electoral values, the APC seemed to have dared the lion in his den and successfully snatched away some of his cobs. This development may have sounded the political death knell of the acclaimed Lion of Uromi. However, Wednesdsy’s election is very likely to drive the final nail into his political coffin because Oshiomhole and his party have embarrassed the “leader” before his people by embarking on development programmes in the zone. These include massive road construction, drilling of boreholes, construction and reconstruction of schools, health centres, youth empowerment etc .
It is pertinent to note here that large population does not necessary translate to votes in an election. Voter turn out is what really makes the difference. For instance, despite the fact that the central senatorial zone has the least voting population, it has always been recording the highest turn out of voters in terms of percentage of the total voting population, at least ,since the inception of the present democracy.
Figures from INEC’s record of the 2011 elections also show that Egor Local government which recorded the highest registered voters of 324,950 had an abysmal 7.83 per cent voter turn out in the 2011 election. The next in terms of registered voters, Ikpoba -0kha council with 241,939 only recorded 13.18 per cent of actual voter turn out. This simply tells us that these ones only registered to fulfill all righteousness. On election day, they sit in the comfort of their homes ,watching patriotic Edolites on television exercise their franchise, yet, they make the loudest noise. And of course, using their cell phones to find out “how far” from those on the field. Oredo council which is the heart of the state, being landlord to the seat of power , recorded 255,960 registered voters.
As expected, only 13.8 per cent of this actually voted for candidates of their choice during that election. To some extend, it is quite understandable because it’s the most cosmopolitan of all the councils in the state being home to none indigenes, mostly traders from other parts of the country. Some of them see the election period as opportunity to take break from their busy businessese and rest at home or undertake a quick trip outside their location.
Of the seven councils that make up the Southern zone, Orhionmwon recorded the highest voter turn out with 37.12 percent of the 88, 156 registered voters closely followed by Uhunmwode with 35.15 percent of the 53,072 registered voters. Esan land, has the highest voter turn out in the state with Esan South –East hitting the roof top with 62 per cent of the 48,506 registered voters.
This is closely followed by Igueben council with 57 per cent turn out of the 28,817 registered voters recorded. Out of the five councils here, Esan West had the least voter turn out of 37 percent of the 71,375 registered . Even at that, its about the same with Orhionmwon, which recorded 37.12 percent, the highest in Edo south senatorial zone. Out of the six council areas in the North senatorial zone, Etsako West recorded the least voter turn out of 29.98 percent of the 109,439 registered, yet, it’s the highest in terms of registration in the zone. Phillip Shaibu is from here.
Akoko Edo council which closely followed in terms of registered voters of 100,488 was able to mobilize as much as 50 per cent turn out during the election. Etsako Central has the least registered voters of 39,387 in the zone with 51 percent voter turn out. Yet, its about the most problematic of the six councils. It used to be the strongest base of the PDP, parading the heavyweights in the party.
The state chair of the PDP, Chief Dan Osi Obirh hails from here. The former deputy governor of the state in the locust years of the PDP, Chief Mike Oghiadomhe and former Chief of Staff to immediate past President, Goodluck Jonathan also comes from here. Nonetheless, we wait patiently to see how their offices and personality will be translated to votes for their party come Wednesday.
No doubt, this is an up hill task given the major breakthrough recorded by the APC in the last seven and a half years across the state. Virtually all those that matter in the council have torn their umbrellas, even under heavy down pour and clutched the broom. However, one must admit here that Orbih has never lost his Ogbona ward in all the previous elections held in the state. He has always proved to be a hard nut to crack for the APC in Etsako Central .
He will be fighting a political battle of his life this time around as that will surely determine his continued relevance as the party chair in the state. The ward has since turned a battle ground, with fierce fighting almost on daily bases among supporters of the two dominant parties in the state.
Some have already had their skulls broken while others are nursing broken limbs ahead of the election. Oghiadomhe does not really have anything to fight for as he is no linger in government. From these figures and their analyses, it is obvious that all the registered political parties have so much to do in terms of voter education and mobilization if the huge figures posted by the 18 councils must be translated into real votes on Wednesday.