By Bolanle Bolawole
The much talked-about Edo State governorship election comes up next Saturday, 19th September, 2020. The run down to the election has exposed the underbelly of the country’s politics, such that it not only leaves much to be desired but also leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
This time last year, Godwin Obaseki was in APC’s corner and the then APC outgoing governor, Adams Oshiomhole, was rooting for him. Oshiomhole swore by all the gods that Obaseki was not only the pillar behind his government but also the brain behind every achievement of the administration. Oshiomhole beat his chest before the Edo people that Obaseki would make a worthy successor and that he would not disappoint.
Obaseki and his deputy, Phillip Shuaibu, were at the vanguard of Oshiomhole’s vaunted fight against godfathers. Godfather of Edo politics, Anthony Anenih (now late) was at the receiving end of Oshiomhole’s diatribe. Oshiomhole campaigned on the need to end godfatherism in Edo politics and the people, thinking he was sincere and genuine, listened.
Conversely, this time last year, Osagie Ize-Iyamu was the PDP governorship candidate in Edo State. Ize-Iyamu’s Nemesis in that election was Oshiomhole, who ran him ragged. There was no crime Oshiomhole did not accuse Ize-Iyamu of committing. Oshiomhole called the PDP candidate all manner of unprintable names. The epithets he employed in disparaging and stripping Ize-Iyamu naked were scurrilous.
The people heard Oshiomhole loud and clear and many of them translated his anti-godfatherism sound bite into action against Ize-Iyamu. People thought Oshiomhole knew Ize-Iyamu very well because the same Ize-Iyamu had been Oshiomhole’s campaign manager. So, Obaseki “won” that election. Ize-Iyamu “lost” it. According to insider sources who claimed to know the true and real figures of the election, Ize-Iyamu actually won the election handsomely despite Oshiomhole’s bad belly and garrulous grandstanding.
Edo state is not new to that; recall that Oshiomhole himself suffered similar electoral robbery and it took his activism and the courts to retrieve his mandate, which had been awarded to Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor. Ize-Iyamu, however, was not a dye-in-the-wool activist and was too soft for what it takes to retrieve stolen mandates. He relied only on the courts – and possibly also he did not do the needful – and the courts failed him – expectedly! In 1983 when electoral heists took place in many states in the South-west, it was only in Ondo state, where protests made the state ungovernable for the vain fellow to whom victory had been allocated, that the daylight robbery was reversed. Here, electoral heists are only reversed where the powers-that-be realise that stealing the mandate could cause trouble. Oshiomhole in his own time sent that clear message and his mandate was restored unto him. Ize-Iyamu could not and he lost his alleged mandate. That was four years ago.
Today, the story has turned full circle. Obaseki is no longer in the APC corner. He is no longer the blue-eyed, favoured godson of Oshiomhole. Obaseki now flies the PDP flag. Ize-Iyamu who flew that flag four years back is now in the APC corner and flies the APC flag. Oshiomhole who was in Obaseki’s corner four years back is now in Ize-Iyamu’s corner. The same Oshiomhole who said unprintable things about Ize-Iyamu four years ago today extols the virtues of the same Ize-Iyamu to high heavens. Oshiomhole kneels and prostrates and begs Edo people that he made a mistake four years ago!
Don’t be surprised that some will believe Oshiomhole or, better still, will follow him whether or not they believe him! What drives them is their mouth and stomach; the “stomach infrastructure” made infamously popular by ex-Gov. Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State. As the Yoruba will say, “eni be ahun ni n ri ahun he!” It translates into something like “birds of a feather…” The people deserve the leaders they get and the leaders deserve the kind of followership they have. The morality of the people does not appear anything higher than Oshiomhole’s. Otherwise, they should have stoned him everywhere he went.
Oshiomohole who railed against godfathers now fights tooth and nail to be godfather himself. He now says unprintable things about Obaseki who refuses to allow him to transform into a godfather. Anenih will turn in his grave. How does Ize-Iyamu feel following Oshiomhole all about? Maybe he feels within himself that this is payback time. Really, it is poetic justice! The same mouth that Oshiomhole used to curse and disparage Ize-Iyamu he now uses to bless and recommend him to Edo people! As my people will say, “enu ti igbin fi bu Orisa…! But did Oshiomhole confess to Ize-Iyamu what happened four years ago? Did he apologize?
Between the two leading governorship contenders in Edo State, it is half-full and half empty; it is six and half-a-dozen; they are birds of a feather and two fingers of the same leprous and treacherous hand. That has been the tragedy of our politics since 1999. Edo people are between the rock and the hard place; they are between the devil and the deep blue sea.
But the Oshiomhole people were dumb, really dumb. They hold majority seats in the State House of Assembly; yet, they never thought of converting it to advantage against Obaseki. They left that option until it was too late. Perhaps, it was because Obaseki was in the ruling party at the time; otherwise, he should have paid dearly for his shenanigan of running a House of Assembly with the minority dictating to the majority.
Also, Oshiomhole’s own troubles with many APC big-wigs must have hampered him. There are many APC leaders who see APC victory in Saturday’s election as Oshiomhole’s victory and rehabilitation and loathe it. Conversely, there are many PDP leaders who think that should Obaseki win, he will in no time return to APC!
Should that be the case, head or tail, APC wins and PDP, trying to cut corners, ends up the loser. But, you never can tell: Obaseki may simply be playing games with APC so they don’t rig him out; like Dr. Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo state played games with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his Action Congress of Nigeria in 2008.
We can deduce from the politics of the Fourth Republic that there are no political parties properly so-called but only platforms on which politicians contest elections. The elementary definition of political parties as the political grouping of like minds in ideas and ideology to contest for political power with the sole aim or purpose of implementing shared ideals, policies, and programmes does not exist here. There is also no internal democracy in the political platforms, which is usually the cause of frictions, disagreements, and defections.
Because our politics lacks ideas, ideals, and ideology is why politicians cross the carpet at will and immediately fit into their new home as if they had been there many years. Our politics is monetised and only the rich can participate in it. Usually, the money the politicians use is stolen public funds, which is why incumbents have undue advantage over “outsiders” Which is also why any serious outsider must look for deep pockets as godfathers.
These days, too, it has become difficult to win elections without some INEC staff and security agents in your pocket. Like Joseph Stalin said, those who vote determine nothing; those who count the votes determine everything. Knowing that their votes actually do not count is why voters make hay while it shines and collect whatever peanuts they can, which is called vote-selling. It is also because office-seekers know how they “win” their elections – that it is not by popular vote – that they owe no allegiance to the people but to the various factors that railroaded them into office.
If you are not in power and, therefore, have no control or influence over them at INEC and in the security forces, you must find a way to get their support or loyalty through the back door. Recently, the president, retired Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, as if advertising his “democratic” credentials, said he could have used the military to ensure that only his party, the APC, won all seats in the last General Elections! That we have opposition governors is as a result of his generosity and or magnanimity! He said nothing new, though! But that tells us something all the same.
Private armies by those who can afford it are an asset to anyone venturing into election in Nigeria. But the “Oga patapata of them all”, as that guy on social media would say, is the judiciary! These days, it is wisdom to waylay or ambush your opponent at this final bus stop. Let him win all the way but let the final bus stop upturn everything in your favour!