The Nation

What next after Edo poll?

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By Emmanuel Oladesu

The Edo State governorship election is over. It has been won and lost. Attention has now shifted to Ondo State, where the two major parties are locking horns.

The winner, Governor Godwin Obaseki, savours his victory. Success has many fathers. L Many are identifying with the remarkable feat, firing more salvos at the losers. Failure is liability.

The major loser is the opposition party at the state level. Expectedly, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is downcast. Yet, it will not be the end of his political battles. A brighter future may still await him.

In his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), there is a gnashing of teeth. There is regression to self-pity. Party members are counting the cost of conflict and avoidable electoral misfortune.

Such was the feeling of dejection and despondency in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2008 when the Court of Appeal deposed Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria(ACN) replaced the interloper at the Government House, Benin-City.

For the next 12 years, PDP agonised over it’s setback. Its leader, the legendary Mr. Fix It, the late Chief Tony Anenih, the Iyasele of Esanland and acclaimed godfather of Edo politics, was helpless. He could not avert the doom. But, the party returned to the drawing board. It captured two senatorial seats in last year’s National Assembly elections.

Also, Edo PDP has now been endorsed by the majority of voters as the ruling party for the next four years. Obaseki, after a tedious political labour, has become a legitimate beneficiary of a democratic mandate secured in a very transparent and credible poll.

Political victories, just like failures on the slippery political field, are never permanent. Politics may not be a perpetual bed of roses.The life of a politician is full of ups and downs. The winners of today were losers of yesterday. Today’s losers may still win tomorrow.

What is important now is that the lessons of the critical exercise, which are very instructive, should be learned by participants and stakeholders on both divides, including candidates, their platforms, and their supporters. Those who fail to learn run a risk of repeating the same mistake.

It is doubtful if the APC will handle the Ondo State poll the way it handled the Edo exercise. Although the two settings differ, there is evidence of amity, consensus and determination to retain the Sunshine State. These have also motivated the powerful Progressives Governors’ Forum and other national leaders to take it upon themselves to resolve the crisis in the Ondo APC and the misunderstanding between Governor Rotimi Akeredolu(SAN) and aggrieved chieftains in the chapter.

Another lesson is that, although political victory tends to be perceived as a personal gain, the onus is on the winner to always acknowledge that, in the final analysis, the masses of the people made it possible.

The political class should always ponder before, during and after elections on the motivation for power, its utility and its bearing on the welfare of the generality of people.

The goal of politics is the attainment of power. Therefore, that attainment is more meaningful, if power is utilised for problem solving, reforms, development and general good governance for the ultimate benefit of the masses, who queue during periodic elections to elect governors of their choice in accordance with the law.

The governor of Edo and his followers are celebrating the collapse of godfatherism, on which back he rode to power four years ago. In four years time, when Obaseki will leave after his two terms of eight years, he will surely not be indifferent to the challenge of succession.

The factors that aided the actualisation of his second term bid may be significantly different from the issues that will shape the next governorship poll where he will not be a standard bearer.

How to avert successor-predecessor crisis, which seems to have become an eternal feature of Nigerian politics, particularly between the benefactor and his anointed candidate who belong to the same ruling party, is a challenge.

Will it rear its ugly head in Edo in the future?

Will Obaseki lose interest in Edo politics after handing over power in 2024 or still maintain an abiding interest in the affairs of the state after his term? Will he inadvertently become the new godfather of Edo politics? Can he afford not to be a monitor?

The Edo chapter of APC is down. Its key chieftains will be left in the cold for four years or beyond that, if it fails to bounce back. It is time for the chapter to brace up for the role of opposition in democracy.

Edo APC can learn from the predictable resilience of the Southwest progressive family, which after its colossal defeat by the PDP in 2003, braced the odds and reclaim political control in the region as from 2007.

Will Pastor Ize-Iyamu stand in the gap as the arrowhead, put the past failure and recent predicament behind him, mobilise and galvanise the distressed chapter, and forge ahead with optimism?

Will he take a cue from the leader of his party, a highly courageous President Muhammadu Buhari, who remained undettered after losing the presidential elections three times, only to eventually win the crown at the fourth attempt?

APC is locked in sober reflection. Its caretaker chairman, Yobe State Governor Mai Mala Buni, while conceding defeat, acknowledged that the party contended with some problems. The simple interpretation is that APC could not resolve its internal contradiction.

Certain elements were involved in a blind rift with Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, unconscious of the implications of the acrimony for the entire party. The party also suffered due to the absence of a formidable reconciliation mechanism. This is the bane of the progressive bloc.

These wounds were self-inflicted. Unlike the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Edo APC was like an orphan during the electioneering. Many APC national leaders were aloof to the plight and limitations of the crisis-ridden chapter. So disunited was the ruling party at the centre that it did not consider building enough support for the Edo chapter. The anti-Oshiomhole onslaught continued till the day of the election. Even, the APC grand finale rally was said to have been put off as critical leaders declined to attend. In the ruling party, there was no consensus on the Edo poll.

What was more striking was the apparent inability of the leader of the party, the president and Commander-In-Chief, to summon his warring  children as a concered father, pacify them and foster cohesion in the divided family.

As APC lost a footage in Edo, the entire Southsouth became, once again, the stronghold of the PDP, to the consternation of dedicated APC chieftains whose struggles led to the penetration of the oil-rich zone by the party.

The success may strengthen the bargaining power of PDP leaders from the zone as the actors gaze at the 2023 polls.

After his second swearing in, Obaseki must settle for the business of governance. He should learn from his previous mistakes. He should avoid committing new mistakes, just because he will not struggle for re-election as governor in the state again.

Obaseki should exhibit humility and shun vendetta. The state still belongs to the winners and losers.

Many challenges will confront the governor during his second term.

The first is the challenge of uniting his divided state. A governor becomes a statesman, judging by the way he puts politics behin him and mobilises leading lights for the tasks of development.

If Oshiomhole mounted pressure on Obaseki in his first time, his new PDP benefactors will also exert influence on him, especially on the choice of his aides, commissioners, special advisers and board appointments.

Yet, the governor will be indebted to certain  colleagues and leaders in the APC, who were said to have lent support secretly for his re-election bid. As the PDP governor reflects on his time in the APC, where he had no issue with many chieftains, except the Oshiomhole camp, he will be full of nostalgia. The result is an ambivalence of emotion.

The governor should take cognisance of the genuine issues raised by his opponents during the campaigns that bothered on performance and find a way of tackling them in the interest of Edo.

How will Obaseki resolve the outstanding problem of democratic exclusion that created a hollow in his score card?

Who will broker peace between the governor and the 14 state lawmakers-elect, who have not been inaugurated 16 months after they were elected by their constituents to represent them, legislate for the state along with their colleagues and carry out oversight functions?

The solution may be the logic of tact, diplomacy, openness, persuasion, an appeal for truce and mutual capacities for conflict resolution.

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