Obaseki as the New Face of Resistance

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Obaseki as the New Face of Resistance
editorSeptember 21, 2020 12:11 Am
Vanessa Obioha writes that Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State has transformed from the lonely underdog to a veritable bastion of hope and resistance against established influence peddlers

Only a few saw the handwriting on the wall. The message was clear but with the political games being played, it was difficult to decipher.

Governor Godwin Obaseki knew that not many could foresee his victory. They were already swooned by the sophistry of his former political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) who kicked him out like a wounded dog at the ninth hour.

His offence? Picking a fight with the former National Chairman of the party and his predecessor, Adams Oshiomhole. The crux of the matter? ‘Godfatherism’, a phenomenon that has gripped political spectators for a while and is slowly losing substance like leftover salt.

Obaseki who was anointed into power by similar tactics that he now condemns, curried favour from the ‘powers that be’ in his party as the gubernatorial election in Edo state drew near. He hoped that they would shun the antics of Oshiomhole and endorse him to represent the party in the election.

From President Muhammadu Buhari to the Jagaban of Lagos politics, Senator Bola Tinubu, Obaseki longed for a reassuring pat on the back. He received none. The message was clear. You can’t overrule the decision of Oshiomhole.

Licking his sores, he found an elixir in the company of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but not without resistance. There were party hopefuls waiting in line to be declared the party’s candidate.

However, luck shone on him as the party leaders rallied around him. Their support didn’t necessarily stem from confidence in his abilities, rather his defection was a big gain for the PDP. Originally a PDP-controlled state at the beginning of this round of democratic dispensation in 1999, the state slipped out of their hands through a court decision that installed Oshiomhole.

That administration lasted for eight years. Obaseki took over from Oshiomhole and served over three of his first four-year tenure as a member of the APC. So, for more than 11 years, the PDP has been out of power in Edo. Nonetheless, it should not be overlooked that the party continued to make a good showing in legislative contests.

In the 2019 national elections, for instance, the PDP won more seats into the Senate and the House of Representatives. A win for the PDP was calculated to return domination of the Edo political landscape back to the PDP.

Like in other societies, politics in Nigeria is a battle of influence and the ruling party is inebriated with it. Oshiomhole as the National Chairman of the party at the time expressed optimism in quashing the dreams of Obaseki to retain the governorship seat in the state.

Given his exalted position and his cronies in the state, he alongside the party leaders felt the perfect punishment for Obaseki was to deny him the APC’s gubernatorial ticket, while giving it on a platter of gold to his opponent in the 2016 governorship election, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, a man who Oshiomhole had rubbished. Ize-Iyamu became the APC flag bearer without breaking a sweat.

With the endorsement of the party, Ize-Iyamu blotted out the memory of Oshiomhole’s defamation of his character in the previous election and swept everything under the rug. Who could blame him? After all, like the sport of wrestling, there are no permanent friends or enemies.

He kicked off his political campaign with vigour, accusing Obaseki of not specifically saying what Oshiomhole did, rather than picking holes.

Obaseki, however, was the lonely underdog who had to fight fiercely in the same manner his predecessor did to assume his first tenure.

Even with the blessings of the PDP, not a few thought that he had a slim chance of winning. Their reasons were not far-fetched. The overwhelming influence of the APC could kick Obaseki out of the game.

But Obaseki refused to be easily defeated. He threw everything in the ring to win his bid for a second term. He rolled up his sleeves and deflected the stones thrown at him like a skilled pugilist. He was ready for battle to retain his place at the top. He garnered support from party members, leveraged on his milestones attained in his first tenure to woo voters. He made more campaign promises and assured voters that he would deliver the Edo of their dreams.

With the backing of Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, Obaseki was confident that his mission would be accomplished.

To a large extent, the recently concluded election in Edo State was a battle between Oshiomhole and Obaseki that entertained and irked political spectators.

They were amused by the constant mudslinging from both warring personalities, though Oshiomhole pulled the strings behind the scenes.

What irked spectators and voters was the overconfidence of the party, particularly the last campaign by Tinubu, who told voters to kick out Obaseki at the polls, labelling him a dictator.

His outburst was the miracle Obaseki needed. It frustrated the voters who thought the Jagaban wanted to intimidate the state with his influential politics as he did in the past governorship election in Lagos State.

The campaign team of Obaseki deftly used his broadcast to promote a slogan ‘Edo no be Lagos’ that resonated in the hearts of many. His statement drew a backlash from the public who reminded him that Obaseki would not be treated the way he did the former governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode.

Thus, on election day, even with many holding up brooms to sweep out Obaseki from office, it was those that stood under the umbrella that eventually smiled.

Obaseki’s victory has been greeted with fanfare and the man, like the biblical David demystified the giant Oshiomhole in Edo State by polling 307, 955 votes to Ize-Iyamu’s 223, 619 votes to retain his governorship seat. An overjoyed Obaseki told his supporters that his triumph was the end of ‘Godfatherism’.

Like Minister of Labour and Employment Chris Ngige who defeated the Ubas to end the godfatherism cycle in Anambra State, Obaseki is thumping his chest too for achieving that in Edo state.

In the spotlight of his victory, it will be interesting to know if the governor will be magnanimous or vengeful in his re-election. Should he choose to do the former, it will portray him as a good sportsman and a true democrat.

However, if he chooses to carry out vengeance on Oshiomhole and his party, it will show that the apple does not really fall far from the tree.

After all, Oshiomhole also thumped his chest when he emerged winner in 2008. Like Obaseki, he boldly declared that he had wrung the state from the hands of the powerful godfather of politics in Edo, Tony Anenih.

The following days would be a test of Obaseki’s political character even as the APC continues to bark about the outcome of the election.

QUOTE

Even with the blessings of the PDP, not a few thought that he had a slim chance of winning. Their reasons were not far-fetched. The overwhelming influence of the APC could kick Obaseki out of the game.

But Obaseki refused to be easily defeated. He threw everything in the ring to win his bid for a second term. He rolled up his sleeves and deflected the stones thrown at him like a skilled pugilist. He was ready for battle to retain his place at the top.

To a large extent, the recently concluded election in Edo State was a battle between Oshiomhole and Obaseki that entertained and irked political spectators

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