Edo Elections: Is the Era of Godfathers Gradually Coming to An End?

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In September 2016, Godwin Obaseki was elected on the platform of the All Progressive Congress (APC) Party against Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) but defected to the latter after a fall-out with his predecessor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole who anointed him as his successor against many odds. Obaseki was the head of Oshiomhole’s economic team during his tenure and his creative tank.

However, once sworn-in as the governor, their political tussle which has been obscured from public view became glaring when Obaseki initiated rules and regulations on access to the Government House, banning politicians who had no business at the Osadebe House. With this new shake-up, it soon turned into a deserted zone. To ensure that funds were allocated to the state and that internally-generated revenue went for the development of the state, the ex-youth leader of the party, Osakpamwan Eriyo was displaced and remanded in prison for three months infuriating his predecessor.

Later, the need for loyalists to be elected into other political offices ended with a clash of interests. In one of the federal constituencies, Obaseki’s preferred candidate, Osaigbovo Iyokha, secured a ticket against Osaro Obazee who was preferred by his predecessor. Subsequently, Comrade Adams preferred Victor Edoro to become Speaker, while Obaseki supported Frank Okoye.

The rift deepened when the Edo State House of Assembly was hastily ‘inaugurated’ and a speaker ‘elected’ at night with only nine lawmakers present against twenty-four absent. The other lawmakers were excluded in order to prevent Mr Oshiomhole’s loyalists from taking custody of the legislature. Of the 24 members-elect in the assembly, 19 members-elect were loyal to Oshiomhole, while the remaining six were loyal to Obaseki. Eight commissioners loyal to his predecessor were also sacked, after a vote of no confidence passed by 18 chairmen of the state’s local government chapters.

Oshiomhole was suspended by the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State when his political adviser, Mr Idahosa accused him of instigating crisis.

This is a situation in which we ought to be very happy; it is so strange. It is like a tragi-comedy with what is happening. We have a governor who was brought up by a political party and the people out there are very happy and commending this governor for working so hard. He is very popular and you will attest to that but the problem is with the leadership of the party.

While the voters are very excited, the people who brought him into power are not happy with him because, according to them, he is not carrying them along.

Subsequently, his entry into the state was dependent on permission given by his successor.

In an interview on Channels TV, Governor Obaseki opened up on the bickering with his predecessor.

I do not have a rift with him (Oshiomhole) as a person. I just do not agree with how some decision is taken, as it relates to the party. It is not in the interest of our party.

Our quarrel has been that we are doing things that are outside the constitution of our party. The logic of democracy is that it’s the people that should drive democracy. Democracy should be built bottom-up, and not top-down. Democracy should start from the base.

Due to alleged inconsistencies in academic credentials from the University of Ibadan, Obaseki who already served a term was disqualified from the APC primaries in his bid for a second term. He defected to the People Democratic Party(PDP), contested and won with 307,955 votes against Pastor Ize-Iyamu.

Is an Era of Democracy Brewing?

No doubt godfatherism breeds violence and stunts development as is evident in the country’s political background, however, elections in Edo State were a tip of the iceberg on the roles and challenges godfathers constitute in the political system. The 43-minute video by former Lagos Governor, Asiwaju Tinubu, another godfather in Lagos State triggered Obaseki’s victory with the hashtag #EdoNoBeLagos trending all over the internet. The people saw his interference as a means of controlling affairs beyond Lagos and securing Obaseki’s win was the only possible game-changer.

Obaseki won the elections despite not enjoying the support of his predecessor and is loved in the state for rehabilitating roads, ensuring pensions are paid and is well on his way to breaking new grounds politically.

That said, is the era of godfathers gradually coming to an end in the state? If yes, will it spread to other parts of the country? Will Lagosians follow suit? Will Obaseki rise to become a godfather? Or is there an anonymous godfather he answers to? These are the unspoken questions as we watch his second term in office unfold.

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