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How Edo gov election was won and lost

Published by Tribune on Wed, 18 Jul 2012

Uchechukwu Olisah (Benin City) provides an insight into the factors that decided the outcome of Saturday's governorship election in Edo State.THE highly anticipated Edo State governorship election took place last Saturday, July14, 2012. The election, heralded by intense campaign hoopla and hype, coupled with the fear of an outbreak of bloodshed given the spate of violence, deaths and verbal crossfire between the two major political parties and their candidates, unexpectedly turned out peacefully.Besides, the presumption that the results of the election will be too close to call going by the tension generated in the course of the campaigns came to an apparent 'no-contest', as the election turned out to be a landslide victory for the winner, the incumbent Governor Adams Oshiomhole of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). Oshiomhole swept the polls in the 18 local government areas of the state. He scored a total of 477,478 votes to defeat his closest rival, Major General Charles Airhiavbere (retd) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who got 144,235 votes out of a total of 630,099 valid votes cast in the election.Against this background, it may be interesting to examine how the election was won and lost.Oshiomhole's pedigreeThe pedigree of Oshiomhole is a major decisive factor in the governorship race. Oshiomhole came into partisan politics from the organised labour immediately after the expiration of his tenure as the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). He contested the 2007 governorship election which he eventually won through a Court of Appeal judgement in November 2008.Before the just-concluded 2012 gubernatorial election, part of Oshiomhole's greatest challenge as an incumbent governor was to win his re-election through the ballot box. And so, Oshiomhole reclined to get to the depth of his repertoire, from where he massively deployed his vast experience in mobilisation and persuasion, and some would argue, propaganda, to dismantle all barriers and walked his way to success ' a walk and success, which some persons following the title of one of Nelson Mandela's works, have dubbed Long Walk To Freedom not only for himself but for all Edo people.Even he himself admitted this much when he said on Sunday that the PDP and the party's governorship candidate in the election, Charles Airhiavbere (retd) raised the stakes and made the victory sweeter.The Oshiomholoe factor is also said to have counted in favour of his political platform, the ACN. It is a trite argument that it is political parties that present candidates for election; however, it has also been argued that the personalities of candidates drive political platforms to success or failure. In the extant case, Oshiomhole is unarguably the driver behind the success of the ACN and not the other way.And this is what not a few persons have said is responsible for the present success of the party.The PDP, it is said, lacked that enigmatic character like Oshiomhole. A number of analysts have said that besides the state chairman of the party, Chief Dan Orbih and the state publicity secretary of the party, Mr. Matthew Urhoghide, the party in the state does not appear to have a charismatic figure that can pull the party out of its present political wilderness. While Orbih has been credited with a lot of efforts at trying to reposition what is believed to be the battered image and diminishing power and influence of the party following the now opprobrious years of the PDP administration of Governor Lucky Igbinedion from May 1999 to May 2007, Urhoghide is said to have, through his personal conviction, tried to portray the party as one with a new deal for the state.People's perceptionIt is agreed in certain quarters that the perception of the people of the people is key to winning the battle for the control of their mind and, by implication, if it is in a genuine democracy, the dictation of the direction of their political choice. It is believed that, as a man schooled in the art of persuasion and propaganda, Oshiomhole has been able to paint the major opposition party and its closest political rival in the state, the PDP, as evil, and its leaders and members as evil forces that should be avoided. The outcome of the election results perhaps shows that the people have bought this perception hook line and sinker.Performance and non-performanceIndeed, Oshiomhole's ability to show and convince the people that his administration has executed more development projects in three and half years of its being power than the PDP administration which held sway in the state for about 10 years before his assumption of office as governor appears to be a nerve-breaker for the PDP. In other words, his ability to connect the people with his much-vaunted performance status of his administration perhaps more than anything else counted in his favour and manifestly made the PDP a political orphan. Treachery within the PDP / defectionsOne of the greatest undoing of the PDP candidate and the PDP itself in the election is the purported betrayal of the party by some of those within its ranks.Some of the party members are said to be PDP in the day but ACN at night.Indeed, supposedly very eminent leaders and members of the party were said to be hobnobbing with the ACN, the ruling power in the state because, as it has been posited, politics is the biggest industry in the state and dependence on government for many is the only way to sustain existence.The body language of the party leaders like Dr Samuel Ogbemudia and his comments of approval for Oshiomhole; the long stay in the party of leaders like Elder Sunny Uyigue and former deputy governor of the state, Reverend Peter Obadan from where they were supposedly providing tacit support for Oshiomhole before finally joining the ACN; and the seeming non-committal posture of Ogbemudia, former Chief of General Staff, Admiral Okhai Mike Akhigbe, and Chief of Staff to the President, Chief Mike Ogiadomhe apparently worked against the interest of the PDP in the election and provided fertile ground for Oshiomhole to run away with unprecedented victory. Even some other leaders and members of the party from Edo South, the senatorial district of the PDP candidate, were said to have deceived him as well as worked against the interest of the party which was why his showing at the polls in the district was very abysmal.Again, the obvious lack of support for Airhiavbere by those who contested the party's governorship primary and lost and aloofness of some of them like Professor Oserheimen Osunbor, Matthew Iduoriyekemwen, Kenneth Imansuangbon and Professor Julius Ihonvbere, who eventually joined the ACN, drained both the party and the party's candidate of support as most of the followers of these leaders read the body language of their principals by pitching their tents with the ACN just before the election.Some of the chieftains that remained with party were said to have stayed on for pecuniary benefits not because they really believed in the cause the leadership and the candidate was pursuing. Persons who hold this view point to the results of the election to amplify their position, saying the elections results did not show there were anywhere these chieftains made a significant impression.The gale of defections was not limited to a particularly political party but the PDP seemed the worst hit. Those who did not publicly announce defection were not seen to have really worked for the party and this category of persons also included Osunbor, Iduoriyekemwen, Ogiadomhe, Akhigbe and to some extent Imansuangbon.Influence of the traditional institutionThe influence of the traditional institution in the state was debilitating for Airhiavbere and the PDP and an extreme boost for Oshiomhole and the ACN. A lot of people have opined that never in the history of the state had the traditional institution been so involved in partisan politics than the period leading to the election of 14 July 2012.From the Otaru of Auchi, Alhaji Haliru Momoh, Ikelebe III, who said that Edo North Senatorial District will not accept anything other than the governorship which, when summed up, translates to a second term for Governor Oshiomhole to the Oba of Benin, Omo N'Oba Erediauwa, whose body language and comments of some of his very high-ranking chiefs obviously betrayed support for Oshiomhole, and to the festival of endorsements he received from legions of traditional rulers and chiefs across the state by any strand of logic worked in his favour. It is, however, argued that some of the traditional rulers joined in the bandwagon for fear of the unknown. Besides, a statement from the Oba of Benin Palace distancing the Omo N'Oba from partisan politics was viewed in many quarters as an after-thought that did not detract from the rosy relationship between the Palace and Governor Oshiomhole. Going by the age-long saying that traditional rulers are the closest to their subjecrs, it was therefore not surprising if they exercise a lot of influence on the eligible voters among their subjects, a proposition that is regarded as plausible and which might have counted in the favour of Oshiomhole on this occasion.Voting patternThe voting pattern in the 18 local government areas of the state appears unidirectional. It defied any ethnic or religious colouration. It was probably the first time the people of the state were voting across primordial divide to elect a governor.Oshiomhole won in all the 18 local government areas, an effective message that stands as a testimony that he has finally arrived as the numero uno, the primus inter pares, in Edo politics. None of Oshiomhole's opponents, including the PDP candidate, Airhiavbere and his running mate, Johnson Abolagab, and PDP leaders such as former chairman of the party's Board of Trustees, Chief Tony Anenih; Dr. Ogbemudia; Chief Ogiadomhe; former deputy governor of the state, Lucky Imasuen; the Esama of Benin, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion; the state chairman of the PDP; Senator Odion Ugbesia; the state publicity secretary of the party,Senator Yisa Braimah; former majority leader of the House of Representatives, Colonel Tunde Akogun (retd), and the ANPP governorship candidate, Solomon Edebiri, won their local government areas.Particularly surprising and intriguing is Edo Central, Anenih's senatorial district, where the PDP won five out of the six state House of Assembly seats and even the senatorial seat in the April 2011 elections, but where it failed to secure a win in any of the five local government areas.The main losersTony AnenihA major loser in the July 14, 2012 Edo state gubernatorial election, without equivocation, is Chief Tony Anenih. The Uromi-born traditional Iyasele (Traditional Prime Minister) of Esanland could not deliver the votes from his own Edo Central senatorial district to Airhiavbere and the PDP. Anenih lost his Esan North East local government area to the ACN. In this local government, the ACN polled 13,086 votes while the PDP had 12,478 votes. As a man in the twilight, both politically and in terms of natural biological progression, the defeat, according to Oshiomhole, has effectively demystified Anenih. Indeed the man known variously as 'Leader' and 'Mr. Fix It', the latter after his uncanny ability to fix uncommon political situations may have been retired from active politics going by the results of the just-concluded gubernatorial election in line with Oshiomhole's avowed commitment to do so.Charles AirhiavbereAnother main loser in the election is the PDP governorship candidate, Charles Airhiavbere. The chartered accountant and retired Major-General of the Nigerian Army, whose first attempt in politics is to take a shot at the governorship few days after his retirement, may have received his first real political baptism with an embarrassing election results. Airhiavbere lost at his polling Unit 20 Ward One in Oredo Local Government Area where he and the PDP got 38 votes and Oshiomhole and the ACN scored 360 votes. There is, therefore, no gainsaying that he lost his local government area to Oshiomhole with 9,081 against Oshiomhole's 66,522 votes. For Airhiavbere, there may be another chance.Samuel OgbemudiaIt may not have come to discerning political observers as a surprise that Dr Samuel Ogbemudia, a member of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), lost his Uhunmwode local government area to Oshiomhole and the ACN. Ogbemudia's liking or so for Oshiomhole and his complimentary remarks he makes about him are all too well known. Besides, Ogbemudia's non-commitment both in spoken words and in attitude regarding PDP-related issues in the state were clear signs that the results could not have been otherwise.Matthew Urhoghide and Roland OwieThe PDP Publicity Secretary, Mr. Matthew Urhoghide, a Fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, was in ACN before he defected to the PDP after falling out with Governor Oshiomhole over issues relating to who got the ticket of the ACN for Edo South senatorial district in the run on to the 2011 elections. Urhoghide was then an aspirant for the senatorial position. By this present defeat in his Oredo local government area, the hope of using the PDP platform for the actualisation of his elective political ambition in the very near future, if he still nurses the ambition, may have been dashed.Former Chief Whip of the Senate, Roland Owie was also in the ACN before he rejoined the PDP after also falling out with Governor Oshiomhole. Owie is reputed to be a grassroots politician but his trouncing in his Uhunmwode Local Government Area by Oshiomhole and the PDP apparently leaves him in the middle of nowhere.Whither Edo PDP'The initial reaction of the Edo PDP to the election results was a statement, late Sunday, in which the party congratulated the people of the state over their decision regarding who rules them in the next four years.In the statement signed by its state Publicity Secretary, Mr Matthew Urhoghide, the party said, 'This is however without prejudice to all other latent issues that may arise subsequently after a thorough study of all the issues appertaining to the election.'According to the Edo PDP, the party being part and parcel of the people, would always feel their pulse and do their bidding.'The PDP in Edo State will like to reassure Edo people that we have learnt from our immediate and past experiences and promise to always stand in the gap for Edo people in their quest to achieve to the fullest their aspiration of quality life.We thank INEC, law enforcement agencies and all those who assisted in making the whole election process a very peaceful one. We also thank our party faithful that have remained resolute and dogged in their pursuits and determination to ensure good governance for our people,' the Edo PDP added.But in the afternoon of Monday, 16 July 2012, the Edo PDP issued another statement signed by the state chairman Chief Dan Orbih, reacting to the just-concluded governorship election in the state.The Edo PDP said 'Just before the close of polls of the July 14, 2012 governorship election in Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, in a reaction before the media, strongly indicted and accused Professor Attahiru Jega and Edo State INEC of colluding with Edo PDP to compromise the integrity of the election.'This accusation which arose from the governor's observations on the conduct of the election is also published in the national newspapers of July 15, 2012 and especially on the front pages of the Sunday Vanguard and Tribune newspapers.In the accusation, Governor Oshiomhole he will '...fight this [INEC] debauchery'.'The Edo PDP further said it agreed totally with Governor Oshiomhole that the election was froth with high and pervasive irregularities, and that in addition to the governor's observed 'high and pervasive irregularities', it wished to record the following facts and to make them public.
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