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Edo gov: PDP lost the election in 2003

Published by Tribune on Wed, 18 Jul 2012

Leon Usigbe writes on the factors that led to the resounding victory of Governor Adams Oshiomhole, candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), in last Saturday's gubernatorial election in Edo State.THE Edo State gubernatorial election proved to be a no contest in the end between the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Its outcome was an anti- climax of a sort, judging by the hype leading up to the polls. Before last Saturday, the PDP strived to project an image of a party that had the electorate within its grasp but it turned out to be an exercise in self deceit, as the party was in no way close to the preferred choice of the people.The gap between the ACN's total tally and what the PDP managed to muster clearly indicates this. But Edo State is a state that the PDP once had under its firm control even at the inception of Governor Adams Oshiomhole administration nearly four years ago when the party had the majority in the State House of Assembly and as well as other elective positions. Time and time again, it had been suggested that Oshiomhole became the governor through the grace of Chief Anenih, who, it was claimed, provided the evidence that nailed in court, Professor Oserhiemen Osunbor, about 18 months into Osunbor's tenure as governor because of Anenih's personal disagreement with the former senator. Professor Osunbor took over from Lucky Igbinedion in 2007 after what has been considered the worst era of governance the Edo people have seen and are in a hurry to put behind them.If it was not for that, perhaps Oshiomhole would probably have ended up as an 'also ran' while Osunbor, who made a noticeable difference in the development of the state within his short tenure than what Igbinedion had put together for eight agonising years, would be in his second tenure as governor. No, Anenih would not have that, it was alleged. What is even worse was his insistence on the candidacy of Igbinedion in 2003 when the entire state appeared to be clamouring for a change as it became obvious that the incumbent governor lacked the capacity to move in the direction of the people.It was Anenih, who, in 2003, during one of the PDP's campaign rally in Uromi, his hometown, declared against the popular will that Lucky Igbinedion was his political son and as result, must be allowed to re-contest the gubernatorial election after a woeful first four years in office between 1999 and 2003. That was essentially the moment the PDP lost last Saturday's election to the ACN because the ensuing four years were a wasted era both in the lives of Edo State and its people yearning for the dividends of democracy. Once Oshiomhole was able to break out from the initial shackles of 'Mr Fix it' and correctly read the mood of the people, he was on a rollercoaster ride towards the groundbreaking victory he achieved on Saturday. The Comrade-Governor met a pulverised population lacking in self esteem by the time he assumed office. There was arrant neglect of critical infrastructure and high level poverty and among the majority even when a privileged few continued to noticeably recycle themselves around the available juice under the tutelage of the Iyasele of Esanland. There was therefore a largely discontented Edo citizenry which was prepared to accept any change no matter its colour.For Edo people, what Oshiomhole has done so far may be a token step towards progress but he is not just a change of any colour but someone who represents a genuine development catalyst. Unlike many politicians, he happened to have backed his intents with concretised action and more importantly, has been able to show to the people that the PDP leaders, rather than be concerned about their welfare, are more worried about their personal survival.His campaign against the PDP leaders, particularly Chief Anenih, was unsavoury, as it was often couched in pert and saucy tones which nonetheless resonated in the ears of the people. The governor succeeded in stirring up anger among the unemployed youtsh who had been loyal to the PDP, blaming their hopeless condition on the activities of Chief Anenih and his co-travellers in the former ruling party.There existed a huge number of former PDP members who were witnesses to the political high-handedness of the PDP elite in the state that was perceived to have constricted the political space just as has been propagated by Governor Oshiomhole.In the absence of what to show in the eight years of its administration and the efforts that had been put in place towards making life more meaning for people by Oshiomhole's government, it was easy for people to be attracted to his party in droves. They have had their own sour experiences with various levels of the PDP leadership; they have had their grouses and they also had their dreams which Oshiomhole succeeded in convincing them could only be realisable under a different atmosphere. The Esan people tarried awhile, not wanting to let down Chief Anenih, who they fondly refer to as 'Edionma,' the elder and thus kept faith with him even when most parts of the state especially Edo South and Edo North had switched their loyalty to the new 'performing' governor. Oshiomhole however broke their resolve employing two factors: the dissolution of the local councils and the renovation of dilapidated school infrastructure in the land.The dissolution of the previously PDP-led Esan local government councils removed the means of sustenance from the PDP members in the councils as the government replaced them with ACN loyalists who in turn directed patronages to their party men and women. The ACN members did not just stop there. They in fact, robbed salt into the injuries of their PDP rivals by mocking them with the control of the councils' resources they, the ACN members, now had. It was too much for many of the PDP members to bear and they had no option than to switch camp in order to survive.Esanland public schools just like many others around the state had progressively deteriorated in their conditions with school children exposed to rain and winds in their supposed classrooms. Oshiomhole set about changing the condition of a few of them knowing the value that the people attach to education. Compared to what he did elsewhere in the state, some were of the opinion that a mere renovation of these schools was hardly enough achievement to sway the Esan support for him. But as it turned out, with their massive support for him at the polls, the people were ready to accept anything apart from the dormancy of the previous eight years. Probably with this now has come the end of the long-lasting political era of Chief Anenih who must take responsibility for resounding defeat of the PDP in Edo State and bow out of its politics gracefully. Oshiomhole's ACN may have distributed money just as the PDP had done; he may have 'purchased' the support of the traditional rulers as the PDP had similarly done in the past but the passion with which the majority of the electorate in Edo State embraced him during this election, suggested that money had little influence in their choice. He has raised their hope and now that the election is over, some say that it will serve his interest and that of the state if he seeks to pull everybody back together for the progress of the state. Political promises are easy to make and almost always very difficult to fulfil.But the Edo voters, who braved all sorts of adverse weather conditions to vote for the governor because of his promises to them, will care less if the promises are hard to keep. That is why many are of the view that the governor needs to harness the abundant talents in the state irrespective of political divide to accelerate its development and resist the temptation of developing the attributes of the godfather which he has so much derided.
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