IT is official. Governor Godwin Obaseki will not contest on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the September 19, 2020 governorship poll in Edo State. The party disqualified him from the June 22 primaries, and he accepted his fate. But the poll watchers appear to miss an undercurrent that will affect the 2024 governorship contest. And that is the place of the people of Edo Central in the struggle seen as between Edo South and Edo North, as represented by Obaseki and Oshiomhole.
Speculations indicate the governor may decamp to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which stated on Friday, June 12, its readiness to welcome him to its fold.
While the tussle over the primaries rages, observers are focused on the feud between Obaseki and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, National Chairman of the APC and former governor of Edo, who backs a challenge to Obaseki’s renomination.
Though the contestation in the APC (as, indeed, in the PDP) is among indigenes of Edo South, some pundits think that Edo South and Edo North will use Edo Central and its people as pawns in the game to settle their supremacy scores.
Let’s consider these hypotheses: Scenario one: Obaseki gets re-elected, and leaves power in 2024. Going by a projected zonal arrangement, an indigene of Edo Central will emerge as the candidate and governor in 2024.
But if the APC candidate gets elected in September, will Edo South and its new governor be content with only one term in office, and allow Edo Central to produce the governor in 2024?
With tribal sentiments introduced in the mix, as if the contest is between Edo South and Edo North, and Obaseki’s challenger(s) a non-Edo South indigene, it’s doubtful Edo South will allow the APC ticket to go to Edo Central in 2024.
In such an eventuality, Edo South may have recourse to political exigencies in other parts of Nigeria, such as in Rivers State where the Ikwerre have had 20 years of unbroken power since 1999, and would make it 24 years of overlordship by 2023.
Won’t that be sweet music to Edo South, on account of the huge population of the area as the seat of government, and the commercial, industrial and social hub of Edo?
Now, the deepest cut and killer punch! Have political chieftains in Edo Central and Edo North given a thought to Edo South voting tactically against Obaseki in the September poll, so that the zone could have a fresh eight-year tenure of governance?
Scenario two: The APC candidate wins the governorship in September. Naturally, and as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution (as amended), he will like to contest for a second term.
If, on personal grounds or due to a gentleman’s agreement to a one-term in office, the man has no inclination for re-election, his people in Edo South may cajole him to stand for another term, and thus block the slot for Edo Central to produce the governor.
Scenario three: Edo Central faces a similar dilemma in the PDP that’s been out of power since 2008 when the courts removed Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor (Edo Central) as governor, and installed Oshiomhole (Edo North) of the APC as winner of the 2007 poll.
The PDP has fallen short of snatching back power in Edo in 2012 and 2016, but amid the crisis in the APC chapter, it thinks its prospects of doing so are brighter in 2020.
And the party looks set to field an indigene of Edo South, and if it wins the September 19 election, will again nominate an Edo South candidate to retain the seat in 2024.
This calculation in the PDP, as is probable in the APC, also leaves out Edo Central in the equation for 2024, and yet a dash of hopes for the zone in the 2028 governorship in both parties.
Scenario four: If Edo Central is denied the opportunity to produce the governor in 2024, its chances are deemer in 2028, as Edo North maybe impatient to be out of power for 16 years.
The APC or PDP doesn’t seem to spare a thought for Edo Central, for not completing its eight-year tenure that’s aborted barely one and half years following courts’ ouster of Osunbor in 2008.
If politicians permit equity and inclusiveness, the PDP would have chosen its candidate from Edo Central in 2012, 2016 or 2020, to compensate for the loss of its zoning slot scheduled to complete in 2015 after two terms of office.
But getting a badly-needed win has no room for political niceties, as fielding a candidate from Edo Central in those years, and under the current atmosphere wouldn’t hand PDP victory, and power.
Unless there’re conscious efforts by the APC and PDP to include Edo Central in their scheming for the governor in 2024 or 2028, the zone would lose on both podiums in those periods.
So, Edo Central, neither kingmakers nor the King, will always be served political crumbs to scramble for: The Office of Speaker of the House of Assembly. The Office of Deputy Governor, as shown by Oshiomhole and Obaseki, is beyond its reach.
Owing to their populations, Edo South and Edo North have turned the beautiful brides, with Oshiomhole (Edo North) picking Dr. Pius Odubu (Edo South) as deputy governor for his eight-year rule.
And in an inverse format, Obaseki (Edo South) has picked Phillip Shaibu (Edo North) as deputy governor, and he’s poised to retain him, God willing his renomination, for the September poll.
Also in the PDP, there’s no inkling the candidate (Edo South) will choose an indigene of Edo Central as deputy. In the party’s calculation, it’s politically wise to pick the deputy governor from the next zone in voting population, which is Edo North.
Hence, the APC or PDP picking a running mate from Edo Central is capable of backfiring, as either party will combine the two highest voting zones of Edo South and Edo North to carry the day.
What’s next for Edo Central indigenes? Should they fold their hands and allow other zones to use them for ping-pong in the 2020 electoral processes? They’ve to be wise, calculative and tactical!
Wise, in the sense that they’ve no stores, but a stake in the 2020 election. That will inform their being calculative and tactical in the choices before them in both the APC and PDP.
If Obaseki gets the ticket to run on another political party, and wins the governorship in September, will he ensure the zoning of power to Edo Central in 2024? Or if the APC candidate wins, will he agree to serve one term in office, and allow Edo Central to produce the governor in 2024? Both situations are simply guesstimate!
The same outline applies in the PDP. Will the party agree to a one-term in office for a candidate and governor of Edo South extraction, and give way to an Edo Central indigene in 2024?
If APC and PDP, and their Edo South candidates cannot commit to a one-term in office, and power shift to Edo Central in 2024, the people should strategise, organise, mobilise, engage and negotiate their political future with both parties, limiting the negotiations to 2024, to assess the parties’ willingness to forego the governorship. They should back the candidate likely to favour their zone.
Ezomon, journalist and media consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.