32 Days To Go! Obaseki, Oshiomhole In Stormy Battle As APC Slates Timetable for Edo, Ondo Primary

  • INEC : No Going Back On  Election Timetable for Edo, Ondo  Guber Polls
  • Political and Business Leaders  Weigh Options, Seek Experts To Conduct Surveys


By Hamilton Nwosa (Head, The New Diplomat data tracking and analysis desk)

With precisely five months  ahead of the scheduled governorship elections in Edo and  Ondo states, the   governing All Progressives Congress (APC)  has slated   June 22 and July 20 for its party gubernatorial  primary elections  for Edo and Ondo states, respectively

This political  development  is coming on the heels of  insistence by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to the effect that  it would adhere strictly  to its  original timetable or program timelines for the governorship  elections in both  Edo and Ondo states, individually.

In a categorical statement  yesterday , the National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of the electoral body,  Mr Festus Okoye  maintained  that  the commission  having deliberated extensively on the scheduled polls in both states as well as other lingering subject matters has come to the inevitable conclusion that the INEC would proceed with the  election timetable as earlier scheduled.

 “The Commission deliberated extensively on a Policy Framework that will guide its operations, activities and engagements with critical stakeholders in view of the COVID-19 Pandemic and its impact on the electoral process in Nigeria. Based on this, the Commission will on Thursday 21st May 2020 issue a Policy Framework for engagement with stakeholders, the conduct of the two ends of tenure governorship elections, outstanding bye-elections and future electoral activities. The Commission reiterated its commitment to conduct the Edo and Ondo governorship elections on 19th September and 10th October 2020 as contained in the Timetable and Schedule of Activities released on 6th February 2020”, he said.

Okoye added: “We reassure Nigerians of our resolve and determination to provide the requisite guidance, innovation and leadership in conducting elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Commission is committed to fulfilling its constitutional responsibility of conducting elections but without jeopardizing the health and wellbeing of citizens, stakeholders or its valued staff.

 “The Commission will accelerate consultations and engagements with political parties, civil society organizations, security agencies and health authorities as soon as its Policy Framework is finalized this week. We again urge everyone to remain safe and healthy by complying with all the guidelines and protocols issued by the health authorities”.

 For close followers of Edo state politics, this development has again fueled the ferocious war between loyalists of  the national chairman of the APC, comrade Adams Oshiomhole  and his successor in Edo, Governor Godwin Obaseki over the flaming battle for the governorship seat  come September 19th this  year.

 As things stand, analysts project that with just five months to the actual election in September, the crowded field of gubernatorial hopefuls in the APC  has set a tumultuous political war in motion in Edo State. Apart from Obaseki who is fighting a tough battle to secure the APC’s ticket  next  month to seek re-election, there are Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, a lawyer and strong political war-horse with strong organizational prowess,  Engr Chris Ogiemwonyi, a former Minister of State for Works, and Dr Pius Odubu, a former deputy governor of Edo state. There is also Major-General Charles Airhiavbere, a former governorship aspirant.  With this line-up, it is not clear which side Oshiomhole might tilt the political pendulum.

There are speculations of possible dark-horses. But analysts predict that unless, shrewd and deft  political maturity is deployed, the intrigues and untamed  acrimony  that might arise from the APC  primary  itself  could prove devastating for the party in the state.

Sources confided in The New Diplomat that this could throw up a rancorous war within the APC with the possibility of an inactive PDP leveraging on  it to wrest power from the ruling APC. Recall that The New Diplomat had earlier reported that the PDP itself is also not immune to internal tension and crisis .

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In the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the list is said to include Senator Matthew Urhoghide, chairman Senate Committee of Public Accounts who is said to be studying the political situation and hasn’t taken a clear position yet,  Mr Kenneth Imasuangbon, alias “the rice man”, Arch Mike Onolememen, a former Minister of Works, Hon. Omorogie Ogbeide-Ihama, a young politician from Oredo and Gideon Ikhine.

But   sources disclosed that the chances of Imasuangban,  Ikhine and others from central senatorial zone seems completely unpromising and inauspicious   because the current political currents sit pretty well with only aspirants  from Edo South. Urhoghide, a two-term senator is said to be generally admired by many across political parties divide. He is also very likeable, approachable and most accessible, according to some senior journalists who spoke with The New Diplomat.

But how is the APC and PDP ranking in the three senatorial zones? What are the forces and dynamics at play? And what are the objective demographics that would  shape the governorship polls in Edo Sate ?

The Demographics…

Edo South Senatorial zone is the largest Senatorial district. It has  about 58% of the State’s projected voters demographics strength. In fact, the projected voting strength of the other two- Senatorial zones-North (25%) and Central (17% )- when polled together do not seem to equal South senatorial district in terms of statistical voting capabilities!

However,  as earlier indicated by The New Diplomat’s field survey in April, political analysts explain that the huge voting strength of Edo South is largely cosmopolitan given the fact that  it’s made up of diverse ethnic groups  just like the scenario in Lagos State.  And Edo State is quite large in terms of landmass (about 17,802 square kilometers). Thus the smallest Senatorial zone (Edo Central ) is almost like the size of the entire Lagos State in terms of landmass.

The population setting in the 18 LGAs as captured in the Senatorial demographics are as follows:

Edo Central Senatorial Zone (PDP Stronghold-17%)

1.   Esan Central   (137,900)

2.   Esan North-East (159,800)

3.   Esan South East(217,900)

4.   Esan West(167,300)

5.   Igueben (92,100)

Edo North Senatorial Zone (APC Stronghold-25%)

1.   Akoko-Edo(342,600)

2.   Etsako Central(123,400)

3.   Etsako East(193,000)

4.   Etsako West(260,700)

5.   Owan East(202,600)

6.   Owan West(129,800)

 Edo South Senatorial Zone ( PDP, APC in Battle for Supremacy; Both parties have 2 House of Reps each but PDP has the Senatorial seat!-58%)

1.   Ikpoba-Okha (487,400)

2.   Oredo(490,600)

3.   Orhionmwon(241,00)

4.   Ovia North East(203,500)

5.   Ovia South West(180,900)

6.   Uhunmwonde(159,500)

7.   Egor(445,800)

Total projected population figures: 4,235,600

NB: population figures are based on National Population Commission (NPC) figures and the National Bureau of Statistics sourced from their  data( NPC 2016). Note also that in the last State House of Assembly elections, the APC dusted the PDP by winning virtually all the seats!

The Current Key Front-line governorship Contenders…

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Gov Godwin Obaseki (APC)

*Strength: Incumbency factor, extensive financial cash-flow and profound professional skill- sets .

*Weakness: His inability to reconcile with his benefactor, Oshiomhole, a man who installed him as governor is seen by many as a huge set-back that may work against him.

 Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu(APC)

*Strength: Strong political war-horse with solid grassroots following across board.

*Weakness: Inconsistent moves from ACN to PDP, and back to APC may count against him. Inability among pro-Oshiomhole APC leaders to agree on a consensus material that will tackle Obaseki is  seen as a set-back for him.

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Senator Matthew Urhoghide(PDP)

*Strength: Has goodwill, immense political support across parties and mass popularity

*Weakness: Perceived as too gentle to fight  the  turbulent Guber battle in Edo

 Dr Pius Odubu (APC)

*Strength: Has strong political base coupled with unmatched political experience, and loyalty to the APC.

*Weakness: Seen as too loyal to Oshiomhole, a factor that may work against him in Edo. Also he may not have deep pocket to withstand the fierce financial war!  

Engr Chris Ogiemwonyi (APC)

*Strength: Well organized professional with energy industry experience and goodwill

* Weakness: Seen as too old for the war coupled with being viewed as an outsider in APC with no political structure. He is also order than Oshiomhole in age, a point some insiders say may count against him as the APC leader might prefer younger folks.

Gen. Charles Airhiavbere(APC)

*Strength: Has deep pocket that can see him through the turbulent financial war-chest.

*Weakness: Lacks political base coupled with absence of political structure, making him politically empty in terms of political base. Besides, insiders say his deep-pocket may have depleted drastically over time having fought previous political wars in Edo state.

 Hon Omorogie  Ogbeide-Ihama (PDP)

*Strength: Young, dynamic and has great mobilization skills

*Weakness:  Seen as lacking the reach and persona for the  governorship race. Besides, his strength does not go beyond Oredo. Analysts, say he should bid his time and wait till sometime in the future and run as  a running mate to  build up his profile.

The Political dynamics…

As earlier projected by The New Diplomat,  central  dynamics in the battle for supremacy, is the electoral status of the gubernatorial gladiators and the real  time battle for Edo South.

Some insiders  earlier  confided in The New Diplomat thus : “Whoever wins Edo South will eventually win the governorship elections. The political sentiments are very strong today. …If election is held today, it would definitely be very tough, very competitive but there is no way Oshiomhole will not deliver Edo  North fully to anyone he supports full block.  Edo North controls 25% of the voting population. He still holds the structure in Edo North.  Yes the deputy governor is there, Philip, but who is really Philip when you are talking of people like  Pally Iriase, Julius Ihonvbere, Abdul Oroh, Aikhokia, Agba, etc in Edo North? Oshiomhole still controls the votes in Edo North in block. So wherever he tilts the pendulum, that is where the votes will swing naturally. ”

But another source countered that Obaseki might correspondingly win Edo Central,  given the relative work he has done in Edo Central, and the political sentiment in” Edo Central. According to insiders  Edo Central Senatorial zone, the Esan believe that they might stand a better chance of being governor in 2024 if they support Obaseki”. The analyst added: “ It would be a tough contest my brother. Godwin (Governor Godwin Obaseki)  has done some work  in Edo Central and he may win the votes there  given the sentiments of the Esan people that is the land of the Esan people. Though small relatively small in population, they are potent as a people.  It is the place that produced eminent elder statesman and foremost nationalist like late Chief Anthony Enahoro who fought for Nigeria’s independence is not a push-over….The Esans want to be governor in 2024, that is one issue analysts should watch out for in their permutations ”.

The New Diplomat’s checks reveal that the race could be tough with a lot of dynamics being thrown up. A top journalist from Edo State confided in The New Diplomat: “Let me tell you the truth. Obaseki and Oshiomhole would have resolved their political differences long ago.  Obaseki should have long mend fences with his benefactor, Comrade. Without comrade, Obaseki wouldn’t have won. So  he should have just managed the Comrade (Oshiomhole), no matter his shortcomings. No human being is perfect. That is why this election would be tough, the Oshiomhole factor. Oshiomhole is a very strong factor. But you know there are also political hawks whose stock-in-trade is to feed fat from their open hostilities.  The Obaseki I know is a good natured person but his political loyalists have made things difficult for reconciliation with his political mentor, Comrade Oshiomhole.

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“Some of Obaseki’s associates and appointees are also very, very arrogant, timid and unapproachable. They are like double dealers. They are also making enemies for the governor and at the end, some of them will jump ship and go and mend fences with Oshiomhole when the chips are down. As I speak with you some political and business leaders have commissioned experts to give them objective and balanced analysis of the Edo situation to help them decide where to support.

“ However, I don’t see how APC will not win Edo State. It is up for APC to pick up. Oshiomhole worked very hard to build up APC in the state, so it is for APC to pick up but it si also up in the air because Senator Matthew  Urhoghide, the chairman senate committee on Public Accounts is a man who is generally liked and awesomely admired across the state. He is PDP and if he decides to throw his hat in the ring, then the race would be tough, and could swing either way .”

This analyst justified his analysis with the case study   of PDP controlling two Senatorial seats(South and Central) just as  the APC holds the reigns of  government at the State level as governor as well has one senatorial seat, Edo North.

” That is why I am telling you that APC has to be very careful in managing its internal fight so that it does not give chance to PDP to leverage on to attempt to snatch the governorship seat”, the analyst quipped.

 He added;” That is why I told you earlier that whoever wins Edo South, will ultimately win the governorship. Edo Central is a traditional base of PDP even though Obaseki has made some in-road there, while Edo North is absolutely APC’s chiefdom as Oshiomhole’s own Senatorial base. So the battle ground still remains Edo South with 58% of voting strength up for grab.”

 NB: Starting by next Monday, The New Diplomat would be commencing a field survey as we move closer to September,  2020 Edo governorship polls. The New Diplomat Inc’s  Poll Tracking  team will aggregate  all field data from across all the 18LGAs in Edo State, and officially  released polling data by  INEC, including number of registered voters,  expected voters with PVCs,  population figures by both NPC and NBS, voting strength of various LGAs, etc.

Our Poll Tracking Team would then develop a Hybrid Poll tracking methodology that would combine different survey methods to arrive at a verdict of which governorship aspirant is favoured to win both their parties primaries and the general elections. The Hybrid approach include sampled respondents, focus groups interviews, coding, field questionnaires, telephone interviews, reputation audit, sampling of voting demographics, etc. Just as we did with Bayelsa State, where we accurately projected APC’s landslide victory at the governorship polls, our field findings and projections would be published well ahead of the elections!

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Hamilton Nwosa is an experienced, and committed communication, business, administrative, data and research specialist . His deep knowledge of the intersection between communication, business, data, and journalism are quite profound. His passion for professional excellence remains the guiding principle of his work, and in the course of his career spanning sectors such as administration, tourism, business management, communication and journalism, Hamilton has won key awards. He is a delightful writer, researcher and data analyst. He loves team-work, problem-solving, organizational management, communication strategy, and enjoys travelling. He can be reached at: hamilton_68@yahoo.com


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