In 2016, political pundits opined that the successor to Comrade Adams Oshiomhole would be Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. The Redeemed Christian Church of God Area pastor had come a long way in the game called politics. He started it long before Oshiomhole dreamt of becoming the governor of the state fondly known as the ‘Heartbeat of the nation.’
As far back as the 1980’s, he was the personal assistant to Chief Lucky Nosakhare Igbinedion while the latter was the Chairman of Oredo Local Government when the country operated a zero party political structure. He later became the Chief of Staff and Secretary to the State Government between 1999 and 2007 when Igbinedion held sway at the Dennis Osadebay Avenue.
He formed the Grace Group in 2007 as a vehicle to succeed his boss but the fact that he was from Edo South – the same senatorial district as his boss made it impossible to immediately succeed him. He later used the group as a bargaining chip when he defected to the then Action Congress of Nigeria to throw his weight behind the ambition of Oshiomhole as nobody from Edo North where he hailed from had never been the Governor of the State. Despite the fact that he initially lost the election to Professor Oserhimen Osunbor in 2007, the court was able to give him victory the following year.
Ize-Iyamu then became the National Vice Chairman of the ACN South-South with his political clout soaring. He was the Director-General of the second term campaign team in 2012 for the Comrade governor and he was viewed by party faithful as the ‘governor-in-waiting’ due to his relationship with Oshiomhole. He was so influential that he ensured that Oshiomhole won the entire eighteen local governments in the state by a landslide.
Oshiomhole shocked his followers by throwing his weight behind Godwin Obaseki who was in charge of his economic management team. The latter was a political neophyte who had made a name for himself in Lagos as a technocrat of note and was the founder of Afrinvest – a boutique non bank financial services firm.
Obaseki rarely talked during the ferocious campaign that got the garrulous Ize-Iyamu who defected to the Peoples Democratic Party to ask whether he was deaf and dumb. Oshiomhole who has the gift of the garb did all the talking while his then protégé followed him meekly like a lamb.
In the end Obaseki won and the embittered Ize-Iyamu went to court where he lost at all levels.
No sooner than Obaseki got sworn in that he began to assert himself as the state’s chief executive who should not just be in office but also in power. Before long, he clashed seriously with Oshiomhole as he wanted to put a stop to his perceived ‘overbearing’ nature.
The state House of Assembly couldn’t be inaugurated as most of the members were Oshiomhole’s loyalists and were seen as threats. There was an order that Oshiomhole had to seek Obaseki’s permission before visiting the state. Oshiomhole was suspended by his ward as a member of the All Progressives Congress . The House of Assembly was sworn in with minority members said to be loyal to the governor with a Speaker emerging to the chagrin of democracy lovers.
Political analysts contend that Obaseki failed to make himself available for all the reconciliation efforts that the stakeholders wanted to make to resolve the crisis including the intervention of Africa’s wealthiest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote.
The second term ambition of Obaseki led to serious cracks within the APC as Ize-Iyamu, his arch nemesis defected to the party ostensibly with the blessings of the erstwhile Boss of the Nigerian Labour Congress, Oshiomhole who had apparently ‘forgiven’ him of his numerous ‘sins.’
The APC Screening Committee screened Obaseki out of the race on grounds of certificate discrepancy from the University of Ibadan where he studied Classics and graduated in 1979. He then saw the handwriting on the wall when he resigned his membership of the APC and then moved into the PDP a few days later.
Not surprisingly, Ize-Iyamu won the APC ticket after the former deputy governor, Pius Odubu and Osaze Obazee stepped down at the 11th hour. Obaseki also got the ticket after his main rival, Kenneth Imasuagbon a.k.a The rice man stepped down at the last minute.
Political ‘Seers’ were right when they predicted the swap of parties between Ize-Iyamu and Obaseki in 2016 and 2020.
Who will carry the day on September 19, 2020? It promises to be a battle royale as both men are equally formidable.
Obaseki has the advantage of the power of incumbency and the empathy of many Edolites who see him as a liberator from the stranglehold of Oshiomhole’s alleged godfatherism. He has the propaganda machinery at his beck and call which can swing public opinion in his favour.
Ize-Iyamu has the edge of being an old political warhorse who has fought and won many political battles. He has the edge of being a grassroots mobilize as well as the fact that the APC controls the federal government and their desire to increase the number of states that they control.
The APC can take the alleged certificate scandal of Obaseki to the next level by ensuring that he gets a disqualification as a way of blocking his chances of coming back for a second term while the PDP can throw up the card of Ize-Iyamu’s alleged 700 million naira fraud case with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to also get him disqualified from the race.
The duo hail from Edo South which is the largest voting bloc in the state and the state is traditionally almost equally divided between the APC and PDP. It will be a fight to finish as both men have a lot at stake. Obaseki would love to return for a second term so as to spite Oshiomhole his friend turned adversary while it will be Ize-Iyamu’s final chance to become the governor since power will leave the south and go to either the north or central as a gentleman’s agreement exists among the stakeholders on power rotation. By the time it will return to the south, he will be 74 and too old to contest for the state’s top seat.
Will Obaseki emerge two time lucky with the latter being on his own terms? Will Ize-Iyamu upset the apple cart and humble Obaseki? Will the people come out in large numbers to vote despite the corona virus pandemic?
September 19 will surely come to pass.
Tony Ademiluyi wrote from Lagos.