Since the campaign started in July, there has been no rest for the two major candidates and their parties. By the time campaign ended on Thursday night, the two politicians and their teams would have visited the entire 192 wards in the state. From Ugbogui in Ovia north east local government area (LGA) to Lampese in Akoko Edo LGA to Afuda in Igueben LGA, the candidates combed the nooks and crannies of the state, selling their programmes and soliciting votes.
Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Godwin Obaseki, incumbent governor and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), will test their popularity on Saturday. For Obaseki, the election is like a referendum on his government, having occupied the exalted office for about four years. After the poll, the former investment banker will know if some of the changes he brought to governance in the state have been well received or not.
For Ize-Iyamu, this could be his last chance since 2007 when he threw his hat in the ring. If Obaseki floors him like he did in 2016, the shout for power shift to the central senatorial district of the state will be too deafening for him to even contemplate contesting again in 2024. Unlike in 2016 when he contested as a candidate of the opposition party, he is now the candidate of the ruling national party, hence he has the federal might to fall back on.
A FIGHT TO THE FINISH
Talking about federal support, the interest shown in Saturday’s election by the national working committee (NWC) of the APC has been more than usual. For the ruling party, this election represents the last chance to wrest a state in the south-south region from the grip of the PDP before the 2023 general election. This is why leaders of the party are unrelenting in their support for Ize-Iyamu.
PDP leaders are not leaving anything to chance as well. After losing the state to the opposition party in 2007, the party finally had a taste of power when Obaseki joined its ranks following his disqualification from the APC governorship race. The Osadebey Avenue government house is where PDP had fruitlessly attempted to occupy for so long and now that they have it in the tail end of Obaseki’s first term in office, the plan is to secure a fresh four years.
With about 58 percent of eligible voters, the Edo south (Benin) senatorial zone is where the bulk of the over two million registered voters reside. The zone consists of seven local government areas: Oredo, Ikpoba Okha, Egor, Orhionmwon, Uhumwonde, Ovia north-east and Ovia south-west.
Next in terms of voting population is the Edo north with 26 percent. The zone has six local government areas. They are Etsako west, Etsako east, Etsako central, Owan east, Owan west and Akoko Edo.
Sixteen percent of voters in Edo reside in Edo central (Esan) zone. The zone has five local government areas: Esan central, Esan north-east, Esan south-east, Esan west and Igueben.
For those adept with the trend of governorship elections in Edo, Saturday’s outcome is somewhat predictable, especially in some local government areas. The fact that Ize-Iyamu and Obaseki contested against each other last time also means that they probably have an idea of their strongholds and battlegrounds.
While PDP is considered strong in Edo central and APC is regarded as the party of choice in Edo north, none of the two major political parties can be said to dominate Edo south. While the PDP produced Matthew Urhoghide, senator representing the zone, the two parties split the four house of representatives seats in the area equally.
OREDO: OBASEKI HAS AN UPPER HAND HERE
Oredo along with Ikpoba Okha and Egor cover the Benin metropolis area and are the most densely populated councils in Edo. Oredo in particular is the heart of Benin where the government house, palace of the Oba of Benin, state secretariat, government reserved area, major markets and businesses are situated. Oredo plays host to the largest percentage of voters in Edo. It is in Oredo, Ikpoba Okha and Egor that many of the reforms introduced by Obaseki such as the ease in land acquisition, end to harassment by thugs in the markets, among others, were greatly felt.
Obaseki with his running mate, Shaibu, during a campaign
Many of the biggest infrastructural projects carried out by Obaseki such as the refurbished Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, completion of the new secretariat building, road dualisation and construction, were undertaken in this council where Obaseki is from. Many in Edo believe that Obaseki towers above Ize-Iyamu in the urban areas. If this is true, Obaseki should win this council. Looking back, PDP has performed well in the last two general elections in this council, winning both the house of representatives and senate elections.
Urhoghide, who represents the zone at the senate, is seen as one of the best lawmakers ever produced in the area. His constituency projects are visible all over. He is considered as an asset for Obaseki. Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, who represents Oredo federal constituency, is also well on ground in Oredo and has been working assiduously to deliver the council to the governor. Many in Edo believe Obaseki will win this LGA on Saturday.
IKPOBA OKHA: COULD ALSO GO THE WAY OF OBASEKI
This council is part of the Benin metropolitan area but with territories stretching into rural areas along the border between Edo and Delta states, on the Warri axis. It is an oil-producing area. Some observable factors in Oredo such as the removal of thugs from markets and motor parks, and ban placed on community development associations (CDAs) could also play out here. This is a plus for Obaseki.
With so many rural communities, both riverine and upland, serious politicking may, however, determine who wins this council. This boils down to the foot soldiers working for the candidates in the council. Obaseki is fortunate to have two strong men of Ikpoba Okha’s politics on his side. They are Osarodion Ogie, secretary to the state government, and Matthew Uduoriyekemwen, an ex-lawmaker. Ogie and Uduoriyekemwen along with APC members in the Edo state house of assembly are proofs that interest and not party inclination is all that matters in this election. While they all are still card-carrying members of the APC, they are openly working for Obaseki, who is the candidate of the PDP. A formidable opponent, Ize-Iyamu too has his men in this council. However, victory for Obaseki looks likely.
EGOR: TOO CLOSE TOO CALL
This is the third council that is part of the Benin metropolitan area. The situation in Egor is akin to those of Oredo and Ikpoba Okha. What could make the difference here are the strongmen pushing the agenda of the candidates. Lucky Imasuen, a former deputy governor of the state, used to command the politics of the council. He is on the side of Ize-Iyamu this time around. It remains to be seen if he is still in control of the grassroots in this council. Jude Ise-Idehen, a two-time lawmaker who represented the council in the state house of assembly, is leading the charge for Obaseki. The lawmaker now represents Egor/Ikpoba Okha in the house of representatives and he is popular in the area. Egor is too close to call at this point in the race.
ORHIONMWON: IZE-IYAMU HAS A STRONG PRESENCE HERE
This is the local government of the APC gubernatorial candidate and from all indications, the PDP is not expected to smell victory. Even on a bad day, Ize-Iyamu can beat his chest that he will win here as the council is the only one outside of Edo central that he won during the 2016 election. Apart from Ize-Iyamu, the PDP also have to contend with the formidable structure of Pius Odubu, deputy governor when Adams Oshiomhole was in power. Despite losing out in his bid to secure the APC gubernatorial ticket, Odubu has thrown his weight behind Ize-Iyamu. Patrick Aisoweren, representative of Orhiomwon/Uhumwonde federal consistency, completes the trio of APC strongmen in the council. He is a two-time lawmaker and has deeply penetrated the largely rural council. It is not all gloom for the PDP and Obaseki in the council though. While Obaseki may not boast of powerful men like Ize-Iyamu has in the area, he may look forward to some of his projects in the area to swing votes for him. One of such projects is the Urhonigbe rubber plantation which has offered employment to many in the council.
OVIA NORTH-EAST: THIS IS A BATTLEGROUND
This is another rural council consisting of numerous communities. Okada, the capital, is home to the famous Igbinedion family. Gabriel, patriarch of the family and the Esama of Benin; Lucky, his son and former governor, and Omosede, his daughter, were part of the people who facilitated the defection of Obaseki to the PDP. By so doing, the family finally ditched Ize-Iyamu, a long time ally. The family, however, must curtail the influence of Dennis Idahosa, lawmaker representing Ovia federal constituency. The political greenhorn had pulled the rug off the feet of Omosede in the 2019 general election. He has since grown in popularity and would want to prove a point to the Igbinedions. Another negative for Obaseki is an unfulfilled electoral promise to develop a sea port in Gelegele community in the council. The crowd that graced a campaign rally held for Ize-Iyamu in the community on Monday was unprecedented. Obaseki and the PDP must pray that the ripple effect does no go beyond Gelegele to other communities. No one can say who will win here.
OVIA SOUTH-WEST MAY GO THE WAY OF IZE-IYAMU
The Igbinedions will hope to extend their influence to the council while Idahosa will be on ground to checkmate them. Some political analysts in Edo look at Ize-Iyamu as the likely winner in this local government.
UHUMWODE: THIS IS IZE-IYAMU’S STRONGHOLD
This local government looks secure for Ize-Iyamu just like Orhiomwon. APC’s confidence stems from the grassroots works of Samson Osagie, a two-time member of the house of representatives and leader of the Edo Peoples Movement (EPM). Through EPM, opponents of Obaseki within the APC found a rallying point which they used to literally chase the governor out of the party.
In the whole of Edo, it seems no one is more interested in pushing Obaseki out of government house more than the fiery Osagie. He is working in tandem with Elizabeth Ativie, a former speaker of the state house of assembly, and Washington Osifo, leader of the 14 Edo assembly members-elect who were not sworn in, to deliver Uhumwode to APC. Obaseki’s main man in the council, Charles Idahosa, may be no match for the formidable APC structure already in place.
OBASEKI MAY CLEAR FIVE LGAS IN EDO CENTRAL
If there is any region giving the APC and Ize-Iyamu headache ahead of the September 19 election, it is the Edo central senatorial zone. Political analysts in Edo believe that if Saturday’s election is free and fair, the APC may not win in any of the five local government areas that make up the zone. Good news for the APC is that the area has the lowest voting population of just about 16 percent.
People in Edo central usually vote for the PDP and the party has won all the national assembly seats in elections since 1999. The marriage between Esans and the PDP was made possible by Anthony Anenih, the late former chairman of the PDP board of trustees. During his time, the PDP more or less became the adopted party of the Esan people due to the influence of the late Iyasele of Esanland. Another consideration is that the Esan people have long coveted the position of governor and they consider Obaseki’s second term as a quicker way, unlike Ize-Iyamu, who can still serve the maximum two terms before handing over to an Esan person.
This local government is where the late Anenih hailed from and Uromi, the headquarters, is considered the foremost base of the PDP in Edo. With loyalists in charge of the affairs at the local government and a big fan base, Esan north-east belongs to the PDP. The impact of Sergius Ogun, the house of representatives member representing the area, is also far-reaching. He is of the PDP and people listen to him when he talks. Same goes for Clifford Ordia, lawmaker representing Edo central at the Senate.
This is another local government the PDP candidate is expected to win. Ken Imasuangbon is PDP’s main backer here. After stepping down for Obaseki in the PDP race, he has taken it upon himself to deliver his local government to his party. Imasuangbon’s Ewohimi community has two out of the 10 wards in the council but his influence goes beyond his community. PDP’s good stand in Esanland, the party’s structure in the council and other strong politicians in their camp should swing victory for the party in this council.
This is one of the biggest local government areas in Esanland with the headquarters in Ekpoma. Situated in the heart of Esanland, the council is also a PDP domain. Joe Edionwele, the lawmaker representing Esan west/Esan central/Igueben federal constituency is from this local government area. The PDP lawmaker is very popular due to empowerment programmes and other constituency projects. PDP stronghold in this local government may not be as strong as that of Esan north-east but it is still not one of the councils APC strategists can put their money on for victory come September 19.
Another strong showing for the PDP is expected here. The political sagacity and popularity of Clifford Ordia, senator representing Edo central, may just be too strong for whatever structure the APC has on ground. The two-time senator, who is from Irrua, headquarters of the council, boasts of countless projects in the council.
Anselm Ojezua, who until recently was the only recognised chairman of the Edo APC, is from Irrua as well but the politician is working for Obaseki, while still in the APC. A two-time member of the house of representatives, Patrick Ikhariale, is the one charged with the onerous task of rallying votes for the APC in this council.
This is one of the smallest local government areas in Edo, and the largely agrarian council is expected to be won by the PDP. Tom Ikimi, a former national chairman of the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC), has not looked back since he left the APC in 2014. He supported Ize-Iyamu in 2016 when he was the candidate of the PDP and he is now backing Godwin Obaseki to win a reelection. He is not only a political leader in the council, but a community leader. He reportedly resisted overtures to work for Ize-Iyamu but the APC still has a grassroots following here.
IZE-IYAMU MAY WIN IN MOST IF NOT ALL OF THE 6 LGAS IN EDO NORTH
Just as the APC is perceived weak in the Edo central senatorial zone, the same could be said about the PDP in the Edo north zone. The district consists of six LGAs, namely Etsako east, Etsako west, Etsako central, Owan east, Owan west and Akoko Edo. With about 26 percent of the total voters, there are more voters in this zone than in the Edo central.
It is in this zone that APC strategists hope to make up for possible loss in the central senatorial district, hence the need for a resounding victory here. The image of Adams Oshiomhole, former national chairman of the ruling party, looms large in this area, especially in the three local government of Etsako west, Etsako east and Etsako central. APC has consistently won elections in this zone, the reason the party is expected to dominate once again.
It is the largest local government in the area with headquarters in Auchi. Oshiomhole is from this council. This is one local government APC is certain of victory. Gani Audu, running mate of Ize-Iyamu, is from Aiwain ward in the local government.
The defection of Obaseki’s deputy, Philip Shaibu, along with his boss to the PDP is the only reason the APC’s winning margin may be reduced in Etsako west. APC defeated PDP with over 18,000 votes during the 2016 governorship election. The PDP may just narrow the margin this time around following the defection of Shaibu, who before now was Oshiomhole’s political godson.
While Auchi with four out of the 12 wards in the council appears to still be in firm control of the APC, same cannot be said of the four wards within the Uzaire clan, where Oshiomhole and Shaibu hail from. Shaibu’s case is aided by the fact that he is from Jattu, which is the biggest of all the Uzaire communities and the clan capital. Jattu is about the only community among the clan that has a ward of its own. Many in Edo are of the view that Shaibu will at least deliver the Jattu ward to the PDP since it appears the people of the area have chosen him over Oshiomhole going by recent events. A victory margin of about 6,000 for the APC here would be considered as achievement for the PDP.
This is another APC stronghold. The situation that made APC to win the council with about 5,500 votes in 2016 is still very much on ground. Oshiomhole is still held in high esteem in this council because of some projects his government completed there and his foot soldiers are still very much around. Some of the Oshiomhole’s men here are Alimikhena, who currently represents Edo North zone in the senate and Abubakar Momoh, a former member of the house of representatives.
This is the smallest among the three Etsako councils. This council usually turns in a relatively small vote and the trend is not expected to change in 2020. This is one local government PDP may hope to spring a surprise. The party lost with about 1,500 votes in 2016. This year, PDP will be looking forward to the likes of Dan Orbih, its former state chairman, and Mike Oghiadomhe, a former deputy governor in the state, to turn the tide.
In 2016, APC defeated PDP in the local government with over 8,000 votes. With formidable politicians such as Pally Iriase, Julius Ihonvbere and some others in their camp, the APC is sure of victory here once again.
With a winning margin of about 1,500 in 2016, the APC has work to do to win this local government. What is certain here is that whoever wins on Saturday, the margin will be close.
This local government is another stronghold of the APC as the party won in 2012 by a wide margin. Peter Akpatason, who represents Akoko Edo federal constituency, is still very much on ground. He will, however, contend with Kabiru Adjoto, a former speaker of the Edo assembly, who defected to the PDP along with Obaseki in June. There are rumours that some notable APC leaders, who did not like the alleged mistreatment of Obaseki in the APC, are secretly working for him.
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