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Edo poll, APC and Odigie-Oyegun

Edo poll, APC and Odigie-Oyegun

3 October, 2020



It will take time and quality attention for the Edo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to get over the quakes and aftershocks that led to its defeat at the September 19 governorship election. They were well and truly trounced, with a margin that appears embarrassingly high, in astonishing excess of 80,000. That defeat began remotely with the internecine conflict between Governor Godwin Obaseki and the state’s former ruling APC members, traversed the primaries in which the governor got disqualified from one party and was nominated by the opposing party, and culminated in the aforesaid tectonic victory by the incumbent. The defeated APC will now be hard pressed to justify why they disqualified Mr Obaseki in the first instance.

But there is another sort of justification that few will bother with in the months ahead. After the APC defeat, the party’s former national chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, who was replaced by Adams Oshiomhole in July 2018, insisted that the defeat was merited, and that Mr Obaseki approximated the Edo people’s wishes more than the APC candidate in the poll, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, would have. There were many treasonable calls by party leaders feigning neutrality and admonishing the electorate to vote their conscience during the 2019 elections. Deployed perversely and with great effectiveness, not to say unfathomable ramification for the survival and future of the APC, such curious neutrality and calls appear certain to become an intrinsic part of the APC gene. President Buhari is credited with proposing that formula of voting according to conscience; and Mr Odigie-Oyegun with propagating it with devastating, and perhaps cruel efficiency.

The summary of the conscience weapon deployment is that the APC has lost Edo, lost its toehold in the South-South, and regardless of the speculation that Mr Obaseki might soon defect back to the APC, the national ruling party will be facing an uphill task in making an electoral dent on the solidified region in the 2023 elections. No part of the country’s six geopolitical zones is so uniformly besotted to one party as the South-South. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is now lockstep with the South-South, a romance that appears set to bloom in the months ahead and defy any seduction from the APC. It is unlikely that the national ruling party thought of this drawback in its  strategic considerations. Surely they could not be so ethical and so determined to serve Mr Oshiomhole his comeuppance that they abjure their own political future.

Whether in Edo or Ondo — and there is no proof that the APC will win the October 10 Ondo governorship poll, or if they win, by as healthy a margin as the PDP took Edo — every victory and defeat has special and general implications for 2023. The PDP seems more acutely aware of this conundrum than the APC. In calculating for Edo, PDP leaders voiced the regional influence they could muster if that last outpost fell into their hands. On the contrary, APC leaders, including President Muhammadu Buhari and Mr Odigie-Oyegun, have enthused over the PDP victory in Edo and made light of their defeat at the hands of an implacable enemy. While the president incredibly saw his party’s defeat as a corroboration of his fairness and commitment to democracy, Mr Odigie-Oyegun saw it as a vindication of his extraordinary conscience and repudiation of the pervasive unfairness that has riddled the APC. Both APC leaders’ actions of course mask deeper feelings and motives.

The president and those around him had convinced themselves that Mr Oshiomhole had become a liability. They seemed convinced that losing the state was the lesser evil compared with the raptures they would feel savouring the humiliating defeat Mr Oshiomhole, who indiscreetly personified the Ize-Iyamu campaign, would experience. They are wrong; but they won’t find this out until the rebuilding of the party begins in Edo in the months ahead, and when they begin to discover during their next elective convention that the fault lines in the party were neither caused by Mr Oshiomhole nor exemplified by his presence or absence. Mr Odigie-Oyegun will also soon discover that despite given Mr Obaseki open support in the last poll, his own status as an APC leader has been considerably diminished.

Worse, by openly identifying with Mr Obaseki and the opposition, a cynical compliment the APC rank and file would be eager to repay when the battle for the soul of the party is joined, Mr Odgie-Oyegun will find it tough retaining any influence whatsoever in the party going forward. On September 14, 2020, he had penned a diatribe against both his party and Mr Oshiomhole less than a week before the fateful poll, and had suggested that the party was patently unfair to the governor, an unfairness he argued should be punished. Even though he tried to disguise his animus by conflating it with political morality and a disingenuous quest for justice, few APC supporters had any illusions where he belonged. Without necessarily using the word godfather, perhaps in order not  to trigger suspicion about being in league with the opposition, Mr Odigie-Oyegun urged the state’s electorate to disrobe those who tried to arrogate to themselves the right to decide on their behalf. There was no room for what he termed primitive loyalty, an allusion to party loyalty.

Even if the former chairman had not voiced his preferences days before the poll, the outcome would still not have changed. The PDP had deployed its campaign mantra effectively, and in the face of a conniving presidency and national APC, there was simply no way the APC could avoid defeat. In the end, defeat came spectacularly for a galled party rank and file. Accused of campaigning for the PDP despite being an APC leader, Mr Odgie-Oyegun denied he sold his party out. No one believes him. But here is his logic: “I am a strong believer that when the rules of an association you belong to have been so flagrantly disregarded, put aside, not complied with then you have to go back to your conscience to say can I support what has happened, can I not support it? I cannot support injustice in terms of going out to work for injustice. Going out to say what I in my conscience consider wrong and I will now support working for it. I can’t do that and normal people should not do that. Your loyalty in life is to support what is right. That is the principle, every human being should believe in something. If you agree to kill a man for a sin he did not commit then something is wrong with you obviously.”

Mr Odgie-Oyegun’s speciousness is befuddling. He is at liberty to advocate any position he chooses and support any politician of his liking within or outside his party. But he cannot have his cake and eat it. With his September 14 press statement repudiating his party, he made very clear how he felt and whom he supported. He felt aggrieved, not just because he thought the party had been unfair to Mr Obaseki, but also because he nursed long-standing grudges against Mr Oshiomhole and everything the now humbled former APC chairman stood for. The September 19 poll was a chance to even the scores. And they were exhilaratingly evened. Mr Odigie-Oyegun also clearly campaigned for Mr Obaseki, and exulted thereafter, in such a fashion that Edo, the national APC and the PDP knew where his heart was and where he stood.

It is not clear whether the chafing Mr Ize-Iyamu  will litigate his loss, or whether his party in the state and at the national levels will back him. It is not even clear whether he has the money to prosecute what might become a huge and expensive lawsuit. Indeed, by spontaneously acknowledging the outcome of the poll and congratulating the winner, the president has seemed to disavow any court action, no matter how promising. The APC is still divided; there is, therefore, no indication that those who sold the party down the river would render any assistance overtly or covertly to reclaim what might be considered a stolen mandate. Much worse, Nigeria’s justice system is a serpentine labyrinth of juridic sleight of hand. It is more plausible that Mr Ize-Iyamu would come to grief in the courts than receive succour.

Mr Obaseki is triumphant, and Mr Odigie-Oyegun relieved and vindicated. But in the end, the governor can neither change his behaviour nor be persuaded to give what he doesn’t have. In rebuilding the party in the state on the other hand, time is on the side of the feisty Mr Oshiomhole who says he has learnt his lessons, and with Mr Ize-Iyamu who has age on his side. It is, however, harder to see how time could help Mr Odgie-Oyegun paint the decapitation of his party in the election, which he connived at, as a life-saving favour.




The post Edo poll, APC and Odigie-Oyegun appeared first on Smart9jaMedia.

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