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Friday, July 19, 2024

Edo 2024: Power shift and the inherent disconnections, BY TONY ERHA

With about one and a quarter year to the November 2024 handover date by the incumbency governor of Edo State, Mr Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki, the heartbeat state is already caught up in the gales of distorted political discourses and contrived intrigues. It didn’t start just now; it has been on for about eight months.

There is a pesky question as to which of the three senatorial districts of the state – south, central or north, the governorship seat should go to in the 2024 contest. The issue has generated a partisan frenzy signposting a massive triangular duel of sorts, where each of the three districts fights dirty and lays claim to the coveted governorship seat.

Understandably, there is more intense agitation by the Edo central zone, also called Esan land, for the governorship seat. Harping somewhat on equity, the zone says it is most advantageously placed to be considered for the governorship position in the 2024 governorship election. Agitators of the Esan ethnic stock believe that the southern and northern senatorial zones had consecutively appropriated the seat for all of twenty-four years during which the ethnic nationality (Edo central) was and has been missing in what should be the equitable guber space. Their argument has been that “when a leg of a tripod is not in place or broken, the rest two and the tripod, itself, can’t stand.” While, their position is tenable, so many factors have to be considered and activated to accomplish Edo central governorship in competitively democratic milieu that must accommodate competence.

As it is, Edo South currently occupies the position of governor, having put forward its son, Mr Obaseki, who is in the twilight of his eight-year tenure. Curiously, from Edo South, there are stentorian voices campaigning that the zone must retain the position in 2024. They have always been quick to cite the fact that the zone constitutes about 60 percent of the entire population of the state (and also more than 50 percent of the registered voting population), bigger landmass and monthly internally generated revenues, etc, and therefore must have an unrestrained shot at the position.

Edo north senatorial zone, on the other hand, had had its first shot in 2009, with Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who governed the state for eight years, before handing over to Mr. Obaseki. Now a senator, Oshiomhole was not a product of the power rotation scheme, as it is hardly acceptable that the power rotation consideration had assisted any governor to power. Oshiomhole was only declared the authentic governor by the law courts, following protracted litigation processes. Edo north, which is also called Afenmai district, before the coming of Comrade Oshiomhole, had also complained of “marginalization”, which still dominates Edo public discourse.

The position of most Edo “northerners” is that the district from the democratic dispensation of the old Bendel State until now, could have another governorship slot as against four for Edo south and two for Edo central. Their conviction to have the seat, this time round, is that their zone would have completed the orbit after having the second straight slot, where Edo central, which is the least among the three, in population and size, had gone two rounds.

For the question, why is a gubernatorial election that was about a year away, so topical and combustive when a government and its governor are still in office and the need to give democracy dividends by that same government to the people is so evident, but unconscionably thwarted?

“When the birds of the trees are desired than the domestic birds, it therefore means that the chicken had lost its taste”. “Igan ighi man okhokho vbe egbe oghi vboe fua.” This is translated in Edo to mean that when a feather troubles the hen, it would yank it off. It thereby foretells that Mr. Obaseki and his government, because they failed mostly to provide the needs of the people, have outlived their welcome. In the same manner, a visitor is constantly reminded about his date of exit when his conducts become irritable to the household.

Obaseki’s government is not only commonly seen as a dismal failure at providing the deliverables, which it had promised to do during the electioneering, but also it is deservedly being associated with governance styles that were best described as iron-fisted, since it is easily given to squabbles, street brawling, political exclusion and what not, which had become the lot of Edo than ever. So much so, Edo, a hitherto unbroken tribe, relatively, had started experiencing more crevices of disunity.

So polarized is Edo and the people that most traditional rulers, the fathers of all, who are supposedly inured to be apolitical, now play partisan politics in the open. On some occasions, the news media was inundated with reports that the Esan Traditional Council, a body of traditional rulers from Edo Central district, had shared a thin hair with their counterparts of Edo north. The northern fathers were said to have rebuffed the request of the Esan kings, that they should support their person as a governor in 2024, a euphemism that the Esans have been relegated in the power chart. But the Edo north monarchs were said to have told them pointblank that they also preferred to support their person(s) from Edo north for the position.

Earlier on, the same Edo Central traditional rulers were reported to have taken their request to the palace of the revered Ewuare II, the Oba of Benin, a paramount monarch of the Edo people.

From all the three districts, aggregate opinions about the power shift uproar do not favour it. This seems to be de-sailing the vociferous calls for it, coming from Edo central district and some others from the two opposite districts who support it, thus making the supporters a minority voice.

Mr. Charles Idahosa (a.k.a. Charly Temple), the opinionated stalwart of the Edo State chapter of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), in 2022, stirred the hornets’ nest with his widespread media statement, that disagreed with those agitating that the Edo 2024 governorship ticket be zoned to a particular senatorial district, based on tribe or religious considerations. Idahosa, an Edo southerner and former commissioner for Information and Orientation in the defunct PDP’s government, under Governor Lucky Igbinedion, argued that all seeker of the seat must recognise the interest of Edo State first and must be someone with the competence and capacity to unite the people.

Dr. Patrick Osagie Eholor (a.k.a. Ultimate Equals), a stalwart of the Edo south senatorial district of Labour Party, had oftentimes granted press comments, in which he thumped down the agitations for power rotation. Interestingly, there are indigenes of the Edo south and north that support its shift to Edo central, whereas there are similarly Edo central persons who believe it shouldn’t be reserved for their people, provided the occupier is competent and has worthwhile pedigrees that marks him out for a true leader of the Edos, who can unify the people and deliver tangible dividends of democracy.

Matthew Omokpia, a political scientist, observed that it is usually left for a party to determine its standard bearer or which area he comes from. “The PDP is about the only party that recognized power rotation in its constitution, and stipulated a southern Nigerian for the presidential position. But in the last presidential election, PDP set it aside and picked Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, a northerner. Power rotation is now getting unpopular”.

Omokpia further emphasized: “Now that governorship power rotation to any of the Edo three districts is deadlocked and assigning it to any part could breed more disorder, it would be in everybody’s interest to open the contest to all.”

● Tony Erha is a journalist and rights activist.

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