The Edo State governorship campaign this week turned into a royal rumble as the two major political parties, All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, took turns to project themselves with royal blessings while at the same time denigrating the gaffes of the other.
The political royal rumble remarkably started on Monday from Edo Central from where the immediate past governor of the state, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole left it.
It was at the palace of the Onojie of Igueben where traditional rulers from Esan land had gathered to receive the APC governorship candidate, Pastor Osagie-Ize-Iyamu and his team.
The meeting ordinarily should have passed off smoothly but it was not bound to be given the presence of Oshiomhole in the delegation.
Though Oshiomhole’s late wife, Clara is from the region, he in the eight years he was in power failed to make a political bridge into the region. For the eight years he was in power, the PDP held all National Assembly seats in the region.
It was the base of the late Chief Tony Anenih and it was as such not surprising that the people from the region complained that the former governor in every way sought to diminish the people of the region.
That perception was not just in terms of infrastructure, but also politically. When the position of Speaker of the House of Assembly that was zoned to the region became empty in the last years of Oshiomhole, the people felt that the sitting governor did not show muscle in canvassing for the office of Speaker to remain there after it was moved to Edo South.
Even more, was the testy relationship between the Onojie of Uromi, HRH Anslem Aideonojie II and Oshiomhole. The traditional ruler had been found guilty of improper conduct by Oshiomhole who in turn suspended and later deposed him from the throne before he left office.
That deposition was reversed by Governor Godwin Obaseki in 2018. Some suspect that the reversal may have contributed to the issues between Governor Obaseki and Oshiomhole as it made the former governor look bad for the action he took while in office.
In any case, as Oshiomhole brought his new product, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu to market before the Esan Traditional rulers last Monday, the Onojie of Uromi was prominently seated as Oshiomhole made obeisance to the man he few years ago deposed.
Expectations from journalists who were eager to see the chemistry between the two was cut off as the meeting soon went into a closed door affair.
However, what happened after then has now turned into one of the major political folklores of the week.
The PDP as if acting like a busybody was the first to let out almost as the meeting finished that it was a shouting match between the monarchs led by the Onojie of Uromi and Oshiomhole as the former governor according to the party’s sources stood his ground on not offering an apology to the recalled Onojie.
One source claimed that the Onojie had muttered that after deposing him that Oshiomhole was now coming to courtesy before him.
Responding to the developments, the PDP speaking through its State Publicity Secretary, Chris Nehikhare said that “the treatment handed the APC candidate and his campaign guide, Adams Oshiomhole, was the fulfillment of a Bible prediction that the sins of fathers will be visited upon their sons.”
According to him, “We read with delight a news report on the rejection of the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate in the September 19 gubernatorial election, Osagie Ize-Iyamu and his campaign guide, Adams Oshiomhole by Esan Monarchs at the palace of the Onojie of Igueben, HRH Ehizojie Eluojierior II on Monday August 10, 2020.”
“The APC does not deserve anything less than the harsh reception its members received in Igueben,” he said.
“Edo people do not want thugs and assassins in their political space anymore. I congratulate our traditional rulers in Esan land for rejecting the opposition party and its candidate. Governor Obaseki has raised the bar with regard to the quality of people that should occupy Edo State Government House.
However, the PDP’s assertions were quickly rebuffed by the APC campaign which went on to circulate pictures of Ize-Iyamu at a campaign ground in Igueben where he was well received.
The PDP still apparently aiming to wrong-foot the APC campaign also took offence at the turbaning of Pastor Ize-Iyamu by the Otaru of Auchi as the APC candidate began his campaign in Edo North on Wednesday.
The turbaning and the title bestowed on Ize-Iyamu ordinarily should have been a mileage for the APC candidate, but his campaign was unable to communicate the significance of the development leaving the PDP to redefine the message for the APC.
Following his celebrated visit to the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewaure II where he was blessed after he presented kola nuts, unlike Obaseki, the reception by the Otaru of Auchi, Alhaji Aliru Momoh Ikelebe III who is vice-chairman of the Edo Council of Chiefs after the Benin monarch should have been a big plus for Ize-Iyamu.
Ize-Iyamu was turbaned with the title ‘Itsemakhoma’ of Auchi, meaning “this is our own.”
It was generally seen as a rebuff for the incumbent governor as the Auchi monarch adorned the governor’s rival as “our own.”
The PDP campaign, however, redefined the message saying in a statement on Thursday that the turbaning was part of an agenda to cede the state’s land for grazing for Fulani.
Nehikhare in a statement said: “The turbaning yesterday of the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, in Auchi has finally exposed the plans of the APC and its candidate to establish a RUGA settlement in Edo State.
“The fear of the Edo people concerning RUGA was brought back in Auchi on Wednesday at the turbaning of Pastor Ize-Iyamu in company of his godfather, Adams Oshiomhole.
“Edo people were inundated with pictures of the Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu dressed like Miyetti Allah cattle breeders, whose pre-occupation is the welfare of fulani herdsmen including securing lands for the pastoralists. We are aware that the pictures of the APC candidate dressed in that special attire was for confirmation of the deal initiated by Adams Oshiomhole in his desperation to win the governorship election at all cost.
“We know that the APC candidate now has grand patron privileges for herdsmen and that they look up to him for land as they attempt to extend their conquered territories to Edo. With Ize-Iyamu as governor and the APC as the party, the task of the expansionists is close to completion and our farmers and their families are in danger!
“The APC candidate has demonstrated what will be his major concerns if he ever got to office…the interests of fulani herdsmen and that of his godfathers. The title conferred on him in Auchi may mean one thing in Afemai language but the attire certainly had a covert message.”
The rumbles this week was not only in the royal courts.
On Thursday the PDP candidate made a major incursion into the heartland of the APC with a visit to Apana, Oshiomhole’s base where a shoot out ensued as the governor approached. The PDP campaign team alleged that the deputy governor and PDP governorship running mate, Philip Shaibu was alleged to have run after the thugs who were involved in the shoot out.
Also this week, after much dithering procrastination, the senator representing Edo North, Senator Francis Alimekhena came out to openly endorse Ize-Iyamu in a major boost for the APC candidate.