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Presidential Interest is Killing Nigeria

By Anthony Chuka Konwea, PhD, PE
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In terms of pure melodrama, the just concluded Gubernatorial elections in Edo State of Nigeria is nearly unsurpassable. It had a little of everything odious and putrid about Nigerian politics, bar the murderous violence.

There was the typical game of musical chairs and political carpet-crossing, demonstrative of politics without governing ideology or principles.

Recall that both primary contestants were contesting the same elections for the second time against each other, having reciprocally swapped the political parties under which they previously contested in 2016.

There was the surreal moment when Adams Oshiomhole, Governor-emeritus of Edo State and presumptive political Godfather knelt down to beg Benin Palace Chiefs to support his preferred candidate Osagie Ize-Iyamu.

There was also the moment when Oshiomhole’s rebellious and obviously panicked former God-son and incumbent Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki sought audience with the presumed Godfather of Godfathers, Chief Bola Tinubu in Lagos. He was haughtily rebuffed.

There was the moment when Adams Oshiomhole was allegedly caught on video at Aso Rock the presidential villa, purportedly pleading with the Chief of Staff to the President to guarantee the issuance of a secret presidential directive to return Osagie Ize-Iyamu as Governor at all costs.

There was the moment when Chief Bola Tinubu in a manner more befitting of a potentate addressing his subjects, advised or rather commanded the people of Edo State in a pre-recorded video broadcast to vote for Osagie Ize-Iyamu and not for Godwin Obaseki.

And much, much more.
In the end, by all public indications available to us at this present time, the elections which were held on September 19, 2020 were conducted peacefully, almost without incident and violence.

The results were quickly announced within 24 hours of the close of the vote and the incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki was officially declared the winner of the elections.

Now it must be stressed that the primary challenger, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who I reveal for reasons of full disclosure, was a high school classmate of mine at Edo College, Benin-City from 1973 to 1978, and who I regard highly, is yet to issue his official reaction to the election.

I concede that Ize-Iyamu’s perception of the just concluded elections based on a direct participant’s ‘drone-viewpoint’ may be radically different from mine, being privy to facts and data beyond the purview of the general public.

In that eventuality of course, it lies perfectly within Ize-Iyamu’s legal rights and civic responsibilities, to explore all remedies available to him under the law, including contesting the conduct and outcome of the elections at the Gubernatorial elections tribunal right up to the Supreme Court.

That being said however, the first impressions of many observers is that the just concluded Edo State Gubernatorial elections is the fairest ever held under the present leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as well as under the incumbent Muhammadu Buhari Administration.

So, what happened?
Why did Nigeria’s notoriously biased INEC suddenly become an efficient, professional electoral umpire?

The answer to that poser lies in the seeming presidential indifference and reluctance to interfere in the outcome of the Edo State elections at the Aso Rock presidential villa rather than letting it be decided by voters at the polling booths.

That the Nigerian Presidency was neutral and did not employ its so-called “Federal might” in influencing the outcome of the Edo State Gubernatorial elections was confirmed by no other than the declared winner Governor Godwin Obaseki.

In a most revealing testimony, Governor Obaseki was quoted Sunday September 20, 2020 as commending President Buhari in his own words for allowing the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, conduct free and fair elections. (Emphasis mine).”

What could be more revealing than that?
This is a direct confirmation by Governor Obaseki that his victory under the banner of his new party, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) could not have been possible without at least the neutrality, or even perhaps the support of the President.

The inference of course is that the failure of Osagie Ize-Iyamu to win the Gubernatorial elections under the same PDP in 2016 was mainly because the President did not allow it back then.

To corroborate this assertion, many observers believe that despite his proven political pedigree and prowess, this was the major reason why Ize-Iyamu decamped from the PDP and joined the ruling All Progressives Congress party APC with the incumbent Obaseki moving in the opposite direction.

Ize-Iyamu apparently thought that joining the President’s party and becoming the APC’s flagbearer would guarantee “Federal might” backing to his ambition this time around.

Unfortunately as events later turned out, Ize-Iyamu was grossly mistaken. His close association with a budding Godfather frustrated by Obaseki in the person of Oshiomhole as well as with the Godfather of Godfathers in the person of Bola Tinubu was a strategic blunder.

It cost him very dearly.
For one it antagonized the proud electorate of Edo State who pride themselves as being the “heart-beat of the nation.”

But more insidiously, it simultaneously cost him the most sought after Federal might because he was completely oblivious of the fact that for reasons of presidential succession, there was a presidential interest in clipping the political wings of Bola Tinubu indirectly as well as his protégé Adams Oshiomhole directly.

It is instructive that in his first post-election results-announcement reaction issued, Ize-Iyamu said the following and I quote verbatim.

I thank and appreciate my supporters, who had to endure many evils including being prevented from voting, for their support and determination during the election. I assure you all that I am studying the results along with other party members and will announce my next move soon. (Emphasis mine).”

Who in their right minds would dare prevent the ruling APC members from voting in an election organized and superintended by INEC which although nominally independent, operates completely under the thumb of the Presidency?

It is either that Ize-Iyamu is frivolously phishing for a scape-goat upon which to hang his electoral failure or he is genuinely expressing his frustration and shock at what transpired on Election Day.

The Ize-Iyamu I knew and grew up with at school for five years was not a frivolous or daft person. I would be shocked and surprised if he has changed.

If he needed to proffer an excuse for his failure, he could have easily blamed the outcome on election rigging or vote buying by the PDP.

My reading and understanding of the last Edo State Gubernatorial elections is that its outcome is proof that there is a vicious internecine and intramural war, not unconnected with presidential succession plans, afoot in the ruling APC.

Bola Tinubu and Adams Oshiomhole who fought tooth and nail to return Muhammadu Buhari as President in the 2019 General Elections are being systematically demolished by the Fulani led presidency.

Osagie Ize-Iyamu’s political ambition was merely the cannon-fodder for the trashing of supposedly useful idiots who may have outlived their usefulness to their controllers.

Expect other useful idiots to be propped up as replacements with the 2023 presidency as bait. The presidential interest of Presidency occupants as well as aspirants alike is the bane of Nigeria.

Quote me and take it to the bank that if any problem such as electoral malfeasance or Fulani expansionism proves intractable in Nigeria, presidential interest lies behind its sustenance.

Anthony Chuka Konwea, Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE, MNSE, FNIStructE, MNICE.

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