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Obaseki won Edo people’s mandate on godfather sentiments, not economic agenda [Pulse Contributor’s Opinion]

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Incumbent governor Godwin Obaseki won last Saturday’s governorship election, but it was a fierce contest between two gladiators of the APC and PDP. The battle fought with friends and foes: political friends turn political foes, political foes turned to political friends, godson turned to prodigal son, prodigal son turned to godson and godson faced godfather. It proved the saying “in politics, there are no permanent friend and no permanent enemies, only permanent interest”.

In the midst of all this battles something was amiss. What I found missing is a people-oriented economic agenda. The two main actors hardly talked about their economic agendas, which is the core essence of democracy and the mandate of the people. A reason why the ballot is important every four years.

Therefore, what could have been an ideological talk became a trade-off of political insults. They were not selling any economic agenda to the people to show why their party should be the people’s choice. Rather, it became a field to settle old scores of mutual loyalty and disloyalty. As Ronald Reagan succinctly put it, “Government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.”

The question for voters should have been: “After four years, is life for the average Edo voter better than it was before Obaseki came to power?” It is interesting that Ize Iyamu pointed out that Obaseki’s administration had failed on its campaign promises to provide 200,000 jobs; revamp education and provide teachers; provide doctors and reasonable healthcare; provide security; and failed disastrously to invest in agriculture and seize other investment opportunities in the State.

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It was clearly not an ideological combat. How could it be when both actors swapped parties like those before them? Instead, they focused on manipulating the citizenry: one part claiming that it is interested ending godfathers’ influence and the other claiming to punish disloyalty and remove a poor performer.

In reality, it really isn’t that easy. There will always be godfathers in politics. It’s all over the world. What you do is switch. Someone gave Obaseki the PDP ticket just as someone gave Ize Iyamu the APC ticket. Both are products of godfatherism. It is clear, with abounding evidence from both Obaseki and his opponent, that politicians jump for interest and whenever they sense a better deal.

Obaseki and his handlers were very smart enough to take a cue from the last Ondo State election and sell the “Edo is not Lagos” narrative to amplify his chances. It worked. However, it is certain that, except Obaseki alters the trajectory of his system of governance, the momentary joy in Edo State will soon turn to lamentations. He no longer has any excuse now to fail, as there should be less distraction for him now that he has shaken off his APC detractors.

Nigerians must not take a cue from the Edo people when the 2023 elections come around. Policies, economic and social, must be the motivation for voting, not mere rhetoric and inflated sentiments. The evidence is there for all to see: Garri is now 300 naira per bowl, rice is now 1100 naira per bowl, and Electricity tariff has increase with no corresponding increase in reliability of power supply, fuel price has increased and there are taxes everywhere, and security is a challenge all over the country.

Election by sentiment must stop in Edo, whose people I wish very rich dividends of democracy in the coming four years.

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Pulse Contributors is an initiative to highlight diverse journalistic voices. Pulse Contributors do not represent the company Pulse and contribute on their own behalf.

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About the author: Kolade Gbolagade is a social commentator and analyst. He is also a strategist and an activist. He writes from Lagos.