“All politics is local.”
1. FRACTURED PDP VERSUS UNITED APC
It is evident that PDP factionalization at the national level had severely refracted on the State chapter. Up to a point during the electioneering, there was uncertainty as to who exactly was the PDP candidate. Moreover, the primaries that produced the INEC recognized PDP candidate was also contentious. The PDP, therefore, went into the race as a divided house and severely weakened.
On the other hand, despite the initial post-primaries bad feelings that greeted the emergence of the APC candidate, the APC was able to strongly reunite and forge ahead, going into the election as a united family.
2. THE OSHIOMHOLE FACTOR
The Oshiomhole factor has three dimensions. (i) The Oshiomhole personality and connection to the masses; (ii) the phenomenal and unprecedented performance of his government in the provision of infrastructure; and (iii) the incumbency advantage. These combined to make Oshiomhole the only issue/factor during the campaigns. All messages by the two sides of the divide(APC and PDP) were all orchestrated around what Oshiomhole has done or not done, and nothing else. The whole campaign was framed as: “PDP versus Oshiomhole.” And in a way, that was PDP’s undoing.
Political scientists estimate the incumbency effect to be about 60%. The APC with incumbency power of a strong personality that performed creditably over the last eight years was already almost 60 points ahead of the opposition even before the whistle was blown. In the same vein, a shuttle survey on the popularity of key politicians in APC and PDP in Edo State indicated that only Oshiomhole maintained his popularity at above 75% from the last presidential election. Others including the PDP candidate showed a vast waning acceptance as a politician.
3. CHALLENGER QUALITY
Typically, in an open election, challengers who had held elective offices (Senators, members of House, Chairmen of Local Government, etc.) are often stronger contenders. In the case of the PDP, both the candidate and his running mate have not had such advantage. However, whereas the incumbency advantage backed the APC candidate, his running mate too had come along with the advantage of being a serving member of the House of Representatives. Moreover, this is the first time the PDP candidate was contesting an election ad worst as opposition. A lower challenger quality always leads to higher incumbent vote margin according to some studies based on the US experience.
4. VOTER LOYALTY
Two geopolitical zones have clear voter loyalty in Edo state (Edo North tilting to the APC, and Edo Central towards the PDP, leaving the Edo South as the ostensible battleground. Incidentally, Edo North where APC had strong voter loyalty is electorally stronger that Edo central, hence, from the onset, APC has a clear advantage. All that the APC needed was to go for the worst scenario in the battleground by aiming at a 50:50 split and hence, have a comfortable win. Still, in Edo South, voter loyalty was somewhat secured by the visible infrastructure development in the densely populated areas of the zone. Hence, it was inconceivable that with all the “local politics” involved the PDP could have electorally upset the APC in that particular zone.
Rather than blaming APC for electoral infractions I would argue that APC did not utilize its advantages effectively during the recently concluded governorship elections in Edo State. Perhaps due to the liberal electoral atmosphere provided by PMB and partly due to complacency on the part of APC the PDP had been able to make a mark.
However, beyond the electoral numbers, we should not lose sight of the fact that there were objective factors that made a PDP win far-fetched and made possible the APC victory in the just concluded Edo State governorship election. An appreciation of these factors would allow us to place the outcome in its proper perspective beyond the brickbats now going on between the two major contending camps.
Disclaimer: Please seek the analytical advice of professional political scientists before swallowing my analysis. Now, let us hear from the experts on political/electoral behaviour.