Viewpoint

April 19, 2024

Factors that may shape Edo 2024 Gubernatorial Election

Flood

By Gideon Obhakhan

Edo State’s 2024 gubernatorial election may turn out to be more complex than previous elections in the State where the outcomes were largely predictable.

This time around, there are several intricacies that may leave the discerning voters thinking deeply before casting their votes. Its complex nature stems from the key themes around which the campaigns will be centered, and upon which the electorate’s decision will be based. The themes include, but not limited to issues of competence, character, ethnicity, grassroots loyalty and performance. When these themes are juxtaposed with the current political party structures vis-à-vis the candidates that will be on the ballot, the voter easily finds himself or herself enmeshed in a complex web of decision-making triggers. This situation obviously excludes die-hard partisan politicians who irrespective of the odds against their party’s candidate will have no choice but to vote for their party.

Today, Edo voters are in a catch-22 situation. The Labour party without a strong political structure is cleverly fielding a candidate from Edo South Senatorial zone which has the highest number of votes put at circa 58 percent of the total votes in Edo, while their deputy is from Edo North with approximately 24 percent of total votes. They have also chosen Olumide Akpata, a candidate with verifiable academic records and a national figure having been the president of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA. Their obvious strategy is to go to where the large populations of voters are and appeal to the sentiments of non-partisan voters who will rather choose their own over political party. As it stands, their governorship and deputy governorship candidates have a combined voting strength of 82 percent of total voting population. They may also benefit from a section of the unbiased elites who will consider the candidates’ professional and academic background to decide.

At a glance, this looks good for the Labour Party. However, their greatest challenge is that the frenzy that greeted the Labour Party because of Peter Obi and the Obidient movement has disappeared into thin air and the party has remained obscure. The emergence of the candidate did not also come without issues as there were allegations of a dollarized primary election, which left some of the party members disgruntled. There is also the general sentiment within the Bini speaking populace that in the spirit of equity, fairness, and justice, it is the turn of Esan to produce the next governor of Edo State. This objective stance from certain quarters may therefore prevent a clear-cut translation of the theoretical population advantage to reality on Election Day.

For the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, their choice of candidate, Asue Ighodalo from Edo Central senatorial zone, has been largely acclaimed as the best amongst the three major political parties. His academic and professional records are in public domain, and they stand him out as very tall in the race. He also comes with a rich corporate background having served as chairman of reputable institutions and organisations like Sterling Bank, Nigerian Breweries, Nigerian Economic Summit Group among others. He is one of those you can easily say in Nigeria’s political parlance, has a “second address’’ and he appears refined and ready for the job. He also enjoys the sentiments of Edo Central Senatorial district because Esan people believe that this is the turn of an Esan man to be at the helm of affairs in Edo State. PDP has also strategically chosen a deputy governorship candidate from Edo South to wrestle some of the votes from the most populous part of the State.

The choice of Osarodion Ogie as the deputy governorship candidate of the PDP comes with its own advantages. He is one man who has no publicly known enemy whether within or outside of his political party. He has been referred to in many quarters as Mr Loyalty and has an uncommon attribute that keeps him out of trouble no matter how turbulent the terrain is. He appears to work within the shadows with both his friends and enemies and has continued to enjoy quiet and peaceful relationships with people across all political divides and traditional grassroots voters. The popular debate in public space is that his candidature is capable of swaying Edo South votes in PDP’s favour.

However, it may not also be an easy victory for the PDP because of the “sins” and unfulfilled promises of the incumbent governor, Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki and the unending in-fighting between the legacy PDP and Obaseki’s faction of the party. Obaseki who is seen as a close associate and political godfather of Asue has come with a lot of baggage that may rub off negatively on Asue Ighodalo. Obaseki spent only the first two years of his administration focusing on the critical task of governance which quickly earned him the sobriquet, “Wake and See Governor”. This alias has since disappeared from both print and electronic media because his name has become synonymous with unnecessary fights. First was the fight within the APC which eventually led to his exit from the party, and thereafter he went to create another war within the then peaceful PDP. He also refused to swear in 14 lawmakers that were duly elected to represent their people, and then his fight with the revered traditional institution and lately, his fight with his deputy and accidental partner who was recently impeached amidst huge celebration within the circles of those who abhor betrayers.

The APC appears to be the strongest political party as at today, even with the recent upset that was triggered by their party primaries. The primary election, which was poorly managed, left some bruises within the party and also exposed some of the silent party leadership tussle which has been kept under wraps since APC was pushed into opposition with the exit of Godwin Obaseki in 2020. The fight for APC’s ticket became almost a do-or-die affair because of the assumption that whoever gets the APC’s ticket automatically becomes the governor of Edo State. This assumption which may not be unconnected with the promise of President Bola Tinubu to “get Edo back” for APC, led to the sudden realization for some players that there is a need to seize the opportunity to fight for the leadership of the party. The battle eventually led to the choice of Senator Monday Okpeholo, aka Akpakomiza as the party’s candidate. The APC’s candidate, Akpakomiza as he is generally called, was relatively unknown in Edo State politics until 2023 when he contested and won the Edo Central Senatorial seat to represent Esan people in the National Assembly. His academic and professional records are also not in the public domain. Only recently a secondary school certificate with poor grades, bearing his name surfaced on the internet and several social media platforms leading to claims and counter claims about the authenticity of the result. There was also a recent video which showed the candidate struggling to read a written script that again generated debate in and around his academic soundness and finesse. However, the huge advantage that he has going for him is his timid nature which has largely endeared to the downtrodden that believe that good governance goes beyond the ability to speak Queen’s English.

In closing my thoughts, I’d like to highlight the fact that it will be a Herculean task for the Edo electorate to make a choice, and the party that will eventually win will need to think out of the box and work extra smart without ego or any form of primordial biases. This is particularly important because Edo’s voting public is largely educated and politically wise. There is an undying thirst for good governance and a return to the path of meaningful development. As a result of this determination to ensure positive change in Edo State, sentiments and emotions will take the backstage while critical analysis and focus on issues will take center stage. However, this assertion does not completely take away the fact that according to Harold Lasswell, politics is about who gets what, when and how.

_Gideon Obhakhan is former Edo State Commissioner for Education, and former Secretary, Public Affairs Directorate, Tinubu/Shettima Presidential campaign Council 

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