Edo 2024: Aspirants In Battle Of Wits For Party Endorsement, Tickets
ALTHOUGH some political watchers believe that the September 21 governorship election is going to be a straight battle between the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State, the performance of the Labour Party (LP) in the 2023 general elections
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As February 7 primaries draw nearer, gubernatorial aspirants in Edo and their supporters are already in the race to outsmart one another, whetting the political appetite ahead of the feisty months to the September guber poll, MICHAEL EGBEJULE reports.
Although some political watchers believe that the September 21 governorship election is going to be a straight battle between the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State, the performance of the Labour Party (LP) in the 2023 general elections has convinced many that the contest is going be a three-horse race.
While some aspirants are campaigning that a successor to Governor Godwin Obaseki must be a “homeboy”, who understands local politics and warned against electing “technocrats” who may not be at home with the expectations and needs of the people, others see the narrative as antics of weak aspirants with intentions of denying Edo people from choosing from their “brilliant and best brains all over the world.”
The Guardian investigation revealed that PDP primaries will be keenly contested among members in Obaseki’s camp and the Legacy PDP – old members of the party that have been in a running battle with the governor. To the Legacy group, never would they allow Obaseki to anoint a candidate for the party in the forthcoming governorship election.
However, there is a semblance of unity among APC members as the former governor of the state, Senator Adams Oshiomhole is calling the shots in the party. But he is not likely going to have his way if he attempts to impose a candidate on the people.
One of the leading aspirants from the PDP is the deputy governor of the state, Philip Shaibu, who has thrown his heart into the ring against the wish of the governor. His ambition has not only pitched him against Obaseki, it has made him begin a campaign against the choice of his boss. Although Obaseki has not announced his preferred candidate for the election, Shaibu has alerted people to resist any attempt to foist a “technocrat” on the people. He specifically alleged that the outgoing governor was planning to bring an outsider to Edo politics as his choice candidate.
Shaibu, who announced his intention to seek the PDP governorship ticket, boasted that he would floor whoever his principal was bringing to contest against him. He said that bringing another technocrat to become governor would result in another years of learning on the job, pointing out that as the deputy governor he stands out as the best candidate to take over in 2024.
The deputy governor’s attack on technocrats willing to contest the PDP primary against him made many to believe that the governor may have been giving tacit support to the former Chairman of Sterling Bank Plc and Nigerian Breweries, Asue Ighodalo, whose towering political profile is giving sleepless nights to many PDP aspirants in the state.
To join the race, Ighodalo was said to have resigned from the board of about eight public quoted companies in Nigeria, apart from his other interests in many international concerns.
He is seen as a bridge to many cleavages in Edo PDP with capacity to win election for the party.
Not fewer than four aspirants have stepped down for him and collapsed their structure to ensure he clinched the party ticket. Some of them include, member of the House of Representatives, representing Esan West, Esan Central and Igueben Federal Constituency Marcus Onobun, Friday Itulah and Kenneth Ahbulimen.
Ighodalo, who said he is the most competent, credible and qualified contender poised to lead Edo State and place the state on the path of accelerated development and growth, disclosed that he has developed a strategy to improve on the economy of the state and the welfare of the people.
Speaking to the party leaders in one of his visits to the three senatorial districts, the legal luminary turned politician said that, “I offer myself to serve the state as I know what I want for Edo people. I love my people and am concerned about their welfare.
“Edo State has the highest Diaspora remittances in Nigeria. We would encourage our people abroad to invest in Diaspora bonds in certain infrastructural areas and earn returns safely and some of the soft infrastructural problems facing us will disappear.
“Edo is blessed with good soil and can grow any crop and our citizens should not go to bed hungry. Agriculture remains a viable platform to reposition the state. I offer myself to serve Edo people and urge them to give me a chance.
“I resigned as chairman of eight boards to serve Edo people with genuineness of mind and service with the purpose to transform Edo State and make life better for citizens. The State is blessed with human resources, capacity and capabilities that will help Edo State to grow strong.
“I am strong on integrity and I am lucky and blessed because I have placed value on integrity. I am concerned about the values in our system and if we all are still strong in values to bring up children with great values, Nigeria will have been a changed country. Parents should pay attention to values and our problems as a nation will diminish. I have offered myself to the state to bring all my experience and capacity to develop it. As governor of Edo State, I will ensure the children of Edo State are taught strong values.”
Other PDP aspirants include, Anselm Ojiezua, Senator Clifford Ordia, John Yakubu, and Amb. Martins Uhomoibhi.
LEADING the packs in LP are former National Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olumide Akpata, and Kenneth Imasuagbon, who recently dumped PDP, calling on his party leaders not to make the mistake of giving the “party’s ticket to a political neophyte.”
He told LP leaders at the party’s secretariat in Igarra, Akoko-Edo Local Government Area of the state that he is well-known across the 192 wards of Edo State for his philanthropy and annual free Christmas rice distribution across the 18 local councils of the state.
According to the Esan-born politician, Edo State gubernatorial election for 2024 is an opportunity for Edo people to rally behind him and give power to a man who has committed two decades in providing succour and ameliorating the sufferings of the people through his sheer determination that Edo must work for good.
He said if given the mandate to fly the LP flag and elected as governor, his administration will address dearth in infrastructure, adding: “You cannot compare me with others. They are newbies in politics, don’t make the mistake of giving your votes to unpopular candidates. We need an experienced and popular candidate that can take on the APC and the PDP.
For the APC, a renowned political scientist and pro-democracy activist, Prof Sylvester Akhaine, former Information Commissioner in the state, Kassim Afegbua, and the immediate past permanent secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, Dr Ernest Afolabi Umakhihe, are part of the aspirants who will slug it out for the party ticket.
Akhaine, a prolific writer in a recent interview with The Guardian said, “I know my state very well. I know the liabilities and the possibilities. The state’s total debt is about N384 billion as of June 2023. The state used to be one of the food baskets of the country. Today, people can barely feed themselves. The transformation of the agricultural sector harbours a great deal of potential to grow IGR and achieve self-sufficiency in food production.
“I believe I can help solve some of the critical problems such as the absence of basic social amenities, above all grow the internally generated revenue through many innovative programmes such as ecotourism and backward integration in the agro industrial sector and many more. My team has developed a blue book for implementation. I believe Edo people will smile again.”
Afegbua said he was coming to correct the wrong governance approaches of the last seven years. He expressed disappointment with the way and manner the PDP government under the leadership of Governor Obaseki had managed the state and cautioned his party against attempting to zone the governorship ticket.
While demanding that the best candidate should be the priority in rescuing Edo State, Afegbua said he joined the governorship race because of the underdevelopment of the state.
The former spokesman of Nigeria’s former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, noted that the hallmark of the Obaseki administration in the past seven years is constant infighting against his benefactors or party leaders and blamed that for the under-development of Edo State.
He said: “The era of lamentation will be gone when I take the lead. Edo must rise again; she must rise from the ashes of this present mis-governance, to a state that will occupy its rightful place in the assembly of states in Nigeria. Edo State deserves more than just a passing interest.”
To Umakhihe, the state needs a competent and equipped personality as governor. The former civil servant, who hails from Owan East Local Government Council Area in Edo North Senatorial District said he is not just contesting to occupy the office as governor, but to join to transform a state that is broken and divided.
He said, “Let’s jointly win the battle for justice and opportunities. I want to win the next battle for better schools, and better jobs, and health care for all. And if you will join me in this practicable quest, if you feel destiny calling as I see, a future of endless possibility is before us.
“If you sense, as I sense, that now is the time to stop napping, and abandon our fear, and make good on the debt we owe past and future generations, then I’m ready to handle the plough, and work the field with you, for our general good.”