Edo 2024: And the Winner is …?

Tony Abolo


Nothing short of a clairvoyant and oraclist with strongly imbued powers can make a precise pundit in the 2024 Edo State tussle for power between the political parties and the contestants. Edo people have never had it a battle royale like this, ever.

The three front liners are formidable and their source of strength is immense and spectacular. This is not however to discard the possible invasion and surprise from the lesser known parties, given their choice of gubernatorial candidates. This in no way is a given contest on who wins. The PDP cannot be certain, even if Asue Ighodalo seems a larger than life presence and a spoken of acceptable choice.

Already, Philip Shaibu is in court and so is Anslem Ojezua. At first impression you would have thought that the Supreme Court’s decision on such pre-election matters was a decided case, as belonging to the party leadership organs and not the courts and therefore no party person would head for a judicial interpretation of primaries.

But then, Philip Shaibu, a restive and ambitious Deputy Governor, who wants nothing in life but to be a Governor, feels betrayed, sidelined and ought to have been given the right of first refusal, is in court to say that the PDP primaries were skewed. May be he forgets that in ethnic politics, he has very feeble electoral value as he hardly wins his ethnic area given the large influence of Comrade Senator Adams Oshiomhole in Afenmai land. Political watchers cannot go further than to see if may be him or his backers have a point to prove. Then there is Anslem Ojezua, who too could claim a betrayal having been a party chairman in APC, holding fort for Obaseki, while the latter defected to the PDP, preceding him Ojezua defecting.

But having not participated in the primaries, one wonders on what grounds he would win in the court? He is a lawyer, and so he may have a technical point or two unknown to Nigerians. Then there are the ordinary party persons who reject Obaseki’s choice of Ighodalo, saying without mincing words, “We do not want a technocrat. We do not want an outsider who just joined the party. We want a politician”. These groups fall into the stomach infrastructure group of persons for whom politics is a core source of livelihood.

Edo people cannot forget that Engr. Ogbeide Ihama stepped down at the primaries accusing the party of a skewed conduct of the exercise. So, is Asue Ighodalo a stand alone? Would the house cave in?, with so many disgruntled persons wanting to ensure that at the end of the courts and ligations, the PDP may have no Candidate to present? And is APC any better? Senator Monday Okpebholo was seeming a late consensus by the party to square off an Esan against an Esan in the intricacies of the Esan Agenda.

By whatever manner the APC primaries were conducted, at least, Senator Okpebholo was announced as the Candidate in the prescribed venue by the prescribed returning officer.

The earlier announcement of Hon. Dennis Idahosa (MHR) was a strategy and a plot apparently by Oshiomhole as the Edo State Party Leader, to create either a soft landing for Asue Ighodalo as has been alleged or a viable strategy to row into the high voting strength of Edo South.

But then would it have been a viable strategy, came to think of it? Oredo area which not only is a decider in elections, is a cosmopolitan city and area. Their voting patterns are not driven by ethnicities but by facts and political enlightenment. Hon. Dennis Idahosa is considered vibrant young polirocian, not so exposed administratively and hence may not have been the right choice to square up, experience for experience, through exposure and outreach to match a campaign against Ighodalo by some school of thought.

The thinking of an Asiwaju rigging machine is thought as a possible game changer in the APC camp but then, give it to Edos, we resist dictations, especially from outsiders.

In 2020, Asiwaju was said to have tried to swing the lead and it backfired with his video urging Edos to vote for Ize – Iyamu. With hunger and anger in the land, what has APC to encourage anyone to vote APC? To worsen the APC’s case, Dennis Idahosa has not only demonstrated in Benin and Abuja against the not being declared the winner of the primaries and he is in court to claim that he won the primaries.

Let us hope that the Supreme Court’s decided case will not be an albatross and catch him flat footed.

Anamero Dekeri, alias DANCO a major sponsorer of Senator Oshiomhole’s senate quest, is out there grumbling and sulking, given his massive financial outlay towards the primaries.

It’s also understood that while Prince Ikanade Clem Agba is not speaking, he too felt shortchanged. His consideration is that given his public level exposure, at the State and Federal levels, he was more suitably qualified for the gubernatorial position, and best to square in a fight against his inlaw, Obaseki who has chosen Asue Ighodalo for the PDP. With this array of dissatisfaction, and only 8 of the Contestants queuing behind Okpebholo, the APC is going into the contest, not so united.

Politicians often talk of going through a reconciliation either after a primary contest or an election contest, but then, they go underground afterwards as spoilers and work actively for the apposition. This could be the scenario both from the PDP as well as the APC.

It is being speculated that Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu’s endorsement of Senator Okpebholo as against Hon. Dennis Idahosa is to spite Oshiomhole for not endorsing him. Who can tell how this plays out in the campaigns and in the elections? Then comes the seeming dark horse, Bar. Olumide Akpata, of the LABOUR Party, it is said that he was not in the reckoning in the run up to the primaries.

But then the fractionalization in the party with the Apapa faction throwing up a Barrister Asemota may create a not so smooth a path for Akpata. The Apapa faction with their gubernatorial Candidate may win their case, but then, Olumide Osaigbovo Akpata being a lawyer himself would understand the murky waters he is in, legally, in terms of the split in the party.

If Akpata weathers it off, what people are saying and looking forward to is that perhaps Peter Obi comes with his charm and image wand of the Obedients all over again. This could drum up a frenzy and a fervency that would give Olumide Akpata, a bounce. Besides the magic of being an NBA former President without ever being a SAN, means he has one or two things up his sleeve.

He is well connected and he has supported and bank rolled his campaign efforts, some say to the tune of N1billion. This means he is up to the Nigerian political game.

But Olumide Osaigbovo Akpata not against the run of play on the Esan Agenda sentiments, he being a Benin, and coming from Edo South Senatorial District? It is said, that this is strategic as he will swarm the campaign with his vision, rhetorics and string arguments why he is closer to the grassroots and challenges of Edo State and why he, rather than the Esan ought to be the governor.

Above all, he may have positioned himself to benefit from the looming split in the Edo South votes, as we will soon see. However, Olumide Akpata might have seen correctly that Edo South is going to be the battle ground, as the choice of a Deputy is going to be a decider.

PDP is already touting names like Barrister Osarodion Ogie who was rumoured back eight years ago as Oshiomhole’s first choice to be the Governor before he, Oshiomhole settled for Obaseki.

Ogie is Benin and said to be a taciturn and underground worker, but with a large influence which he has been building quietly over these last eight years. With a Benin and an Esan ticket, while that can gather more than 50% of the votes in the state for the PDP, with some predicting, the impressive figure of 500,000, how would Edo North feel? Keep having the Speaker position or will they be offered a Secretary to Government position? Will that diminish the cut throat combative battle, style of Oshiomhole in Edo North, to ensure the contest goes to the APC so that he remains in the reckoning of the President?

The same issue of a Benin Deputy would crop up, if to draw in the PDP legacy group, Engr. Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama is offered the Deputy position not only as a compensation but to comfort his stifled ambition and give him a hope in another 8 years.

The name Gabriella Omosede Igbinedion is being floated. But she bears a woman, no one is giving it a serious thought. In the APC two names are playing up for a Deputy, Professor Edoba Omoregie, an activist, a SAN and a lawyer and a name often disregarded to anyone’s political peril, a former Oredo Local Government Chairman, Osaro Obazee. Either way, the two names are Benins which means the battle ground is still Edo South and Okpebholo may have considered Edo North as a given, giving the fact that Oshiomhole’s influence would gather Edo North votes for him. Does this then mean that Edo Central is split or would be an easy capture? By no means. The disappointed labour aspirants, Hon. Sergius Ogun, Dr. Ulifun, Dr. Cedar Okpebholo could express their anger against labour and pitch tent either with APC or PDP.

But the real winner in Edo central may not be easy to predict. Okpebholo was a confident and a student of Chief Tony Anenih. He may have learnt a thing or two on strategy from him. He is an unknown quantity, therefore being prescient at this point is too early to rule off what a determined Okpebholo may do.

For now he is in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, doing his thinking, planning and strategizing. The “X” factor in this election are two individuals who jumped ship from LABOUR. Pastor Dr. Azemhe Azena, the Candidate in NNPP and Dr. Osahon Aikhoriogie, the Candidate of NRM.

Azena is Etsako with a large influence in the Omega Fire Ministries and Aikhoriogie is Benin, and was the global and the USA Coordinator of the Obedient movement, when Peter Obi was the Presidential Candidate.

To think that smaller parties like these and others like YPP, ADC, and Accord would not dent the votes of the bigger parties is to take a leap in the dark.

They have been making statements to the fact that our choices of the traditional parties have always entrenched the cabals and destroyers of the economy. Their passionate plea is that enlightened voters should look at them as not only righting the wrongs of our political choices, but re-directing our focus on the parties of the future. You never can tell.

They are appealing to the disenchanted and disadvantaged and neglected youths who can pour out in their numbers on an election day and turn the tide. They were burnt in 2023 by the cabal in the February elections.

They are resolved in taking back the Country, with their votes. And if they do, it is anybody’s call. The mood of the country now is disenchantment and anger. The votes of the youth and women who see inflation eroding their grocery baskets could affect the 2024 Edo Elections. In politics a vote can make the difference.

Indeed politics is a game of numbers and who knows even now, where the numbers could come from and who will get the largest positive or protest numbers? September 21st 2024, is the deciding date and the state of Tinubu’s economy, and the dollar rate may decide what level of anger or enlightenment may decide who wins. For now, it is too early to call.

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