Edo 2024: Issue based or mudslinging campaign?

Tony Abolo

There is no iota of doubt that the dramatis personae of this year’s Edo election will and have defined the September election.

The characters were never as robust as this and so are their varied subtle styles, even if that of the APC seems so predictable and slightly old fashioned; dragging names and making wild accusations of the omissions of the “outgone” Obaseki.

In political terms, Obaseki is a lame duck Governor. Why he has to be dragged, as if he is in the ballot becomes a question one would want to ask any of the two major parties, LP and APC, why that lazy thinking? Me thinks the more intelligent strategy is to define your message alongside your vision and not dwelling on “failed promises” of Obaseki.

So well and good, we notice Obaseki never brought to life the Gelegele port, Uzairue Airport etc and so what? Which of any governments ever fulfilled all its good intentions and what it promised to do? Obaseki should not be held down to account for what are not misdeeds.

In any case if there are misdeeds, the forum should be the EFCC, I would have thought. Importantly, Obaseki is not on the ballot and his “omission” cannot be visited in Asue Ighodalo.

Any incoming person cannot be held to a past. If that logic was to hold, then, Monday Okpebholo or Olumide Akpata and the others should be held to “account”, which would be a silly absurdity. It only tells how empty headed some of our “campaign teams” can be without focus.

But coming into the substantive issues, any of the parties must be anchored on taking the citizens’ pulse. We have been too flippant in our getting everyone on board in the name of participatory democracy and hence we seek the crumbs by raking in political sentiments through ethnicity, divisiveness and mudslinging.

Luckily in Edo State, religion may play no part, at least, I hope to a large extent. The elaborate pulse that I am advocating will more than anything else be the guide in crafting the messages, targeting on what the genuine feelings of the majority is, what their expectations are, their genuine assessment of the Candidates and who indeed is the one the Edo Cap fits.

To me this is the all important issue if we must run away from primordial and traditional campaign politicking styles.

What should be paramount going forward, is what is our collective vision about how to make Edo Truly great? Lagos State is now said to be a N41 trillion GDP economy and the 7th in Africa, in a May 2024 release.

We should be asking, who can uplift Edo’s GDP to at least half of that, well beyond its present about N7 – 12b (2024 figures)? That is the crux. Not this descent to loud promises that are not cash backed. How much is our annual IGR? Not yet N70 billion per annum. How much tax do we all pay? Or better put, what is the percentage that pay tax in the State? Still, there is a better question, what is our tax to revenue ratio? Not too significant. Then comes what I think is a low.

The Ekpoma Auchi Federally “induced” and political road is not how to get development on.

The Federal government wants to use the teaser of the road, if they ever get it done to bring in the Edo Central support for Senator Okpebholo.

But, is it only Esan people who use the long stretch from Okene? Then what about the approved N75 billion, Clement Agba said was approved by the absent President, Buhari? How would Edo South and Edo North view its neglected road connections in the light of refurbished Esan Roads? With an okay for a “favour” done to Akpakomiza?

Arising from the above, Senator Akpakomiza goes to commission a 6 kilometer road in Uwesan area as a campaign gimmick. He is free to be a philanthropist, which is excellent.

But, comparing that to Asue Ighodalo for not setting up Sterling Bank branches in Esan and employing Esan people in Nigerian Breweries or other companies where Igodalo has superintended is making an anthill of a mole.

Since when were these companies set up for Edo people? And could that have been the company policies? Our politics drives down to the asinine and puerile levels in a way that rankles.

What about Asue’s contribution in the economic workhouse of Edo State, the Alaghodaro summits? Was that not a sacrifice for the good of all? Must philanthropy be the yardstick for governorship elections?

What ought to be uppermost in our minds is the need for either a continuity on what Obaseki has built on – which are many, or perhaps we dwell on the discontinuities which would reveal a different path of developmental strategy.

For many, Asue represents that which is beneficial to assure continuity. In terms of modernity, Asue more gives assurances of a technological and modern continuity.

We are not hearing that on the campaign husting. What is more said is more of – healthcare, Education, Tourism, respect for traditional institutions. You then ask, what has Obaseki been doing in all these while?

The budget of Edo is too small, foreign investments too few to impact on extensive developments, too few industries to add on to employment beyond the present new 5000 Civil servants recruited.

We should be agitated that the Edo cake is too small to share to the 5 million residents. How can a bigger cake be baked? That to me is where the campaign should be going. We cannot get there without huge ideas plus concrete plans on how to increase the IGR, employments (private and public) and expanded small scale businesses and SMES. Are we hearing all these?

Not so loud, though. Anything less than that and anyone not throwing-up such vistas and visions is out to waste our time and waiting on senatorial reactions, Federal might scurrying the votes in their own APC interest and petty sentiments, just to win votes.

Having said all these, two major issues that may upset all calculations. The Diaspora connects and the cankerous legacy group threat. Edos constitute a wide Diaspora base, and every political party since 2012 has been courting them in terms of funds, enthusiasm and relying on them to convince their folks back home to vote according to their dictates or obey their prompting based on funds remitted home.

This has been the scenario since, and more fiercely in 2020. It is even more so in 2024. Who has not been there? Aikhorogie of NRM, Olumide Akpata of LP, Asue Ighodalo of PDP and Monday Okpebholo of the APC. This could be something to watch.

The outcome of the election cannot be given to any side as at now. But perhaps when instead of concentrating on Europe, the visits and connects heads to Canada and the USA, then funding and influence could be larger.

Whoever can move away from the UK and Europe, into other arena may be the party with the upper hand in bringing whatever benefits the Diaspora connects confers. Then there is the elephant in the room, the legacy group “Wike style” politics, which is to stay inside PDP and destroy the PDP from inside. More silent in the group are Engr. Ogbeide-Ihama and the seemingly innocuous Dan Orbih. The loudest are the flirting Philip Shaibu and Kabiru Adjoto.

It may be difficult to say, if their damaging effect may not be massive since their area of influence seem to be in Edo North. When that occludes with an Oshiomhole influence and effect, the erosion on PDP could be massive and disastrous.

It cannot be assessed enough for now whether a newly recruited the State deputy Governor, Engr. Godwins Omobayo, the Deputy Governor, the old warhorse, Alimekhina, the maverick of Etsako Central Paschal Ugbome can scuttle the incoming danger from the renegade legacy group.

However, whichever way, with an eye on the ground, measuring the pulse, spending the campaign freebies and a weekly polling, may enable whichever party who wants to win, to turn the tides and emerge victorious.

The next five months are pregnant. All the parties are keeping their strategies close to their chest. But the political fight, will be vigorous, as never seen before. We are about to step into interesting times.

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