In the lead-up to the highly anticipated 2024 Edo Governorship election, political parties will be facing daunting tasks in selecting the candidates who will emerge as their flag bearers. As the political atmosphere gains momentum in the state, the release of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) timetable on September 26, 2023, has set the stage for aspirants to intensify consultations ahead of the parties’ primaries scheduled for February 2024.
The battleground for the state’s top position will likely be a three-horse race, dominated by the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), and the emerging contender, Labour Party (LP).
However, a major hurdle looms for political parties, the selection of candidates from the senatorial districts, particularly amidst the Edo Central Senatorial district’s claim that it is their turn to produce governor. Despite the absence of a written agreement or legislation mandating the rotation of the governorship position, the sentiment among the Esan people of Edo Central is strong, while advocating for their chance to produce the next governor.
Analysts propose an open competition for governorship ticket based on competence and capacity. In contrast, proponents of fairness, equity, and justice argue that Edo Central deserves the opportunity, given its significant contribution to what is now referred to as Edo State.
But one aspirant, who is in the Edo governorship race with pedigree and rich credentials, is Asue Ighodalo. Ighodalo made a unique announcement of his intentions in his hometown of Ewohimi, Esan South East Local Government Area some days ago.
A notable figure in the business circles in Nigeria, Ighodalo is a Nigerian lawyer and the former chairman of Sterling Bank, with a rich background in corporate and commercial law.
Despite the absence of a formal agreement, the political dynamics surrounding the 2024 election underscore the importance of balancing regional representation and individual merit in the selection of the next Edo State governor. As the political narrative unfolds, candidates like Asue Ighodalo bring a mix of legal expertise and corporate leadership to the forefront, challenging traditional norms and advocating for a more inclusive and merit-based selection process.
Speaking on his ambition and why he is in the race, Ighodalo said having worked closely with the last two administrations in Edo State, he had the experience and understood the challenges of the state.
According to him, “I would do my utmost best to bridge the gaps and layers of distrust. That is my focus. I think I can put myself forward as a unifier”.
Expressing his unwavering commitment to delivering good governance if given the party’s ticket, Ighodalo said that he worked with Adam Oshiomhole when he was a governor of the state from 2008 to 2016, and is also doing the same for Obaseki, whose tenure would end in 2024.
While describing himself as a detribalised Nigerian, and bonafide Edo citizen from Ewohimi in Edo Central, Ighodalo pledged to bring his vast experience and exposure of serving as chairman on the boards of various companies to bear as governor of the state.
Ighodalo, all his life, has pursued excellence through hard work, persistence, and teamwork.
On many occasions, he has created platforms for fellow Edo residents to join in honest conversations about Edo State, specifically on where Edo State as a going concern is, and what the vision is for the future of the state.
Asue Ighodalo believes that together, fellow citizens can banish poverty and bring an end to the current hardships of life by developing and implementing plans that attract and prioritise investments in education, technology, infrastructure, healthcare, agriculture, security, and human capital development.
Asue Ighodalo also believes that, now more than ever before, trust must be restored between citizens and leaders if we as a people are ever to reach our true potential.
For him, moving Edo State forward together is a priority, as he believes that Nigeria’s tomorrow will be determined by her youth, today.
“Our youth are an unstoppable force; and my vision of a greater Edo state is powered by their dreams and aspirations; their energy, ideas and limitless talent,” Ighodalo said.
Also in the race is Olumide Akpata, a prominent corporate lawyer and former NBA president. The 51-year-old is running for the governorship position of Edo State on the platform of the Labour Party. The election is scheduled for September next year. Announcing his aspiration a couple of weeks ago, Akpata said he chose the Labour Party because it is people-oriented.
In a significant development, August 1, 2023 marked a pivotal moment as Akpata formally entered the political arena, solidifying his commitment to public service by joining the ranks of the Labour Party. The move not only underscores his dedication to civic engagement, but also signals a new chapter in his journey towards contributing to the betterment of society. As a member of the Labour Party, Akpata brings his unique perspective and ideas to the forefront, poised to play a role in shaping policy decisions and advocating for issues that align with the party’s values. His entrance into the political landscape highlights the growing diversity of voices within the party, fostering a broader and more inclusive dialogue on matters of national importance.
APC is yet to make its choice. The stage is therefore set for a titanic electoral battle in Edo State with the main combatants being two prominent Lagos lawyers, who are also friends.
Outgoing governors usually invest all the resources at their disposal, including their emotions, ego and psychology, into installing their preferred successors, so much so that the governor begins to assume that the contest is a personal affront to him. To that extent, Olumide Akpata should have in the back of his mind that he would be contesting against Godwin Obaseki; or to put it more appropriately, he would be confronting the incumbent governor, and he may take it personally.
Succession politics could be a matter of life and death for some exciting chief executives because the power of incumbency is the most potent political force in Nigeria. In fact, since 1999, less than 10 percent of all outgoing governors have failed to put their anointed choices as their replacements.