• Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Guber poll: All eyes on Edo after conclusion of primaries by leading parties

Off-season polls: INEC warns stakeholders against fake reports

The gubernatorial primaries generated public interest across the country in recent weeks, perhaps, due to the caliber of the aspirants in the race.

The stage is now set for what is expected to be a keenly contested electioneering process that would culminate in the election of the incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has fixed September 21 for the conduct of the off-cycle governorship election in the state.

Although, most of the eighteen political parties are expected to present candidates for the election, the main contenders would be Olumide Akpata candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Asue Ighodalo
of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Monday Okpebholo, candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The last few weeks before the primaries have been full of intrigues and power play, within the camps of the three leading parties, which saw aspirants trying to outsmart one another and engaging in power tussle in a bid to win their party’s ticket.

The APC conducted its governorship primary twice as the process was marred by intrigues and power play, but in the end Okpebholo emerged in the second primary conducted last Friday.

Similar drama was seen in the PDP where the deputy governor of Edo State, Philip Shaibu held a parallel primary at his residence where he was elected the governorship candidate. But Ighodalo was elected the party’s candidate in the primary recognised and supervised by the INEC officials. Although Shaibu insists he remains the authentic candidate of his party, the days ahead will prove all things.

In this analysis, we profile the three leading candidates, their strengths and weaknesses ahead of the commencement of campaigns two months from now.

Olumide Akpata

Akpata was born October 7, 1972. He was a senior partner and the Head of the Corporate and Commercial Practice Group at Templars law firm in Nigeria until his resignation on 31 August 2023 to enable him pursue partisan politics.

Strengths

Akpata may be new in partisan politics, but he is not someone to be under-rated considering his popularity largely due to success in the legal profession.

Akpata was a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), who emerged victorious on the back of large following among young lawyers who voted massively for him to become the First non-Senior Advocate of Nigerian (SAN) to be elected President of NBA in 28 years. The 30th President of the NBA in 2020.

Many political watchers say his strong political dexterity deployed to defeat other strong contenders in the NBA election in 2020 was an indication of his capacity and unpredictability.

Akpata may not have the political structure some other leading candidates can boast of in Edo State, but what is apparent is that he can match his opponents financial weight which is crucial in electoral success in Nigeria.

There are reports that Akpata’s gubernatorial bid is supported by some notable political leaders in Edo State and that they have vowed to work for his victory in the September poll.

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 masses.

The LP may not have wide following in Edo State like the PDP and APC, but observers say he may be the candidate to beat.

Speaking recently, the ex-NBA president said he decided to contest the election on the platform of LP because it is the only people-oriented political party.

Akpata had said consistently that he had the experience and the capacity to lead the people of Edo State if given the chance.

“My interest is for the people of Edo State. And what I find out in politics and governance in Nigeria today is that the people have been taken out of the equation. Nobody cares about the people,” Akpata said.

Weakness

Just like the PDP candidate, Akpata is a greenhorn in mainstream politics, his decision to join the Edo gubernatorial race came as a surprise to many observers within and outside his state because he was not previously associated with any political party in the country.

Akpata is not known to be in control of any political grassroots structure in Edo State, although he has attained some level of popularity due to success recorded in his legal practice, but observers say this may not be enough for him to win the gubernatorial election in September.

Also, some analysts have questioned the spread of LP in Edo State, saying that compare to the ruling PDP, the party do not have the spread and large membership to give victory to Akpata come September.

They, however, advised that he should embark on wide membership drive and campaign to garner support ahead of the poll.

Similarly, there are those who fear that the current internal wrangling in the LP at the national level, may come back to hurt the party’s candidate in Edo if there is no mechanism put in place to resolve issues urgently.

Asue Ighodalo

Ighodalo is a Nigerian lawyer. He is from Okaigben, Ewohimi, Esan South East LG, Edo State, Nigeria. He is alongside Femi Olubanwo, a founding partner of the law firm of Banwo-and-Ighodalo, a corporate and commercial law practice in Nigeria specializing in advising major corporations on Corporate Finance, Capital Markets, Energy & Natural Resources, Mergers & Acquisitions, Banking & Securitization and Project Finance.

Strength

Ighodalo is a successful boardroom general, who is widely known in the corporate sector having chaired Sterling Bank and Nigerian Breweries.

Although some of his critics say he has little political acumen, that can also be said about the candidate of the LP, Olumide Akpata.

But Ighodalo is contesting as candidate of the PDP, which is the ruling party in Edo State and he is bound to get the full support of the incumbent governor.

Observers say the support Ighodalo enjoys from the incumbent governor should be a source of worry for other candidates, considering that the PDP perhaps, boast of the most formidable political structure across Edo today.

Observers say Ighodalo’s wealth of corporate experience, and vast connection across the country over the years make him suitable for the number one seat.

Ighodalo has also been involved in various public and private sector initiatives. With such attractive credentials, many people say that he is the “round peg in a round hole” for Edo State and his governance would lead to prosperity in Edo State.

Analysts say Ighodalo’s leadership qualities, managerial abilities, and track record in various capacities would be critical when determining his suitability for the governorship position in Edo State.

Read also: I came into the gubernatorial race on conviction to serve Edo people – Ighodalo

Weakness

Many people in Edo and beyond see Ighodalo as the anointed candidate of Governor Obaseki, and many political stakeholders in the state may not be happy that Governor Obaseki would impose a successor on them.

Another crucial factor that may work against his candidacy is the current disagreements between him and the deputy governor of the state, Shaibu, on who is the authentic gubernatorial candidate.

Shaibu, in recent days, has vowed to work against the PDP if he is not declared the winner of the election. Observers say if these issues are not resolved and the party remains divided going into the governorship election, it may work against the chances of the PDP’s candidate, while polarising the party.

Furthermore, considering the instability of the party at the national level to resolve the crisis that emanated from the 2023 polls, there are fears that several party chieftains may work for opposition candidate in the poll.

Monday Okpebholo

Okpebholo is a senator representing Edo-central senatorial district. He was born on June 12, 1970.

Okpebholo, is from a humble family and hardworking family. He attended the Uromi Elementary School in Edo State, thereafter, he attended Uromi Grammar School.

He went to the University of Benin where he studied agriculture economic and bagged a bachelor degree in the course in 1986.

Read also: CSOs in Edo hit Benin streets, protests economic hardship

Strength

To some close watchers of happening within APC in Edo State Okpebholo wining the primary did not come as surprise to them, judging from the fact that the people of Edo Central have been clamouring that the people of the region should succeed incumbent governor.

Perhaps, among the three leading gubernatorial candidates, Okpebholo stands shoulder high in terms of political experience and his vast grassroots network and popularity in the state, especially in Edo central. This makes him a strong contender.

Having emerged the candidate of the ruling party at the Federal level, considering the way election is often conducted in the country in recent years where INEC is often seen to work to favour of candidate of the ruling party, it is fair to say that it is an advantage to him.

Okpebholo growing popularity and financial capabilities and APC’s deep grassroots structure in Edo State are expected to work in his favour.

Weakness

Perhaps, this is not the best of time for anyone to contest an election on the platform of the APC, considering the economic crisis the country is presently experiencing.

Observers say the poor performance of the APC administration at the federal level may affect the chances of Okpebholo in the September poll.

Many analysts say that there was the need for the APC in Edo to begin internal reconciliation after the controversy that trailed the gubernatorial primary election to have any chance against the ruling party in the state.