May 18, 2024

How Edo Election Candidates And Parties Stand After Primaries

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By Sebastine Ebhuomhan

A great deal of public debates on the Edo State governorship election of 2024 will centre on opinion polls and their values to candidates and political parties.

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In public opinion research, polls and surveys can indicate how people might vote during an election or the candidate that is most preferred or likely to win. There are different polls. Scientific poll, open-access poll, push poll. In a scientific poll, key things to pay attention to include: sample size, margin of error, sample selection, respondent selection, wording, order. Experts say many push polls are negative attacks on candidates.

There is a trend in Edo politics eroding opinion polls validity. Few days before major elections, dubious polls celebrate victories for candidates. In some instances, unpopular candidates are allocated the highest win margins. Investigation has shown that such unfounded opinion results are carefully planted to create a lacuna for rigging.

Before fraudulent polls begin to drop, therefore, how do the top three political parties that shared over 95 per cent of the 2023 general election votes in Edo State stand with their candidates after governorship election primaries? The All Progressives Congress (APC), the Labour Party (LP), and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) accounted for the sizable share of votes in the presidential, national assembly and state assembly elections, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Okpebholo, APC, Coasting Without Crisis

About six weeks ago, the APC was predicted to be heading towards disintegration following a serious post-primary crisis. Two APC primary election contestants filed lawsuits against the nomination of the lawmaker of Edo Central District in the Senate, Senator Monday Okpebholo, alias Akpakomiza.

Fast forward to today, the leadership of the APC has resolved all post-primary election issues. This climaxed with the announcement of Ovia South West/Ovia North East Constituency lawmaker in the House of Representatives, Right Honourable Dennis Idahosa, alias Denco, as APC deputy governorship candidate. The remaining suit is primed for withdrawal on May 8th. The amicable resolution of APC post-primary crisis marked a watershed in the run-in to Edo governorship election, reinforcing the party’s primary as the most democratically organised among the 18 contesting parties.

Kudos to APC members, aspirants who lost the nomination race, the remaining aspirants who did not buy the forms; the Acting Chairman Jarret Tenebe-led state executives, other state leaders; Edo State leader and lawmaker of Edo North District, the 72-year-young Senator Adams Oshiomhole; Alhaji Umar Ganduje and Senator Ajibola Bashiru (alias SRJ)-led National Working Committee (NWC); and the inimitable National Leader and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, for the enviable reconciliation, peace, unity and determination to reclaim Edo State.

The resolution of APC’s post-primary crisis, signalling lessons from its 2020 defeat, has enabled the party’s flagbearer, running mate and leaders to mount strategic campaigns against opposition. This culminated in the tsunami that swept eight past PDP-elected Edo council chairmen into the APC inside Oshiomhole’s sitting room and thousands of other PDP youth leaders elsewhere in Igbanke. But APC would have to improve governance at federal level to shut the mouth of opposition in Edo State.

Akpata and LP’s Disintegrating Aspiration

Glamour and razzmatazz greeted Barrister Olumide Osaigbovo Akpata’s emergence as LP flagbearer. Akpata, a successful lawyer and immediate past President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), danced in the hopes of riding LP National Leader Dr. Peter Obi’s popularity and the Obidient Movement’s magical support. Almost two months after the primary, the LP family logo is disintegrating over allegations of vote-buying and abuse of office. The announcement of an unknown deputy governorship candidate, Princess Oluyinka Faith Alufohai, has further fragmented the LP.

A number of Akpata’s primary election co-contestants and LP leaders have since resigned from the party either in protest against ‘dollarizing’ LP’s ticket to the highest bidder or the court-recognised National Chairman Barrister Julius Abure and Mr. Kelly Ogbaloi leadership’s poor treatment of critical stakeholders. Disagreements, protests, altercations, assaults, and violence between LP national leadership and its parent body, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), have resulted in shame, litigation and rejection of LP National Convention. These problems have overshadowed and held down Akpata’s campaign.

Despite Obi’s endorsement, the Obidient Movement notably suffered division. A faction of the movement declared for the APC candidate before another faction adopted the PDP candidate. The third faction was undecided before the NLC purportedly sacked Abure, who allegedly escaped assassination in a failed attempt that razed his Abuja home. Abure had earlier announced the stealing of LP worker’s salary, cashed into his office, during an NLC protest.

Reacting, Director of Diaspora Mobilization for Obedient Movement, Chief Patrick Eholor, alias Ultimate Equal, particularly warned about LP’s insensitive parade of flag bearers with alien ethnic names: ‘Olumide’ and ‘Oluyinka’ apart from the running mate’s inexperience.

The party is wallowing in self-inflicted crises of carelessness, division, confusion, threat, violence and assassination. The latest being ‘error’ of dating and ‘oath of allegiance’ discovered in its candidates’ data to INEC.

Ighodalo Bearing Obaseki, PDP’s Yokes

Unlike the LP, the PDP flag bearer, Mr. Asuerimen Ighodalo (PhD.), alias AI, as well as his running mate, the incumbent Secretary to Edo State Government, Mr. Osarodion Ogie and their APC counterparts are coincidentally campaigning across Edo communities, villages, towns, councils, and districts as you read this report. But little or nothing of Ighodalo and Ogie’s efforts make frontpage like the countless crises, litigations, defections, denials, impeachment, violence and kidnapping within the state-ruling PDP. Still reeling from the kidnapping of its state chairman, Mr. Anthony Aziegbemi, investigation revealed that the aspiration of Ighodalo and the PDP in Edo State is severely challenged by the grave ‘sins’ of Governor Godwin Obaseki. That the governor had to pick an election loser of LP to replace PDP’s impeached deputy governor is not only taking advantage of the crises in Labour but a testament of PDP’s inability to win Edo governorship election alone. Here are some of the problems threatening to mar Ighodalo’s dream.

One, the PDP National Working Committee’s letter directing all state chapters to submit reports on their members’ anti-party offences is a time bomb waiting to burn the governorship aspiration and campaign of Barrister Ighodalo.

Two, the countless litigations of PDP members against the candidate and party (headlined by those of the ex-deputy governor, Hon. Philip Shaibu), have clogged the party’s governorship wheel. Obaseki sacrificed Shaibu for his bosom friend and puppet, Ighodalo.

Three, the Shaibu impeachment is a load that scares people. It weighs heavily against the PDP, whether Shaibu’s little-known successor, Mr. Omobayo Marvellous Godwins, capably mobilises people like he did or not. The long drama of ego underpinned Obaseki’s Machiavellian politics in which you crush your enemy totally as the 15th Law of Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power states.

Four, Obaseki is a commonly loathed ingrate. Nicknamed Ogbonmwanyese of Benin, he has a history of using and dumping people without reward. For this, a number of PDP and non-PDP members are waiting patiently to vote against Ighodalo. No better evidence can support this belief than the appointment of Omobayo instead of a member of the Legacy Group that offered Obaseki, Shaibu, Ogie and Ighodalo the platform to lead the Edo government in 2020. Omobayo, a bonafide member of Labour Party, was used to short-change qualified PDP members after woefully losing his House of Representatives election last year.

Five, Obaseki’s myriads of unfulfilled promises and barren MOUs. Beyond the scamming and perfidious pursuit of last-minute rehabilitation of selected roads by the Edo State Ministry of Roads and Bridges, which did not construct a single bridge in the state until now, the failure of the government, party, leaders, and flag bearers (who are parts of the administration) to fulfill past electoral promises would spark voter rejection of Ighodalo, Ogie and the PDP.

Six, trading violent crimes to settle underhand deals of Edo PDP leaders is an electoral aberration. Warning against the new trend of ‘political kidnap’ just before kidnappers released Aziegbemi, an incident allegedly linked to the nomination of Ogie as running mate, a chieftain of the party, Mr. Mike Enahoro said, “Let me warn everyone. PDP will not win the next election for the tricks being orchestrated by a certain cabal in PDP.”

Seven, the difficulty of Ighodalo to win the Edo election lies in the pervasive division of Edo PDP into three factions now. Recently, a PDP chieftain, ex-Commissioner and foremost Obaseki supporter, Hon. Charles Idahosa said, “I warned against it long before now in my interviews. It will be difficult for the PDP to win this election if we don’t put our house in order.”

Eight, Ighodalo’s unclear and controversial statements terrify Edo people more than Obaseki’s before INEC officially flags-off campaign. For example, his statement on PFM’s live blog to study to know the artefacts he will send back to the palace scares the Benin Traditional Kingdom and Edo State citizens. It totally supports Obaseki’s plan to create parallel traditional council, also supports Obaseki’s irritating pursuit of Edo Museum for West Africa Arts (EMOWAA) project, just as it runs contrary to the statements of APC’s Okpebholo and Idahosa that, in line with Federal Government’s Gazette, all artefacts fall under the sole authority of the Benin monarch, which the stool has exercised for centuries. Again, Ighodalo’s deliberate avoidance to speak on issues and allegations against Ambrose Alli University’s Special Intervention Team (SIT), instead dwelling on issues against lecturers, which the state government was already tackling, smacks of hypocrisy and hidden agenda.

Nine, the designation of Deputy Governor Godwins with the responsibility of ‘chief mobiliser of voters’ for Ighodalo’s election instead of contributing to governance is a big scam on Edo State people.

PDP’s Kite on Obasanjo’s Visit

Obaseki was beaming with smiles after receiving Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in Benin. Chief Obasanjo, a founding PDP member and a former president, who should be more concerned about PDP’s haemorrhage, said he visited Benin to know what was happening under Obaseki’s administration. But political pundits marked the trip as a strategic briefing, planning and image laundering one. Considering how impeachment, announcement of a new deputy governor followed, and particularly considering Obasanjo’s disruptive role in the 2023 general elections, they argued that whatever motive flew the kite, no political party can steal Edo people’s votes in September with PDP’s ‘do or die’ politics of 2007 and 2011.

Comparing and Contrasting Okpebholo with Ighodalo

In his first statements, Omobayo said Ighodalo wouldn’t hesitate to stop on the way to campaign even if his listeners were only six people. How do you relate this sudden change to Ighodalo’s inaccessibility until now as the steering of the Obaseki administration? How do you relate this tale-by-moonlight to the darkness in Ighodalo’s birth place, Ewohimi, for over seven years now or his employment and empowerment of foreigners? Ighodalo and Obaseki are just two sides of one coin.

Unlike Ighodalo, Okpebholo was born in Edo State. Until he migrated to Jos, he grew up in Edo State. He has lived in Edo State to co-exist and thrive with his people, helping as many as he can. Unlike Ighodalo, Okpebholo has countless personal projects he executed in Edo Central before defeating a PDP incumbent with over 20 years of legislative experience to become a Senator. He may not be eloquent and without a silver spoon. He is educated, intelligent and qualified. As amply demonstrated in his march on Aso Villa over the unmotorable Benin-Auchi-Okene Highway, he understands Edo people’s needs. Unlike Ighodalo, Okpebholo did not change overnight because he wanted to become governor.

So, the next governor of Edo State will not be determined by who speaks the best English. Obaseki speaks good English but he would be remembered as the most ungrateful, hypocritic, vicious, petty, treacherous, vindictive and underperforming governor Edo ever had.

What is noisemaking about? With poor revenue growth, a high unemployment rate above national average, and the continuous unaccountable corrupt investment of public funds in private businesses, Edo State under investment bankers Obaseki, Ighodalo, and Ogie became one of the highest borrowers for payment of salary. Between December 2016 and December 2023, Edo State Domestic Debt increased from N45.091 billion to N123.879 billion. In the same period, Foreign Debt rose from USD$183.641 million to USD$314.448 million, according to the Debt Management Office (DMO). At the current exchange rate, Edo State total debt amounts to about N569,430,980,000 billion. These figures exclude the state’s USD$75 million World Bank loan for ‘school improvement’. They also exclude yet-to-be-disclosed term loans and overdrafts that Sterling and other banks allegedly extended to the administration; N11 billion agriculture loans etc. For example, Obaseki dubiously celebrates Edo Refinery and Petrochemical Company as his government’s property, happily announcing its crude allocation every time when official record indicates whole AIPCC Energy Limited ownership. The truth is: if Ighodalo wins this election, the Edo State economy will collapse from high interest rates and inflation in spite of the humongous allocations from subsidy removal.

Akpakomiza and Denco All the Way

“Please, understand that there is no one depressed in this house; we are not interested in the possibilities of defeat; they do not exist,” Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom, thundered in an address to Balfour on the Boer War, fought between the British and Boer (Afrikaner) settlers in South Africa from 1899 to 1902 (Life of Salisbury, Lady G. Cecil). Under Lord Kitchener, the British finally annexed the Boers’ republics. Likewise, Okpebholo, Idahosa and APC do not foresee any possibility of defeat in the annexation of Edo State. They are working hard to win and to improve Edo people’s living standard. Support and vote for Akpakomiza and Denco. Happy Eid-el-Fitri!

Sebastine EBHUOMHAN is an award-winning journalist and media consultant from Edo State, writing from Abuja.
He can be reached on: usie007@yahoo.com or 08037204620.

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