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PDP, APC, LP Set For Crucial Battle In Edo

Governorship candidates

Elections in Edo State have been dominated by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC).But, the forthcoming governorship election in September may be a different ballgame, as the Labour Party (LP), which has emerged as a third force, may likely challenge the dominance of the two major parties. 

The stage is set for a fierce electoral contest to determine who will occupy Dennis Osadebe House, the seat of power in Edo State when the tenure of incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki lapses by November 12. Since the return to civil rule in 1999, Edo State has been governed by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC). But, this time, the Labour Party (LP) has emerged as a third force in Edo politics and may likely challenge the dominance of the two major parties in the forthcoming election.

During the last governorship election in 2020, the PDP capitalized on the division within the APC to return to power. The campaign of the PDP during the election revolved around the battle cry, “Edo no bi Lagos”; an indirect reference to the attempt by former Governor Adams Oshiomhole to assume the role of a godfather in Edo politics.

Going by the performance of the three parties in recent elections and the way they stand at the moment, any of them can clinch the governorship seat in September.

Monday Okpebholo (APC):

The APC has tried to avoid the mistakes of the last governorship election by being more inclusive this time. However, indications are that all is not well within the APC ahead of the election scheduled to be held on September 21. Last Wednesday, Monday Okpebholo, a lawmaker currently representing Edo Central Senatorial District, secured the APC ticket for the election, through the direct mode of primary. The federal lawmaker polled 12,433 votes to defeat 11 other aspirants.

Dennis Idahosa, a member of the House of Representatives who is believed to be the anointed choice of Oshiomhole, now a senator representing Edo North at the National Assembly, had been declared winner of an earlier primary conducted by the Imo State Governor Hope Uzodimma. But Idahosa’s victory was shrouded in controversy, with the declaration by the spokesman of the Returning Officers, Ojo Babatunde that Sunday Dekeri, a lawmaker representing Etsako Federal Constituency at the National Assembly defeated other contestants in the race, including Idahosa, with 25,384 votes.

Besides, Okpebholo had also claimed that he won the primary, which took place on February 17, with over 6,000 votes. Following this controversy, the APC National Working Committee (NWC) declared the election inconclusive and ordered a fresh one, with Cross River State Governor Bassey Otu as the new chairman of the committee for the election. The APC had opted for the direct mode of primary to pick its flag bearer for the election in a bid to provide a level playing ground for all aspirants.

In the rerun election conducted by Governor Otu, Idahosa who had been declared winner of the primary conducted by Governor Uzodimma could only score 6,541 votes. He had led in the first ballot with 4,483 votes. The lawmaker who represents Ovia Southwest/Ovia Northeast Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives has disagreed with the latest turn of events in Edo APC. He has asked the party leadership to restore the mandate given to him; otherwise, he would approach the court if his demands are not met. He has equally appealed to President Bola Tinubu to call the party’s NWC to order.

Asue Ighodalo (PDP):

Governor Obaseki who was re-elected for a second term three and half years ago on the platform of the PDP has succeeded in securing the party’s ticket for his anointed successor, Asue Ighodalo, a Lagos-based lawyer, businessman and banker.

The PDP also has its fair share of crisis, as it prepares for the contest. For instance, Deputy Governor Philip Shaibu, who won the parallel primary organised by another faction of the party, has described the exercise that produced Ighodalo as flag bearer laughable. Shaibu has warned that without him the PDP will be defeated in the forthcoming election.

Besides, Obaseki has been at loggerheads with the PDP National Vice Chairman (Southsouth), Chief Dan Orbih, over the control of the party’s structures, following its victory in the last governorship election. So, Governor Obaseki and the PDP flag bearer would have to contend with Orbih, an ally of the FCT Minister, Nyesom Wike and the immediate past chairman of Edo PDP.

The PDP candidate, Ighodalo, an old boy of Kings College, Lagos, hails from Ewohimi, in Edo Central Senatorial District. A founding partner of Banwo & Ighodalo, one of the foremost commercial law firms in the country, he obtained his first degree in Economics from the University of Ibadan and a law degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is the chairman of the Board of Directors of Sterling Bank Plc. He also sits on the boards of other public and private companies.

Olumide Akpata (LP):

Olumide Akpata, the immediate past chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), clinched the ticket of the LP for the Edo governorship election last week Friday. In the primary, which was conducted by a committee headed by the Abia State Deputy Governor Ikechukwu Emeta, Akpata scored 316 votes to secure the ticket. He defeated other aspirants by a wide margin. Kenneth Imansuagbon, otherwise known as the Rice Man, and Prof. Sunny Eromosele were the closest contenders with seven votes each.

The LP is equally embroiled in crisis over its conduct during the last general elections. Its National Chairman, Julius Abure who hails from Edo State has been having running battles with some members over allegations of substituting candidates in the 2023 general elections without the consent of the affected aspirants; an allegation he has consistently denied. Abure was arrested last Wednesday over a petition against him by the LP Youth Leader, Comrade Eragbe Anselm Aphimia and was later released. The youth leader accused the LP chairman of committing violent acts against him. 

Akpata who hails from Edo South Senatorial District was born on October 7, 1972. He joined the LP in March last year to realise his ambition of governing Edo State. He joined the party, he added, because he got tired of complaining about the happenings in Nigeria. He said: “I decided to take the plunge and try to be part of the solution, rather than agonising continually over the problem. This was a major step for me and not one that I took lightly.”

Though there is no clear-cut agreement on zoning or power rotation in Edo State, it is going to be a crucial factor in the forthcoming election because sentiments regarding the idea are high among the populace in Edo State. Edo Central, which is made up of five of the 18 local governments in the state, is favoured to produce the next governor. No one from that zone has governed the state since the return to civil rule in 1999; aside from the brief period Professor Oserheimen Osunbor was at the helm of affairs between May 2007 and November 2008  before he was removed through a court verdict.

Edo Central’s political narrative is shaped by its profound sense of marginalisation, as articulated in the Esan Agenda. Therefore, the two parties that picked their candidates from the region — the PDP and the APC — are more likely to secure bulk votes from Edo Central, otherwise known as Esanland.

But, mathematically, the two major parties may have jeopardized their chances by choosing their candidates from Esanland. This is because the zone possesses the least voting population, compared to Edo South and Edo North. According to recent research by the PROVE Foundation, Esanland accounted for only 15.85 per cent of the votes cast during the 2016 governorship election and 18 per cent of the last election in 2020.

The coordinator of the study, Omotola Ariyo was quoted as saying in a recent publication that Edo South accounted for 46.50 per cent of the votes cast in the 2020 off-cycle governorship election in Edo, while Edo North, which is next in terms of voting population, contributed 35.50 per cent. Similarly, the study shows that Edo South delivered 48.37 per cent of the votes in 2016, while the figures for Edo North, also known as Etsakoland, were put at 32.23 per cent.

Game of numbers:

The implication is that it is the eligible voters in Edo South, also known as the Bini axis and Edo North that would determine who succeeds Governor Obaseki. With the two major parties picking their candidates from Edo Central, the votes from that axis (Esanland) will likely be split between them. It is an interesting scenario; the APC candidate is a federal lawmaker currently representing that constituency at the Senate.

On the other hand, Esanland is traditionally a PDP stronghold and as the ruling party in the state, it has a well-oiled structure there. Nevertheless, with the unresolved internal squabble within the party, it might be a different ballgame. Orbih is believed to be in firm control of the PDP structure in the state. Though the Orbih faction has yet to name the candidate it is going to back in the contest, it has been moving around the state to consult with stakeholders.

Concerning Edo North, the APC has an edge over the other parties. The zone has been a predominantly APC stronghold since Senator Oshiomhole emerged as governor of the state in 2008. Given that its candidate for the forthcoming election is a serving federal lawmaker from Edo Central, it would probably do well in Esanland and in its stronghold in Etsakoland, where it has a robust structure.

However, with the failure of the former governor’s anointed candidate to secure the APC ticket, his hardcore supporters may either boycott the election or vote for another party. This could potentially allow both the PDP and the LP to make inroads into the zone.

Litmus test for the LP:

The chances of the LP in the forthcoming off-cycle governorship election in Edo are still largely a matter of conjecture. Though the party swept the polls in Edo State during the last presidential election, because of the personality of the party’s candidate, Peter Obi and other factors, there is no indication of how the party will fare this time in a purely local election. It would depend on several factors, including the acceptability of its candidate and how it can manage its internal crisis, particularly supporters of the Lamidi Apapa faction who are hellbent on undermining the chances of the Abure-led mainstream faction of the party. The Lamidi Apapa faction, it is said, had a parallel primary where Anderson Asemota was reportedly elected to fly the flag of the party.

The feud between the two factions had been simmering for some time. However, before last November’s off-cycle governorship election in imo State, the Supreme Court confirmed Abure as the authentic LP national chairman and Attan Achonu as the party’s governorship flag bearer in the Southeast state.

By picking its candidate from Edo South (Akpata is from Edo South), the LP is trying to leverage the momentum from the 2023 presidential election. The lawmaker currently representing Edo South at the Senate, Neda Bernards Imasuen was elected on the platform of the LP. 

Floating voters:

With its urban density, Edo South is a critical battleground in Edo politics, where voters appear more inclined to prioritise candidate quality over party affiliation. Any political party that clinches a sizeable percentage of the vote in this zone is likely to win the election, provided it can garner appreciable support in the other two zones, particularly Edo North. Edo South does not appear to have a significant attachment to any political party; it has voted for different political parties in the current political dispensation.(Nation)

Source: Hardcore News 

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