All You Need to Know about the Aspirants
The year of political battles in Edo State is here. The die is cast as politicians are on the streets again lobbying for the support of the electorate.The stage is set for intending aspirants, particularly those that have obtained party nomination forms from their various parties. The aspirants are currently having sleepless nights, holding meetings with the political leaders in their various wards across the three senatorial zones. While some money bag aspirants are sharing cars, others are distributing cows and rice and various gifts items to woo delegates and party leaders. Some others are said to be spending foreign currencies to buy the support of members.
While Adams Oshiomhole of the All Progressives Congress and other top members of the party in the state are said to be banking on the support of the presidency to win election in Edo State, the incumbent Governor of the state, Godwin Obaseki, his anointed aspirant in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Asue Ighodalo and his teeming supporters, are touring the state soliciting the support of the people. On the other hand, the Chairman of the Labour Party, Comrade Julius Abure, is receiving visitors in his Abuja office, there is division in the party in the state over who carries the party’s flag for the 2024 gubernatorial election.
It is against this background that it is expedient to look at the forthcoming primary elections in the state within the three major political parties. Though there are 18 political parties, the leading ones are the PDP, APC and the Labour Party.
The aspirants and their ratings:
The talk around Edo State is that Dr. Asue Ighodalo of the PDP is top- ping the list in the state. This is not only because he has the blessing of the incumbent governor, it is believed that there are some special qualities deposited in him by God Almighty that anywhere he goes he is easily accepted. Ighodalo hails from Okaigben, Ewohimi in Esan South East Local Government Area of Edo State. He is a legal icon who trained under the popular lawyer, Chris Ogunbanjo. He co-founded the law firm of Banwo and Ighodalo & Co, a corporate and commercial law firm. A technocrat, a business guru, immediate past chairman of the Nigeria Breweries Plc, Chairman of Sterling Bank, Director of Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority and in expert in the capital market. The support given to Dr. Asue Ighodalo by Obaseki, has no doubt trig- gered reactions and criticisms among the political class in the state.
Ighodalo seems to be gaining more recognition and acceptance as a result of his oratory prowess and his developmental agenda for Edo State and his promise to build on the foundation of Governor Obaseki. The slogan ‘Edo no bi Lagos’ of 2019/2020 is likely to repeat itself as those defeated earlier might not be able to easily pursue their ambition. But that is not to say that the road would be smooth for Ighodalo. Definitely, he has some tough battle to fight before he can get to the Promised Land. While it is believed that Ighodalo has seen it all as a successful businessman, politically he is regarded as a neophyte. But talking about his pedigree and financial prowess, he stands tall among his counterparts in Edo State.
On the other hand, juxtaposing the PDP with other political parties in the state, it is also obvious that in terms of financial strength, it might be difficult for another party to match the PDP. The APC might be relying on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and other APC governors to come to their rescue, but some APC members in Edo State could be enticed with money by other parties. An ordinary APC supporter doesn’t seem to trust his or her leaders. Also most APC members have allegedly said that election money always falls into wrong hands, and that the leaders become richer than they were before elections. So it is likely that some of them might choose to sit on the fence and watch as situations unfold.
Ogbeide Ihama hails from Oredo Local Government Area of Edo South area in Edo State. The politician is loved by his followers for his magnanimous spirit and empowerment programme for the people of Oredo Federal Constituency and is a two- time member of the House of Representatives. A strong party faithful that has remained with the party even when the PDP was almost going into oblivion, Ogbeide was always there and he is one of the very few politicians known for keeping fate with the party. Ogbeide is a young and pragmatic politician that has much to offer his people. But it is believed that he is coming at a time the governorship slot is not zoned to the Southern part of the state. He was a governorship aspirant in the last governorship election, but he stepped down for Governor Obaseki.
They say, in politics there is no permanent friend or permanent enemy, and today, Hon. Ogbeide Ihama is back in governorship race. Incidentally, he belongs to Legacy Group headed by Dan Orbih, and is a former chairman of the PDP in the state. Though popular among his constituency, his popularity does not go beyond Oredo, and many people believe that this cannot win him the ticket of the party. Some people argue that previous experiences have shown that young men should not to be trusted with power. Though he has a right to declare his intention for the governorship position, his supporters are sceptical about his chances as they note that the position cannot leave Edo South Senatorial district and go back to the same zone.
Comrade Philip Shaibu
Comrade Philip Shaibu is the current Deputy Governor of Edo State; he is a former member of the Edo State House of Assembly, and a former member of the House of Representatives from Etsako West. He is a strong politician that people say is highly committed to the party. Shuaib used to be a strong ally of Godwin Obaseki, but his romance with his boss went sour the moment he indicated his intention to succeed him. Shaibu is loved by youths for maksports, which has since been brought to an enviable position. He is however, being accused by his political friends and associates of not being loyal to his boss with whom he started the race to Edo government house then. Political analysts are already predicting how the whole drama will end. Some say Shuaib would either move his political tent to another party, or go back to his former party, the APC, or play a spoiler role for Obaseki.
Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu (APC)
Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu aka POI, is a political general who is grounded in grassroots politics. He has been there since 1999, and he was one of the few lawyers that drafted the constitution of the APC. He was the SSG to former Edo State Governor Lucky Igbinedion, a former Chief of Staff to ex-governor Adams Oshiomhole, and has contested the governorship election in Edo State twice, but lost to Governor Obaseki. POI has contested under both the APC and the PDP in Edo State. With this, many people see him as a serial contestant that is politically unstable. When he lost the guber race to incumbent Obaseki in 2020, he accused the national body of the APC of sabotaging his efforts. Many people believe that Ize-Iyamu is confident that he will grab the party’s ticket as he allegedly sees other aspirants as pushovers. It is believed that major stakeholders in the party are not with him.
The Edo electorate appear to be tired of seeing the same old faces almost every four years. Moreso, it is being said that it is not yet the turn of Edo South. Though the APC has no zoning formula, the blind man on the street can tell you where the people’s interest is. There are insinuations that the greatest mistake the APC would make is to give its ticket to someone from Edo South. Also, there are indications that the forces against Pastor Osagie Ize- Iyamu are much. The character assassination carried out against him by the PDP in the last election is still fresh in the minds of the electorate. Moreso, with the present economic situation in Nigeria, it appears the voters are not happy with the APC as the masses see the party as not being sensitive to their plight.
Clement Agba (APC)
Clement Agba is from Estako West Local Government Area of Edo North. He was the minister of state for budget and national planning under former president Muhammadu Buhari for eight years. He had earlier served as the commissioner for the environment under former governor Adams Oshiomhole. He is an economist from the oil sector. His ambition to become the next governor of Edo State is regarded by many people as dead on arrival be- cause of the political configuration of the state. A governor from Edo North handed over to someone from Edo South as governor, while another politician from Edo North is the present Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly, and a politician from Edo North is the current Deputy Governor of the State.
Someone from Edo North holds the ministerial position in the government of President Bola Tinubu. Another odd against Clement Agba is that in his years as minister, many people from Edo State say they cannot point to any meaningful fed- eral project executed by him in the state. This was part of the questions put to him by the Oba of Benin, His Royal Majesty, Omo N’Oba N’Edo, Uku Akpolopkpolo, Oba Ewuare II, when he visited the Oba sometime last year.
Prof. Osarhiemen Osunbor (APC)
Professor Osarhiemen Osunbor was Edo State governor for about one year in 2007 under the PDP. He was later sacked by the court, which paved way for Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. Professor Osunbor was a candidate of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the late Chief Tony Anenih. But people believe that he was overwhelmed by power and neglected the powers that made him governor. Today, Professor Osunbor is back in the governorship race under the APC. It is believed that Osunbor is committed to the development of the state, but it appears that the forces against him are much. As it stands now, there are fears that Osunbor doesn’t have the financial power for the contest.
It was gathered that Osunbor has been advised by his political friends and associates to retrieve the money he used to purchase the nomination form and support whoever the APC gives the ticket. There are talks in some quarters that with his experience and educational background, he would have been the best candidate for the APC, but that the powers that be don’t seem to be looking towards his direction.
Monday Okpebholo (APC)
Monday Okpebholo is a current senator, representing Edo Central Senatorial District. An Esan man, there are insinuations that the people of Igueben, Ewossa, Ebelle Ugun, Amahor, and Ekpon are not happy with him because he seems to have neglected them. It however, appears Esan people have made up their minds on whom to cast their lot with.
Mr. Lucky Imasuen (APC)
Lucky Imasuen is from Edo South and a top member of the APC. He has an edge over other aspirants in the party as a former deputy governor of the state. It is said that he positively impacted the lives of the generality of the people within the 18 months that he was in office before the court removed him and former governor Osunbor from office. In his recent campaign across the 18 local government areas in the state, he said that he is desirous of surpassing the achievements of the late Professor Ambrose Alli, the late Samuel Ogbe- mudia and former governor Adams Oshiomhole.
Kenneth Imansuagbon (LP)
Kenneth Imansuagbon is unarguably one of the most experienced and colourful politicians in the state and this has endeared him to the masses. Political pundits believe that owing to his popularity and acceptability in the three senatorial districts, he remains the best aspirant among the pack that can dismantle both the PDP and APC if given the party’s governorship ticket. The late Chief Tony Anenih nick- named him ‘Kenneth of Africa’. Anenih was said to have offered him the ticket of the House of Representatives on a platter of gold under the PDP but his passion to occupy the number one seat in the state was stronger and he hum- bly declined the offer. His financial power and street credibility will be an asset to the Labour Party in confronting the APC and PDP.
Imansuagbon, popularly known as ‘ the ‘Riceman,’ was said to have advised the leaders of the party not to make the mistake of giving the party’s ticket to aspirants he described as ‘newbies.’ But the way things stand now, the Labour Party’s slot seems to tilt towards Senator Sergius Ogun and Mr Olumide Akpata. Supporters of the party have however, accused the party’s chieftains of selling its ticket to political neophytes. It is believed that it will take the grace of God for Imansuagbon to emerge as the party’s standard bearer.
Olumide Akpata (LP)
Olumide Akpata is a former president of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA). He is a man with an intimidating figure and pedigree, but his opponents believe that he is a political neophyte. He is running on the platform of the Labour Party. Akpata has also been accused of fronting for Governor Godwin Obaseki. He has however, denied this on several occasions.
Sergius Ogun LP
Sergius Ogun is well loved by his people. He is a former member of the House of Representatives from Esan South East of Edo State. It is believed that he has done very well for his constituency, but his alleged sin is that he declared his intention for the governorship ticket under Labour Party late. Another thing his people hold against him is leaving the PDP for the Labour Party. It was however gathered that Ogun might be the joker of the LP because the executive members of the party have allegedly shifted their support from Akpata to him because of his political track record. Currently, there are tensions in Edo State as the parties prepare for their governorship primaries.
Leaders of the three major political parties in the state: Governor Godwin Obaseki of the PDP, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole of the APC and Barrister Julius Abure of the Labour Party will definitely have an uphill task in working with others to come up the candidates of their parties as Edo electorate prepare for the 2024 guber election.