The battle towards Edo 2024 has begun and the political atmosphere in Edo State is gathering momentum as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on September 26, 2023, released its timetable for the governorship election paving the way for would-be aspirants as they intensify consultations ahead of parties primaries slated for February, 2024.
Expectedly, the battle for the state’s number one seat of power is going to be a three-horse race among the major political parties – The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) and now the Labour Party (LP).
However, one of the major hurdles political parties must surmount is the senatorial districts where the parties will pick their governorship candidates from especially in the face of agitations by the Edo central senatorial district that it is their turn to produce Obaseki’s successor as the two other zones have occupied the number one seat of power.
Even though there is no written agreement or legislation in rotating the governorship position among the three major ethnic groups, the Binis, Esan and Afemais, the sentiment among Esan people of Edo Central is very high to produce the next governor.
Some analysts and watchers have argued that governorship tickets among political parties should be thrown open to allow competence, capacity, excellence and merit be the major determinant factors.
The above positions have also been countered by proponents of fairness, equity and justice arguing that the people of Edo Central deserve to produce the next governor because the zone forms a significant part that is made up of what is today referred to as Edo State.
However, aspirants jostling for their parties’ tickets cut across the three senatorial districts with the hope that their parties find them capable as their standard bearers to wrestle power from the ruling PDP in the state.
The contest for the 2024 governorship is expected to be a big cracker among the major contenders and pretenders who had erected billboards and embarked on campaigns on different social media platforms to sell their aspiration.
Aspirants on the platform of the APC
Sen Monday Okpebholo
If strong fillers from political circles is anything to go by, the battle for the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship ticket appears to be between Sen Monday Okpebholo aka ‘Akpakomiza’ and a former governor of Edo State, Oserhiemen Osunbor, a Professor of Law. Okpebholo, the chairman, Senate Committee on Public Procurement is a grassroots politician and a philanthropist. He is said to be in the good books of the leadership of the party and a top contender. His financial war-chest and ability to gather supporters irrespective of party affiliations was said to be largely responsible for the first time colourful lawmaker’s victory into the senate, despite the fact that Edo Central is predominantly a PDP controlled zone.
Sen Oserhiemen Osunbor
Political pundits are of the view that the former governor Osunbor’s candidacy may put the party in position to clinch the governorship seat for the APC owing to his previous record, haven governed the state between 2007 and November 2008. However, those against his aspiration are of the younger generation due to his age and are of the view that he should quit the political space. Osunbor is an erudite academic scholar and an experienced politician.
Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu
Another name that rings a bell in APC and Edo State politics is Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu from Edo South senatorial district. He is a factor to reckon with as far as politics is concerned. Ize-Iyamu was the APC flag bearer in 2020 against Governor Obaseki of the PDP. Sources close to the senior Pastor in the Redeemed Christian Church of God said he is awaiting a presidential nod from Aso-Rock villa owing to his close affinity with President Bola Tinubu before making his intention known to the public. His entrance into the race will definitely create an upset.
Hon Dennis Idahosa
Hon Dennis Idahosa, a member of the House of Representatives, representing Ovia federal constituency in Edo South senatorial district is another APC governorship aspirant who is eying to occupy Osadebey’s avenue. The young lawmaker is a household name as far as politics of his senatorial district and Edo State is concerned. He is an aspirant to be on the lookout for.
Prince Clem Agba
The immediate past minister of State, Budget and National Planning, Hon Clem Agba who hails from Edo North, is also showing open interest to succeed Governor Obaseki. Impeccable sources have it that he is relying on the backing and influence of Senator Adams Oshiomhole to secure the party’s ticket.
Maj Gen Charles Airhiavbere
Also, Maj-Gen Charles Airhiavbere (rtd), a former executive director, Finance and Administration, of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), is also interested in vying for the party’s ticket to contest the Edo governorship election next year. His giant billboards dotted Benin and other parts of the state.
Aspirants on the platform of the Labour Party
The Labour Party in Edo State as it stands today is the beautiful bride in forthcoming governorship election judging from its past performance in the presidential and national assembly elections.
The party has continued to receive some governorship aspirants who had indicated interest to join the 2024 governorship race to wrestle power from the PDP-led administration of Godwin Obaseki.
Barrister Kenneth Imansuangbon, a popular politician, administrator and philanthropist who hails from Edo Central senatorial district, is a frontline aspirant for the LP ticket. Political analysts have argued that his political experience, acceptability, and competence are strong factors that may speak for him if given the party’s ticket.
Overtime, Imansuangbon has established a very credible relationship with the masses owing to his annual Christmas time rice-sharing and other activities which have been going on for over two decades.
Former Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) president, Barrister Olumide Akpata, is from Edo South senatorial district. He was a senior partner and head of the Corporate and Commercial Practice Group at Templar Law Firm. He is a new face in politics and officially joined the LP a few months ago. He formally declared his intention before the state party leadership recently and was well received. There are speculations that he has the backing of Godwin Obaseki in his aspirations.
Dorry Okojie, a realtor and a businessman is one of the early birds in the race for the LP governorship ticket. He is a newcomer in Edo politics. If the number of his political billboards is a consideration, he will certainly emerge the LP candidate. He is said to have consulted widely with the powers-that-be in the party. He is optimistic to get the party’s ticket as one of the contenders to watch out for.
Aspirants on the platform of the PDP
Governor Godwin Obaseki will face yet another major political battle in producing a successor come 2024. It is already in the public domain that he may settle for his age-long business associate, Barrister Asuen Ighodalo. Ighodalo hails from Ewohimi, Esan East local government area rea of the state (the same community Imansuangbon hails from).
Ighodalo, a lawyer, is the chairman of Sterling Bank Plc and the executive chairman of Nigerian Breweries Plc. His disadvantage however is that he is not a politician. He will have to rely on Obaseki to campaign just as Oshiomhole did for Obaseki in 2016. Another major hurdle that may work against his emergence is the legacy group of the party led by Dan Orbih.
Comrade Philip Shaibu
Another aspirant seeking the PDP ticket from Edo North is the deputy governor, Comrade Philip Shaibu. His aspiration had created a wide gulf between him and his principal, the governor. The ripple effect of the gulf was recently settled.
However, credible information at the disposal of LEADERSHIP Weekend showed that Shaibu is forging ahead with his aspiration not minding the opposition from the governor. He is said to be enjoying support from core-politicians who see him as a team-player and a ‘homeboy.’
Hon John Yakubu
John Yakubu, a former chairman of Esan Northeast local government council, is another PDP governorship aspirant. He was a running mate to Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu in 2016 on the platform of the PDP. He is banking on his records when he held sway as the council chairman to get the PDP ticket.