For the first time in the history of the governorship election in Edo State, the aspirants are over 68 in the three big political parties, with more expected to join the race before the sales of forms begin. ADEYINKA ADEDIPE writes on the return of the seasoned campaigners and the new aspirants who are hoping to upset the old order
Politicians are die-hard optimists. Even when the odds are stacked against them and their chances look slim, the belief that they will win every contest is unshaken. One cannot blame them for this in a country where a candidate who finished third in an election was eventually sworn in after a court adjudged that he scored the “highest valid vote”.
It is such optimism that is driving the old guards and the new aspirants in Edo State as they continue to declare their intention to run for the governorship seat in 2024. As of Monday, the intending aspirants from the Peoples Democratic Party, All Progressives Congress, and the Labour Party are 68 with more expected to join the race. The LP has 28 aspirants, the APC has 29, and the PDP has 11, while it is certain that more aspirants will join the race from other smaller parties.
The aspirants are made up of old guards and new entrants while the decision by the APC not to heed the clamour to zone the ticket to Edo Central may see more aspirants joining the race.
Unexpectedly, the state APC chairman, Col. David Imuse (retd) has also thrown his heart in the ring with serving senators and members of the House of Representatives also joining. Spokesman to General Ibrahim Babangida (retd) and former Commissioner for Information, Kassim Afegbua; Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who was the APC candidate in 2020 are also said to be in the race.
Battling for the APC ticket too is Gen. Charles Airhiavbere (retd), a former Accountant General of the Nigeria Army and Director of Finance administration of NDDC.
One of the seasoned campaigners, Kenneth Imasuagbon, who has aspired most (four times), under different political parties is now gunning for the seat for the fifth time under the LP. He caused a stir last week when he urged party faithful not to give the ticket to political neophytes while on a visit to Igarra in Akoko Edo Local government.
Imasuagbon said people should not compare him to a former Nigeria Bar Association, Olumide Akpata or the first member House of Representatives, Dorry Okogie, both of whom, he described as ‘newbies in politics,” adding, “don’t make a mistake of giving your vote to unpopular candidates. We need a popular candidate that can take on the PDP and APC.”
Okojie, in a statement over the weekend, had urged Imasuangbon to focus on promoting a culture of respect and professionalism in political discourse.
He advised Imasuangbon to promote inclusive politics rather than personal attacks and innuendos.
Okojie said, “I strongly believe that it is essential to promote a culture of respect and professionalism in political discourse. I acknowledge the passion and dedication of all individuals involved in the political landscape, and I firmly believe in the importance of maintaining a respectful and constructive dialogue.
“As such, I advise we foster unity and mutual understanding rather than resort to personal attacks or divisive language.
I hope that we can collectively work towards a future that prioritizes healthy and respectful interactions, enabling us to focus on the issues that truly matter to the people,” he added.
Apart from Imasuagbon, the deputy governor of the state, Philip Shaibu who is at loggerheads with Governor Godwin Obaseki over his ambition to succeed his principal, declared his intention last week Monday. He said he had been in politics for 30 years and was ready to continue the giant stride taken by his boss.
An ally of the deputy governor, Immam Babangida said that Shaibu had the chance to pick the PDP ticket if the party provided a level playing ground for all the aspirants.
He said: “I am happy that the governor said that it is the members of the party that will determine Shaibu’s fate. But Governor Obaseki and the PDP must ensure there is a level playing ground for everyone to operate. Shaibu has the pedigree to win the ticket at the primaries.
“He has done well throughout his career and he is the only one who can help the PDP to remain in the saddle in the state. Without him, the PDP cannot win the election.
In all of this, Governor Obaseki has thrown his weight behind the Chairman, Sterling Bank, Asuen Ighodalo, whom he had introduced to leaders of the party in the three senatorial districts.
Though Ighodalo has yet to make a formal declaration, he has been consulting with leaders in Edo Central where he hails from as a springboard to realise his ambition. His plans, according to his close aides, is to visit all stakeholders in the three political zones, before he makes a formal declaration. He is a technocrat with a national reach who can also ensure the state moves on the part of development.
Among the first timers, Dennis Idahosa, the member representing Ovia Federal Constituency at the National Assembly, stands out on account of his popularity, vibrancy, and youthfulness. He is also believed to be in the good books of the party leaders to clinch the APC ticket. He battled the Igbinedion’s political dynasty, won the election twice, and with projects he brought to his constituency he has warmed himself into the heart of the electorate.
Another contender, Johnson Agbonayinma, a former Senior Special Adviser to Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, a former member of the House of Representatives, a former member of the Board of the Nigerian Railway Corporation, and acting chairman, the Code of Conduct Bureau.
The women are also not left out in the jostle for the state’s top seat as Dr Angela Ason-Aburime, Dr Loretta Ogboror-Okor, and Dr Emily Okojie are pulling their weights in the LP.
Speaking on the high number of aspirants and what this means for the fight to succeed Governor Obaseki, the state PDP Chairman, Dr Tony Aziegbemi said it is good for democracy as many people are getting more involved in politics either as aspirants or electorate.
He said, “I imagine that people are taking that conscious step to be aspirants in a political party. In the PDP, we are excited that we have aspirants with capacity, character and content. Right now, we have 11 aspirants, nine from Edo Central, and one each from Edo South and Edo North. There was a Special Edo Central Committee meeting on Sunday with the aspirants and out of the nine that have expressed interest in the contest, seven showed up and two sent in apologies. This shows that people want to identify with a successful party.
“The high number is good for democracy, people believe in the system the PDP has put in place, they believe the party will organise a credible congress and primaries and that is why they are showing interest. So we are excited that there are many aspirants. We are not worried that there are so many aspirants as we still expect more people to join the race.
“All the aspirants in PDP have content and are credible. Anyone who emerges as the candidate of the party can win the governorship election, he added.
Aziegbemi also noted that the registration of new members currently ongoing in the state would strengthen the party.
He added, “We don’t have a target for new members. We feel that many people are excited, they are happy with what the governor has done for Edo State so they want to join the party the governor is in. We are the ruling party, the party you have to beat in Edo State, which gives us some edge so you expect many people to gravitate towards success.”
Publicity Secretary of the state LP, Sam Uroupa also said that the high number is a good one, noting that his party is the only one that can bring succour to citizens of the state.
He said, “The high number of aspirants in our party is a good one. When people are fed up with what they have been experiencing, they seek something new and fulfilling. It is only mad people that do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. The Edo people are fed up with insecurity, decaying infrastructure, and economic downturn brought about by the misrule of PDP and APC in the state over the years.
“So the LP seems to be the only party that can reverse this ugly trend. Our logo depicts the family and when the family is taken care of, then the larger society will benefit. So the aspirants see the LP as a place where their plans for Edo State can come to light hence the high number of aspirants.
“There will be no confusion in getting a suitable aspirant as we are going to provide a level playing ground. Confusion can only erupt when the process of selecting a candidate is not transparent. We are going to carry out a primary election that is devoid of rancour. The party will set up a screening committee that will look at those who are qualified to take part in the primaries. They are all aspirant for now as the purchase of forms, meeting, and all other criteria will also determine those ready to contest,” he added.
The APC publicity secretary, Peter Uwadiae, noted that the level playing ground the party has was pulling aspirants towards it.
He said, “I believe the level playing ground our party provides is the reason there are so many aspirants in the race. By the time we come out with guidelines, the serious contenders will emerge. It has also been made clear that there is no zoning. So members who feel they have the requisite capacity and credentials to lead Edo are indicating their interest.
“The reason we also have so many aspirants is because the party has become attractive in Edo. It is the belief that anyone who picks the ticket will eventually become the governor after the polls because of what transpired in recent elections.
“The APC has put a machinery in place for a smooth primary election. We have assured all intending aspirants who buy the governorship form that due process will be followed in electing the party’s standard bearer. What I am saying in essence is that Edo people should not be worried about the high number of persons who are indicating interest. It shows that Edo people are becoming more politically aware which they will benefit from in the end,” he added.