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A Three-Horse Race With One Sure Winner: Ighodalo, Okpebholo, Akpata & Edo 2024

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Lanre Awe

As Edo State prepares for its 2024 governorship election, the political atmosphere is charged with excitement and uncertainty. The race has emerged as a three-way contest among Peoples Democratic Party’s Asue Ighodalo, All Progressives Congress’ Monday Okpebholo, and Labour Party’s Olumide Akpata, each bringing unique strengths and challenges.

With various pertinent factors, including claims about Ighodalo’s outsider status, internal party wranglings, and recent controversies, this election promises to be one of the most unpredictable in the state’s history. The uncertainties have raised critical questions about the chances of the political gladiators that will slug it out during the election. 

Ighodalo: The Boardroom Guru

Ighodalo, a storied corporate guru, is venturing into the Edo State gubernatorial race with a formidable reputation in corporate governance. His background is marked by a series of high-profile roles in the private sector, where he has demonstrated remarkable acumen in strategic planning, financial management, and organizational leadership. Ighodalo’s entry into politics is seen by many as a potential game-changer, offering the promise of a technocratic approach to governance that could drive significant progress in Edo State. Ighodalo’s campaign is built on a vision of Edo State as a hub of economic activity, driven by improved governance and strategic investment.

However, Ighodalo’s candidacy is not without its challenges. A significant hurdle is the perception that he is not deeply entrenched in Edo State’s local political and cultural landscape. Critics argue that Ighodalo, despite his impressive professional credentials, lacks the grassroots connection that many voters consider essential for effective politicking. His residence outside Edo State and his limited proficiency in the local language have fueled claims that he is an outsider. His opponents often taunt his supporters that their candidate isn’t a ‘homeboy’.

This outsider status is particularly problematic in a region where local identity and cultural affiliation are deeply valued. Voters may be wary of a candidate who they feel does not fully understand their daily realities and traditional concerns.

His supporters counter these criticisms by emphasizing his strategic vision and management expertise. They argue that his experience in attracting investments and managing large organizations positions him uniquely to tackle the economic and developmental challenges facing Edo State.

Ighodalo’s supporters also point out that his lack of traditional political baggage could be an advantage. They argue that his fresh perspective and lack of entanglement in local political squabbles position him as a candidate capable of bringing about real change. At different fora, Ighodalo has also stressed that he and his family have always maintained strong links with his town and townspeople.

Okpebholo: The Grassroots Mobilizer

Okpebholo, a prominent figure in the Edo State All Progressives Congress (APC), is widely recognized within the party for his deep grassroots connections. His direct engagement with local communities has earned him significant support, particularly in rural areas of Edo State. Okpebholo’s reputation as a hands-on leader who understands and addresses the immediate needs of the people is a strong point.

He has consistently emphasized his commitment to uplifting rural communities by providing better infrastructure, access to quality healthcare, and creating economic opportunities. espite these internal party challenges, Okpebholo’s focus on tangible and relatable issues gives him a solid foundation to build upon. His advocacy for rural development includes plans for improving agricultural productivity, enhancing rural infrastructure, and ensuring that rural communities have access to essential services.

However, Okpebholo’s campaign is not without its challenges. The APC, like many political parties, is experiencing internal wranglings that could affect his chances. The defeat of former governor Adams Oshiomole’s preferred candidate, Dennis, Idahosa, at the APC primary, has created divisions within the party, leading to a factionalized atmosphere that Okpebholo must navigate carefully. These divisions could create an environment of uncertainty and discord, which could undermine the cohesion and effectiveness of his campaign.

Furthermore, what the candidate’s supporters see as the imposition of a deputy governor candidate on Okpebholo’s camp has caused discontent among his supporters. Managing these internal conflicts and maintaining a united front within the APC will be crucial for Okpebholo as he seeks to consolidate his position and strengthen his campaign.

Okpebholo’s ability to maintain a united front within the APC and effectively address the concerns of his supporters will be critical to his success in the upcoming election.

Akpata: The Reformist Newcomer

Akpata, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and successful lawyer, is known for his dynamic leadership and commitment to upholding the rule of law. During his tenure at the NBA, he was a prominent advocate for legal reforms and professional standards, earning him a reputation as a principled and effective leader.

Akpata’s campaign envisions a government where policies and decisions are made openly and are subject to public scrutiny. His commitment to inclusive governance involves creating a political environment where all voices are heard and considered, particularly those of marginalized and underrepresented communities.

Despite these commendable principles, Akpata’s relatively recent foray into Edo politics presents significant challenges. His outsider status, while allowing him to position himself as a reformist untainted by the traditional political establishment, also raises questions about his political experience.

Voters and political analysts alike are scrutinizing whether his background in law and activism can translate effectively into political governance, particularly in navigating the complex and often tumultuous local political landscape.

He has spent the past weeks engaging with various stakeholders, including local leaders, community groups, business interests, and everyday citizens, to understand their concerns and aspirations.

However, the challenge for Akpata will be to convince voters that his lack of traditional political experience is an asset rather than a liability. This involves showing that he can effectively manage relationships with other political actors, negotiate the intricacies of local politics, and lead a government that is responsive to the needs of its citizens.

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