EDO, ONDO 2024: Contenders, pretenders scheme to succeed Obaseki, Akeredolu

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  • Factors that’ll shape Edo elections

  • Ondo may witness replay of 2020 scenario

As the Independent National Electoral Commission formally fixed dates in 2024 for the off-cycle governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States, jostling by governorship gladiators and their respective followers is building up across the states.

Stakeholders said that politics around the two states would offer significant drama in a macabre context as the two outgoing governors are locked in succession battles with their deputies.

National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC, Sam Olumekun, said on Tuesday in Abuja that the tenure of the governors of Edo and Ondo States would end on November 11, 2024 and February 23, 2025 respectively.

According to him, while the governorship election will be held on Saturday, September 21, 2024 in Edo State, it will be held on Saturday, November 16, 2024 in Ondo State.

“As provided in Section 178 (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), election into the said offices shall hold not earlier than 150 days and not later than 30 days before the expiration of the tenure of the last holder of the office.

“The latest date for election to the office of Governor, Edo State, is 12th October 2024 while that of Ondo State is 24th January 2025.

“Similarly, Section 28(1) of the Electoral Act, 2022 requires the commission to publish Notice for the Election not later than 360 days before the date of the election,” Olumekun said.

For Edo State, the commission said the party primaries will be held from February 1-24, 2024 while the submission of the list of nominated candidates via the online portal will start at 9.00am on March 4, 2024 and close at 6.00pm on March 24, 2024.

“The final list of candidates will be published on 23rd April 2024 while campaigning in public by political parties commences on 24th April 2024 and ends 24 hours prior to election day on 19th September 2024,” he said.

For Ondo State, Olumekun said that the party primaries will hold from April 6-27, 2024 while the submission of the list of nominated candidates via the online portal will start at 9.00am on April 29, 2024 and close at 6.00pm on May 20, 2024.

He said, “The final list of candidates will be published on 18th June 2024 while campaigning in public by political parties commences on 19th June 2024 and ends 24 hours prior to election day on 14th November 2024.”

He also said that the detailed timetable and schedule of activities for the two elections had been uploaded to the INEC’s website and social media platforms.

He said that by the notice as required by both the Constitution and the Electoral Act, the commission appealed to political parties and candidates to note the activities in the timetable for strict compliance.

30 aspirants jostle to succeed Obaseki

In Edo State, the field is crowded with a host of aspirants who are seeking to succeed Governor Godwin Obaseki, whose second term will lapse on November 12, 2024.

As it is, the political atmosphere is getting tense as political gladiators, contenders and pretenders scheme to be strategically positioned for electoral victory.

Factors expected to shape the outcome of the election include the lingering power-cum-supremacy tussle between Senator Adams Oshiomhole, immediate past governor of Edo State, and his successor, Governor Obaseki.

Currently, they are strategising to outsmart each other in the battle for the soul of the state.

Not known to have lost any political battle since inception, Obaseki is said to be ready to deploy every arsenal at his disposal to produce his successor.

Oshiomhole on the other hand, is said not to be relenting in his quest to re-assert his dominance in the state political architecture which he once held with iron fist.

How these horse-trading and scheming will culminate in electoral victory for any of the two titans will depend on the right choice of governorship candidate from the motley of aspirants presently on parade.

With Oshiomhole coming from Edo North and Obaseki hailing from Edo South, there is a consensus among some critical stakeholders that the next governor should come from Edo Central.

Expectedly, Edo Central Senatorial District stakeholders are lobbying and appealing to the conscience of the other zones for support in the spirit of equity, fairness, fair play and sense of belonging for the zone to produce the next governor.

Oshiomhole and Obaseki are said to be favourably disposed to the Edo Central appeal and are looking in that direction to pick their choice candidates.

Three political parties, the ruling People’s Democratic Party, the All Progressives Congress and the Labour Party account for no fewer than 30 aspirants jostling to become the next governor of the state.

At the last count, the APC has nine aspirants, the PDP parades six while the Labour Party has 15 aspirants that are officially recognised by the party.

Those aspiring on the platform of the APC include Joseph Ikpea; Gideon Obhakhan; Col. David Imuse, retd; Monday Okpebholo, Professor Osariemhenn Osunbor; and immediate past Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Clem Agba.

Among those aspiring on the plank of LP are Kenneth Imansuagbon, Dorry Okojie and Pastor Azemhen Azena.

The PDP has the likes of Deputy Governor Philip Shaibu, Gideon Ikhine and Asuen Ighodalo among others.

Akeredolu, Aiyedatiwa in make or mar battle for succession

In Ondo State, it is no longer at ease as Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu is enmeshed in another political battle ahead of the 2024 governorship election.

The same political scenario played out four years ago when Governor Akeredolu was struggling to make the second term as governor of the state; he had to battle his former deputy, Agboola Ajayi over the governorship ambition.

In the build-up to the 2020 governorship election in Ondo, Akeredolu ditched Ajayi, who is from riverine area of Ondo South Senatorial District and replaced him with Lucky Aiyedatiwa, another man from Ondo South as his deputy as a political strategy to win not only in Ese Odo Local government where Ajayi hails from, but also in the entire six local government areas that make up the Ondo South Senatorial District.

Ajayi later left the APC for Governor Akeredolu and then new bride, Aiyedatiwa to join Zenith Labour Party where contested the governorship poll against incumbent Governor Akeredolu, but lost to the latter.

But, in what looks like a return match in Ondo, Governor Akeredolu was reportedly supporting impeachment of his deputy, Aiyedatiwa through the Ondo State House of Assembly over alleged financial misappropriation bordering on the approval of alleged N300 million for the purchase of bulletproof SUV for himself.

The development reportedly occurred while Aiyedatiwa was acting as Ondo State governor, following the medical vacation of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu in Germany.

The impeachment process of Aiyedatiwa by the State House of Assembly is trending in the state ahead of the 2024 gubernatorial poll as some stakeholders and people of the state have already advised the embattled deputy governor to honourably resign instead of being impeached.

Some politicians too were of the opinion that the removal of Aiyedatiwa would affect Governor Akeredolu’s succession plan as people of Ondo South Senatorial District are beginning to lose interest in him.

Since the return of Governor Akeredolu to the country after his three-month medical leave abroad, things have not been well with his deputy as Governor Akeredolu was said to be moving against perceived political enemies who were alleged to be making political gains from his ill-health by sacking all the media aides attached to Aiyedatiwa.

It was gathered that the return of Governor Akeredolu after his medical leave abroad didn’t go down well with some politicians and a particular caucus in the ruling APC, as the sudden return was said have destabilised the alleged political plan to unseat the governor due to ill health and ensure that Governor Akeredolu doesn’t have an anointed successor in 2024.

Some of them, including the deputy governor, were alleged to have already drawn up political plans to capitalize on the ill health of Akeredolu to manoeuvre their ways and take vantage position in the 2024 governorship election, against the interest of the Governor, with a thought that it was all over for Akeredolu to return to the office, having been rumoured to have been incapacitated and unfit to rule the state again.

Aiyedatiwa, the Secretary to the State Government, Oladunni Odu and some members of Akeredolu’s cabinet were said to have been aspiring to contest for the governorship election next year. Consequently, the polity is being heated up in such a way that the gladiators perceived one another as enemies, despite being a member of the same political party.

They were also alleged to have been monitoring the public and private activities of one another, back biting each other and reporting to their boss who is loyal and who is not loyal.

A source within the Akeredolu’s cabinet who preferred anonymity said that the day-to-day account of their loyalty and disloyalty of those that are aspiring for the governorship position was being reported to the governor.

However, Aiyedatiwa denied all the allegations of disloyalty against him and described all the allegations against him as the handiwork of his political detractors, faceless groups and group of individuals in the state, who are out to soil his image and pull him down politically.

Despite the denial, the crisis between Aiyedatiwa and his boss took another dimension a few days ago as the State House of Assembly said it had commenced an investigation on the allegations of financial misappropriation and gross misconduct leveled against the Deputy Governor.

The State House of Assembly declared its unequivocal position to examine all the allegations leveled against the Deputy Governor objectively, even at a time when Olamide Oladiji, the Speaker of Ondo State House of Assembly had dismissed the allegation that Governor Akeredolu was instigating the process of Aiyedatiwa’s impeachment.

Another twist to the impeachment process which is about to start, is the negative disposition of Abayomi Akinruntan, Deputy Speaker, who is also from the same place with the Deputy Governor.

The Deputy Speaker, Akinruntan, is said to be in support of Aiyedatiwa’s impeachment, and it’s believed in the political circle in Ondo State that some political forces are using the Deputy Speaker ahead of the 2024 governorship election.

Meanwhile, some stakeholders in the State believe the Deputy Governor, who hails from Obe-Nla, an oil-rich community in Ilaje Local Government Area of the state, has no political structure even from his own Ilaje Local Government Area, even as the Southern Senatorial District that may like produce the next governor.

Politicians are now comparing of Lucky Aiyedatiwa with Agboola Ajayi, the former Deputy Governor, who suffered same fate in the hands of Governor Akeredolu with strong political conclusions that Ajayi or other political bigwigs from Ondo South Senatorial District might be the likely successor of Governor Akeredolu as different political groups from the zone are said to be teaming up ahead of 2024 governorship election to produce the State Governor.

While some stakeholders from Ilaje, the Local Government Area of the Deputy Governor, said; “Ondo State including Ilajes stood by Governor Akeredolu during his challenging moments, offering prayers and unwavering support, now, it is his turn to repay this trust with effective governance by offering dividends of democracy to the people.

With the look of things, politically in Ondo State now, the people of riverine areas, covering the six Local Government Areas that form Ondo South Senatorial District are suffering from double jeopardy – firstly, they felt vilified and disrespected by Governor Akeredolu-led APC Government for ditching their sons, having used and dumped them at eleventh hour.

Secondly, they are being marginalised with the uneven distribution of common wealth in the state as oil-producing areas, tagged as the goose that lays the golden eggs, are left undeveloped despite crude oil funds coming to the State from the Federation Accounts.

The prominent aspirants jostling to succeed Akeredolu are: Lucky Aiyedatiwa, Wale Akinterinwa; Olugbenga Edema; Princess Catherine Oladunni Odu; Chief Olusola Oke; Dr Soji Ehinlanwo; Isaacs Kekemeke; Senator Jimoh Ibrahim; Dr. Paul Akintelure and Engr. Ife Oyedele.