On Saturday, September 23, 2023, some leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo North Senatorial zone converged on Jattu, the headquarters of Uzairue clan in Etsako West Local Government Area of Edo State to meet minds on impeding leadership change at the governorship level in the State. Their move was proactive and, quite significantly, strategic. While the release of the governorship timetable by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), on Tuesday, September 26, fixing the governorship poll for September 21, 2024, less than a year from now, has already validated the leaders’ pre-emptive gambit, to be sure, the gambit approximates their political and group interest in who succeeds Governor Godwin Obaseki on November 12, 2024.
The audio-visual report of the meeting convened by a former Chairman of Etsako West Local Government Area, Honourable Alasa Idaro Mohammed, indicated the shape, texture and content of the significant political gathering, the first of its kind in the build-up to the 2024 governorship contestation in Edo State as well as the essential extent of the endorsement of the immediate past Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Ikanade Agba, that was achieved at the summit. The endorsement was a product of a broad consensus. Instructively, the meeting did not accommodate any alternative.
Political opponents in Edo North Senatorial zone who are either directly or indirectly interested in the 2024 governorship race in the State did not discount the import of the meeting and the endorsement as they immediately kicked against the development. Individuals like Jarret Tenebe, Hon. Anselm Agabi, Hon Anamero Sunday Dekeri (DANCO) and others operating through proxies, were quick to dismiss the Jattu endorsement as an event to which the party leadership in the zone was not privy. But their ripostes were tenuous. The reason is simple: the former Chairman of Etsako West Local Government, Honourable Mohammed, at whose behest the meeting was convened and two other former local government chairmen, to wit: Comrade Suleiman Bagudu (Etsako Central Local Government Council) and Hon Sufianu Igafe (Owan East Local Government Council), did not approximate the gamut of the leadership of the party in the zone nor did it appropriate the membership of the official party leadership structures or organs. They acted on the essential signification of their surviving political weights.
Regardless, that does not detract from the fact that they are leaders in their own right in the party. Having been local government chairmen at some intersections, they are reasonably closer to the people than many other leaders whose dispositions are magisterial. The troika can, in line with reasonable expectations of party members, be considered APC leaders who could be deployed in electioneering situations to effectuate grassroots mobilization. Of the six local government areas that comprise Edo North Senatorial zone, only Etsako East where Agba comes from (and, therefore, his autochthonous connection feeds and fills that seeming representational gap) was missing (in terms of not having a former local government chairman in attendance) while representations from Owan West and Akoko-Edo Local Government Areas crystallised at different levels.
For instance, a prominent woman politician, Chief Mrs Edith Ayeni, aka Mama Africa, from Owan West Local Government Area was part of the Agba endorsement. She was quoted to have said that Agba had the capacity and experience to be the governor of Edo State. She said that the monumental projects that Agba facilitated across the three Senatorial Districts of the State made him an asset to the party, adding that they had also enhanced his marketability in any election(s).
A chieftain of the APC, Alhaji Kelly Oshiomhole, according to reports, noted that politics was a game of number, played by the people. Quoted to have said: “it is not a personal venture because no one can singlehanded make it through,” he reportedly advised that all stakeholders should continue to consult and further mobilize the people beyond Edo North in order to gain a statewide acceptance for Agba. Oshiomhole’s applause for Agba formed the pedestal of the meeting’s endorsement of his (Agba’s) aspiration (even as it was noted that Agba had yet to formally declare his interest in taking a shot at the state’s plum post). It is interesting that his yet-to-be-formally-announced aspiration is already causing ripples of the apocalypse in the other camps.
The leaders at the summit applauded the performance of Agba in public office; they equally noted that his records of achievements would naturally make the pendulum swing in his favour and guarantee his victory both at the primary and the general elections. They included the former Secretary, Etsako West Local Government Council, Hon Zibiri Mohammed, Chief Mrs Waziri Oshiomah, Prince Alan Funzi and Chief Mrs Florence Anagaba. They aggregated their views and came up with a resolution to endorse Agba as their preferred aspirant that should be assisted massively to pick the ticket of the APC and eventually to win the governorship poll in Edo State.
The leaders and their followers were intentional and very clear about what they wanted. Having appraised the ecosystem of Edo North in the context of the State’s political topography, they had noted the high number of people showing interest in the governorship position and decided to throw their weight behind Agba to ensure his victory in the forthcoming APC primary election.
The aggregation of Agba’s vital governance statistics as commissioner and minister by the critical public, which resulted in the endorsement supra, is a matter of state importance: they offer an imperative platform for predecessors’ and peer reviews in the context of comparativeness of performance outputs. The obligatory necessity to compare achievements will certainly arise in due course to, one way or another, explicate Agba’s governance statistics against certain metrics and key performance indicators. The public will be able to interrogate his achievements in public office(s) and take a decision per his aspiration.
But, in the interim, the point must be made, to wit: that at the level of the governorship of Edo State, the potentialities of respective governorship aspirants in the build-up to the 2024 election should be weighed on the scale of antecedents, achievements, competence and capacity; and not on the basis of ethnic sentiments or other such primordial proclivities. Oshiomhole has provided the modern leadership template, or if you like, the governance playbook to deliver a pragmatic, programmatic, and sharply-focused leadership. This may be arguable, though. READ ALSO:
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But then, who among those aspiring to govern a new Edo State effective November 12, 2024 is inspired by the Adams Oshiomhole exemplar, not only to deliver but also to surpass the mark set by the inimitable comrade governor? It is not about speechmaking; it is not about rhetoric or mere political speak that politicians deploy in obfuscating the governed. It is not even about “it is my turn”. It is about action, capacity, competence, commitment, political will, and leadership that craves the institutionalization of legacies. Looking at the performance charts of former public office holders in Edo State, since 1999, significantly at the ministerial level, Agba’s achievements share some similitude with Oshiomhole’s magical performance as governor from 2008 to 2016.
The above point may be considered moot by the other camps, it will be a worthwhile debate for former ministers in Edo since 1999-Godwin Abe, Odion Ugbesia, Chris Ogiemwonyi, Mike Onolememen, and Osagie Ehanire (together with Agba), to step out in defence of their stewardships by laying claims to projects they facilitated in the state as well as programmes they initiated for the benefit of Edo people. This is the time for rigorous scrutiny and interrogation of antecedents in the quest for a governor after Obaseki with capacity to redeem Edo State and place it on the path of sustainable development.
● Mr Ojeifo, journalist and mediapreneur, contributed this piece via firstname.lastname@example.org