Edo 2024: Barrister Akpata may be game changer
Olumide Akpata, NBA President

Adebayo Obajemu

Last week, the former Nigerian Bar Association President Olumide Akpata, SAN, surreptitiously entered the political arena. He said he was tired of being a critic talking to a deaf system, declaring his desire to be involved totally in politics.

Many have predicted that his language may have been a euphemism for gunning for Edo State governor under the Labour Party, in a star- studded race. Akpata, confirmed his aspiration in a post he made on his Twitter page last Tuesday.

“Quite a number of people have called/messaged me to confirm the news, currently making the rounds, that I have joined a political party.

“Yes…I joined the @labourparty_ng in March this year and on Sunday I attended my first Ward Meeting at Oredo Ward 6, in Benin-City, where I was formally introduced to members of the Ward and presented with my Party membership card,” he said on the microblogging platform.

Mr. Akpata said he joined the LP because he “got tired” of complaining about the happenings in Nigeria.

“I decided to take the plunge and to try to be part of the solution rather than agonising continually over the problem,” he said.

“This was a major step for me and not one that I took lightly,” he added.

“This, for me, is the start of a very important journey, and it is my prayer that I arrive safely at my destination.”

Though it’s not clear yet, if he will run for governorship, but feelers indicate he may take the plunge. But if he eventually makes a wager for the number one seat in Edo State, it may as well be a game changer of sort.

The governorship floor is already suffused with political heavyweights such as former governor, Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor; Deputy governor Philip Shaibu; former minister, Prince Clem Agba; Kenneth Imasuagbon, former Edo Deputy governorship Candidate, John Yakubu, and ex-Minister of Works, Mr. Mike Onolememen.

The gladiators have brought into the fray all manners of hat trick as political weapons ranging from ethnic to other considerations in a bid to sway the pendulum to their side. The Edo 2024 election is one of the nation’s off-cycle elections. Though the election is still more than 365 days away, the cloud is gathering as gladiators are taking position in order to get an advantage over others.

As it is, it may turn out to be a proxy contest between the former governor turned senator Adams Oshiomoile and the current governor Godwin Obaseki.
Political stalwarts and groups across the three senatorial zones are already mapping out strategy on how to get the advantage.

But as it’s, the governorship has not been conceded to any zone in any of the parties, but the emerging scenario presage a furious re-enactment of the rivalry between Obaseki and Oshiomhole in the battle for the soul of the state and in determining who becomes the governor this time around, promises to be more captivating.

Obaseki, who fell out with his godfather Oshiomoile shortly after coming to power, and who will be handing over to whoever wins the governorship election in November 2024, is believed to be determined to have his way by getting a candidate from Edo Central Senatorial district to succeed him in office.

Many commentators, including Professor Adeagbo Moritiwon, a political scientist told Business Hallmark that “it will be very difficult to have the reenactment of the Delta scenario, where governor Okowa defeated James Ibori, the supreme godfather in a proxy war, as Okowa’s candidate eventually won the Delta election.


Now, APC under Tinubu presidency will be politically savvy , and now that Oshiomole is senator, they may deploy the enormous political bag of intrigues to collect Edo from People’s Democratic Party. The fierce intrigue may eventually favour a third force like Akpata of the Labour Party if he finally runs, as I believe he will.”

“Akpata was a successful NBA president by all standard, and the Labour Party is hugely popular in the State, given that Akpata comes from the profession widely regarded as having activist hue, and as a green horn, he may get advantage, Moritiwon concluded.

Dr Adesoji Bamikole, a retired political scientist also lent his voice to the likely candidacy of Akpata.
” I believe the young man may be the rough diamond, the party he has joined is popular in the state, and he has no scandal even when he was NBA chairman. The dog fight that will ensure between Oshiomole and Obaseki will favour a credible third force, the party will prove a big advantage for him if he decides to run. He will surely run.”

Already, the ruling PDP is not having it easy in the state, and this could be seen from the success of the Labour Party during the last presidential and senatorial and state assembly elections in the state. The first signs of what APC has up its sleeve was seen, when the party won most seats during the just concluded Edo State House of Assembly elections.

In the last election the former labour leader turned governor and now senator proved that he is indeed lord of the manor in Edo North Senatorial District, being his stronghold in the state. Indeed, he squarely took charge of Edo North having delivered it to the APC, to the disappointment of the PDP, led by its leaders and the state deputy governor, Philip Shaibu.

Commentators have also said that Oshiomhole has huge support base as well as followers across the three senatorial zones, which apparently is a clear indication that the battle ahead will be fierce.

Obaseki, on the other hand, has his friends cut across the south and a few friends from the central district. This is evident, going by the results polled by the governor’s party, the PDP during the state House of Assembly elections, in which the PDP swept majority of the seats in Edo South and Edo Central Senatorial districts.

Recently, the Esan Ethnic Nationality met to discuss how it could clinch the governorship.. The Esan ethnic nationality, located in the Central Senatorial district, have listed criteria that aspirants from the zone must meet to enjoy overwhelming support.

According to them, the move became necessary so as to ensure that only viable and capable aspirants, who will equally elicit support of the Northern and Southern Senatorial zones of the state, would be endorsed to contest for the number one seat of Edo State as Governor Godwin Obaseki’s eight year term winds down in November 2024.

The two-hour meeting presided over by President, Esan Okpa Initiative (EOI), Rt. Hon Mathew Egbadon, also disclosed plans to engage other senatorial zones with the hope of getting them to concede the governorship ticket to persons of Esan extraction on the basis of justice, equity and fairness.

However, Oshiomhole’s resurgence as senator representing Edo North has been of grave concern for the PDP, just as the renewed romance of the Deputy Governor, Shaibu with the former APC chairman’s camp, has been sending jitters down the spine of the PDP. In fact, Shaibu’s presence in some APC gatherings in recent time, has left many talking about his new friendship and what is to come ahead of the 2024 governorship election in the state.

Findings by this newspaper shows that the immediate past Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Agba from Edo North and Prof. Oserhiemen Osunbor, a former governor of the state, also from Edo Central, are the favoured front liners to clinch the APC governorship ticket.

But in the view of some commentators, the APC will have to tread softly, and not make a fundamental mistake. According to this perspective, if the party draw down to Prince Agba and the PDP gives its governorship ticket to Edo Central Senatorial district, which has not produced the state governor in well over 14 years, it may put APC at a disadvantage. Such move, the observers further argued, may also cost the APC some support within the party rank.

Again, there is the question of Osunbor with a rich pedigree as a professor of law, it will be a plus if APC settles for Osunbor, it’s more than likely that Edo South and Edo North people will support his ambition of returning to Government House in 2024.
Whatever may happen, the Esan people are clamouring for the position.
Obaseki will eventually have his way in chosing, who will fly the PDP flag, but it is one thing to get his way, quite another for his candidate to win given the fractious nature of PDP in the state.

Many party leaders are in anti-Obaseki faction, otherwise, they are known as the Legacy PDP, and it’s most likely they may work against Obaseki candidate. Only recently, some politicians from the PDP decamped to APC and Labour Parties.

Akpata may have had his bread buttered if he decides to run and wins the ticket as the Labour Party in Edo, which has continued to wax strong, as in recent times, there has been influx of politicians to the party.

Given the popularity of the party and its growing influence in the state, the contest for the LP governorship ticket would be also be keen and fierce.

Stakeholders are divided on the rationale and need for zoning of the governorship to Edo Central, popularly known as ‘Esan people.’ They contend that the governorship should be thrown open to all, regardless of the gentleman agreement that the three senatorial districts of the state should rotate the governorship position.

Only last week, an influential leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former Special Adviser to Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as governor of Edo State, Hon Charles Idahosa stated that the race for Edo state 2024 governorship election must not be allowed to be decided by ethnicity but competence and capacity to lead the people should be the deciding factors.

He stated this at a press conference at his residence in Benin City last Tuesday, adding that the loud clamour by the people of Esan extraction that it was their turn to produce the next governor should not be given listening ears. He stated that all the previous governorship primary elections in the past have had Esan politicians participate and so that of 2024 should not be an exemption.

He averred that “There is no time elections are being conducted and tied to a particular ethnic group or tied to a particular senatorial district. Even with Governor Obaseki, it was left for the Benins alone, every other tribe took part in that election and the best person won in the primaries so, for anybody to say it is my turn is unacceptable to me.

“The good thing about Edo State is that there is no ethnic group, there is no tribe in Edo state that cannot trace the origin from Benin. That’s a statement of fact, so we don’t want a situation where politicians will use ethnicity, or religion, to divide us.


“As the activities of the 2024 Edo state governorship race gather momentum, we need a true Edolite, who we seek at this time for a quest for a better Edo, we want a proper Edo person, not Benin, not Esan, not Afemai. Every Edo person is eminently qualified to run for the governorship of the state and we are now left to look at all of them, look at their profile, look at their experience, and make a choice. Reducing our choice of areas will not be acceptable.

“If we want to start breaking it down you will discover that each senatorial district can give reasons why it should be their turn because there are so many advantages some areas have had above others.

“For example, like Benin’s, we can say we want to hold on to the governorship because we haven’t produced the Vice President of this country, Late Admiral Aikhomu was Vice President, Akhigbe was Vice President and we the Benins have never done it or have that privilege, there was a time two Esan men were National Chairmen of Political Parties, Tom Ikimi, and Late Tony Anenih.


As it is, the Edo 2024 will prove to be very interesting given the interplay of many factors.

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