With the September 21 Edo State governorship election looming, the newly emerged governorship candidates from the three major political parties who may likely succeed the incumbent governor Mr. Godwin Obaseki; capturing their strengths and weaknesses.

Last week, Edo State was a beehive of activities following the primaries by the three major contending political parties in the upcoming September governorship election. On Thursday, February 22, The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state chose Mr. Asue Ighodalo as its standard bearer.

Ighodalo emerged as a candidate after defeating six other aspirants namely; the state deputy governor, Philip Shaibu; Osaro Onaiwu, Anselm Ojezua, Felix Akhabue, Arthur Esele, Martins Ihomoibhi and Hadizat Umoru. While Omosede Igbinedion withdrew from the race weeks before the election, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama declined to continue, citing irregularities in the process by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party for his withdrawal

The following day saw the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Labour Party (LP), elect Mr. Monday Okpebholo and Olumide Akpata as their candidates respectively. While Akpata defeated Kenneth Imansuangbon, Prof. Sunday Eremosele Eboh, and Sergius Ogun to become the LP candidate, Okpebholo floored Dennis Idahosa and Sunday Anamero Dekeri to pick the APC ticket in a rescheduled primary.

The emergence of the three candidates will definitely turn the race into a battle royale because of their respective calibre and personalities. Two of the candidates, Asue and Okpebholo are from the same Edo Central senatorial district, while Akpata is from Edo South.

No doubt the emergence of Akpata in a contest for which the PDP and APC have chosen their candidates from the super minority Edo Central Zone (Esan) has created the fear of a possible massive disruption in the governorship contest. Many believe that his choice of running mate from Edo North will aid his planned upset of the governorship election equation.


Asue Ighodalo

Ighodalo is a consummate lawyer and successful businessman. He is a founding partner of Banwo & Ighodalo, a leading corporate and commercial law firm. His core areas of practice are corporate and project finance, securities and capital markets, energy and natural resources, and mergers and acquisitions. His early education was at King’s College, Lagos; and the University of Ibadan. Today, as Chairman of several top-notch organisations, Asue has had a remarkable journey, successfully led numerous high-stake negotiations, advised on critical legal matters, and directed strategic initiatives that have transformed organisations and achieved remarkable outcomes.

Born with a distinctive rarity and resolute devotion to justice, Asue embarked on a mission that birthed what has now become his legacy. He obtained his first degree in Economics from the University of Ibadan, a law degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science and was admitted into the Nigerian Bar in July 1985.

Ighodalo is a member of the Nigerian Bar Association (past Chairman of the Section on Business Law 2014-2016), International Bar Association (Energy, Environment, Natural Resources and Infrastructure Law Section (SEERIL)), Association of International Petroleum Negotiators, Institute of Directors Nigeria, Commercial Law and Taxation Committee of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria.

He was the Chairman, Board of Directors, Sterling Bank Plc, Nigerian Breweries Plc, Levene Energy Group Limited, Edo State Investment Summit, DO II Designs Limited and Global Mix Limited. He also sat on the boards of Mainstreet Technologies Limited (ownership company of MainOne Cable Limited), Cardinal Stone Partners, Okomu Oil Palm Plc, Christopher Kolade Foundation, Boff & Co. Insurance Brokers, Healthcare Federation of Nigeria (NGO focused on the development of healthcare practitioners) and Kashim Ibrahim Foundation, Kaduna (NGO focused on the leadership development of Nigerian youths).

He is the immediate past Chairman of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG) and he also served on the Board of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority, May 2017-May 2021, and was Chairman of Dangote Flour Mills Plc. Throughout the administration of the former Governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, he was a member of the state Economic Team chaired by the incumbent, Godwin Obaseki, as well as the Chairman of Obaseki’s Alaghodaro, which in Benin parlance means progress.

Beyond his professional accomplishments, Ighodalo is a compassionate and philanthropic individual, channelling his success towards making a positive impact on society.

He has authored many articles in leading law publications and also delivered presentations on diverse subjects including a biannual seminar on ‘Contemporary Political History of Nigeria’ at the Nigerian Leadership Initiative Future Leaders class and the Kashim Ibrahim Fellowship (KIF) class. He also lectured on the roles and duties of directors and corporate governance at the Lagos Business School and the Institute of Directors. He was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate of Economics by the Edo University, Uzairue in November 2021.

He is ever-learning and seeking continuous growth through training and certifications. They include International Institute for Management Development (IMD)- (2023), Stanford Directors’ College – (2019), INSEAD International Directors Programme (2016), Harvard Business School – Making Corporate Boards More Effective (2015), Aspen Institute -Nigeria Leadership Seminar (2006), Harvard Business School – Governing for Nonprofit Excellence (2004) and Georgetown University – Georgetown Leadership Seminar (2003).

Strengths: Ighodalo will bring his wealth of business acumen to bear in handling the day-to-day affairs of the state; the likelihood of getting enough resources to prosecute his election being Obaseki’s preferred choice to take over from him; and the choice of a running mate coming from the south district will be of great advantage to his victory.

Rumours already have that he will pair with the current Secretary to State Government (SSG), Osarodion Ogie, a formidable political figure from the area who many see as the only face of the Obaseki administration and a likeable fellow with the innate ability to galvanise votes because of his uncommon magnanimity and empathy which cut across every political divide. Ighodalo also possesses a very eloquent and persuasive voice.

Weaknesses: Although he sees himself as a unifier, some persons, however, perceive him as a continuation of Obaseki’s governorship style that lacks a human face. Others think that he is not a thorough Edo homeboy.

Monday Okpebholo:

Elected into the Senate last year to represent Edo Central District, he came from the background of an entrepreneur. He was born in Udomi-Uwesan, Irrua, Esan Central Local Government of Edo. Okpebholo whose name also coincides with his ancestry, was popularly nicknamed Akpakomisa from childhood because of his survival of the tough times occasioned by the numerous waterborne diseases at the time. That nickname strikes the typical Esan man to his marrow as it connotes unanticipated toughness, especially his ability to survive the difficulty at that time when many children couldn’t survive the diseases. He won the Senate seat and now the APC governorship ticket to the consternation of many.

Okpebholo came from a humble and hardworking family. He was born on June 12, 1962, and attended Uromi Elementary School in Edo. Thereafter, he went to Uromi Grammar School, where he excelled both academically and socially. He then attended the University of Benin, where he studied Agricultural Economics and bagged a Bachelor’s degree in 1986.

Strengths: Belongs to the ruling party at the national level to mobilise resources. Will also get support from his senatorial district. A good mobiliser of both human and material resources, generous.

Weaknesses: The harsh APC economic policy and lack of vision of his party at the national level may not persuade Edo voters enough to support his gubernatorial ambition. Will experience divided votes by virtue of his senatorial district being the least with voting strength. Other prominent members of his party may sabotage his election victory because of the circumstances that threw him up. The choice of a running mate may also work against him.

Olumide Akpata:

Born on October 7, 1972, Akpata is a legal practitioner and politician. He was a senior partner and the Head of the Corporate and Commercial Practice Group at Templars, a renowned commercial law firm in Nigeria until his resignation on August 31, 2023, to enable him to pursue his political ambition.

Olumide surprised many in July 2020 when he became the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) after he defeated several Senior Advocates of Nigeria to become the first non-SAN in 28 years to clinch the position.

Strengths: Comes from a prominent Benin family of Justice Ephraim Akpata, Tayo Akpata and Senator Akpata during the Second Republic. An eloquent and motivational speaker, and manager of men and materials. The only person from the three leading candidates to come from the Edo South senatorial district with the highest single voting population. Has the backing of youths because of his age. His party, Labour Party won the February 25 presidential election in the state.

Weaknesses: The choice of a running mate may be a drawback. If he chooses one from the central district, that may deplete the votes coming from that district. The northern district may not favour him either because it is the stronghold of the APC leader, Adams Oshiomhole. It is also not clear how he hopes to raise funds to prosecute the election.

For now, the people of Edo are carefully watching where the pendulum will swing by the time campaigns start leading to the election in September.


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