It is another political season in Edo State; the political firmament has been ignited with numerous permutations, extensive lobbying, mind-blowing propaganda, character assassination, and exasperating controversies. As the contest heats up and primaries in the various political parties concluded, amidst politics of zoning, competency, fairness, and all other factors, attention has now shifted to who the candidates in the three main opposition parties would choose as running mates.

Both the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) have chosen their running mates from Edo South, with Osarodion Ogie, the current Secretary to the Edo State Government (SSG), and Dennis Idahosa, member representing Ovia Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives emerging as running mates, respectively. Interestingly, both parties’ gubernatorial candidates, Dr. Asue Ighodalo of the PDP and Senator Monday Okpebholo of the APC, hail from Edo Central.

The Labour Party has a seasoned lawyer and co-founder of one of the largest law firms in Nigeria, Mr. Olumide Osaigbovo Akpata (from Edo South), as its candidate. Despite the expiration of the deadline for the submission of running mates, which elapsed on the 24th of March, neither the party nor the candidate has officially announced a running mate.

This development has given rumour mongers the opportunity to shape various narratives in the party, with many unconfirmed reports of a placeholder’s name sent to INEC and with an opportunity to substitute before the April 14th deadline for substitution of candidates. This writer, for emphasis, is neutral regarding the permutations as to where and who the running mate to Barr Olumide Akpata should be; hence, this article is meant to contribute to the discussion and help the Labour Party, the candidate, and other stakeholders make informed decisions on the matter.

According to unconfirmed reports, the Labour Party has settled to pick a running mate from Edo North, the political stronghold of both Senator Adams Oshiomole, Comrade Philip Shaibu, Dan Orbih, and Rt. Hon. Blessing Agbebaku (the current Speaker of Edo State House of Assembly). This has prompted some political heavyweights within the six local governments areas of the zone to join the race to be picked as a running mate in the party. In Owan West, Mrs. Yinka Alufohai has been mentioned; in Etsako West, Prince Yusuf Asamah Kadiri SAN (the Yerimah of Auchi Kingdom), and Mr. Sylvanus Afebu Oshiokpekha (a.k.a. Kent Bush) are interested. In Akoko Edo, Marvelous Omobayo has also been rumoured to be interested. Whichever one is picked, all of the above are eminently qualified to occupy the office of the Deputy Governor of the state.

But who among them has more electoral value and ability to galvanize support across the zone for the Labour Party? Edo North is an APC stronghold, and the party has consistently won elections there since the emergence of Oshiomole as Governor in 2007. Can any of these political gladiators wrestle power from the APC?

In September, there is a possibility of a change in direction; Edo North is now more divided politically than a decade ago. The zone, especially leaders of the APC, are disenchanted with APC for not zoning the deputy governorship slots to the zone, as the zone has consistently voted APC as Edo Central and Edo South have moved back to PDP and Labour Party, respectively.

Before I proceed, let us take a look at the voting population and voting pattern of the zone in the last governorship election from INEC data:

Number of collected PVCs = 115,343
Total number of voters in the last governorship election = 43,994

Number of collected PVCs = 128,188
Total number of voters in the last Governorship election = 47,367

Number of collected PVCs = 67,715
Total number of voters in the last governorship election = 28,159

Number of collected PVCs = 42,042
Total number of voters in the last Governorship election = 16,042

Number of collected PVCs = 46,245
Total number of voters in the last Governorship election = 23,253

Number of collected PVCs = 77,827
Total number of voters in the last governorship election = 34,761

Having provided the data above, let us now analyze the data according to the three main divisions in the zone, namely: Etsako, Owan, and Akoko, in relation to Edo North politics and Edo State in general. The total number of voters that cast their votes in the last Governorship election held in 2020 and PVCs collected in Etsako, Owan, and Akoko respectively are, as follows:

ETSAKO = PVCs collected: 237,945; Voters: 91,568

AKOKO EDO = PVC collected: 115,343; Voters: 43,994

OWAN = PVC collected: 124,081; Voters: 58,014

Data can be very stubborn and is usually very difficult to bend, especially verifiable ones above. The Labour Party has insisted that they want to win and would go where the votes are, which led to the emergence of a candidate from Edo South, which has the largest voting bloc in the state.

In choosing a running mate, the party should apply the same principle by going to where the votes are in Edo North, the Etsako area. People would argue that Etsako has produced a governor, the current deputy governor, and senator, but in democracy, unfortunately, history has shown that the majority always have their way and the minority a say.

The APC in Edo North has its root in Auchi. Auchi Sacred Kingdom has always voted APC, and since Prince Suleiman Momoh (the Takobi of Auchi Sacred Kingdom) who signified interest to be a DG was ditched in favour of Dennis Idahosa, the people have vowed to vote for any political party that gives the Etsakos their DG slot. What better way to win 50% of the total votes in Edo North than for LP to consider the Yerimah of Auchi Sacred Kingdom, Prince Yusuf Asamah Kadiri SAN, for this position? Asamah can galvanize support across party lines in the zone for LP as a result of his position in the revered Auchi Sacred Kingdom, his leadership and membership of apex Afemai socio-cultural groups, exposure, and negotiating skills.

The lethal combination of a gubernatorial ticket comprising Barrister Olumide Osaigbovo Akpata and Mr. Yusuf Asamah Kadiri (SAN) as Governor and Deputy, respectively, will alter the political equation in the state and disrupt the present political configuration in Edo State.

Mr. Yusuf Asamah Kadiri SAN, hailing from Edo North, boasts an impressive profile and brings a sense of balance as a Muslim candidate, fostering inclusivity between Christians and Muslims. Barrister Olumide Akpata’s choice of Mr. Yusuf Asamah Kadiri SAN as his running mate ensures representation and reassurance for the Muslim community who are dominant in Edo North and has never been given opportunity to produce a governor or deputy governor since the creation of the state.

This partnership epitomizes equity and fairness, symbolized by a Christian-Muslim ticket, and would enable the Labour Party to counter the narratives of equity and fairness in power sharing in the state. Moreover, Mr. Yusuf Asamah Kadiri’s esteemed position as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) aligns with Barrister Olumide’s professional background, signifying a shared vision and expertise.

The Yerimah of Auchi Sacred Kingdom is at home with his people; he runs a scholarship scheme across all the clans in Edo North, enabling vulnerable indigent students access to education.

Prince Asamah Kadiri SAN, as the then National President of Etsako Club’81, convened the Etsako Day Summit in October 2019, in Lagos, and brought numerous eminent Etsako personalities together to discuss about the economic growth and development of the entire Etsako and Afenmai homelands and it’s peoples. The Yerimah of Auchi awarded scholarships to 6 indigent students of tertiary institutions in the event that day. He later increased the scholarship awards to 15 indigent students by the end of November 2019. The 15 beneficiaries of the scholarship awards were carefully selected meritoriously from each of the 15 Clans that make up Etsakoland. One of the female scholarship beneficiaries (from Auchi Kingdom) graduated with First Class honors in Agric Economics from University of Benin in 2021, while a male beneficiary (from Fugar in Avianwu Clan) graduated with 2nd Class Upper Division in Electronics and Computer Engineering from Ahmadu Bello University Zaria in 2021. Also, another female beneficiary of the scholarship (from Ivioghe, Agenebode in Uwano Clan) recently graduated with First Class from the Nigerian Law School in February 2024 and won prizes in the Call to Bar Ceremony on the 7th March 2024.

In the same vein, Prince Asamah Kadiri SAN, as the then National President of Etsako Club’81, gave out palliatives and relief materials to the victims of erosion and flood disaster in Etsako East LGA, Etsako Central LGA, and Owan East LGA, in November 2018.

The Labour Party must not miss this opportunity; Edo North as it stands today is not on the ticket of both PDP and APC, and Labour Party must use the opportunity to present a popular and acceptable running mate from the region devoid of scandals and political baggage of any form.

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