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HomeOpinionEdo 2024: Okpebholo And His Crumbling Sandcastle By Etakibuebu 

Edo 2024: Okpebholo And His Crumbling Sandcastle By Etakibuebu 

 

Though the September 21 governorship election in Edo State is 101 days or more than three months away, Senator Monday Okpebholo’s sandcastle has begun to disintegrate in earnest. This is not entirely surprising. Any structure built on a false and fraudulent foundation, no matter how beautifully designed, it is bound to collapse. Okpebholo’s edifice has started unraveling much sooner than expected.

In February, Okpebholo, the senator representing Edo Central, was declared the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the coming governorship election in the state in a rather controversial circumstances that left political observers trying to understand the real meaning of the word ‘abracadabra’. Within a space of seven days or so, the APC managed to weave a stupendously entertaining political acrobatic display in a re-run primary election that overturned the result of the one held six or seven days earlier.

Bassey Otu, governor of Cross River and the chairman of the APC supplementary primary election, declared Okpebholo winner of the election on Friday, February 23, in Benin, the Edo State capital. Otu said the candidate polled 12,433 votes to defeat 11 other aspirants in the contest.

Earlier on February 17, Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodinma, who was the former chairman of the primary election committee, had announced Hon Dennis Idahosa, a member of the House of Representatives, as the winner of the primary election. Idahosa, who led in the first ballot with 4,483, ended the rerun with 6,541 votes.

In a quick reaction, one of the party’s stalwarts, Kassim Afegbua, a former commissioner for information in the state, declared that the governorship primary that produced Okpebholo “never took place”. Afegbua, who spoke in a chat with a popular online news medium, described Okpebholo’s election as a “gang-up by the national leadership” of the party. During the rescheduled primary, Okpebholo suddenly scored 12, 433 votes and was declared the winner ahead of 11 other aspirants.

Afegbua, who was also a governorship aspirant, insisted that Okpebholo and his allies were nowhere to be found on the day of the primary which produced him as winner. “That is how they wanted it and we say good luck to them. The national headquarters of the party should go and deliver the candidate they have ganged up to produce. We will just sit down here and watch.

“Since they say Oshiomhole is their problem, they should leave him out of this and go and deliver the man (Okpebholo) during the election. We all knew that there was no primary conducted on Thursday by Okpebholo and others. We never saw the representative of Okpebholo and the others on the field,” he had argued.

Observers started getting a bit concerned and skeptical about the suitability, competence, capacity and preparedness of Okpebholo for the task of leading one of the most sophisticated states in Nigeria after the party pulled another ‘master-stroke’ that made Idahosa the running mate to Okpebholo. The senator started displaying ‘absconditus’ tendencies. Avoiding any engagement during the day and only managing to crawl out at night once in a while; almost becoming a recluse or hermit. He would however, never fail to cause a public commotion whenever he manages to come to the open through series of gaffes, palpable display of a lack of self-confidence, incoherent and unsynchronized deliveries and his annoyingly lack of basic knowledge needed for a high profile office like the Governor of Edo State.

In May, for whatever reason, his handlers packaged for him a tour of the USA with a view to engaging Edo citizens in the Diaspora. The result was a colossal failure. There, he displayed such naivety, ignorance, palpable inferiority and an unambiguous verdict that he is not a governorship material. He could not differentiate between a museum and a zoo. At best, those who had hoped to burnish his image, succeeded in portraying him as less than suitable for even a counsellorship position, politically.

The US trip was followed by another engagement with the Akoko-Edo Development Association. The result was a spectacular fiasco. It left an indelible conclusion that the APC has only manage to present, most possibly imposed, the least candidate with the requisite competencies, capacity, vision, self-assuredness, the basic and general knowledge, social-awareness and the presence of mind to be the governor of a 21st Century Edo State out of the 18 political parties.

Disturbed by the discovery, many well informed citizens of Edo State began wondering why a big party like the APC peopled with brilliant minds and controlling the federal government would saddle the voters in Edo with an impossible choice of a vacuous, dour and completely incoherent and unconvincing candidate for the election?

In the last two weeks, those who feel they could no longer bear the shame of being led by the nose are voting with their feet, leaving the Monday Okpebhole sandcastle and fleeing to safety in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which parades Dr Asue Ighodalo, the best candidate by far for the coming election.

In Uromi, the administrative headquarters of Esan North East Local Government Council, a chieftain of the party, Alhaji Musa Isiwele, a former National President of Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN), led over 3000 members to dump the APC. In Uwessan, the community of Okpebholo, defectors from the APC numbering over a 1000, in a carnival-like reception, embraced the PDP. The crowd was described as “a massive, organic, spontaneous and unprecedented.”

Chief Francis Inegbeniki, the APC state vice chairman, has also dumped the party. He insisted in a video that has gone viral that APC is not ready for the September election.

Okpebholo’s media team also suffered a major setback as its arrowhead, John Mayaki refused the position of Director of New Media. Earlier, a media entrepreneur sympathetic to the APC, Chris Osa of the Chris Osa Media fame, had also dumped the party. There is also Saint Moses Eromosele, popularly known as SME. Three days ago, Akim Zibiri, a close associate of the State Acting Chairman of the APC, Jarret Tenebe, also dumped the party. The list is endless. There are indications that those few members who recently left PDP are on their way out of the APC to rejoin their former party.

Political observers are predicting that this may just be the beginning of a coming Tsunami and exodus from the Okpebholo sandcastle and that many more will vote with their feet the moment he is further exposed to the public. And for this, they also predict that the leadership of the party will do everything humanly possible to shield and hide him away from any forms of public engagement.

It is therefore the duty of the Edo people to demand a public scrutiny via public engagement and interaction with the people by Okpebholo to avoid buying a black-market commodity with potentials regrets for the next four years

 

 

 

George Etakibuebu a public affairs analyst writes from Benin City, Edo State, South-South Nigeria

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