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Edo 2024: Royal Rebuke and LP’s Weekend Fiasco in Benin By George Etakibuebu

 

 

 

Since the Independent National Electoral Commission declared campaigns for the September 21 governorship election in Edo State open on April 23, what happened on Saturday remains unprecedented.

On that day, the candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Olumide Akpata, mobilised some party supporters to welcome Mr Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the party in the 2023 general elections, and to witness a public endorsement of him by Obi who would raise his hand to signify that Olumide is his candidate. But by the end of the day, it had turned out to be a weekend of misadventure to both men and party. What followed could best be described as the way the cookie crumbles.

The first sign that it was going to be a rough day became apparent when a youth centric socio-political group, Obidients for Asue Ighodalo, a faction of the popular Obidient Movement, insisting on justice, equity and fairness among other things like competence, capacity, character and compassion, organised a symposium on the same day in support of the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Asue Ighodalo. It assure participants that members will mobilise over 150,000 votes to support his election. The group declared their support at a symposium held along Airport Road, Benin City.

Meanwhile, the endorsement of Olumide by Obi went on as planned, cheered by a handful of supporters.

Interestingly, notable officials of the party, both national and state were absent. Perhaps a reflection of the infighting for the soul of the party at both levels of administration and disagreement over the perceived “double standard” of the LP in the state.

Soon after the endorsement, Olumide led the an entourage of supporters which included Obi to the Palace in Benin. The purpose, according to Olumide, was to pay a courtesy visit to the highly revered monarch and to seek royal blessings for his political ambition.

Expectedly, Olumide was accorded all the courtesy befitting of a public figure. He basked in the euphoria of the moment and exuded infectious confidence.

With His Royal Majesty, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II seated, Olumide was given the opportunity to present his address.

However, what started like a day of glory ended in fiasco. Olumide Akpata had in the course of his presentation to the Oba, claimed several times that he was a son of the Oba’s Palace.

But in his remarks, couched in the finest of diplomatic languages, Oba Ewuare II said he had heard the claims previously, and had asked one of his chiefs to verify because he was not aware that Olumide was a child of the Palace. His chief confirmed his suspicion that indeed Olumide Akpata had no direct or distant links to the Palace.

In a calm and dignified voice, the Oba said “You are an industrious son of the soil, but to say you are a child of the Palace…I am not aware that any of my children is contesting or is a politician. So, I need to make that clarification for the sake of the public and the fourth estate of the realm,” the Oba said.

Adding, “I hope you don’t mind that clarification. You are an industrious, indigenous son of the soil but you are not a child of the Palace.”

In response to Oba Ewuare II’s correction, Olumide Akpata said, “I am grateful for the correction. It was a mistake on my part. I’m a true soon of the Benin Kingdom. I hope His Royal Majesty will forgive me.” Akpata and his entourage soon left after.

The incident instantly elicited a firestorm on social media across the state with many expressing approval that the royal rebuke was necessary to whip errant politicians who have made the Palace a special issue of campaign into line to desist forthwith from doing so. Many people had actually questioned the rationale behind the decision of political parties, particularly, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the LP to nearly always drag the name of the Palace to all political discourse in recent times.

With the royal rebuke on Saturday and the embedded disapproval, those who have made the Palace a potential campaign issue can now go and look for something else to discuss.

Meanwhile, it speaks volumes that Obi could be in town and the majority of the Obidient Movement would be at a symposium to affirm their full support for Dr. Asue Ighodalo, on the basis of his capacity, competence, track record, integrity, intellect and commitment to good governance.

In his welcome address, the Co-convener of Obidients for AI, Austin Isikhuemen, expressed appreciation to members of the group in attendance, describing them as lovers of good governance.

He said the Obidients are a group of individuals that grew from supporters of former Anambra State governor in the last presidential election, adding that they support individuals with integrity, competence and reputable character into elective offices and not political parties, as Peter Obi has categorically stated that Obidients are not domiciled in any political party.

According to him: “It was on this premise that the group Obidients for Asue Ighodalo was formed as an independent advocacy group to ensure Edo State gets the very best that can actualise its aspiration and build on the work already done by incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki, in order not to derail the thirty-year development plan of Edo State Government.

“We thought it was time to get busy and check out which of the candidate has the Obidient criteria of competence, capacity, track record, empathy for the downtrodden, intellect, integrity, being cosmopolitan in outlook, youthfulness and interest in the things that concerns the youths, education, as well as concern for diversity.”

Last weekend, planned planned to a remarkable launch pad for Olumide and the LP campaign in the state, ended as a huge fiasco..

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I'm Israel, a creative writer, poet, photographer, videographer and news correspondent.
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