Edo 2024: The Inegbeniki, Mayaki ‘suitability’ question of Okpebholo’s candidacy (2) – By Ehichioya Ezomon

In the second and last installment of this header – the first part on Monday, July 1, 2024, having dealt with the High Chief Francis Inegbeniki’s angle to the instant issue of “suitability” of Senator Monday Okpebholo for Governor of Edo State – I plead to recall a seemingly anecdotal but factual reporting on March 29, 2024, by Mr John Mayaki, a topshot of the Edo chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Dubbed as a “Media icon,” Mayaki, who’s vowed to work against Sen. Okpebholo (APC, Edo Central), in the September 21, 2024, governorship election, had captured, in lucid, descriptive, and interpretative prose, the arrival of the APC candidate from Abuja, following the primary that returned him to contest for the governorship.

Posted on his Facebook page on March 30, Mayaki quoted “Distinguished Senator Monday Okpebholo” as expressing his profound gratitude to Edo people for the overwhelming reception accorded him upon his return to Esanland yesterday (March 29) to commence a thank-you tour, saying, “Edo people cannot go outside its shores to borrow a governor,” and that, “somebody who cannot speak his language cannot be an Esan man. A true Esan man is here.”

(That’s a dig at the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr Asue Ighodalo, accused by political opponents as not a “homeboy” or Esan or Edo enough because he’s reportedly born, bred, schooled and worked outside Edo State, and can’t communicate in Esan language, as if these are qualifying criteria for Governor. A few of us – I don’t know if Mayaki’s among – wrote several times to condemn the stereotyping of Ighodalo.)

Excerpted below is the Mayaki report on the Okpebholo arrival from Abuja: “In a stirring address to a gathering of supporters and well-wishers, the APC candidate articulated his vision for unity and progress in Edo State.

“May God bless us all… Amen,” Senator Okpebholo began, invoking blessings upon the entire community gathered before him. With a fervent ‘Amen’ echoing through the crowd, the atmosphere was charged with hope and anticipation.

“Okpebholo extended his blessings to the three senatorial districts within Edo State. ‘May God bless you all… Amen,’ he declared, emphasising his desire for divine favour and prosperity to be bestowed upon every corner of the state.

“Speaking directly to the people of Esanland, the Senator invoked the traditional saying, ‘Esan di fure’ (It shall be well with Esanland), expressing his commitment to the welfare and prosperity of the region.

“Turning his attention to Benin, the historic heart of Edo State, the candidate proclaimed, ‘Edo di fure’ (It shall be well with Benin), reaffirming his dedication to the city and its people. The crowd responded with enthusiastic approval, signaling their endorsement of his message.

“Addressing the Afemai region, Senator Okpebholo declared, ‘Afemai di fure’ (It shall be well with Afemai), underscoring his inclusive approach to governance and his commitment to serving all constituents, regardless of geographical boundaries.

“‘We will work in Esanland, we will work in Afemai, and we will work in Benin,’ the candidate proclaimed boldly. And the crowd erupted into applause, affirming their endorsement.

“In a moment of unity and clarity, Senator Okpebholo posed a rhetorical question to the crowd: ‘Are these not what you people want and looking for?’ The resounding response of ‘Yes’ echoed throughout the crowd, affirming their collective desire for positive change and effective leadership.

“Concluding his address, the APC candidate asserted, ‘Edo State cannot be held to a standstill again…’ and there was a resounding ‘yes,’!

“Earlier, his (Okpebholo’s) convoy made its way from Abuja to Ikabigbo in Etsako West local government area, where he was hosted by the acting Chairman of the party, Emperor Jaret Tenebe. He later proceeded to Esanland, where a jubilant crowd welcomed him at Irrua and accompanied him all the way to his private residence.

“His kinsmen lined the roads from Irrua, enthusiastically waving and expressing their joy. The motorcade from Edo North did not disembark; they joined in the welcome frenzy. This marks the Senator’s first visit to his hometown after his declaration as the APC candidate.”

Of course, some would argue that Mayaki’s doing his professional job as a reporter. But would he’ve done a similar beautiful story if it were, for instance, Dr Ighodalo of the PDP or Mr Olumide Akpata of Labour Party (LP), that’d arrived from Abuja and rode in a convoy into a welcoming reception in his hometown since clinching the PDP or LP ticket, as Mayaki, perhaps, still believed in the supremacy of the APC then?

This was barely three months and one week ago, but today, Mayaki, and several chieftains of the APC in Edo State, have “discovered” that Sen. Okpebholo isn’t qualified in terms of character, capacity, competence, congnition, carriage, charisma, eloquence, exposure, political maturity, popularity and vision to be the APC candidate for the September poll!

Let’s look at the reason(s) for Mayaki’s avowal to work against Okpebholo’s election. Mayaki had lined behind Sen. Adams Oshiomhole’s preferred aspirant, Hon. Dennis Idahosa (APC, Ovia Federal Constituency of Edo South), who Okpebholo defeated twice at the controversial primary, which’s upheld by the APC leadership as reflecting the mandate of the party’s voters.

While Oshiomhole successfully negotiated the Deputy Governor’s position for Idahosa, Okpebholo, who named Mayaki as Director (New Media) for the Campaign Council, reportedly met with resistance from APC members, who argued that the Media and Publicity arm of the council should go to another person, as it wasn’t Mayaki’s “birthright” to occupy it again.

Recall that Mayaki’s Senior Special Assistant (Media) to Governor Oshiomhole, and Acting Chief Press Secretary (CPS), for a few months, to Governor Godwin Obaseki, before he’s sacked (Mayaki claimed he resigned) under controversial circumstances.

In rejecting the Okpebholo offer on Sunday, June 9, Mayaki’s ambivalent: That he turned down the job due to the potential impact on his working relationship with a colleague initially penciled for the role, saying he prioritised maintaining a harmonious work environment. Then, he shifted the gear to his “still recuperating from an accident,” and needed time to come back to full steam for the rigours of electioneering.

Finally on Friday, June 14, Mayaki quit the obvious rigmarole, and declared that Okpebholo wasn’t a “sellable material for Governor in the 21st century Edo State,” and that he’d campaign and vote for a candidate on another political platform.

Noting that competence must trump party supremacy, Mayaki said he’s showcasing a candidate who’s an embodiment of “capacity, competence, connections, experience and sincerity to provide the leadership required to tackle the enormous challenges in governance and take the state out of the woods.”

In a prepared message titled, “2024 Governorship Election: Party Supremacy, Competence, and the Future of Edo State” — delivered at the 5th Edition of the ‘John Mayaki Roundtable with Friends in the Media’ at the NUJ Press Centre in Benin City, Mayaki alleged that a factionalised and fragmented APC might not throw up a competent flagbearer (after almost four months of the primary).

Mayaki’s words: “My candidate is the man we can all trust. The man who has networks and connections both home and abroad. The man with ‘moral’ or ethical reputation, not a novice to governance system. This man is not of the APC stock because irrespective of party supremacy, the future of Edo state is more supreme in my heart. My first commitment is to the state while the party is secondary.

“From the communicative to the managerial and cognitive. Does the leader know what to do as a leader at every point in time? Is he always available? Does he have vision and good understanding of what to do? If he does, does he have the required skills and political will to do same? I have accessed (sic) all the candidates and have come to the conclusion that the candidate I will campaign for has all these qualities in abundance.

“The strength of a leader’s vision, the methods he employs in driving the vision, his communication and ensuing goodwill and popularity, all add up. I mean the candidate who has a clear vision and thorough understanding of the mandate he’s seeking for.

“One who has remained focused and committed to taking development to all corners of Edo State and alleviate the sufferings of the people in our various communities. The one who has equally applied the right leadership style and judiciously applied his limited stock in governance.

“For me therefore, I have made up my mind to commit myself to encouraging my numerous supporters across the state, especially in my local government area, ward, and unit, that they vote for the candidate who will best develop the state, regardless of political affiliation. I mean a man who has the carriage, clout and charisma befitting of a governor.”

Politics aside, Okpebholo – and not the “choice” Mayaki’s yet to unveil or any other – is the only candidate in the running for the Edo governorship in 2024, who’s the “moral, ethical reputation, and knowledge of governance system” that the community people of particularly Esanland, and Edo State in general, could identify and associate with for standing by and for them over the years.

The highfalutin qualities Mayaki bandies about his “candidate” are relative, which most politicians or technocrats parade outside of governance, but given the opportunity to wave the same acclaimed magic wand in government, they fall flat, and perform abysmally. Do we need to travel outside Edo State for example of such a dismal performance from a “wonder technocrat” imposed on the people for years now?

To round off this article, it’s beyond belief that Mayaki could label, as a “novice in governance system,” Okpebholo, who’s a Senator, and had years of tutelage under the late “political oracle and kingmaker,” Chief Anthony Anenih, aliased “Mr Fix It” in political circles by friends and foes alike!

While pulling himself up by the bootstraps, Okpebholo combined schooling and business, and made success of both, before going full-time into politics, where he became a “giant killer” – as noted by President Bola Tinubu when he handed the APC flag to Okpebholo and his running mate, Idahosa, on March 18 – who assisted in uprooting an entrenched PDP, and planted, for the first time, the APC in Edo Central since 1999.

Mayaki’s inalienable right to choose a candidate and campaign for them. But on the premise of “suitability” of Okpebholo to be Governor of Edo State, he appears to lack indepth knowledge of current peculiarity of Edo politics – and what propelled Okpebholo to clinch the 2024 governorship ticket.

On his “late discovery” of the quality and governance flaws in Okpebholo, Mayaki’s only acting out the character traits of the typical Nigerian politician, whose first – and only priority – is self-interest, and not the affected promises of fighting for or representation of their people, talkless of the interest of Edo State.

On this score, Mayaki should leave Okpebholo to Edo people, who can tolerate his alleged “lack of capacity, competence, connections, experience and sincerity to provide the leadership required to tackle the enormous challenges in governance and take the state out of the woods,” and concentrate on marketing his “sellable candidate” to the voters for the September 21 election.


Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.

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