Ighodalo’s Stiff Campaign Highlights His Disconnection With Edo People

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By John Mayaki

Asue Ighodalo, an armchair lawyer familiar only with routine boardroom life, is struggling to endear himself to the voters in Edo state. They don’t know him, and he finds it difficult to open up to them. His desperate efforts to connect with them, including forced TikTok-style videos, have only inspired ridicule and bemusement.

He has posed as a chef, footballer, and perhaps a revenue collector at Ring Road in the future. But the disconnect only widens, with each stunt met with mockery. Though the candidate and his minders are likely frustrated, the situation is hardly surprising. Asue’s posture and profile suggest that, before now, he has lived as the typical Nigerian ‘big man’ who looked down on retail politics and shunned public engagements.

These snobbish ‘big men’ reside in exclusive estates cordoned off by long fences and impregnable gates manned by stern-looking private guards. They are rarely seen, hard to access, and very uppity.

Some may argue that there is nothing inherently wrong with this lifestyle. Nigeria’s constitution, after all, guarantees the right to privacy and association. However, the challenge is that people of this kind are both unfit for public office and incapable of navigating politics. You cannot lead people you do not relate to and whose aspirations and needs you are unfamiliar with.

Even if you manage to manipulate your way into such a position, the end result can only be failure. Obaseki is proof of this. The stockbroker thinks of success as his numerous conferences and vanity summits, while society sinks further into poverty. Also, his lack of grounding in the tradition and culture of the people he supposedly leads has led him to pick a fight with a sacred throne from which the vast majority of his people derive their identity and meaning.

Obaseki’s choice of Asue as his successor is an attempt to make the anomaly of his emergence the new status quo. No sooner had Asue been handed the PDP’s ticket than he assembled a team of strange fellows who, like him, have a terrible understanding of the society they wish to lead. They have made a song and dance about Asue’s capacity for the Queen’s English, but when the so-called ‘Esan candidate’ went home to address his own people, he needed the help of an interpreter.

Their excuse is that Asue’s Queen’s English means he can better engage ‘investors’ in Britain and America. But what will form the basis of engagement if he cannot understand his own people in Ewohimi, let alone decode their true needs? What kind of investment will a man at odds with his people facilitate? Is it the kind that will demolish their markets and replace them with so-called ultra-modern shops that would lay empty because none can afford a space in them?

The reality is that Asue is perceived largely as a stranger alien to the people and their ways. Obaseki attempts the impossible, imposing a foreign character to govern a people he has long tormented with terrible leadership.

Although the candidate is trying frantically to fix the disconnect by attending weddings and shaking hands, the truth remains that you cannot bridge the deficit of decades of arrogant detachment in six months. This is why his campaign is stiff, dull, and unexciting. His team continues to scramble; nothing has worked – not the ‘Esan Candidate’ tag or the ‘Artificial Intelligence’ nonsense. He looks certain for defeat – in Edo North, Edo Central and Edo South.

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