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How will Olumide Akpata fare in the Edo election as Peter Obi detaches Obidients from LP?

Given Obi’s performance in Edo State in the 2023 election, it is not out of place for Akpata to bank on the support of the Obidient group for his governorship ambition.

The Labour Party Governorship candidate in Edo State, Olumide Akpata, and the party's presidential candidate in the 2023 general election, Peter Obi.

As a political neophyte, his popularity is ostensibly not enough to take him to the Edo State Government House.

Winning an election in Nigeria is a function of a candidate’s popularity and the acceptability of the party presenting the candidate to the people.

In rare cases, the path to electoral success becomes less challenging for up-and-coming politicians when a section of the population identifies with the biggest personality of a party.

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Oftentimes, the support such political figures command rubs off on other candidates contesting for positions in the party.

This is the case of the Obidient movement, a youth group that wholeheartedly committed itself to campaigning and promoting Peter Obi’s candidacy in the 2023 presidential election.

Even though the candidate didn’t win the election, the group became a force to reckon with in the Nigerian political space as its self-motivation and sense of purpose changed the age-long narrative about election campaigns, party structure, and candidates’ popularity.

Given Obi’s performance in Edo State in the 2023 election, it is not out of place for Akpata to bank on the support of the group for his governorship ambition.

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The Obidient movement orchestrated Obi’s electoral victory in the state as the ex-governor of Anambra State defeated political giants, Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar, in the state by a wide margin. The feat was a testament to the popularity of the movement in the South-South state.

In Abia State, the Obidient wave dismantled the Peoples Democratic Party’s structure and handed over the political leadership of the state to Alex Otti, who became the governor of the state as a Labour Party candidate.

Expectedly, the feats the movement recorded with the Labour Party candidates in the last elections made it valuable enough for the party to create a directorate dedicated to it.

This relationship is what Akpata had hoped to bank on. Upon becoming the governorship candidate of the LP, he wasted no time in endearing himself to the youth group on social media.

In his bid to locate himself in the Obidient space and build his campaign around the teeming youths, the 51-year-old former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) released a dance video and photos of him spending time with Edo youths.

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Taking it a notch higher, Akpata took his political campaign to nightclubs where he excitedly showcased his dance moves with his younger friends. This, according to him, is aimed at “bridging the gap with Edo Youth through nightclub networking.”

It is crystal clear that Akpata’s campaign efforts are targeted at the Obidient group more than any other demography in Edo State.

He’s seen what the group is capable of doing in a presidential election, and having their support in a gubernatorial contest should by his calculation yield the desired result.

However, with Obi’s recent takes on the movement, Akpata’s efforts to get Edo Obidients behind him ahead of the election may be hanging in the balance.

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In his reaction to the Labour Party’s creation of the Directorate of Obidient, a move suspected to be an attempt by the LP chieftains to hijack his followers, Obi, in a series of tweets on Wednesday, June 5, 2024, detached Obidients from the party, saying the movement is beyond any political party.

“I like to categorically state that the Obidient Movement is not the directorate of any particular political party. Any individual or individuals claiming to be leaders of this non-existent directorate are simply not members of the broader Obidient Movement,” he said.

“There may be a youth mobilisation directorate in political parties, but the Obidient movement is far beyond a particular political party. The Obidient Movement is a diverse and inclusive collective that transcends traditional political, religious, and ethnic affiliations.”

In a sense, Obi claimed ownership of the group because most of them only subscribed to the LP’s political ideology simply because of him.

As though it was a wake-up call, Obidients reacted to their principal’s tweets with many of them pledging their loyalty to the former governor.

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Some of them made it clear that they had nothing to do with the Labour Party but for Obi who contested on the platform.

With this development, Akpata, who is apparently counting on the support of the movement may have to re-strategise his support base ahead of the election.

Obi had once endorsed Akpata on a Twitter Space where he urged his followers to support him. But as the election approaches, his followers who have not yet made up their minds on who to vote for would still have a decision to make if Obi fails to do some sort of damage control ahead of the Edo election.

This, and the zoning issue that recently divided the Obidient group would likely impact Akpata’s performance in the forthcoming election.

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Although, after dissociating Obidient from the Labour Party, Obi reiterated that he remains a loyal member of the party. Will he raise Akpata’s hand ahead of the election to strengthen his chances?

We’ll wait and see.

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