Edo 2024: My focus will remain on touching lives positively – Asue Ighodalo

Asue Ighodalo

Come September 21st, 2024, the people of Edo State will go to polls to pick their Governor. Presently, the field is full and busy with candidates crisscrossing all the nooks and crannies of the State, preparatory to the primaries of the various political parties. For the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, the ticket has been zoned to the Edo State Central Senatorial District, with Asue Ighodalo being endorsed as the Senatorial District’s preferred candidate for the position of Governor. In this interview, he speaks about his ambition, agenda, challenges and hopes to see the total transformation of Edo State, if and when he secures the Governorship mandate


You have confirmed your intention to run for the office of Governor of Edo State in the upcoming election. The State Party platform on which you have chosen to run, the PDP, is said to presently be in disarray, as the leadership is on record to be factionalised. To what extent are you prepared to tackle this challenge? 

I wouldn’t call it disarray. I think that elections generate strong positions, align and factionalise interests, and challenge individual temperaments in every party and that’s to be expected. Yes, there is undeniably some of that going on in the PDP, but we’ve seen that in other major parties also. So I don’t think the PDP has a monopoly on disagreement.

Having said that, I think my particular advantage in our context is that, I’m coming into the process without the baggage of past hurts and historical conflicts. That leaves me in a unique position to act as a unifier and mediator; and that’s what I’ve focused on. My stance is that nobody’s position should be discounted or dismissed as unreasonable, without being fairly heard. And, I have found – at least in the direct conversations I have had – that there is significantly more reasonableness than the hype would suggest.

I don’t take anyone for granted. I recognise the challenges within the PDP, and view them as an opportunity for reform and strengthening. In championing efforts to unite the various antagonists, my approach has been to engage with all factions to understand their concerns, to lean in with a mindset of inclusivity, and seek to align party objectives with the people’s needs. Leadership, after all, is about building bridges, and I’m prepared to do just that to ensure our party achieves the unity required to work together for the advancement of Edo State.

My hope is that we can continue to have frank, respectful, and progressive discussions internally, and work together to secure the victory we are all after.

Why do you want to leave a thriving law practice to run for the office of Governor of Edo State, especially at this time, with all the socio-economic challenges facing our country?

It is precisely because of the socio-economic issues facing our country, that I think people with a genuine love for the people, with demonstrated capacity, and a track record of results in other endeavours, must consider making themselves available to serve.

Personally, I have done this simultaneously for decades – building a law firm, alongside my national and State development contributions. I have been a member of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group since its inception in 1996, ultimately serving as Chairman of the Group; I have been a member of the Edo Economic team for 16 years, and Chair of the Alaghodaro Summit for the last eight years.

So, for me, this is an escalation of work I have always been committed to. What I’ve realised is that, there’s only so much one can achieve in an advisory role; at the end of the day, the government and/or leader remain in the driver’s seat.

And, by the grace of God, I find myself in a place where the firm I’ve built with my Founding Partner, Femi, can stand on its own. We’ve grown from Two founders to 15 partners, and are consistently ranked globally amongst the best firms in the world: some of the Lawyers who joined us as Corpers have been developed into internationally ranked experts. So, I’ve come to a point where I feel I can step away with confidence that our good work will continue. That’s the test of institution building.

Transitioning from a successful law career to governance, is a deliberate choice to scale my impact. It’s about applying my problem-solving skills, understanding of the law, and management experience to broader societal challenges. Edo State is at a critical juncture, facing socio-economic issues that need innovative solutions and committed leadership, which I am ready to provide.

So, it’s time. It’s a confluence of will and readiness, and I think the elements have lined up to make it possible for me to offer myself for public service at this time, if the good people of Edo State will have me.

In the Edo political equation, especially the PDP, your Senatorial Zone, Edo Central is unarguably in line to produce the next Governor, as the other two Senatorial zones have produced the last two Governors. But, aspirants in other parties are arguing stringently that such arrangement is only known to the PDP, but strange to the other parties, like Labour Party. This, according to some, would be the major issue in the election. What is your position on this? 

I cannot presume to make rules, for organisations that I’m not a part of. In the PDP, where I am a member and therefore, have a voice, the issue is on the table. My personal view is that wherever possible, equity should be a consideration, although certainly not the only one. There are declared candidates in the party, at this time, who are not from Edo Central, and they have not – as far as I know – been disqualified from running.

The sentiment for zonal rotation is understandable, in promoting fairness and unity. While I acknowledge this, my campaign is built on a vision of transformative leadership that benefits all of Edo State, not just a single zone. I believe in inclusive governance that brings together the best talents and ideas from across the State, regardless of their Senatorial zone.

While balance is always useful, to promote a sense of belonging in a multi-ethnic, multi- lingual State, I am putting myself forward first as a capable, competent, and committed son of Edo State, qualified to run against any candidate, regardless of where they are from in the State, from any party.

Your traducers have alleged that you are a stranger to Edo politics and practically unknown in Edo. How would you react to this? Of course, the other side of the coin is that everyone is always a stranger to politics when they start. However, you are an astute boardroom Business Lawyer, having chaired many reputable corporate organisations, like Sterling Bank PLC, Dangote Flour Mills, etc, as well as being the Founding Partner of one of Nigeria’s leading law firms, Banwo & Ighodalo. How do you think this may have prepared you for leadership as a State Chief Executive? 

It sounds to me like you’ve answered the first question. Being new to the political scene doesn’t make me new to the State, or any less a citizen and son of the State than the next aspirant. No Edo man, is more Edo than the other. On the other hand, being perceived as an outsider in politics can be an asset, bringing fresh perspectives and innovative solutions untainted by the status quo.

My extensive experience in the corporate world has equipped me with the leadership, strategic planning, and ethical governance skills necessary to lead Edo State effectively. I aim to translate these capabilities into public service to foster development, efficiency, and integrity.

At the end of the day, identity is in the heart of the individual, it is about how you define yourself and where your roots and affinities lie, it is not something that “traducers,” as you have characterised them, can be allowed to define for me. I have a home in my village, I am no stranger to the people of Ewohimi, and by the time this process ramps up, I will be no stranger to people all across Edo State. So, to me that’s small talk by small-thinking people; it’s not an issue we should continue to give oxygen to.

The issue should actually be: “Do I understand the challenges of the people, and do I believe I can deliver solutions?” The answer to both questions is emphatically yes, and I am happy to answers questions about that.

Across the political parties, there are at least 10 Lawyers who have indicated interest in the race. What would you say stands you out against them? What is to your advantage? 

Well, first of all I will be running against Lawyers and non-Lawyers, depending on who emerges in the primaries; so, it’s a bit one-sided to focus exclusively on the Lawyers.

That said, I don’t know if you know this – although I have practiced law for nearly 40 years, law was actually a second degree for me. My first degree is in Economics. I’ve spoken earlier about my activities in national development and the economy, alongside legal practice, so perhaps, that in itself is a differentiator.

What also distinguishes me from other Lawyer candidates is not just my professional expertise, but my comprehensive leadership experience, my ability to drive large-scale initiatives, and my track record in ethical corporate governance. I have a holistic vision for Edo State that encompasses economic revival, social welfare, and sustainable development, grounded in the rule of law and justice.

What are the highlights of your agenda for Edo State, if you are elected as the next Governor? How do you intend to generate IGR for your State? The complaint is that many Governors prefer to sit in Abuja to collect their monthly Federal Government allocation, instead of actually trying to generate revenue 

My agenda for Edo State is built around 5 touch points, each focused on the people of the State and their challenges, which in turn will define my priorities as Governor. My administration will focus on:

  1. a) Transforming our People’s Lives by addressing their basic needs – (food, decent housing, a living wage, health & education);
  2. b) Building Infrastructure,especially roads, to make life easier for our people and to boost our State’s economy;
  3. c) Security of Lives and Property as the bedrock of our peace and prosperity;
  4. d) Inclusive & Transformative Economic Growth, to accelerate the people’s prosperity; and
  5. e) Improving Governanceand our Public Service, to deliver the people’s government.

My focus will remain on touching lives positively. Every time I look at my hand, which I will hold up as I take the oath of office, I am reminded that each finger represents a touch point we have identified as critical to the development and transformation of Edo State, and that my focus must remain on touching lives. Hopefully, that answers your first question.

To the second question about IGR, we will address internally generated revenue through improved tax collection, attraction of tax-paying businesses to the State, revenue-generating investments paired with capital from other participants, etc. The fact is, no State in Nigeria can attain the level of development it needs to sufficiently change the lives of our citizens on FAC allocations, or even current IGR alone. We must attract significant additional investment – local and foreign – and we must put in place the structures, laws and enabling environment to attract and keep those investments.

Sometimes, I shudder at the arrogance and insensitivity of our governments towards investors and investments. We run around the world begging investors to come, but, forget the most fundamental principle; in deciding where and if to invest, new investors watch how those currently invested are treated. I don’t understand why governments have not done a deep dive into the real reasons investors are shutting down in Nigeria, and moving their investments to other countries. My administration will prioritise diversifying Edo’s economy, tapping into under-utilised sectors like technology, agriculture, and tourism. We’ll foster an environment conducive to business and investment, streamline tax systems to encourage compliance, maximise revenues, and innovate new revenue streams.

Additionally, our government will focus on a Tax-Benefit-Scheme (TBS) that will see taxpayers in the informal sector getting access to health benefits and micro-credit for their businesses, as a direct benefit from tax remittances.

Market women, bus drivers, taxi drivers, keke riders, okada riders, petty traders and artisans that make up almost 40% of our population (conservatively), will have automatic access to health care, basic drugs, permanent disability and death benefits.

This approach will reduce dependency on Federal allocations, making Edo more financially self-sustaining, robust and able to withstand economic shocks.

What resources are Edo State endowed with, and what is your plan to harness same, and turn them into money making ventures for the State? 

Edo State’s wealth in natural resources, cultural heritage, and human capital is immense, but, for me the issue is not simply how to turn those resources into money making ventures for Edo State, it’s really how we develop those resources to create inclusive prosperity for all of us in the State, and actively and systematically move people from poverty to prosperity.

My plan involves creating a conducive environment for investment, promoting agricultural modernisation, protecting our artefacts and tourist sites, and harnessing the ingenuity of our people. This strategy includes fostering public-private partnerships, improving infrastructure, and ensuring sustainable exploitation of resources in ways that benefit the community.

Again I refer back to the 5 core plinths of my agenda. Our fourth touch point is “Inclusive & Transformative Economic Growth”, and we’ll be focused on building 5 economies – the Agri Economy (focused first on developing our agricultural potential to address domestic food security, and then on value addition and production of finished goods for global value chain integration), the Transit & Tourism Economy (maximising Edo State’s rich cultural heritage and strategic position as a hub State), the Recreation Economy (which includes the sports and creative sectors), the STEM & Digital Economy (focused on science, science-based technologies, as well as digital and emerging technologies), and the Extractive Economy (focused on responsibly exploring and utilising our solid minerals and gas endowments in the State).

Every candidate will talk about many of these economies, in some form or another. I think what makes my agenda unique, is the very deliberate commitment both to State-wide inclusion and global integration. We are very focused on distributed development across the State, while simultaneously building our people’s capacity to be globally competitive in chosen value chains. We will be setting up Regional Development Boards to integrate with our version of the Economic Summit, to ensure a State-wide outlook to our development agenda, and will also be leveraging the international relationships we have built over the years to accelerate our integration into high-value global value chains.

How do you intend to tackle the issue of insecurity and kidnapping, which Edo State isn’t excluded from? 

Insecurity is a complex issue, requiring a multifaceted strategy. My plan involves strengthening the security apparatus with better training, equipment, and welfare for security personnel, and engaging communities in intelligence gathering and conflict resolution. Also, we must acknowledge the role that economic hardship plays in the proliferation of crime by addressing underlying issues such as unemployment and social disenfranchisement, so that we can reduce the appeal of criminal activities.

As I indicated, the third touch point of our agenda is “Securing Lives and Property.” We’ve identified a number of critical levers for achieving this, namely:

  1. Delivering a robust security architecture – by supporting responsible policing, expanding our protective capacity in the State by integrating supplementary capabilities to enhance our Police coverage, accelerating our use of technology (from low-tech to eventually high-tech options), and adopting a data-driven approach to security management.
  2. Restoring our social values – by promoting a return to simple values and civic responsibility, and re-orienting our young adults;
  3. Protecting Vulnerable Populations – including women, children and persons with disabilities;
  4. Improving our Justice & Corrections Systems – by supporting judicial reform, and paying particular attention to corrections reform.

So, we have a fairly robust plan for securing lives and property in Edo State, and God helping us, our goal is to make Edo State the safest place to visit, live and work in Nigeria.

Coming closer to home, as a Lawyer, what will you do in the area of justice sector reform in your State? Whether there are enough Judges, decongestion of prisons, improvement in the conditions of service of Judges and Magistrates etc? 

Reforming the justice sector is crucial, for social stability and economic progress. My plan includes increasing the number of Judges and judicial staff, improving their training and working conditions, and investing in technology for efficient case management. We’ll also focus on alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, prison reform, and legal aid services to ensure justice is accessible and speedy.

As I indicated earlier, judicial and corrections reform is one of our focus areas for unseating insecurity in the State. We see security as an existential issue – no State or country can thrive in insecurity. At the same time, we recognise that a well-functioning Judiciary and reformed corrections system, are essential to that goal of ensuring the protection of our citizens. Delays or gaps in the delivery of justice translates to poor outcomes for victims in criminal cases, or petitioners in civil cases; and a corrections system that is non-rehabilitative in its outlook, essentially ends up being an institution of higher learning for criminality. Both need to be addressed, alongside the other issues, to build a safe and just society in Edo State. And that’s our goal.

The issue of under-representation of women in governance and decision making, is common knowledge. How do you intend to address this, if you are elected as Governor? 


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