2015: Ihonvbere leads in race for Edo senatorial district Featured

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Published in Politics
Tuesday, 07 October 2014 07:56

Even though the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was yet to lift ban on campaigns for next year’s general elections, it is normal practice in politics for aspirants to sensitise and mobilise in the hope of gaining advantage in influence among voters.

This is why we have been inundated with campaigns disguised as town hall and village square meetings as well as visitations by aspirants, who wish and pray that we, the people, consider them to represent us, not only at the National Assembly but especially at the Edo State House of Assembly where the dividends of democracy are allocated in our name.
This piece seeks to examine the chances of aspirants for Edo North Senatorial District, who are begging to be allowed to “serve’’ our interest in the Senate next year. Since all of them cannot win, it is imperative that we separate the ‘men from the boys’ before we go for the primaries.
Senator Domenator Domingo Obende (APC):
The incumbent, Senator Domingo Alaba Obende, was elected in 2011 on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), now All Progressives Congress (APC). He is the first senator from the Akoko-Edo leg of the tripod arrangement that is Edo North. The other two are Etsako and Owan. Three and a half years on, Senator Obende is in the field, campaigning for a return ticket armed with a score card, which, as can be expected, speaks glowingly of his achievements. These, he says, include the attraction of projects, such as hand pump boreholes, sponsoring of Christians and Muslim pilgrims and organising skill acquisition training for some constituents. In particular, Senator Domingo beats his chest as being the sponsor of the bill, now a law, criminalising same sex marriage in Nigeria, as his major contribution.
It is, however, curious that the people seem not to be impressed with his performance, as the people of his local government, Akoko-Edo, say the senator is inaccessible and are, therefore, unwilling to support him for second term. While some agree that Senator Obende has attracted some projects to the senatorial district, they pointed out that more than 60 per cent of those projects were sited in his area to the disappointment of the five other local government areas, which make up the senatorial district. They have also questioned the quality of the work done by the Senator’s project contractors.
Abubakar Momoh (PDP):
Abubakar Momoh, an engineer, is presently in the House of Representatives for Etsako Constituency made up of Etsako Central, Etsako East and Etsako West. Momoh’s story is very well known to stakeholders in Edo North and are, therefore, not surprised that he is seeking promotion to the Senate. His political profile has risen steadily from being a supervisory councillor to councillor and then Chairman of his local government, Etsako East. Thereafter, he served two terms of eight years at the state House of Assembly and then proceeded to the National Assembly, as a representative in 2003. He returned to the House in 2011 for a second term. Stakeholders are united that what Momoh has had going for him till now is his ‘lucky star’, pointing out that his performance at the National Assembly has fallen short of expectations.

Critical stakeholders, including top PDP leaders in his Etsako East, have pointed out that playing the ethnic card was an attempt at elevating mediocrity beyond reasonable levels. They accuse Momoh of pursuing, in the main, his personal comfort at the House of Representatives to the detriment of the wellbeing of the generality of the people of his constituency.


Francis Alimhikhena (APC):

A retired army officer and lawyer, Francis Alimhikhena is in the race for the third time, having contested primaries for the position under the PDP in the past. This time, as in the past, he is bringing to the race his wealth of experience gathered over the years while holding command and leadership positions in the military. He has built political structures, which he can rely on even now that he is in APC.  Stakeholders say he can be credited with control of a greater part of Etsako East but no more. In terms of testing a new hand on the job, Alimhikhena may enjoy the sympathy of some critical stakeholders.


Julius Ihonvbere (APC):

An economist and political scientist, Prof. Julius Ihonvbere is the Secretary to the State Government (SSG). He was also the Special Adviser, Project Monitoring and Evaluation to President Olusegun Obasanjo from 2003 to 2007 when he developed a wide network of contacts locally and internationally. An accomplished and erudite scholar, Ihonvbere was a student union leader and has remained a life member of the Student Union Government (SUG), teacher and researcher, human rights and pro-democracy activist. All of these are breeding grounds for leadership, which Prof. Ihonvbere is known for.

The professor changed platform in 2012 after he was short-changed by the PDP in his quest for the governorship ticket of the party. He was indeed the front-runner. Coming over to the ACN now APC, Prof. Ihonvbere brought with him thousands of supporters to swell the ranks of the party. His ability to communicate, integrity, accessibility, selfless disposition and political ability have become assets not only for the prosecution of his ambition but also to the party.

Prof. Ihonvbere, through the Julius Ihonvbere Foundation, has given a helping hand to the needy in Edo North. Several youths and women have benefitted through education and empowerment. Stakeholders say Ihonvbere is a tested and trusted politician, who is prepared for the task of adequately representing the senatorial district. This is why he has secured the full support of, at least, four local government areas in his bid to secure the senatorial ticket. Already fully in the bag are Akoko-Edo, Owan East and Owan West. He can also boast of, at least, fifty per cent support in Etsako Central, East and West. His credentials place him above all other aspirants to the senatorial seat. He is also credited with the personal quality of humility and respect for the people as well as being a focused personality capable of delivering qualitative representation.


Hon. Pascal Ugbome (PDP)

A lawyer and astute politician, Hon. Pascal Ugbome, a former chairman of Etsako Central Local Government Council (2004 – 2007) is Director of Organisation of the state PDP. He was elected to the House of Assembly from 1999 to 2003 to represent Etsako Central. Like Obende, Hon. Ugbome is a deacon. In his present position in the party, Ugbome has built a formidable network of contacts both in the state as well as across the country. He is credited with being a loyal party member who will never run away in the face of dwindling fortunes in the party.


Chief Richard Lamai (PDP)

Son of the late Senator Ekpemoriri A. Lamai, Richard is, perhaps, the youngest among the senatorial aspirants for Edo North. He is a businessman with varied interests in hospitality, oil and gas. He contested in 2007 but lost narrowly to Senator Yisa Braimoh at the primaries. This time, stakeholders say he has matured enough to do better at the primaries coming in November. Some party members, however, question his commitment to the party as, according to them, he is seen only when elections come. Critical stakeholders reason that he would have had a very good chance if he decided to go for the House of Assembly seat of his Etsako Central council area, noting that ‘‘our senatorial seat is not a family property to be handed from father to son.’’

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