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Oshiomhole faces ally-turned-foe in battle for Edo North

The race for the Edo North senatorial seat promises to be a fierce contest and will be most closely watched in the February parliamentary election…

The race for the Edo North senatorial seat promises to be a fierce contest and will be most closely watched in the February parliamentary election in the state.

The major contenders for the seat are political allies and since there will be no governorship election in the state, the National Assembly election will take centre stage.

The district consists of six local governments, namely Etsako West, Etsako East, Etsako Central, Owan East, Owan West and Akoko-Edo.

Only four parties – the All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Labour Party and Boot Party – out of the 18 registered political parties, have fielded candidates for the Edo North senatorial seat.

The contenders are Comrade Adams Oshiomhole of APC, Eragbe Aslem of the Labour Party and Osiriame Okhumeode Eeipo of Boot Party.

However, two people, Senator Francis Alimikhena and Pascal Ugbomhe, are laying claim to the PDP ticket. This is a result of the internal wrangling within the Edo chapter of the party, leading to its fictionalisation with one camp loyal to Governor Godwin Obaseki and the other, the party’s National Vice Chairman (South-South), Chief Dan Orbih.

Alimikhena belongs to the Obaseki’s faction while Ugbomhe is of the Orbih camp, but the duo are both awaiting court decisions as several cases on who the party’s authentic candidate is are pending in courts.

Alimikhena emerged as a factional candidate of PDP for Edo North following the withdrawal of the initial winner of its parallel primary, Mrs Victoria Edelokun, conducted in May 2022.

Alimikhena had contested the senatorial ticket of the APC alongside Oshiomhole but withdrew from the race on the eve of the primary, citing an alleged lack of level playing field and injustice as his reasons.

He later quit the APC and joined PDP, pitching a tent with the Obaseki faction, while Mrs Victoria Edelokun, the winner of the parallel primary, announced her withdrawal as the senatorial candidate.

This paved the way for Alimikhena to be the senatorial candidate of the Obaseki faction.

Among the contenders, pundits are of the view that the contest is between the APC candidate and that of the PDP; Alimikhena or Ugbomhe, whoever wins in court.

But Oshiomhole and Alimikhena are no strangers to electoral contests. Oshiomhole won the governorship election twice, while Alimikhena also won the National Assembly election twice on the platform of the APC.

But the senatorial contest is considered to be between two political allies, and kinsmen turn enemies on account of political differences, while others are considered lightweight politicians who are new in the murky waters of Nigerian politics, especially election contests.

Oshiomhole is a former labour leader who rose from scratch to the pinnacle of the labour movement as the president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), while Alimikhena is a retired major in the Nigerian Army.

Alimikhena was a PDP member before defecting to APC and had contested two primaries of the PDP with the intent to become a senatorial candidate but lost on both occasions.

Interestingly, he later defected to APC and pitched a tent with Oshiomhole when he was campaigning for a second term as governor of Edo State.

Alimikhena won the APC senatorial primary with the help of Oshiomhole in 2015 when he contested the ticket with the now House of Representatives member representing Owan Federal Constituency on the APC platform, Prof. Julius Ihovebere.

Alimikhena is in his second term as a senator, and his ambition for a third term pitted him against his former political ally and friend, Oshiomhole, who also indicated an interest in contesting the senatorial ticket on the platform of the same party.

They both picked the party’s nomination forms and commenced their campaigns, but on the eve of the May 2022 senatorial primary, Alimikhena quit the race and party, citing injustice as the reason.

Alimikhena is seen by observers as one of the best senators to have represented the district at the National Assembly.

Since 1999, no Edo senator had served three terms at the National Assembly, and pundits believed that Alimikhena is trying to break the jinx, but his third-term ambition is being threatened by Oshiomhole’s eye on the seat.

Though he is nicknamed the “oracle of development” due to his performance, a resident, James Abu, said the oracle may not favour him this time because “there is no third term in Edo North.”

“And Oshiomhole throwing his hat in the contest has changed the equation because the people beckoned on him to go and represent them because of his antecedents as former governor of the state,” he added.

Senator Kassim Oyoifo represented the district from 1999 to 2007 under the PDP, Senator Yisa Braimah between 2007 and 2011 under the PDP, Senator Domigo Obende between 2011 and 2015 under the ACN, and now Senator Alimikhena from 2015 to date on the APC platform before defecting to the PDP.

Interestingly, since Oshiomhole became governor to date, the APC has been having a firm grip on Edo North in elections.

A resident, Dada Ayokhai, who is also a media consultant and lecturer at the International Institute of Journalism, Edo State, said Oshiomhole’s chances of winning the election are very bright going by his popularity compared to that of Alimikhena and others.

He said, “Comrade Oshiomhole is known for touching the people’s lives as governor. The network of roads, school renovations, provision of water, and empowerment are very visible in the district.

“So, it can be predicted that Oshiomhole will get the highest number of votes in the six local governments that make up the district, with Alimikhena trailing behind.

“Although Alimikhena of the PDP is not a pushover, Oshiomhole’s footprints in Etsako and other axes of the district will fetch him huge votes than any other candidate.”

Victor Oshioke, an indigene of Edo North, said Oshiomhole will likely win the election because his people love him.

“Oshiomhole served as governor for eight years, and his records of service are unbroken either by his predecessors or successor. The people of Edo North love him so much, not only because of the numerous projects he executed while he was governor but because of who he is.

“Oshiomhole opened the eyes of Edo North people to what selfless leadership and service are all about. He made many political actors in Edo North and is also pushing them up the ladder,” Oshioke, who is Oshiomhole’s media aide, said.

He added that other contestants’ records were nowhere compared to Oshiomhole’s achievements and footprints in infrastructure, education, health, and human capital development, among others.

On his part, Alimikhena’s spokesman, Benjamin Atu, said the chances of his principal are very bright compared to the others because of his performance at the National Assembly.

“Since the current dispensation, no senator has outclassed him in terms of performance, which was also acknowledged by Oshiomhole. There is no local government in the district without Alimikhena’s projects, be it water, roads and empowerment among others.”

He also said, “What will also work for Alimikhena is that APC still presents members-elect who refused to present themselves for the inauguration because of Governor Obaseki, and people would not like to vote for those who have deprived them of representation at the state assembly.”