By Simeon OSAJIE
It was a homecoming of a sort for Dr. Ernest Afolabi Umakhihe, the All Progressive Congress, (APC) gubernatorial aspirant, as he made a final touch down last weekend in his Owan axis of Edo North Senatorial district in conclusion of his weeklong tour of the 18 LGAs in the state.
Umakhihe had kicked off his tour of the LGAs in the Edo South Senatorial district, through Edo Central, making much-publicized visits to the various APC local government Secretariat where he addressed mammoth crowd of party leaders, stalwarts and delegates about his vision and mission for the state.
The tour was meant to enable Umakhihe woo APC members and delegates to his side ahead of the February 17 gubernatorial primary.
However, the Owan homecoming, solidified by the plethora of solidarity and support groups that had sprung up in recent times, all rooting for the candidacy of Umakhihe, was a different spectacle altogether.
It was indeed an eye-opener and also a testimony to the profundity of love and admiration Umakhihe enjoys among his people.
Various support and solidarity groups stormed both Sabongidda-Ora and Afuze, the headquarters of Owan West and Owan East respectively for the grand homecoming visitation of the illustrious son.
Overpowered by emotions at the mammoth crowd that gathered and the heroic reception accorded him, an elated Umakhihe expressed profound gratitude to the various support groups and APC stalwarts for their unflinching support and promised not to let them down if given the APC ticket.
The aspirant, flanked by his amiable wife, Florence Umakhihe, thanked APC leaders, members and delegates who gave him a rousing welcome at every stopover point across Edo State in his bid to curry their support towards his aspiration.
Revealing how the concerns of the people have been taken out of the equation in both governance and public policy formulation in the past few years, Umakhihe said he feel the pains of the people and has submitted therefore himself for governance because he believes he can make a difference and equally reverse the drift.
Alluding to the outpouring of support and endorsements he garnered across the two other senatorial districts, Edo South and Edo Central respectively, during his tour of the LGAs, Umakhihe said his ambition is well-grounded, adding that he plans to move to the next stage which is to submit his nomination and expression of interest forms at the APC national headquarters in Abuja within the week.
Pastor Ojo Agge, the APC leader of Owan West LGA said it has been the wish of every Owan to have an Owan person as governor and pray that the ambition of Umakhihe sails through effortlessly.
In Owan East, party leader, who doubles as the Edo North campaign D/G of the Oshiomhole/Tinubu/Shettima 2023 campaigns, Alhaji Abdulganiyu Lawani A.K.A. Abu Millionaire, praised Umakhihe for his phenomenal support to both the party and the Owan people general in across the two local government areas, and assured him of their total support in realizing his dream to govern Edo State.
Many other Edo North APC staunch leaders were present at the rousing welcome home campaign tour, including, former Majority Leader of Edo State House of Assembly, Hon.(Barr) Foly Ogedengbe, incumbent Minority Leader at the State House of Assembly, Hon (Barr) Eric Okaka, Hon (Barr) Victor Ohiosimuan, Pastor Ojo Agge, Hon Ojo Victor Asein as well as Chief (Mrs) Angelina Agbokhai, amongst others.
The APC Chairman for Owan East LGA, Mallam Isa Abdullahi and his Owan West counterpart, Hon. Frank David were also on ground at their various LGAs to give direction.
Earlier, Dr. Umakhihe, was at Igarra, headquarters of Akoko Edo local government area where he received the party’s endorsement.
LGA Chairman of the Party who spoke on the party’s behalf, Chief Ojo Maliki assured Dr. Umakhihe of the party’s guaranteed support and appreciations for his dedication in past offices he has held which shows that he can be entrusted with the leadership of the state as Governor.