At 58, Edo State Secretary to Government Prof. Julius Ihonvbere stands before the mirror of history.But, what the future holds for him is more important as the succession battle rages in the Southsouth state. MUSA ODOSHIMOKHE reports.

As Secretary to Edo State Government Prof. Julius Ihonvbere marks his 58th birthday today, he is on the weighing scale.

To many people, the political scientist from Owan West is a professional in politics. Ihonvbere is one of the patriotic Nigerians whose pro-democracy activities heralded the restoration of civil rule in 1999. Thus, the NationalDemocratic Coalition (NADECO) chieftain has paid his due as a university don and activist. When he joined the government, his past activities continued to shape his post-1999 intervention in socio-political affairs of the country.

The eminent teacher has rubbed shoulders in intellectual output with his contemporaries in the advanced world-Canada, United States of America andAustralia. But, in answering the call to duty, he decided to return home to contribute to nation-building.

Today, he is the rallying point for the political class in Owan. Ahead of 2015, the people have urged him to indicate interest in the Senate. They believe that he will add value and make impact in the Upper Chamber. Although there are some elements in Owan who loathe his towering profile, the support he has also garnered from Esan Local Government has silenced his detractors who are jealous of his popularity and track record. A lawyer from Esan Local Government Area, who wondered why a prophet is not honoured at home, said: “Since they don’t know his value, Esan people need him in the next world to come”.

Grassroots politicians in the two councils have been paying homage to Ihonvbere for his leadership qualities. Among them are councillors, supervisors, legislators and other party leaders.

A stakeholder from Sobe, Mr. Joseph Uwaifo, said: “The number one person we are following is Professor Julius Ihonvbere. I am from Sobe and we know the value of good people like Ihonvbere. Our future will never be the same again, if we follow the right way, which is where we are now.”

A politician, Obazee Osuma from Ward One, said that it in the interest of Owan and Edo State that  scholars like Ihonvbere should constitute the intellectual structure of governance. Lauding the SSG for his loyalty to a rational cause. He advised Ihonvbere to develop a thick skin to the activities of detractors. “The divisive tendency of our people cannot stop us. Our youths are looking up to us. Professor Ihonvbere is our leader. I want to appeal to him to forgive those who may offend him.No matter the degree of offence, please ,we want you and I personally want to beg you to take such persons as prodigal sons and forgive them.

“Owan West cannot remain like this.  But, I sympathise with you; you are not supposed to be born here. You are supposed to be born in places like Canada, America, Australia, but today, you are born into Owan West and some people do not respect you or know your value. You have helped so many of them, but they are paying you in bad coin.”

To Prince Osomaye Monday, the Majority Leader of Owan West Legislative Arm, the SSG has the support of the local All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftains. He said: “We are proud of our Professor. Nobody can take him away from us to America or Canada. We are G7 Councilors out of 10 and we are solidly behind Professor Julius Ihonvbere.”

A lawyer from Esan,  Mr. Enereba, advised the people to see ihonvbere as a role model and mentor to the younger generation.

But, a politician Hon. Peter Ologun, said that the younger generation should imbebe his ideology of progressivism. Progressivism, he said, “is the political attitude that favours change or reforms in governmental action; it is the act of enforcing ideas that oppose elitism, subjectivity, conservatism and reactionary governance. Ihonvbere believes in this school of thought.”

Ologun added: “One character that fits this bill in the contemporary Edo State politics is Ihonvbere. He is a man of the people, a philanthropist, teacher and a progressive politician, who has not betrayed the trust and confidence reposed in him.”

A Senior Special Assistant on Media to Governor Adams Oshiomhole, John Mayaki, said: “Professor Ihonvbere represents different things to different people. To some, he is a rare writer who has authored many books that have served and still serving the needs of readers, a respected public commentator, opinion leader, a teacher and mentor.

“To others, he is intelligent and very bold. He is such an enigma and a hugely successful public servant with an uncommon courage and deter-mination to succeed.

“Professor Ihonvbere is among the few in public office who has shunned opulence and personal aggrand-isement. He left a legacy of honour and integrity at the Ford Foundation and the Presidency. He is one man who sees public office as potent weapon for social change. He is committed to the good of the society. He is the friend of the masses.

Describing Ihonvbere as a man of the future, he advised him to be focussed, honest and loyal to the government and people of Edo State.

“As John Maxwell, the world acclaimed authority on leadership, in his book; The Right to Lead, asked : What gives a man or a woman the right to lead? He provided the answer:  the right to lead is not gained by election or appointment. Having position, title, rank, or degrees does not come automatically from age or experience either. No, it would be accurate to say that no one can be given the right to lead, the right to lead can only be earned. Ihonvbere has earned the right to lead.”