It is obvious that the governorship race on Saturday, March 9, this week will be keenly contested. It will be tenaciously fought and won, either by the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, Chief Great Ogboru, or the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Sen. Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, who is seeking re-election.
There is every likelihood that Okowa will coast to victory by 60 to 40 defeat in the voting margin, but Ogboru, who holds the highest record of election contention in Nigeria since the advent of democracy in 1999, having lost serially to the former Governor of the state, Chief James Ibori, the immediate past Governor of the state, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan and the incumbent Governor Okowa during the 2015 general elections, will disagree because he remains a contender to reckon with in opposition politics of the state.
Although, the magic-wand of the ruling PDP in the state has come under a serious threat, especially with APC’s high command at the national level of Nigeria’s political space, and following the defection of Uduaghan to the party, it is obvious that the battle for the soul of the state will be decided at the Delta South Senatorial District.
Okowa, who hails from Owa-Alero in Ika North East local government area of Delta North Senatorial District of the state, popularly known as Anioma ethnic nationality, will no doubt, record a landslide victory across the entire Ibo speaking axis of the state, i.e. the nine council areas of Asaba, Agbor, Kwale, Ogwashi-Uku, Issele-Uku, Akwukwu-Igbo, Owa, Aboh and Obiaruku, which are his strongholds.
But Ogboru, whose stronghold is in the Delta Central, where the-likes of Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, the 2015 governorship candidate of APC, Olorogun O’tega, former National President of NUPENG, Chief Frank Kokori, holds sway and are helpers close at hand, will consider the contest as his last chance, hence, his victory must be secured at all costs!
Now, Delta South district is the beautiful bride during electioneering campaigns to decide the fate of Okowa and Ogboru. But APC lost it in 2015 and has already displayed poor outing during the just concluded 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections. The zone favoured Okowa during the 2015 general elections but will the people of the zone, comprising the Ijaws, Isokos and Itsekiris – where Uduaghan hails from, but are tilting towards Okowa again, judging from the outcome of the elections of Saturday, February 23, 2019, give it to him again?
Also, will the-likes of Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, the 2015 governorship candidate of APC, Olorogun O’tega, the duo said to be nursing ambitions for 2023, Uduaghan, former National President of NUPENG, Chief Frank Kokori, a chieftain of the party, Chief Hyacinth Enuha, give chance for PDP to coast to victory again?
No doubt, the present structure of politics in the state favours Okowa because his party is in full grip of the 29 House of Assembly members in the state, his Commissioners and over 1,000 political appointees, who are foot-soldiers and are fully on ground, and scattered across the three senatorial districts of the state. They are poised to do serious battle to retain their boss and their jobs.
This is moreso, that the former Governor of the state, Chief James Ibori – the Odidigboigbo of Delta politics, has declared support for Okowa, even as election ‘perfecters’ like the former Secretary to the state Government (SSG) under Uduaghan, and appointee under Ibori, Comrade Ovuozorie Macaulay, and other political guru in the Delta South locality, including Bashorun Askia Ogeih and Hon Malik Ikpokpor, who emerged as the Isoko South PDP council chairman, all refused to decamp with their former boss (Uduaghan) to his new-found love – APC, a platform under which he contested the Delta South Senatorial seat but lost during the last February 23 National Assembly polls to a fifth time Senator James Manager. It was doubly clear they gave it up to Okowa.
If Uduaghan had won the Senate seat in Delta South, and the former Chairman on the Delta State Board of Internal Revenue (DBIR), Hon. Joel Onowakpor, who was also a former chieftain of the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS), South-South Zone, had won his bid for Isoko Federal constituency seat in the House of Representatives, all for the APC, Okowa would have been on a hot seat. But low and behold, both Uduaghan and Onowakpo failed to deliver as Hon. Leo Ogor, also a fifth time occupier of the constituency seat, and Manager, won in a landmark victory, thereby according Okowa a soft-landing in the governorship race. Indeed, the victory of Senator Manager, Hon Leo Ogor, Okowa’s Deputy, Kingsley Otuaro being Ijaw’s stake, the party loyalty of Hon Mike Diden among others in the Warri axis, Okowa victory in Delta South comprising Bomadi, Burutu, Patani, Isoko North and South and the three Warri LGAs, is certainly and likely going to be by ‘landslide’.
Besides, the highest votes cast in the state has always gone to PDP since 1999 because the state is PDP-controlled.
The unresolved disunity, acrimony, bickering, internal wrangling and back-stabbing in the state chapter of APC, will largely contribute to the failure Ogboru’s APC may record in the state during the governorship contest.
Till date, two factional chairmen, including Prophet Jones Ode Erue, supported by the Senator, representing Delta Central, Omo-Agege and Ogboru, and Chief Cyril Ogodo, led by Emerhor, the 2015 governorship candidate of the party, are laying claim to the soul of the party in the state.
The crisis did not only polarize the rank and file of the party in the state, it lingered through the primary elections of the party, even as they settled for litigations before it dovetailed into the poor outing the party recorded in the state during the presidential and National Assembly polls.
Three governorship aspirants of the party in the state – namely, the former Speaker of the state’s House of Assembly, Engr. Victor Ochei, the Business mogul, Prof. Pat Utomi and Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, a former South-South Zone Vice Chairman of PDP, who later emerged as the presidential spokesman of Buhari Campaign Organization in Delta state, were enmeshed in crisis over the governorship ticket of the party, forcing Ochei, Utomi, Ogodo and two other chieftains of the party to be seeking redress in court.
Although, the key actors (Emerhor, Omo-Agege, Ogboru, Ogodo and Erue) in the crisis declared support for Buhari, the crisis frustrated their straightforwardness, even as Governor Okowa and his campaign train did not give them a breathing space in the state as they insist on Atiku for better life, economic transformation and prosperity, which later paid off.
The casualties of the crisis is not only President Buhari, the National Chairman of APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, all got their fair share. They all failed the presidential and national Assembly race in Delta state.
While Governor Okowa was campaigning vigorously for him to return and the victory of his party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, acrimony will not let Emerhor, Omo-Agege, Ogboru, Ogodo, Ojougboh, Utomi, Ochei and Erue, be.
While Oshiomhole was junketing round the country and speaking with power on party supremacy without raising a finger to stop the trouble bedevilling his party in Delta chapter, which he allegedly triggered by inaugurating the Jones Ode Erue-led State Working Council (SWC) anyway, barely a month after his predecessor, Chief Odigie Oyegun, had inaugurated the Cyril Ogodo-led executives for the party in the state, Kachikwu was not proactive enough in ending the crisis for the national interest of his principal (Buhari) and state for Ogboru, hence the party lost the presidential race in the state.
In the final analysis, Emerhor delivered his Ughelli North council area for Buhari with 24, 193 votes, and Ogboru pulled 13,844 votes to beat Atiku’s 16,140 and 8,394 respectively in the two council areas, all other dramatic personae in the APC crisis lost their units, wards and councils to PDP in the state.
This is a good omen, goodnews and radiance of hope for PDP, Okowa and his teeming supporters ahead of the governorship race on Saturdy March 9, this week.
Editor’s Footnote: This is BIGPEN ONLINE analysis and projection based on facts on ground, recent political dynamics, party’s structures of how the governorship election results may likely go except it is mar by violence and declared inconclusive.