Fred Adhekegba, Asaba
Intense battles between three major political parties in Delta State rage, in spite of the postponement of the elections dates, to the office of the Governor of Delta State.
Presently, there are three major parties on ground in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the party which seems to hold sway across the state with Sen. Ifeanyi Okowa as its candidate; the All Progressives Congress (APC), with O’Tega Emerhor as its candidate while the Labour Party has Great Ovedje Ogboru, who has been on the race for many years and had fought so much battles with Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, as candidate.
Since the primaries were conducted last year and candidates emerged, the battle has shifted to the real contest as the three parties are locked in a battle of wits to outdo one another.
However, many seem to have pitched their tent with the ruling party in the state, as they expect the game to be as usual.
For the PDP, the emergence of Okowa was a miracle as he was never expected to clinch the ticket of the party following the game plan of Governor Uduaghan. Uduaghan was initially in support of Tony Obuh, a Permanent Secretary who retired voluntarily to pursue the governorship ticket with full support from the Governor. His emergence caused hay and fire in the campaign for the party candidate but a few hours to the primaries, he was dumped in preference for an Urhobo candidate, David Edevbie, who also lost to Okowa, who was never anointed.
It was learned that the emergence of Okowa was a calculated agreement of the over 25 Delta North aspirants having learnt of the plot of the governor to return the office to an Urhobo of Delta Central, a development which went contrary to initial plan by the party leadership. But the Urhobo who had enjoyed the office in the eight years of Ibori had never given up on their quest to take over power from Uduaghan.
Their argument stems from the fact that the Urhobo is the largest tribe in the state and since the emergence of Uduaghan, the tribe had been sidelined in matters of development efforts by his government. Hence, the leadership of the Urhobo had consistently fought to regain power and bring development to their area.
To actualize this goal, they projected Edevbie for the primaries and Udaghan was compelled to yield to their request, hence he dumped Obuh but the agreement of the Delta North aspirants saw them through.
Despite the failure of the Urhobo at the PDP primaries, they are still interested in winning the governorship. To this end, the apex body of the Urhobo cultural group, Urhobo Progress Union, (UPU) which was supposed to be apolitical had gone into taking oath of either Urhobo candidate emerges as governor or they would vote for no other party, having lost out at the PDP primaries. But Joe Omene, the President General of the UPU, had observed that the stand of the people might lead to nowhere, as it could backfire on them at the end of the government of Okowa in the next eight years, if he wins. Consequently, he called for the people to support the PDP and produce Okowa as the governor of the state.
For the stance of Omene, the UPU had disintegrated and gone into factions, a development which would certainly be in favour of the PDP candidate. A faction led by Omene had endorsed Ogboru of Labour Party as its candidate, considering his long time presence in the race and his wide acceptance by majority of Deltans, especially the Urhobo.
The other faction, which broke out as a result of Omene’s stance, endorsed the APC candidate, Emerhor. The two brothers who had been endorsed by the two factions are now standing on the endorsement as a guarantee to winning the election.
On his part, Ogboru had called Emerhor to step down and allow him contest from the Urhobo’s axis while Emerhor described Ogboru’s endorsement as a calculated plan by the faction to work and ensure the emergence of a PDP government in the state. Hence, he views Ogboru and Omene as PDP stooges bent on truncating the Urhobo agenda of producing the governor of the state. Although the two Delta Central candidates have large followers, many are of the view that the large followership is essentially aimed at milking their money and dumping them at the end of the day.
One issue with Ogboru is that in the years back when he contested with Uduaghan, Deltans were sympathetic with him and voted massively for his emergence. But, somehow the powers that be fought him with every available resources and he could not clinch the office of the governor.
At the moment, and with the trend of events, it appears a majority of Deltans are no more in sympathy with him. Many are now of the view that since Delta is predominantly a PDP state and for equity, Delta North should have a taste of the seat of power in the state.
But Ogboru appears very optimistic that he has the wherewithal to win the election. He might not be wrong. His case might be similar to that of a former American President, Abraham Lincoln, who contested the Parliament several times and lost, but eventually won the Presidency. Ogboru had told a group of journalists in his country home, Abraka, that it would be impossible for the ruling PDP to win the election with the present political complexion of the state. He projected that his party would capture 18 out of the 25 local councils in the election.
According to him, it would be difficult for the PDP to win because “the political dynamics, complexities and actors have changed” in the state and that Delta South areas, which were prone to rigging would no longer be business as usual as the actors had changed,” insisting that the votes of the people of Delta state would definitely count this time around.
He might not be wrong because his running mate, Peter Erebi, is an Isoko from Delta South.
Ogboru believes that his endorsement by the UPU means he already has 10 local council votes in the kitty. He said, “As you are all aware, a few days ago, the UPU endorsed my humble self as their candidate. It is a major factor in this campaign. When you are endorsed, it translates into votes and you know that 85 per cent of Urhobo in 10 councils are behind you. It means elections in 10 local councils have been settled.” But one thing Ogboru is yet to understand is that those that endorsed him are elders of the Union and not exactly the poor masses who need food at the moment and could accept anything provided food is put on their table. He needs more work to be done beyond the factional endorsement of a select group who has been rejected by the other faction.
On the other part, Emerhor has a good programme for the people of the state. As he goes round in his campaign, he has consistently showcased his experience in the business and financial environment, which he would deploy to transform the people’s lives for good. From his campaign, he had strategized on how to make businesses grow and make lives better for Deltans. His faction of the UPU, led by Tuesday Onoge, rejected the PDP, claiming it had caused poverty and sorrow to the people of the state.
However, his challenge is surely going to be his pitching tent with General Muhammadu Buhari, who has no force in Delta State. As far as the state is concerned, beside Emerhor and his few followers, Buhari has no follower in the state. His declaration of support for Buhari is a development, which might work against his ambition.
He had travelled wide to consult Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State, all APC governors. He also has a running mate from Isoko of Delta South, a development, which has also divided the votes of the Isoko people between him and Ogboru.
Again, the votes of the Urhobo have also been divided into three because of the faction already created between Emerhor and Ogboru. Even among the Urhobo, a lot of them will certainly vote for the PDP candidate. Many of them are in the campaign train of Okowa, canvassing support for him.
For the PDP candidate, a good number of Deltans have a soft spot for him. The whole of Delta North of nine local government councils, the Ijaws and a good number of the Urhobo, undermining the endorsement of the UPU, are with him. The Isoko who initially wanted to vote for Ogboru for picking one of their own are already calling their kinsmen to work towards Okowa’s emergence as Governor. For now the only area, which cannot be predicted are the Itsekiri, the kinsmen of Uduaghan. For not performing to their satisfaction, the Itsekiri have openly declared their rejection of Uduaghan and his government.
Although the political game is on, Uduaghan is one of the politicians that cannot be predicted in his actions. While some believe he has lost all and has no power in the choice of who finally wins, it is still clear that the power of a sitting Governor cannot be underestimated.