By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Senator Pius Ewherido who died last Sunday at 50 was a phenomenal politician whose exit from the political platform would indisputably alter the political permutations and projections where he plied his trade.
Senator Pius Ewherido’s death would alter many things in Delta and nay, Nigeria.
First, it removes his political party, the Democratic Peoples Party, DPP from reckoning in the Senate being that he was the only DPP senator in the Senate.
Besides, until his death, he was the leading personality from his Urhobo ethnic group with any visible role in the Federal Government. It was not surprising that in his last interview with Vanguard on the heels of his 50th birthday last May, that he lamented the seeming abandonment of the Urhobo ethnic nationality by the present administration.
With his exit and at least until a replacement is made, his absence would inevitably remind the dominant Urhobos in Delta State of their detachment from the Federal Government.
In Delta State where he was the leading light of the political opposition, the death of Ehwerido would be of great consequence to all major political forces.
For the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP it removes one of the major obstacles to the party’s desire for total hegemony. It would be recalled that Ehwerido had in 2011 defeated Chief Iyoghota Amori, one of the leading chieftains of the PDP in the Delta Central senatorial election. His foe, Amori is styled as the Leader in Delta political circles and had in the past served as Political Adviser to both Governors James Ibori and his successor, Emmanuel Uduaghan.
Before going to the Senate, Ewherido had spent two terms in the Delta State House of Assembly where he variously served as deputy speaker and acting speaker. In his second term in the State legislature, he made a bold attempt for the governorship at the twilight of the Ibori era. Though he was not successful in the PDP governorship primaries of 2007, the sheer muscle he mustered made an impression on, Ibori who by some accounts made desperate efforts to appease him.
Ewherido it was learnt, refused to sacrifice his principled stance on the governorship primaries for the allegedly mouth-watering offer to him.
So, the 2007 PDP governorship primaries became the point of departure for him from the PDP as he subsequently joined forces with the political opposition in the state.
His decision to join forces with the DPP and its gubernatorial candidate, Chief Great Ogboru in the 2011 election inevitably caused trepidation in the PDP which according to some sources also made efforts to woo him back to the party.
The party, however, failed and it was not surprising that the late Ewherido was a major factor in the PDP’s disastrous showing in the elections in Delta Central in 2011. The trophy for Ewherido and the DPP was the defeat of Amori in the hands of Ewherido in the senatorial contest which the PDP did not appeal. The defeat of Amori was like Chief Tony Anenih losing a major political office election.
As he settled down in the Senate it seemed clear to his watchers that Ewherido was destined to be a major player in the succession of the incumbent governor of Delta State, Uduaghan.
It was not surprising that perceptions that Ewherido would contest for the governorship in 2015 would affect his relationship with his one time political ally, Ogboru. Whether Ogboru who had contested the governorship four different times in 2003, 2007, 2010 and 2011 was aiming for an encore has not been established. However, for the better part of this year till his death, Ewherido’ and Ogboru’ associates had been at logger heads over the course of the DPP.
Ewherido had through the influential Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN chieftain in Delta State, Temi Harriman made contact with national leaders of the party in his preparation towards joining the All Progressives Congress, APC.
He had according to sources won major concessions for his associates in the APC in Delta State and was being regarded as the party’s gubernatorial candidate in waiting.
With Ewherido as candidate for the APC in 2015, it was expected that he would have been a major obstacle to the PDP.
Besides his formidable political structure and alliances was also the major advantage he had in his family connections.
Though Urhobo, he is married into the Bozimo family in Ijaw in the Delta South Senatorial district while his mother is Isoko also from the Delta South. The marital and maternal alliances would inevitably have counted very well for him ahead of 2015.
“It is a major development on ground and will shake many things,” a major strategist for one of the leading 2015 gubernatorial hopefuls in the Delta State said hours after Ewherido’s death was confirmed.
For the PDP, the exit of Ewherido regrettable as it is for many, would inevitably soften the ground for the ruling party in the state.
For the distraught opposition in the state, the death has created a major problem as Ewherido until his death was seen as the only formidable force to counter whatever option that would come from the PDP.
Even more distressing for the opposition is the fact that in most of his dealings with the APC national leadership, Ewherido acted alone.
“I don’t know his associates and we have been talking to him alone and that is going to be a major setback for us in APC,” one of the chieftains of APC who facilitated his entry told Vanguard last Sunday.
Ewherido was indeed a political colossus whose death would cause a major tremor in Delta State.