By Hugo Odiogor
Uneasy is the head that bears the crown. That is the challenge facing Dr. Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa as he steps out to wrestle with fate and destiny in the Delta States political terrain, where he is aspiring to occupy the Unity House at Okpanam Road, Asaba.
The Owa born Senator representing Delta North senatorial district is carrying the flag of the People’s democratic party PDP and the collective aspiration of the Anioma people, to have one of their own become the governor of Delta state, just as the two other senatorial zones have done in the past 16 years.
The dominance of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Delta State politics has undoubtedly made it the party to beat. Consequently, there is the assumption that whoever is contesting the Governorship election on the platform of PDP is likely to win.
This was the case during the December 8th, 2014 primary election of the party where a total of 26 aspirants lined out. Delta North alone presented 18 of the aspirants
Never the less, the forth coming governorship election is a different ball game as Dr. Okowa is squaring up with the candidates of the two other political parties that are taking part in what is now a three-horse race.
The Oghara flag off was a huge carnival that left no one in doubt of the strength of PDP with a master political stroke by Dr. Okowa as he pulled the traditional Chief Ibori crowd and had a full house.
Dr. Okowa emerged as a unifying figure and as a leader in whom all Deltans can trust. The flag off was also an opportunity for all the groups working for the re-election of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to collectively solicit support for the President.
Dr. Okowa has set his priorities on accelerated industrial development by sustaining what Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan has started with the Warri industrial Park, restoring of Agriculture to boost food security, Job creation, Improved Health Care delivery through provision of Health Insurance scheme, reviving the education sector to equip its products with the skills to find jobs, transportation and human capital development. Dr Okowa has equally outlined his vision to strengthen the private sector to accelerate commerce and Industrial growth.
Flagging off his campaign in Oghara, Ethiope West was strategic. This is heart of Delta Central politics. Chief James Ibori hails from here and his daughter, Ehriatake Ibori, is one of the emerging political pillars in this area and she hopes to represent them in the Delta State Assembly. Since 1999, Ethiope has consistently voted for PDP. Dr. Okowa needed to make the statement that he is running for the office of the Governor of Delta State. He also had to show appreciation to the people of Ethiope West which supported him to win the ticket in the first place, but above all, this is the local government of his former boss, regardless of the travails of the god father.
In fact, Chief Great Ogboru, who is flying the flag of Labour Party is also from Ethiope East. Ogboru appears to be the favoured candidate of the leadership of Urhobo Progress Union. The Urhobos who have occupied the governorship seat for 10 years, are presenting two candidates under the banners of Labour Party and All Progressive Congress. Chief Great Ogboru is of the Labour Party and Olororun O’Tega Emerhor is of the APC. The Urhobos have been boasting of their intention to give their bloc vote to Labour and APC, the main opposition party in the state. It was therefore a massive boost to see the impressive turn out at the Oghara stadium where the big shots in Delta State politics; including Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan were present to witness what may turn out to be audacious march to power.
AUDACITY OF HOPE
Dr. Okowa took a swipe at the leadership of UPU for their divisive politics and pledged to be fair to all and treat everybody equally. Dr. Okowa, urged the people of Delta Central to remain with PDP and work towards securing a landslide victory in February. According to him, the opposition camp in the state has been changing their platform with every voting year, which is a sign of political opportunism and lack of focus.
There is discontent from the Anioma land which is worrisome to Dr. Okowa. The former Speaker, Rt. Hon. Victor Ochei has indicated interested in contesting for the Senate ticket on the platform of Accord party while Chief Peter Nwaoboshi is the candidate of PDP. This is a distraction Dr. Okowa would have wished did not crop up in the party. There are moves to ensure that Okowa secures his own backyard even as he stomps in Delta Central and Delta South for votes.
Dr. Okowa was fazed by the threat of UPU leaders to give bloc to Chief Great Ogboru of Labour in the Governorship election while they vote for PDP in the presidential election.
Although there is no authentication of voting strength of the Urhobo which is speculated to have mutated from 820,000 to 1 million, Dr. Okowa was confident that he will emerge victorious in February.
The leadership of UPU is in a dilemma because of the hard line position it took in the Uviamughe Declaration where it enjoined Urhobos to vote against PDP if the governorship ticket was not given to Delta Central. It has been caught in the web of contradiction where it has been torn between supporting APC and Labour Party since there are two Urhobo sons in the contest.
Since 1999, no candidate endorsed by UPU has won the governorship election in Delta State. Chief Ogboru was first endorsed by UPU in 2003, then in 2007 and 2011. He lost the three elections and went ahead to spend heavily on legal battles.
UPU leaders have openly threatened that they will vote against PDP in the Presidential elections to punish President Goodluck Jonathan for the role the Ijaws are playing in Delta State politics but the fear that victory for Dr. Okowa and Dr. Jonathan will expose them badly had made them to be flirting with the idea of voting for Jonathan in the Presidential election while they vote against Dr. Okowa in the governorship election. This is dicey as GEJ may lose the presidential election and PDP win the governorship election. The scramble for one million votes from Delta Central will be an interesting challenge and Dr. Okowa is mindful of this just as his campaign team is working on fighting for every vote from all the three senatorial districts. On their part, Delta North political leaders have made it clear that Anioma people are not interested in investing energy in the office of the Deputy Governor when it has its own son contesting for the main office. With the Ijaws already offered a deputy governorship slot by PDP, Okowa is sure of securing their support while the Itsekiris are comfortable working for the victory of PDP.
But political analysts argue that the calculations being made by the leadership of UPU are not tenable. According to the Chairman of Anioma Renaissance Chief Patrick Onwochei, the outcome of the December 8 primary elections shows that Dr. Okowa has a strong presence in Ethiope-West, Uvwie and Sapele Local Government Areas.
Chief Moses Odibo who is aspiring to become a member of Delta State House of Assembly told Vanguard that Dr. Okowa is favoured because his candidacy represents equity which will promote peace .
Chief Philip Ibonye also told Vanguard that Dr Okowa has presented himself as a Pan Delta candidate who wants to carry all sections of the state along. According to Ogbueshi Ibonye, the prevailing thought in Delta state today is that no ethnic nationality should be left out. Dr. Okowa has been able to build bridges of understanding as well as raise the levels of trust and confidence and the people. The Isoko land has become favoured ground for the choice of Deputy Governor slot for APC and Labour Parties as Chief O’Tega Emerhor has chosen Mr. Felix Akugha, a journalist with the African independent Television while Chief Ogboru has also chosen another Isoko man Chief Peter Erebi. The next five weeks will be interesting for the power struggle in Delta State.