By Hugo Odiogor
Ahead of the fresh poll ordered by the Court of Appeal in Delta State, it is a full-blown battle between the forces loyal to Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan and those of the Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark.
Some people call him the gadfly of Delta politics but, certainly, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark has, for the past three and a half years, established himself as ‘the godfather who never sleeps.’
His relentless opposition to the administration of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan may have pitted him against the likes of Chief Fred Brume, Professor B.I.C. Ijoema and Chief Humphrey Iweriebor, the Ogidi of Africa, who have taken turns to hit back at him and tried to portray him as an ethno-centric fighter. Yet, but, Chief Clark insists that he has nothing personal against the sacked governor who faces a fresh election early next year to return to power.
Clark is a statesman who is not in want and has resisted every attempt to keep quiet and benefit from the largesse of politics in the state.
The octogenarian Ijaw leader has been around from his years as a federal commissioner for information in the General Yakubu Gowon cabinet where he served with the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, vice- chairman, Supreme Military Council; Dr. Okoi Arikpo, commissioner for external affairs; Alhaji Aminu Kano,commissioner for health; Alhaji Shettima Ali Mongono, commissioner for mines and power; Chief E.Y. Eke, commissioner for education; Chief J.S. Tarka, commissioner for communications; Alhaji Shehu Shagari, commissioner for finance, and Chief Anthony Enahoro, etc, all key members of the Gowon administration that was terminated in July 1975.
Clark was a senator in the second republic and member of the 1994 Constitutional Conference put in place by the late Gen. Sani Abacha and, again, the 2005 National Conference of then President Olusegun Obasanjo. He cannot be regarded as one of the political jobbers hanging around the corridors of power scrambling for crumbs and political patronages from any government in power.
Until the ethnic conflict between the Itsekiri and Ijaw people in Delta State in the late 1990s over the relocation of the local government headquarters from a predominantly Ijaw settlement to a predominantly Itsekiri region, Clark lived a quiet life in Warri, Delta State. But the events that radicalised him was the running conflict between the three ethnic groups of Itsekiri, Ijaw and the Urhobo.
Clark is leading the assault against what he regards as an attempt by Chief James Ibori to turn Delta State into his political empire with his cronies perpetually holding on to power at every level. The octogenarian-statesman is, therefore, a virulent opponent of what he describes as “the Ibori dynasty” in Delta politics. The opportunity for the fresh election provides an arena for the test of will, money and control of minds. It is a test of his popularity with the well-funded Ibori political machine.
There is no gainsaying that one of the fundamental causes of the disagreement between Clark and Ibori was the claim that the former governor manipulated the PDP convention in Ogwashiuku to ensure that his cousin, Uduaghan, emerged as the governor of Delta State. Uduaghan is a scion of the Itsekiri kingdom. While some members of the Delta State Elders’ Forum who started the opposition with him have jumped ship, Clark has remained the voice of opposition.
Sunday Vanguard investigations of the political trend in Delta State shows that there is a proxy war playing out between the camps loyal to Clark and Ibori.
The Clark camp has been clamouring for a harmonisation of various political interests in the state PDP rather than the present zero-sum game approach of the Uduaghan camp, which is yet to accept the need to resolve issues of lack of internal democracy in the party.
Before the Appeal Court judgment on November 9, Sunday Vanguard gathered that the disposition of the National Working Committee (NWC) of PDP towards retaining the leadership of Chief Peter Nwoboshi, an Uduaghan loyalist, as the state chairman of the party and the appointment of Uduaghan as the South-South Coordinator of the Jonathan/Sambo Campaign Organisation strengthened the hands of Uduaghan and his supporter but infuriated Clark to no end and he is determined to fight to the end, win or lose.
The annulment of Uduaghan’s election was, therefore, seen as victory for the Clark camp which was already losing grounds in the battle.
Some prominent politicians in Delta told Sunday Vanguard that it is too early for anybody to dismiss Clark as finished politically because the NWC of PDP is not reading its political barometer correctly, and that may be the undoing of the party in the state ‘’The Ijaw leader personally nominated the two ministers from the state into the federal cabinet, he has committed followers at state and national levels, he is the patriarch of the Ijaw nation in this country.
How can anyone say Clark is no longer a factor in Delta State politics?’‘, one of his loyalists said. A top member of the Uduaghan campaign group told Sunday Vanguard that there is no faction in Delta PDP as far as he was concerned. “We are one family irrespective of our different points of views, democracy encourages us to have different perspectives otherwise, it will be an autocracy. Dr. Uduaghan is a democrat and when we start the campaign we will show what he has done for every community in the state.”