By Hugo Odiogor
THE rumbles in Delta Senatorial seats is still thundering with a din from the North to the Central and causing sleepless nights in the South. The ruling People Democratic Party is running a tremendous risk of losing crucial support in a state it had until lately taken as a safe bet. As with many other parties and constituencies, central to the controversy in Delta is the alleged imposition of candidates by higher authorities.
In Delta North Senatorial District, Dr. Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa who is presumed to be the winner of the nocturnal senate primaries held on January 11, 2011 and the State PDP Chairman Barrister Peter Nwaoboshi are raising issues that bother on authenticity of the exercise which some of the aspirants allege was conducted with forged delegates list.
As at press time controversy was still swirling over the directive by the Independent National Electoral Commission , INEC to conduct fresh senatorial primary in Delta Central where Chief Ighoyota Amori was earlier declared winner. In Delta South the incumbent Senator, Senator James Manager has successfully navigated the tides against him to retain the PDP ticket and is now set for another battle with former House of Representatives member, Ms. Temi Harriman of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN.
In a highly competitive Delta North Senatorial primary, Dr. Okowa got a total of 942 votes to defeat Dr. Cairo Ojugboh from Ika South West, who got 286 votes and Prince Ned Nwoko from Aniocha North who garnered 78 votes. Dr. Maryam Alli from Oshimili South scored 18 votes leaving Mr. Kingsley Nwaonye at the bottom with 2 votes.
The returning officer was Engr. Terry Noah a serving commissioner who insisted that the primaries should take place even when Prince Ned Nwoko raised objections that the time of commencement of the event made it difficult for the aspirants to verify and authenticate the delegates, which informed sources said had been doctored at the National Secretariat of the PDP.
Before the commencement of the event, there had been speculations that Dr. Maryam Alli was alleged to have been chosen as the preferred candidate because her husband, Dr. Ahmadu Alli as the former national chairman of PDP, enthroned Barrister Peter Nwaoboshi as Delta State Chairman of the Party.
Dr. Mrs. Alli was also said to be a close friend of Dame Patience Jonathan, the first Lady. This development exerted tremendous pressures on the other candidates to either move to another party. The incumbent, Senator Patrick Osakwe made a tactical withdrawal from the race because according to an associate “he was convinced beyond doubt that the PDP party hierarchy in the State, want to reward Dr. (Mrs.) Alli with the ticket even when she failed to deliver her Oshimili south local government.”
The other aspirants also alleged that there was bias on the part of INEC in allowing serving members of the Uduaghan government to preside over the special congress and in the process denying some aspirants the opportunity to verify and authenticate the delegates list before the primaries began.
Said Prince Nwoko: “What you saw at the Cenotaph that night was a charade and make belief, the integrity of the election was put in doubt when they refused my point of view that we should authenticate the delegates’ list.”
Prince Nwoko has since being adopted by the Democratic Peoples’ Party (DPP) as their senatorial candidate for Delta North.
Sources told Vanguard that Dr. Okowa resisted last minutes pressures from friends in government to decamp to another party and fight Dr. Alli from outside but refused to take the gamble. Apart from the internal squabbles in the party, the former S.S.G is also facing serious challenge from his opponent Dr. Ojugboh, who as the Special Aide to the President on National Assembly matters is not pleased that he was outsmarted in Asaba. In the same vein, Dr Maryam Alli who is known to fight hard especially her battles with Chief James Ibori in 2007 is not relenting.
Although Dr. Alli is not politically on ground in her Oshimili south constituency, sources said “she is not a politician anybody can play on her intelligence especially after the same forces out foxed her in 2007. Beyond the party politics Dr. Okowa is having serious home wahala which is certain to give him sleepless nights in the months ahead.
Reacting to the rumbles in Delta North Senatorial seat, Col. G. Eboma ,who leads a faction of PDP in Delta State told Vanguard that he was not surprised that Dr. Okowa was elected because “he is part of the ruling cabal and a consummate systems man who knows how to manipulate the system to his advantage”.
According to Col. G. Eboma, the former S.S.G. has been in power since 1999 as Commissioner for Works and later Health, “what was he able to do for the people of Ika nation? Agbor, the pride of Ika man has not seen any tangible infrastructural development or urban renewal in the past 36 years. He may have added a few structures to the old general hospital in Agbor and tarred a few roads in his home town. Owa Alero, the bridge on Orogodo river is just being repaired, in the two months of Prince Sam Obi as Acting Governor, yet money has always been appropriated in the budget. The old Lagos Asaba road was a death trap before the coming of Sam Obi. Erosion has ravaged our land” Several attempts to reach Dr. Okowa to respond to issues raised by his critics were rebuffed.
In Delta Central Senatorial District where the Deputy Chairman of the Chief Ighoyota Amori was returned as the winner there has been a massive protest by the people leading to the cancellation of the result by the National Secretariat of the Party.
In fact the process of accreditation was in progress on the day of the primaries when the returning officer came to announce that the exercise was being suspended because of lack of security at the venue. The delegates were ordered out and asked to reconvene the following day being 12, January, 2011. However, as they left subterranean forces reportedly proceeded to conclude the primary and indeed, returned Chief Amori.
Since 1999, Delta Central has maintained a tradition of giving only one term to its senators; this has denied the area of the experience and contacts that is required to play the politics in Abuja.
Senator Felix Ibru who was by most accounts one of the best performing Senators in his time in the Senate between 2003 and 2007 was not given an opportunity to return and was replaced by a former academician, Prof. Adegho Eferekaya.
To some political analysts, Prof. Eferakeya has not been impressive in the mood of Ibru. He is also said to lack charisma and as such, the recruitment of the charismatic and outspoken Amori. Eferekaya’s admirers, however, say that the aging senator is not a noisemaker but an uncompromising and disciplined Urhobo patriot who has resisted what they claim to be an attempt by some powers to undermine the interest of the Urhobo nation.
However, charisma along cannot win it for Amori as he is being challenged for the seat by a handful of equally charismatic aspirants including Hon. Halims Agoda, Okaokuro Ede Omueya Dafinone and Chief Charles Obule. Agoda represents Ethiope Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives where he is a vocal member of the House. He has been in legislative business for 13 years having spent two years as a member of Delta State House of Assembly from 1991 to 1993 and another 11years in the House of Representatives; this makes him a very experienced contender for the Senate.
In Delta South Senatorial District Chief Solomon Ogba who was earlier listed among those favoured to win the PDP ticket failed to scale through. He was touted as a replacement for Senator James Manager, the Chairman of the Niger Delta who has done two terms. The candidacy of Chief Manager became imperative to avoid marginalizing Ijaw people. The
Informed sources told Vanguard that Chief Ogba lost out to forces that believe that the Ijaw nation should retain the Senate seat while the Isokoland gets a ministerial position. This calculation also frustrated Chief (Mrs.) Stella Omu, who was making a comeback. Chief Ogba worked hard to deliver Isoko land during the re_run and may be compensated with a ministerial nomination.
With PDP and INEC in tango over re_run some of the flawed primaries, the rumbles will continue far into the elections in April and the collateral damage to PDP may be the staring point for politics of alternatives.