BY EMMA AMAIZE, REGIONAL EDITOR, S/SOUTH
BESIDES the governorship of Delta State, another commanding position in the eyes of “senior politicians” in the state is that of a Senator of the Federal Republic. The three senatorial districts of Delta Central, Delta North and Delta South are literally on fire ahead of next month’s National Assembly poll.
The political parties are parading their considered superlatives for the crucial contest and in Delta North; the leading senatorial candidates are the former Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, who is running on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, one-time House of Representatives member and Hon Ned Nwoko of the Democratic People Party, DPP.
In Delta Central, where the battle is most fierce, the national chairman of the Urhobo Political Forum, UPF and ex-commissioner, Chief Ighoyota Amori is flying the PDP flag, while a former deputy speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Chief Pius Ewherido is running on the platform of the DPP and Senator Adegho Eferekagha is seeking a second tenure with Action Congress of Nigeria ticket.
There are also business magnate, Chief Charles Obule, who is the Justice Party standard bearer and Ambassador Elizabeth Ogbon-Day, the only female in the pack, gunning for the office with All Nigeria People Party, ANPP banner.
For Delta South, incumbent Senator, James Manager is the PDP candidate, a former House of Representatives member, Ms Temi Harriman is flying the ACN colors while an Abuja banker, Mr. Sunny Ogulagha is the DPP runner.
Looking very critically at Delta North Senatorial District, the battle is between Dr. Okowa and Prince Nwoko, who had already challenged the former to a public debate for the people to decide who has a superior manifesto and credential to represent them. Other senatorial candidates are indeed not in the reckoning.
A common feature in the senatorial race in the state is that PDP members are the ones mostly fighting against themselves in the sense that those who lost out in the power game in the party picked the tickets of the other parties to do battle with their former party.
In the case of Delta North, Prince Nwoko, who has the imprimatur of the former Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark, got his nomination as the DPP senatorial candidate after he lost out in the PDP senate primaries to Dr. Okowa.
Chief Okowa who is from Owa Alero in Ika North East local government area of the state, has been around in the politics of the state for some time and came into limelight in 1999 when he was appointed a Commissioner. Okowa proved his political prowess in the 2007 governorship primaries of the party when he emerged second to Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan who won the ticket.
A run-off was to have taken place, but, the two friends struck a deal and Uduaghan sailed through without further encumbrances. He was compensated with the office of SSG, where he served until the last quarter of last year when he resigned to seek the Senate seat.
From 2007 in particular till date, he has remained a political power broker in Delta North.
Okowa’s only political rival in the senatorial district is presently the State chairman of the PDP, Chief Peter Nwaoboshi.
Even at that, Nwoko has remained a thorn in the flesh of many since he stormed the state’s political scene as the Representative of Oshimili/Aniocha Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives in 1999. Nevertheless, given current political ranking, Chief Okowa may easily dwarf Nwoko and his forces in the district in a senatorial election.
However, the intrigues that shadowed the emergence of Okowa as the PDP candidate and the bitterness with which Nwaoboshi and Dr. (Mrs.) Mariam Ali fought him could put his chances in jeopardy.
In Delta Central Senatorial District, Chief Amori is the giant that all others want to slaughter. His image looms larger than life in the district because he was the closest ally to the former Governor of the state, Chief James Ibori. He was in those days hailed as Delta’s Mr. Fix It.
Given the problems that are now around the Ibori political clan it is not surprising that Chief Ewherido has emerged as the toughest challenger to Amori. Amori’s preeminence in the contest is further compounded by the strategic alliance between Eweherido and Chief Great Ogboru, the gubernatorial candidate of the DPP. Ogboru’s draws his support mainly from the Delta Central Senatorial constituency and the political momentum he is inspiring could rub positively in favour of Ewherido who even in his own right is a formidable political force.
While Amori is banking on the fear and flame he once inspired to sway the electorate, Ewherido is riding on the new found love for the DPP in the district as was displayed in the January 6 governorship election to unleash a shocker.
Ewherido, however, believes that the PDP has been rejected by the people of the district as was shown in the January 6 election and that he would win the seat, while Chief Amori and his campaign team suppose that what happened on January 6 in the district would not happen again.
There are other minions in the race. Senator Eferekaya, the incumbent Senator who defected to the ACN last year is reportedly relying on the assumed power of the governorship candidate, Chief Ovie Omo-Agege. It has, however, emerged since the January gubernatorial re-run that Omo-Agege may not actually have the political influence that was once accorded to him.
As Republican Party of Nigeria, RPN governorship candidate he was defeated even in his own local government area by Ogboru. His assumed political weight was further punctured with the exit and return of his “political commander” and former secretary of the ACN, Jaro Egbo to the PDP.
The worry here is that it is the same Omo-Agege that Prof Eferekaya is relying on majorly for his return. The senatorial candidate of the Labour Party, Chief Charles Obule was also once a PDP chieftain.
He dumped the PDP because of his dissatisfaction with the conduct of the senatorial primaries and many see him as a probable dark horse, but only if he properly harnesses his strategy to plot the defeat of the old warhorses.
Ambassador Ogbon-Day is the ANPP senatorial candidate in the district. Like others, she left PDP after the primaries to pick the ANPP ticket. It is clear that that ANPP is not her preferred party, but she had to make do with the ANPP since she was edged out by superior powers. She lamented in a recent interview that she paid Amori homage to inform him of her senatorial ambition, only for him to join the race later.
The senatorial race looks simpler in Delta South where the incumbent, Senator James Manager of the PDP shrugged off stiff opposition from Chief Solomon Ogba to get a third term ticket in the PDP primaries.
Manager allegedly got the ticket on the basis of not flaying Ijaw sentiments against Governor Uduaghan during the January gubernatorial re-run election.
However, Manager if he succeeds he would be spending an unprecedented three terms as against the once sacrosanct principle of rotating the senatorial seat among the three major ethnic groups in the district. That principle had been sustained with Itsekiri, Isoko and Ijaw taking the seat in turns every four years. The Ijaw bred Manager succeeded the Isoko speaking Senator Stella Omu.
Manager is contesting against Ms. Temi Harriman of the ACN and Mr. Ogulagha of ANPP.
Even though Ms. Harriman was known to be vibrant during her days in the House of Representatives she, however, faces a formidable challenge in fighting the behemouth PDP in the coming election.
What she has going for her include a resilient spirit the kind that singled her out for commendation among the pro-democracy lobby in the country during the third term saga when she was the only PDP member from the South that openly stood against President Ob’s third term plan!