By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
For a people known to be boisterous in all that they do, the seeming lull in the 2015 governorship contest in Delta State is unusual. Why?
The frenzy in the quest for succession to Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State has suddenly turned cold. But it is not as if the about two dozen aspirants in the race have dropped out of the contest to manage the oil rich state.
Ochei who was speaker of the State House of Assembly was forced to resign his position following the discomfort of top associates of the governor about his quest and allegations that he was passing off the governor as his backer in the race. With a network of paid and unpaid volunteers across the state, Speaker Ochei had in time become a phenomenon in the governorship contest.
Indeed, Ochei’s support network on the field just few weeks ago matched that of Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, a politician he, Ochei, canvassed for in the 2007 contest that was eventually won by Dr. Uduaghan.
With his eyes set on the ultimate throne, the office of Speaker became a good platform for Ochei to canvass his aspiration. Given the momentum that his aspiration generated, it was not surprising that many believed that he was the governor’s man for the job.
Indeed, many of his colleagues in the State House of Assembly believed as much.
“We all thought that the governor was behind him and that was why we deferred to him,” a vocal member of the House told Vanguard.
Even if he is known to be politically savvy, Uduaghan’s reticence as a person had compounded the political permutation of observers. However, the governor after a trip abroad with some trusted political associates, gave Ochei the backside, a development that forced Ochei to step down from office. Following his resignation, Ochei was quoted as saying that he would continue in the race.
However, there is no doubt that the strength and swagger that pushed his aspiration have been considerably toned down.
Given Ochei’s problems it was not difficult that some aspirants saw it as an opportunity to step into the race. A number of serving officials in the administration including one top Government House official in Asaba, were reported to have entered the race, many of them claiming to have received the governor’s backing.
It was as such not surprising that as the crowd of aspirants from within his circle swelled, the governor about two months ago gave a marching order to all those interested in taking over his job to resign and proceed with their campaigns.
Since the order, several of the canvassers for the aspirants still in government have gone underground.
In Delta State, permutations about the succession and fables are indeed unending. In one case, the governor has been quoted truly or falsely to have claimed that his successor’s name starts with an ‘O’. That is, however, no help given the fact that some of the most formidable aspirants including Senator Okowa, Ochei, Godsday Orubebe, Chief Godswill Obeilum and the Abuja based Mrs. Ngozi Olejeme all have their surnames starting with an ‘O’. It is, however, believed that the governor would be decisive in the election of his successor.
That assertion is backed by claims that Dr. Uduaghan in directing aspirants to leave his cabinet told them that the time for campaigning is not yet at hand, and that essentially, because of his own determination to strengthen the arms of governance and imprint his vision of Delta Beyond Oil in the consciousness of the citizenry.
Given the governor’s quiet and sometimes seemingly aloof posture, only fools would believe the governor does not have a framework on who would succeed him. He is reported to have told champions of power shift to Delta North of his backing for their objective. It was nevertheless stressed to leaders of the region that they should not expect the office on a platter of gold and as such urged them to go and work for it.
With the notable exception of two former ministers, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi and Elder Godsday Orubebe, most of the other top aspirants are from Delta North. Gbagi who has been a recurring contender in the Delta governorship contests has the latitude of tapping from the huge Urhobo vote. That window, however, could be limited by the determination of one influential commissioner from Delta Central to enter the race. If the commissioner, who is also known to have the governor’s ears enters the race it would be a setback for Gbagi.
However, Gbagi or any other commissioner of Urhobo stock would be seriously challenged if Uduaghan’s loyalists from Delta Central forge ahead to pursue the governor’s agenda, whatever it is.
Chief Monday Igbuya, the national vice-chairman of the Urhobo Political Forum, UPF and majority leader of the Delta State House of Assembly has said as much.
Reacting to claims by Urhobo Progress Union, UPU, that the Urhobo nation would present a governorship candidate irrespective of the political permutations set by PDP and Governor Uduaghan, he said that support for an Urhobo person would only come if such a person comes out from the PDP and is endorsed by the state’s political leader, Uduaghan.
“I am a member of PDP and also a member of UPF and I speak for UPF and members of PDP in UPF. No member of UPF or PDP has denied the fact that Governor Uduaghan is the leader of the party in the state. No member of PDP in Central senatorial district has denied the fact that Uduaghan is our leader.”
The prospect of Senator Emmanuel Aguariavwodo, the highest elected political office holder from Urhobo land entering the contest still remains in the realm of speculations.
However, outside the PDP, the chances of the All Progressives Congress, APC fielding a candidate from Delta Central is increasingly looking brighter.
After the death of Senator Pius Ehwerido who was generally believed to be in good position to win the governorship, the party has been desperately working to find a suitable replacement. The increasing presence of a multi billionaire, Otega Emerhor in the party some say could be an answer to the prayers of Delta Central for a formidable candidate. However, some top APC leaders have raised concerns about a parallel structure that is pushing forward Emerhor’s aspiration. A pointer to this is the deadlock that resulted from the state congresses in Delta State.
Party elders have also noted the presence in the APC of some diehard loyalists of former Governor James Ibori in their party. The Ibori boys made their presence known during the recent congresses of the APC where they overwhelmed many of those who came into the APC from the legacy parties.
The belief in some circles is that the Ibori boys could be preparing to use the APC as a platform to actualise their goals should they be shut out from the PDP by enemies of their patron based in Abuja.
Meanwhile, with the incumbent governor reportedly constituting a team of core loyalists to monitor and ensure that members of his cabinet do not violate his injunction to stop political hustling, it is not surprising that on the surface that there is a lull in the contest for the governorship of Delta State. Indeed, those outside the cabinet would seem to be having a field day.
Almost daily a few of them assert themselves in the public space through one activity or the other. But for the likes of Senator Okowa who missed it by whiskers in 2007 and Ochei who have endured thus far, they can only continue on the waiting game until push comes to shove!