By Hugo Odiogor
Intrigues and ripples have continued to trail the recent presentation of a shortlist of Delta North aspirants for the governorship ticket of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), ahead of forth coming primaries to select a candidate for the party.
With about 20 aspirants from Delta North alone, there was no way the process of trimming down the number, outside an electoral popularity test that will be without rancour.
The idea was for the region to put its house in order if the hope to produce the next governor of the state is to be realized.
This was the basis of Anioma Congress setting up the F.N. Ochonogor Committee to draw a guideline for a committee screen the aspirants from the region. The work of this committee gave rise to the Philip Asiodu Committee which was set up also by the Anioma Congress, to assess the aspirants on the basis of their vision, experience in governance, structures on ground, acceptability and resources.
After five months of work, the Asiodu Committee penciled down some names as the aspirants that had the best prospects of emerging victorious in the race to be the candidate of PDP. Prominent among them were Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, Former Speaker of Delta House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Victor Ochei, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, representing Aniocha/Oshimili Federal Constituency, Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Olejeme, the Chairman of NSIFT, Chief Godswill Obielum, the retired Assistant Commissioner of Police who was included after protest from Ndokwa nation.
Protest from Ndokwa nation
There were reports that Sir. Tony Obuh and Mr. Charles Emetulu were also suggested by the governor as his possible choices, but aides to the governor denied the claim.The work of the Asiodu Committee was not made easy by the position of the ruling PDP in Delta State which insisted that a nonpolitical organ unknown to the party structure will not play such a role for the party.
Besides, the work of the Asiodu Committee was also challenged by internal issues among some sections of Delta North which questioned the propriety of the work of the committee.
The former chairman of the party, Chief Peter Nwaoboshi had before stepping down warned the aspirants not to honour the invitation of the Anioma Congress screening. Never the less, the Committee went ahead with its work and invited the aspirants to appear before it and make their presentation.
Consequently, some aspirants appeared while others especially those who were still in government at the time of the screening stayed away.
The Secretary General of Anioma Congress, Sir, Dan Okenyi told Vanguard that “what the Congress did was meant to forestall a situation where all the aspirants who in exercise of their fundamental human rights, will rush to buy forms and in the end it will prove difficult to disuade them to step down.
According to him: “We reasoned that this opportunity to produce a governor of an Anioma extraction is greater than the ambition of one individual because we are in competition with other zones who also believe that their right to aspire to the same office should not be abridged by any extra constitutional provisions.”
Vanguard learnt that the first sign of trouble came from the Ndokwa land which insisted that the name of Chief Godswill Obielum be included even though he did not attend the screening. This presented the first complication but it was amicably resolved. But the the other aspirants who did not appear at the screening kicked.
The second challenge for Anioma Congress was the presentation of the names of Obuh and Emetulu, the commissioner for energy, allegedly as the candidates of the governor.
The Secretary General of Anioma Congress, Sir. Dan Okenyi said: “Although both men did not attend the screening by the Anioma Congress, we considered it proper to include them as the governor’s choice because as the number one citizen of the state and his preferences must be accommodated.”
He said “We took into account that Sir. Tony Obuh who retired from service in August came out as aspirant in September. This is after the Asiodu Committee had finished its work.”
Okenyi said “It is wrong for anybody to say that the Congress wrote a petition against any aspirant or that the process was skewed to prop up any candidate.”
President Jonathan was said to have displayed political savvy in advising the Anioma Congress led by Obi (Prof.) Chike Edozien, the Asagba of Asaba to harmonise the two lists and submit it to Governor Uduaghan in Asaba for onward transmission to Abuja.
As expected, some in the political class which felt aggrieved that there is an attempt to impose Obuh on the electorate have been sponsoring media campaigns against him on the suspicion that he is favoured by the governor.
Some of the aspirants that were not favoured have questioned the whole exercise while those that came through saw it as a moral booster. The exclusion of any name from the Oshimili / Enuani side of the state was immediately interpreted to mean that there is an unwritten policy to exclude the people from this area from governance in the state.
In spite of the denial by the State Government that the Governor did not present the names of Sir Obuh and Hon. Emetulu, many observers remain unconvinced that the Governor is not behind what is now called the Obuh project.
No margin of error
President Jonathan according to sources told the Asagba led Anioma Congress at the meeting that Delta State is too strategic to PDP and the party “is not ready to lose Delta or any of the South South States in the forthcoming election.” A member of the delegation who wants his name out of print said the President clearly told the delegation that PDP will not gamble with the governorship election in Delta state by presenting a candidate that is not popular with the people, regardless of the personalities backing such aspirant.”
The president was remarkably surprised to discover that one of his aides who has been flaunting his Aso Rock connection was missing in the list presented by the Anioma Congress.
Although the meeting ended on a jocular note, the ripple generated has been reverberating across the country.
As at now, Abuja and Governor Uduaghan are believed to hold the ace in the gubernatorial contest.
Reacting, chairman of Anioma Agenda, Barrister Alex Onwuadiamu said, “what is playing in Abuja is a backlash from the political class which feels short changed by what it considered as unfair imposition and it has vowed to fight it within and outside the party.”
The battle has come to the stage where those who have the reach to Abuja will put their best foot forward.
Chief Clement Ofuani who was among the first to declare his intention for governorship said, “there is no doubt that the Aso Rock should be looking in my direction as the least controversial and the most cerebral technocrat that can take Delta State to the next level.”
According to Ofuani, ”when we talk of equity for Delta North, we are not asking for affirmative action or for special concessions, we are asking for a process that is not encumbered or skewed to favour a particular aspirant. We are asking for fairness to all.”
He said : “we want an Anioma politician or a technocrat who is prepared for leadership and not those who want to grab power through a discredited political process called ‘Ebu wonders,’ a process where the views and vote of Deltans are treated as inconsequential.”
Hostile take over
As it is now, neither the Governor nor the PDP can afford to gamble with Delta State because a hostile takeover by the force that has opposed the governor throughout his tenure or by an opposition party will not augur well for the party.
What is obvious is that the snake has been scotched, not killed, its wound will heal while it bears the bitterness of its near fatality in its fang.