By Emman Ovuakporie
Senator Ifeanyi Okowa’s acclaimed victory in the governorship primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP may now look like the easier part of his long script to emerge the number one citizen of Delta State. The senator is now faced with the difficult option of choosing a running mate from at least two major ethnic groups in the state.
And the choice must be made before the December 26 deadline as stipulated by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
Before his emergence as the candidate, the senator was understood to have cut deals with stakeholders in Isoko that would have seen a running mate coming from the area.
The choice was said to have been strategic given the estimated 250,000 votes the people of the area could churn out in the election. Despite their relatively significant population, the Isoko are yet to produce a governor, deputy or minister in the present dispensation.
Given their position, the Isokos have argued that the only way that they can be placated is by ensuring that the zoning of the office of deputy governor is left within the ethnic group. However, few would have contended with the force with which the Ijaws moved to help Senator Okowa, a move that have now put the Ijaws into play in the consideration of the deputy governor.
Former militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, popularly known as Tompolo was said to have helped tilt the advantage towards Okowa in the recent governorship election and hence the insinuation that either him or Senator Manager who also helped in achieving Okowa’s victory could be made to produce the deputy governorship candidate.
The Isoko population is, however, not taking the issue lightly and hence the strident campaign from the region for the office.
Isoko leaders led by the president of the Isoko Development Union, IDU Gen. Paul Omu (rtd.) have warned that any effort to remove the office from Isoko land would incur the wrath of Isoko people.
“The Isoko have not been fairly treated in the distribution of political offices in Delta,” he said in a statement.
Given that Gen. Omu’s wife, Senator Stella Omu is one of the prominent Isoko persons earlier reportedly pencilled down for the office, it was perhaps a little difficult for the general to push the case. Another name that has been mentioned is the secretary to the state government, Mr. Ovuozorie Macaulay.
Mr. Macaulay while addressing PDP faithful at the weekend in his Owhelogbo country home, had said that the Isokos with over 250,000 votes could not be toyed with.
According to him with the Ijaws having the senatorial position and the Itsekiris holding the governorship now, it was logical for the Isokos to be given the deputy governorship position in 2015.
He was, however, careful to call on party stalwarts to be methodical in their advocacy as he called on them not to resort to violence.
The deputy president of Isoko Development Union, IDU, Felix Ogbaudu, a retired Assistant Inspector General of Police speaking in the same vein said that the people of the area have decided to hold the bull by the horns and insist that an Isoko indigene must deputise Senator Ifeanyi Okowa the flag bearer of the ruling party in the state.
Ogbaudu however noted that Isoko people had watched the whole issue as it unfolds and decided to read the riot Act to all stakeholders that except an Isoko man emerges as Senator Okowa’s deputy, the Isoko people will not play ball this time around
He said “as regards to the governorship. issue, I was privy to the I.D.U press release and that’s my position”.
“Isoko margilisation in Delta politics must stop. What comes round must go round”.
Another Isoko grassroots political strategist, Mr Blessing Ugoh threw his weight behind Ogbaudu’s position declaring that “how long will Isoko people continue to remain behind other ethnic nationalities when we have more than 240,000 registered voters in Isoko alone”.
“One thing is certain, the Isoko nation will speak with one voice via the ballot box this time around as we’ve been pushed to the wall by other tribes in the state”.
“We’ve consistently supported our Ijaw brothers in the past three senatorial contests after our sister Senator Stella Omu lost to Senator James Manager in 2003″.
“This time around we may decide to support our Itsekiri brother to rubbish Manager’s fourth bid to represent us in the Senate if the Ijaws insist on producing the deputy governor of the state”.
“We are a very peaceful people in Isoko land but that does not mean that we do not know our rights as we are prepared to further support the Urhobo Progressive Union, UPU to produce an Urhobo governor come 2015”.
“The PDP should be careful because what will happen in 2015 may pave way for the opposition to hold sway if this issue is not properly handled”.
“We know that Senator Okowa is a good and a marketable product but PDP may ruin his chance of occupying Asaba Government House because of the underground forces propelling him to further reduce the Isoko race to perpetual slavery”.
“Enough of this margilisation as we are not ready to remain onlookers as our children will ask us questions why we remained where we are today”.