By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South –South, Egufe Yafugborhi & Akpokona Omafuaire
The issue of which ethnic group will produce the running mate to People’s Democratic Party, PDP, governorship candidate in Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, has triggered a fresh political war in the state.
It was learned that the battle is essentially among the tribes in Delta South senatorial district, comprising Isoko, Ijaw and Itsekiri, who hope to produce the running mate to the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, governorship standard-bearer, who hails from the Delta North senatorial district (Anioma).
Ijaw and Isoko nationalities are two major contenders in the district, as the incumbent governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, whose tenure expires May, next year, is an Itsekiri. However, inside the Ijaw tribal constellation, where the deputy governorship slot seems to be tilting, if not already zoned by Okowa, there is an intense power play among three power blocs.
Former Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark appears to be interested in who emerges as Okowa’s deputy, while Senator James Manager, the highest ranking Delta –Ijaw politician thinks he should influence such a decision, but it was rumored that ex-militant leader, Chief Government Ekpemupolo, had since sealed a deal with Okowa on the subject matter.
Isoko nation kicks
However, the Isoko ethnic nationality is not prepared to accept an Ijaw running mate to Okowa. Elders and leaders of PDP in the area, led by High Chief D.E.A Etaluku, in a statement, said they had been hearing the rumours, which sounded unbelievable, but some credence had been laid to it with Ijaw people openly canvassing for the position.
The Isoko elders said: “Since 2003, the Isoko ethnic nationality has continuously conceded the Senate seat to our Ijaw brothers. In 2007, we generously conceded the governorship to our Itsekiri brothers. Having been conceding top positions, we expect that any top position , elective or appointive, coming to the Delta South senatorial zone, the Isoko nation should be considered first. Consequently, this time around, the position of Deputy Governor should be reciprocally ceded to the Isoko nation.”
“We do not expect our Itsekiri and Ijaw brothers to object to this fair and justifiable demand of the Isoko people,” they stated.
The Isoko Development Union, IDU, which is the apex sociocultural organization, in what appears to be a follow-up to the Isoko PDP elders’ stand, Thursday, said it was flabbergasted that neither leadership of PDP nor APC were looking towards the direction of Isoko for deputy governorship candidate.
Stating that equity demands that the deputy governor should come from the Isoko nation, the president general of IDU, Major General Paul Omu (retd.), sounded it clearly, “Anything short of this is not acceptable to the ethnic group.”
His words, “IDU hereby states that only the political party that appoints an Isoko son or daughter as deputy governor will have the vote of our people. The consequence of this should not be lost to any discerning mind.”
Dep gov slot a settled issue- Tompolo advisor
Mr. Paul Bebenimibo, chairman of Okowa Mandate 2015 and ad-visor to ex-militant leader, Tompolo, however, told Saturday Vanguard, “My Oga (Tompolo) is not aware that there is any struggle for who produces the deputy governor.”
“He is not disposed as to who becomes deputy governor as long as it follows the arrangement that the political leaders have had with whoever emerges as deputy governor. Except some are trying to make something out it, it was collective efforts to see that Okowa won the PDP primary election.
“As far as Tompolo is concerned, the deputy governorship slot is a settled issue. We accepted the gentleman arrangement that the governorship rotates round the three senatorial districts as recommended by the National Conference, which was also forwarded to Mr. President,” he said.
His words, “It was based on that line that people from Delta South supported a Delta Northerner. Governor Uduaghan also supported a Delta Northerner, Tony Obuh. People from Delta South also contested the governorship, Andrew Warri and Elder Godsday Orubebe, both Ijaw sons, also contested. Delta North would have voted for an Ijaw man. Itsekiri have taken their turn, we have said Ijaw man should take his turn but we supported a Delta North man.”
Clark, Manager, Tompolo slug it out
Investigations by Saturday Vanguard, however, showed that there was tension among Ijaw leaders over who produces Okowa’s deputy.
The trio of Clark, Manager and Tompolo supported Okowa in the primary. But Tompolo was learned to have overwhelming influence over Clark and Manager on Okowa. He was alleged to have made huge monetary contribution to sway some strong Urhobo delegates and political leaders to dump the Urhobo Progress Union, UPU, anointed candidate, Chief David Edevbie.
Senator Manger is relying on his status in the Ibori political family and relationship with Okowa to get the nod to appoint Okowa’s deputy, while Chief Clark, the indisputable national leader of the Ijaw ethnic nationality, was relying on his antecedents.
Clark’s probable candidate
A reliable source hinted that Clark might be interested in an ex-chair of Burutu local government, former Commissioner for Agriculture and ex-chair of Burutu local government and gubernatorial aspirant, Dr. Braduce Amakazi Angozi. Angozi was said to have performed well as a commissioner.
Senator Manager is reportedly looking the way of J.T. Government, a former chairman of SUBEB in the state under the administration of Chief James Ibori, J.T Government as Okowa’s deputy. His candidate, who was rated high in the Ibori government, hails from Torogbene community in Burutu local government area.
Our source said Tompolo is eyeing the present Commissioner representing Ijaw on the board of Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, Hon. Kingsley Otuaro, his relative, who is from Okerenkoko, Gbaramatu kingdom. Otuaro has also been a close assistant of Governor Uduaghan, who appointed him DESOPADEC Commissioner, over the years. He is a development activist and quiet performer.
Contacted on Thursday, Hon Otuaro, who did not comment on the prevailing power play, said, “Yeah, it is the prerogative of the candidate to choose his running mate, of course in consultation with party leaders. Whilst the said consultation is ongoing, it is bad for equity to say XYZ should be or not be. We should address the issues.”
It was gathered on good authority that Senator Manager’s controlled Ijaw forces based in Bomadi and Burutu areas are opposed to the Tompolo-led Gbaramatu power bloc and both are ready to cede power to the other as far as Okowa’s deputy is concerned.
The Bomadi/Burutu group derisively contends that Gbaramatu kingdom was not politically mature yet to produce deputy governor of the state and should wait for another chance, as they were allegedly “babies in Ijaw politics,” but a Gbaramatu politician said, “It is wrong for them to make such comment, I have even heard them say that Tompolo gives position to his Gbaramatu kinsmen alone, this is not true.”
Our source said the secret war among Ijaw leaders on who produces Okowa’s deputy may negatively affect the unity of the Ijaw nation if it was allowed to develop bad blood among the kingdoms.
It’s a PDP affair— Ekpoko
Speaking to Saturday Vanguard on the hoopla over Okowa’s running mate, secretary of the Itsekiri Leaders of Thought, ILT, Mr. Edward Ekpoko, said it was needless heating up the polity over the matter, saying, it was entirely an internal affair of the PDP.
His words, “It is not out place to see interest groups struggling for a position. The Itsekiri Leaders of Thought are not concerned about that. It is up to the party to decide who becomes the running mate.
“But I assure you that we are watching the political situation in the state holistically. At the right moment, we will make our position known on what we feel and where we want to align. I hear they are zoning running mate to Ijaws. That is politics for you. That is their decision and it is inconsequential to the larger picture ILT considers.”
Nobody should hijack power- Ozobo
President of the Ijaw People Development Initiatives, IPDI, Comrade Austin Ozobo, who said he was aware of the intrigues among Tompolo, Manager and Clark over who produces Okowa’s deputy, told Saturday Vanguard, “Sincerely, I am not worried about who, between Tompolo, Manager, and E. K. Clark and what part of Ijaw produces the deputy governor, which has been zoned to Ijaw in the state, my concern is about credibility and quality of who they are presenting.”
“We want somebody with good record, acceptable character and development oriented to be considered for selection. Mediocre and self-centered leaders should not be allowed to milk from this rare privilege to the Ijaw,” he added.
His words, “Nobody should be selected based on God-father-ism but based on general acceptability and previous performance. It will be wrong for a single leader to solely decide or handpick a deputy governor on behalf of other Ijaw ethnic nationality and other million Deltans, as if the person is monopolizing power.”
We want a nonpartisan person- Itsekiri leader
An Itsekiri leader, who craved for anonymity, said, “It is almost a foregone issue that Okowa will pick his running mate from Delta- Ijaw, but we seriously care about the character to be picked for that position.
“Itsekiri is disturbed going by what the names gaining prominence on the matter. We will not accept just about anybody. As Itsekiris, we have been through some rough roads with our Ijaw neighbors over the years by sheer grandstanding of a few while we live in mutual respect with a number of Ijaws. We want a neutral person, a fellow detached from the politics of Ijaw violence and threat on our waterways,” he added.