By Egufe Yafugborhi
Before the purported last-minute alliance between Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan and the Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) over the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship primary in Delta State, not a few Urhobo were impressed with the hard-line posture the Chief Joe Omene led UPU had maintained in asserting Delta Central senatorial district’s interest in the 2015 elections, particularly the governorship.
However, the action of the UPU in the two days preceding the primary, the result for the Urhobo at the end of the day, and the post-primary reactions have left many Urhobo disappointed in a manner that may provoke a reversal of the renewed confidence the teeming UPU faithful were beginning to repose in the Urhobo leadership organ.
The development has triggered a couple of posers. Has the UPU compromised the Ovwiamughe Declaration, the said oath of allegiance which Delta Central swore to actualize its 2015 governorship interest? Has the UPU derailed from the original declaration, and if so, whose script is the leadership now playing at this crucial hour ahead of the main election?
Letters of Ovwiamughe Declaration
By the Ovwiamughe Declaration, accented in February 2014 by Urhobo traditional rulers, clergy, elders, youths, women and other interest groups, the UPU made it clear that its political party of first choice is the ruling PDP, but which it equally acknowledged as not having worked in the interest of Urhobo from the Presidency to the state level in the last eight years.
That collective agreement, hoping for the worst from the PDP, as has happened in the primary, also specified the APC as the alternate party of choice while also de-emphasising the Urhobo interest in mushroom parties with no spread across the nation.
In that order of preference, the UPU declared that should PDP grant its governorship ticket to an Urhobo, Delta Central will support the party all the way in the 2015. It then held that should PDP undermine an Urhobo ticket, Delta Central would reserve its majority votes in the state for the APC, that is if APC also fulfills the needful -cedes its guber ticket to Urhobo. Any consideration for third choice therefore arises only after the PDP and the APC fail to satisfy the ultimate condition.
Following a visit by Chief Great Ogboru, preceding the declaration, the UPU tainted the spirit of the declaration when it gave Ogboru a separate assurance to support his candidacy even if from the obscure Labour Party (LP) platform.
The UPN leader, Omene, during that encounter, celebrated in the media by Ogboru, told the serial governorship aspirant that he would enjoy the support of UPU and Urhobo if he contests in 2015 with a caveat that he must decamp to the PDP should he win on the LP ticket.
Reacting to this tone set by the UPU, a group, Urhobo Restoration Agenda, led by Chief Etachiko Omonigho, accused Omene and his group of double speak. “Where does UPU stand? the group had asked. The group displeasure was hinged on the understanding that the Ovwiamuge Declaration never accommodated such waiver and that it amounted to double standards to change the goal post in the middle of the game.
Last -minute alliance
As many Urhobo were uncomfortable with the seeming doublespeak of the UPU on the conflicting assurances to both Olorogun O’tega Emerhor, an Urhobo who has now picked the APC gubernatorial ticket, and Ogboru, some were irked by the last-minute alliance between Uduaghan and the UPU on the failed attempt to pick David Edevwie as the PDP flag bearer.
Justice Otitiri, a political analyst, while appraising the situation, said, “Ab-initio, everyone, including the UPU, knew that the governor and other power brokers in the Delta PDP were bent on shifting power to the North. So, going into the last-minute alliance, as has been revealed in the media, the governor was not in the bargain to genuinely protect Urhobo interest. He simply wanted to get back at perceived Delta northerners who were critical of his choice of Tony Obuh and he found very willing conspirators in Urhobo, an unholy alliance which failed in the end.
“However, whether or not the governor and the UPU were on the same page on the said alliance, the nuisance value for Delta Central in the failed saga, if for nothing else, was the golden chance it provided to aim at an all Urhobo candidature for the next election.”
Zik Gbemre, National Coordinator, Niger Delta Peace Coalition, who concurred with Otitiri, said, “Chief Omene and co did no wrong in jumping at the bait from Governor Uduaghan. It was all in UPU’s determination to do all it takes to return the governorship to Central in 2015.
With the primaries come and gone, the ultimate challenge before UPU is how to ensure that it wastes no time in putting into motion its plan B. Plan B by the Ovwiamughe declaration is to mobilize Urhobo bloc votes for the alternate party, APC, if it back an Urhobo. Paradoxically, in a first advertorial reaction on the disappointment it suffered over the PDP primary, the UPU, far short of taking a stand on the ultimate challenge, concentrated its response on passing the blame and reinvigorating its grandstanding even beyond Urhobo boundaries.
Otitiri, in response to the UPU post-PDP primary statement, said, “The UPU must be told that its grandstanding is turning counterproductive and they actually drove it too far when they started stretching the threats beyond boundaries. Delta Central has no moral justification to blame Ijaws, Isokos or any other ethnic neighbor for their failure to produce an Urhobo PDP guber ticket. These ethnic neighbors also have group interests to protect and it is the tide where their interest lies they will flow along.
“In same vein, sanctioning one rebellious Urhobo politician and forgiving him the next minute is no solution to the problem. What is needful now is for Urhobo to collapse all other interests and support Olorogun O’tega Emerhor and the APC which have satisfactorily fulfilled the letters of the Ovwiaghe Declaration.”
Meeting the Ovwiamughe Declaration
The APC, at its governorship primary held in Asaba, proved it fully respects the letters of the Ovwiamughe Declaration when delegates across geographical divides in Delta supported the candidacy of Emerhor with overwhelming votes, 3584 out of 3752 votes cast.
The party loudly sounded the signal that its hoped to arrest power from the ruling PDP rests squarely on an Urhobo candidacy to the extent that even Fidelis Tilije, the only real challenge against Emerhor at the primary, polled no single vote from his immediate Ukwani constituency.
The widespread unifying feeling in the party, which brought about the almost unanimous choice of Emerhor as flag bearer, develops from APC faithful’s realisation that, to put up a good fight against PDP in 2015, it would be foolhardy to give the guber ticket to same Delta North PDP was predictably tilted. The extended impetus was to catch in on the Ovwiamughe Declaration in the hope to garner Delta Central’s majority votes in the coming election.