By Prince Enahoro Edwin Erijoh
I recently read an article titled ‘2019 and the Delta Progressives’ by Mr. Godwin Anaughe which generated a lot of reactions.
I believe the article was right on power rotation in Delta State. Its conclusion truly reflects the pulse of the voters in the state, especially minorities, who collectively can swing the gubernatorial election to any direction.
It is my view that rejecting power rotation will likely consign APC to the opposition in Delta State for a long time, while accepting it will enable the party to build a winning coalition that is capable of taking over the state in 2019.
Right from when Delta State was created, the tribes have expressed deep concerns about the equitable rotation of power in the state.
It remains a very deeply emotional and compelling matter among all the people. The passion that is tied to power rotation is so strong that it is now even adopted in the local administration of some communities across the state.
We have also seen that the cooperation or otherwise of minorities is now a very important factor that determines the outcome of elections. Every objective and discerning mind will agree that this was the key determining factor in the 2015 election when, after many attempts, a northerner, President Muhammadu Buhari, succeeded with the support of voters of the South West, at a time when power rotation favoured the North. We must recall that the PDP, against every advice, went ahead and featured a candidate that was not in alignment with power rotation, and even with all the resources at its disposal and the power of incumbency, it lost.
In Delta, the wide acceptance of power rotation was also able to trump every other factor in the 2015 governorship election because minority tribes in Delta North and South also saw power rotation as the only means by which they too would be able to produce the governor of the state. And they voted for Senator Ifeanyi Okowa of Anioma extraction. This is justified on the basis that both Delta Central and South had taken their turns to serve for eight years.
Therefore, it would be a grave mistake for the APC not to take power rotation into consideration on the flimsy excuse that PDP introduced power rotation into Delta politics. The fact is that Delta PDP and the opposition were politically mature enough to recognize the deep emotional desire and strong agitations of the minorities for power rotation but only PDP tapped into it correctly, knowing that to act otherwise will pose a grave threat to their hold on power in the State.
The victory of Governor Okowa in 2015 was an evidence of the impact of power rotation. And since 2015, there has not been any significant change in the dynamics of Delta politics to suggest that its impact on voter preferences will be different in 2019.
The relentless pursuit of fairness and equity in the control of power by the minorities, as a natural response to the pre-existing fear of domination by the largest ethnic group, Urhobo, is still very alive and active. Unfortunately, many who may not wish to face this reality still live in false hope that Delta Central can ride roughshod over the political interests of the other two zones. They forget that in any 3-horse race, a gang-up of any two can spell doom for the third. Therefore, any insistence by Delta Central not to put into consideration the vivid interests of the other two zones will never produce a positive outcome.
From the above, we can understand why the sentiments for continuity of an Anioma governor remains very strong, if not higher than it was during the 2015 election. For many Anioma indigenes, especially the elderly who are much more committed to election matters, this may probably be a once in a lifetime opportunity and they will never throw it away under any guise.
The other minority ethnic groups are also watchful of any attempt to violate the existing order of power rotation because they are aware that it would delay or even deny them their own chance of producing a governor. As a strong realist, I am very convinced that anyone dreaming of disrupting this order of transfer of power will get a rude shock in 2019.
I am equally convinced that the idea of advancing popularity based on assumed backing of a single ethnic group will fail, more so when it is up against the challenge posed by the wider sympathy with power rotation. To my mind, power rotation, though unspoken of is even more popular and acceptable because it resonates quite well with all the minorities in Delta State.
APC must, therefore, take a dispassionate assessment of this reality as 2019 looms. The whole idea is that by reflecting deeply and factoring power rotation into its internal political calculations and strategy, delegates will be better informed to make the right decision so that the party can nominate a candidate with a much better chance of winning the 2019 governorship election in the primary election.
Personally, as an Isoko man, I firmly believe in and support power rotation. It gives me hope that one day an Isoko person will become governor of Delta State. I also believe that other minorities like us in Delta State would use their vote to keep this hope alive as men of credibility and competence are abounded in all three senatorial districts of the state. This is the reality.
So, let nobody kid you, power rotation matters greatly in Delta politics. And unless anybody that is against power rotation presents a more convincing and viable alternative, then the APC has no other option than to nominate its candidate from Delta North. To act differently is to compel APC to lose 2019 governorship elections because the majority of Deltans firmly believe in and will root for power rotation any day.
- Erijoh is an Asaba based public Affairs commentator.