By Ajiri Aluta
In 2015, the two main opposition parties in Delta State, APC and Labour Party, had fused their members into the APC platform. Both fielded candidates from Delta Central despite the persistent Anioma agitation for a governor of Anioma extraction. As a result, the opposition performed worse than ever before.
Chief Great Ogboru who won eleven local government areas in the 2007 re-run in 2011 and increased that to twelve, three months later in the general election, won only four LGAs in 2015 despite the introduction of the card reader technology to check over-voting and rigging. Specifically, the LGAs he had won in 2011, he lost in 2015 and these include Ika South, Oshimili South, Ndokwa West and Ukwuani from Delta North and Isoko South in Delta South. He lost these areas because of the clamour for power rotation which remains popular among the minority ethnic tribes in Delta North and South. He also lost Sapele, Ughelli South and Okpe from his base in Delta Central, which is evidence of his declining acceptability, even among his own people.
For APC to win in 2019, it will have to win back a majority of voters in these eight local government areas that Ogboru lost in 2015, and also seek to attract a new set of voters from Delta South. To achieve this, APC needs to position itself strategically and broaden it’s grassroots base by engaging with the masses and also partner with them at the polling units. If APC fails to partner with the people across the three senatorial districts and decides to adopt the same tactics that failed it in 2015, hoping to rely on the so-called federal might to make the difference, then it has to think again because it may just be bound for another rude shock in 2019.
There are two ways the party can achieve this. First, APC must compete well in Delta North and South where it made very little in-roads in 2015 and turn the Okowa base into a battleground zone. There is no better way for it to compete in Delta North and South than to embrace the core interest of the Anioma people which is for the zone to complete its two terms like the two other districts had done.
A strategy will be to attract non-Anioma voters who still support the idea of equity. For example, it will remove any form of disenchantment among Isoko and Ijaw people that are highly desirous of governing Delta State in the nearest future, and who would prefer to cast their votes in favour of sustaining the present order of power rotation. The Itsekiri ethnic group who have already benefitted from the reality of power rotation will not be averse to voting in an Anioma candidate on the basis of equity too.
The bulk of Urhobo progressives that have persistently stood in opposition against the PDP since 2003 stand to gain too. The calculation would be that a victory of the APC candidate of Anioma extraction in 2019 which must be with the support of the Delta Central zone, would encourage reciprocal support for an Urhobo Progressive that emerges to contest as Governor in 2023. This is the obvious and surest path for Urhobo Progressives to ensure that their long sacrifice in leading the opposition to PDP in Delta State does not end in vain.
Conversely, should the APC field a Delta-Central candidate again, the ill-feelings generated among the minority ethnic groups by such an inequitable course of action will propel the PDP to victory as was the case in 2015. If that happens, the APC and its bulk of Urhobo progressives would most likely lose again in 2023. This is because the Anioma nation would more likely pay the APC back in its own coin in 2023, having refused to field one of their own in both 2015 and 2019 when they believed it was their turn to produce the governor of Delta State.
If this happens, the Urhobo opposition would be the greatest losers. The second issue of importance is candidate quality. Deltans have over the years suffered from maladministration, and they are very desirous of real change in the governance of the State, not just a change of Governor. Therefore, to boost its chances of winning, APC must offer to Deltans a candidate who has the ability to turn around the economy of the state.
What this means is that APC must find and offer to Deltans a candidate of Anioma extraction that the people can trust to deliver dividends of democracy. In other words, APC must elect a capable and credible Anioma candidate that it can proudly present and sell to Deltans. This candidate must be trustworthy enough to give adequate comfort to the people of Delta-Central who are definitely eager to return to the governorship in 2023. This is significant because the Urhobo people, who are the largest ethnic group in Delta State, would not support an Anioma candidate of APC that they think would likely seek re-election beyond 2023.