By Pascal Okorobie
For the first time, leaders of Delta’s opposition now appear largely united in one political party. The All Progressives Congress (APC) now boasts of the revolutionary Chief Great Ogboru, the strategic-thinking Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, the positively aggressive Dr. Cairo Ojugbo, the top-level operator Dr. (Mrs) Mariam Ali, the youthful, brilliant Rt. Hon Victor Ochei, and a host of other major political actors in Delta.
But to win, the party must avoid the pitfalls of 2015 and adopt bold winning strategies for the 2019 polls. To do these, APC must first look at itself in the mirror and answer some tough questions on its 2015 outing in Delta.
First, why did the party perform very poorly in Delta in the 2015 general elections? With Olorogun Otega Emerhor as APC’s governorship candidate, why did the party lose in all the 25 LGAs in Delta at the polls? What really went wrong?
Some leaders of the party have been quick to give reasons for APC’s curious poor outing. Beyond the plausibility of PDP’s ‘senseless rigging’, it seems facts resting in the bowels of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) suggest that the Delta APC in 2015 was dishonest on its readiness, projections and feedbacks to Abuja. For example, while boasting of a capacity to win the governorship election, the then APC could not present agents in about 62% of the polling units in the state.
Furthermore, although a Gallup Poll commissioned by some APC intelligentsia in Abuja revealed that the handlers of APC in Delta were not popular to make any good electoral impact, they tried to taint the poll as a ‘hatchet job’. This was against the advice of Chief Frank Ovie Kokori, the respected elder statesman whose signature sense of integrity invokes positive leadership memories of the June 12 struggle, among others.
Now, would it be right to tame the architects of that false reality from reenacting a Scene II of the electoral barrenness and deceit, as a new, robust Delta APC marches towards 2019?
By its present configuration, the new Delta APC is not where anyone should impose himself as a ‘grand leader’ just because he participated in an election and scored a few miserable votes. That is not how President Buhari or Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu earned their political leadership. Theirs came organically from their overwhelming political popularity. An unfounded cult of the individual in the Delta APC is not an alternative to this type of leadership.
Those attempting to practice this cult in the party must stop. They offer nothing but desperate barren schemes to harm persons with undisputed electoral capacities to help the party win in 2019. This misguided strategy was used in the past against eminent leaders like Olorogun Festus Keyamo, Dr. Otive Igbuzor, Chief Adolo Okotie-Eboh, the late Senator Francis Okpozo and many others, with serious destabilizing consequences. It should not be tolerated now, if APC must win in Delta in 2019. And this is where Emerhor must tread with wisdom and caution as leader.
Many believe that with a 2019 electoral environment hopefully devoid of the usual abusive use of ‘federal might’ to intimidate Delta’s electorate and violate electoral due process, Ogboru has a unique grassroots pedigree and popularity to mobilise voters for APC’s victory. Ogboru’s appeal cuts across many political divides and barriers, including primordial sentiments like ‘zoning’.
For the many who believe in Ogboru’s school of thought, zoning is an easy way to infect the APC in Delta with incurable viruses. They prefer credible primaries where delegates would freely choose APC’s candidates based on their faith in the candidates of their choice. They want free and fair elections where the electorate would elect their own leaders. They view ‘zoning’ with scorn as it gives credence to the allegation that PDP may be compromising and sponsoring some in APC Delta to use it as a red herring to destabilise the party and pave way for a weak governorship candidate that PDP can easily defeat.
This is more so as some aspirants who have embraced zoning do not have electoral value in Delta. Unlike Ogboru, who has consistently given incumbents a run for their money even in the most hostile of election environments, only a few aspirants can withstand the heat of a proper election against an incumbent PDP governor. It is almost impossible for people who cannot even give APC a win in their own wards to convince many in Delta otherwise.
As the award-winning journalist Zik Zulu Okafor once noted, peaceful, undaunted and consistent, “Ogboru is tougher than hope”. Even the worst of political provocations have not changed him. This is why the people remain with him. In Delta, APC needs men and women of Ogboru’s pedigree and character to avoid the errors of 2015 and win convincingly in 2019.