By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
As the results of the Delta State governorship election trickled in yesterday showing the Peoples Democratic Party’s Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa cruising comfortably to another term, there were reports that his main challenger, Chief Great Ogboru had departed the state for Lagos.
As at press time yesterday results from 18 Local Government Areas of the state had been collated with Okowa winning in 17 of the declared.
If as projected Ogboru loses, it would be the sixth recorded defeat in six attempts for the man fondly referred to by his admirers as the people’s general. It would follow successive defeats in 2003, 2007, 2010 (rerun), 2011, and 2015.
Not many, however, believe that of repeated defeats given recent confessions by some recent PDP defectors to the All Progressives Congress, APC that they contributed in the past to rig Ogboru out.
However, few would lend credence to rigging as the reason for Ogboru’s apparent defeat this time around. With 18 Local Government Areas declared last night, Okowa had taken 17 with Ogboru having won only Ethiope East Local Government Area, that is his Local Government Area.
Sources say that he is also expected to win Ughelli North Local Government Area which is the base of his main and longtime supporter, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege.
The disappointment for the APC came with the massive loss of Warri North Local Government Area, the base of the immediate past governor of the state, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan who recently defected to the APC from the PDP. Warri North Local Government Area was among those areas which had in the past produced those stunning votes that had swung elections against Ogboru in the past and most notably, the 2011 rerun.
So the expectation that the defection of Uduaghan would help Ogboru, however, came to nothing. That was despite the work of unity that lately came upon the party especially at the instance of the minister of state for petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu who working with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, had sought to put a sense of common purpose upon the state chapter of the party.
However, the problems for the Ogboru campaign were multifarious and came from within and from without.
He was faced with one of the most formidable political operators to have come from the state. Dr. Okowa from his first exposure as Local Government Area secretary of Ika Local Government Area in 1987 has held every political office in his step towards governor. He was Local Government Area chairman, commissioner, secretary to the state government, senator and now governor.
Besides, the PDP came into the election with almost all tendencies in the state fully backing Okowa. Even critical stakeholders who had in the past raised issues against preceding governors including Senator (Dr.) Edwin Clark, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi and the former broadcast journalist, community mobiliser and elder-stateswoman Chief Rita Lori-Ogbebor were all supportive of Okowa’s second term aspiration.
The support was, however, not for nothing and has been adduced to the governor’s successful implementation of his SMART agenda.
The APC candidate, on the other hand, was faced with an internal crisis that defied the interventions of the vice-president and Dr. Kachikwu.
Those who lost the primaries to Ogboru did not wish him well and held back from joining the Ogboru train until the last minute.
Even more, Ogboru whose mother is from Ndokwa chose as a running mate Evangelist Ossai Abeh also from the Ndokwa axis and did so without much consultation with party stakeholders. Party insiders say the running mate did not bring value to the ticket.
There were multiple reports that those who defected from the PDP to the APC promised much and Ogboru relied much on them to the extent of damaging relationships with his long term associates. Party insiders allege that Senator Omo-Agege carried on albeit grudgingly as those who defected from the PDP took space and structure away from Ogboru’s long term political collaborators.
In the end, as the election came last Saturday, the promise of a tsunami against Okowa that APC chieftains hoped would come with the deployment of security that was promised during Osinbajo’s visit last Monday failed to materialize.
With it vanished Ogboru’s prospect and the man that is adored as the people’s general would undoubtedly have to sit it out in 2023 when it would be the time for the governorship to return to his Delta Central.