Ibori, Oyobaire, other Delta forces tell Ijaw, Isoko as aspirants interpret PDP rotation arrangement
Gbagi in an early start, Urhobo to conduct primary at the appropriate time
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, Niger Delta
THE Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has not blown the whistle for the 2023 governorship race in Delta state. In fact, the incumbent governor, Senator Ifeanyi is barely four months into his second tenure, but the battle has started with political gladiators positioning and making consultations across the state.
Many consider the move by governorship hopefuls too early, but one of them, a former Minister from Delta Central, told Vanguard that his early preparation was because early preparation is important and presents better picture of the circumstances that may help the aspirant.
Though Ibori, the political leader of Delta Central and former Minister of Information, Prof Sam Oyovbaire, who is the political godfather of Governor Okowa, believe campaign for 2023 was rather too early, their concern was more about aspirants from Ijaw and Isoko ethnic groups of Delta South saying it was the turn of their ethnic groups.
Former Commissioner and Chairman, Delta State Capital Development Agency, Chief Ighoyota Amori, former Chief Political Strategist to Delta State Government, Chief Paulinus Akpeki, Chief Mike Adiotomtre and others Urhobo leaders, who converged, last weekend, at Ibori’s Oghara country in Ethiope West local government also viewed the development from the same perspective.
In fact, some of the aspirants from Delta South senatorial district, comprising Isoko, Ijaw and Itsekiri ethnic groups, where one of their own, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, the immediate past governor ruled between 2007 and 2015, argue that Uduaghan is from Itsekiri ethnic group. They contend that since Urhobo had taken its turn through Ibori, 1999 – 2003, while Anioma will complete its eight-year tenure started in 2015 in 2023, the next should be Isoko or Ijaw, as Uduaghan’s tenure is for his Itsekiri ethnic group.
Explanation that the PDP rotation arrangement, which the political leaders subscribed to was on senatorial, not tribal basis, fell on deaf ears as the aspirants maintained that they would fight it out.
In fact, some Ijaw politicians were unwavering in their plan to drag Senator James Manager, one of the top leaders of the party in the state into the race in 2023.
However, Delta Central political tacticians, who have been waiting patiently since Ibori took their first eight years and worked for Uduaghan’s Delta South as well as for Okowa (Anioma) to secure their tenures, were taken aback by the unfolding intrigues.
Therefore, when they gathered last weekend, it was a brainstorming session to review the development and at the end of deliberations, they decided to send an unambiguous signal that they would not accept betrayal from politicians in Delta South since a sensible Anioma politician would be talking about governorship in 2023 when Okowa will complete his eight years.
Though the power rotation arrangement among the three senatorial districts is a PDP contrivance, the All Progressives Congress, APC, will undoubtedly present an Urhobo governorship candidate in 2023.
From antecedents, it will not do otherwise because zoning the ticket to either Delta North or South senatorial districts in 2023 will tantamount to shooting itself on the foot. Such a step should have been in 2019 when it fielded Chief Great Ogboru, who had practically contested all the governorship elections in the state since 2007 without success.
While it will not be too complicated for Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, an Urhobo, to bludgeon his way and pick the party’s 2023 governorship ticket , it will be a different kettle of fish in PDP because the power brokers of the party in the district have their different candidates.
Ibori, who chaired the closed-door meeting, Oyovbaire and others, for the avoidance of doubt, categorically declared that Governor Okowa (Delta North) would hand over power to Delta Central in 2023, according to the subsisting power rotation arrangement among the three senatorial districts of the state.
Though they agreed that 2023 was still far away, Delta Central leaders served notice to politicians outside the district to respect the arrangement.
Said Ibori, “Governor Okowa, during his campaign, promised to handover to Delta Central and as a gentleman and promise keeper, we have no doubt in our minds that he will do everything within his God given powers to adhere strictly to his promise.”
“We expect all genuine members of our great party, PDP, to comply with the power rotation agreement. It is for the good of all; majority and minority, the weak and the strong, for a balanced society.
“Equity, justice and good conscience are some of the major pillars of constitutional democracy, hence PDP in Delta state encourages power rotation to enable both the majority and minority groups and or ethnic nationalities via senatorial districts power arrangements to produce governor, and the agreement remains sacrosanct.
“Let me also state clearly that 2023 is still much ahead and it is not time yet for political campaigns but we shall commence primary arrangements and wide consultations in the near future. We must remain united and avoid unnecessary division and attacks on personalities within and outside Delta Central Senatorial District as we make steady progress towards the historic inauguration of the next Urhobo governor come 2023.
“Urhobos spread across eight local governments and they have prominent sons and daughters that are eligible to contest the 2023 governorship slot and we are very sure that at the end of the race the best among them shall emerge as governor based on the majority votes of all eligible voters in the state.
“We also agreed as a people and Senatorial district to support Governor Okowa to succeed throughout his tenure, he is a good leader and did well in his first tenure; therefore, we hope that his second tenure shall be better than the first. Our governor is a visionary leader and it is only fair that we continue to support him same way he supported his predecessors, going forward,” Ibori said,” he said.
The former governor observed that Delta Central, which commenced the power rotation in 1999 gave maximum support to Delta South from 2007 to 2015 when Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan held sway as governor, and accorded the same support to Delta North, represented by Okowa, who took over in 2015 and expected to complete eight years in 2023.
Prof Oyovbaire and other leaders, who also spoke endorsed Ibori’s position, advising Ijaw and Isoko politicians already agitating for the party’s 2023-governorship slot to forget the idea and join forces with Delta North and Central.
The Urhobo leaders made it clear that there was neither Ijaw nor Isoko slot for governorship in the PDP family in 2023 and urged them to show understanding.
Even when Ibori said that 2023 was still far away, the leaders know that the earlier the better for serious-minded aspirants and the Ibori’s statement “we shall commence primary arrangements and wide consultations in the near future” is exactly why some of the aspirants have kick started their campaign.
Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, one of the founders of PDP in the state, who contested the party’s governorship primary with Ibori and Oyovbaire in 1998 and lost out to Ibori, strongly believes that Ibori and Oyovbaire would remember yesteryear and the fact that he had remained consistent with the party despite the disappointments.
As part of his consultations, he had visited Prof Oyovbaire not known to be in the 2023 race and a host of other Urhobo leaders.
Saturday Vanguard could not confirm if Gbagi has consulted Ibori on his 2023 quest, but a source said he would definitely do that if he had not done that already.
The source hinted, “But he has consulted Chief Amori and a host of other Urhobo leaders already because he does not want anybody to say that he did not reach out to him early enough.”
Gbagi, Delta’s biggest indigenous investor and employer of labour thinks he is the most qualified Urhobo aspirant to take over from Okowa and boasts that he is not a corrupt person and has not stolen money from government or any enterprise.
An Urhobo elder statesman, who worked against PDP in the last elections in the state, had already told some friends that he would dump APC for PDP to make Gbagi governor.
A former Commissioner in the state and one-time governorship aspirant, former Commissioner for Finance and presently Chief of Staff to Governor Okowa, Olorogun David Edevbie, has not dropped his governorship ambition, but because of the exigency of his office, he is operating inconspicuously.
Edevbie regarded as Ibori ‘boy’ and was the candidate former governor of the state, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan finally threw his weight behind to stop Okowa in 2015 after dumping Mr. Tony Obuh, earlier speculated to be his candidate. Edevbie lost to Okowa, but he still made him a member of his cabinet.
There are already cleavages as some of the Urhobo leaders have their preferred governorship candidates and strategizing on how to enthrone their choices. However, as many already know only an impartial governorship primary will save the Delta Central PDP from implosion.