By Omokioja Uzezi
At the birth of Nigeria’s representative democracy in 1999, nine years after the creation of Delta State from the old Bendel, a new vista was opened in the annals of ethnic struggle for political power in the new state.
It is a general knowledge that the oil-rich State is a multi-ethnic setting with a ferocious struggle among the nationalities on which group leads the State.
In the middle of the struggle, the political system thrust up an Urhobo man, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, who led the State from May 29, 1999, through May 29, 2007, and he relinquished power to another political bloc in the Delta South Senatorial District.
The development was a brainchild of agitations among ethnic nationalities caught up in the web of the desire to take the mantle of leadership from the Oghara-born Ibori in the Delta Central Senatorial District.
Prior to that, there were several brickbats, acrimony, chaos and mudslinging among political gladiators in the State just as loyalty was built in the electorates along ethnic divides and this brewed so much hate and misgivings in the State—a development which heated the polity save for the career politicians who took advantage at the time to build alliances across ethnic boundaries to arrive at an amicable decision on power-sharing formula otherwise known as “Delta Family Agreement.”
In the infallible wisdom of the founding fathers of the “Big Heart” State, ascension to the Government House Asaba should be a family affair rather than warfare and the State and her people have been better for it due mainly to the fact that the arrangement is built on friendship and not enmity among the people and their nationalities; giving every setting a sense of belonging based on equity and social justice, as no group oppresses the other.
The distinguished men on whose wisdom the tripartite agreement stands; for record purpose were: the then Governor Chief James Onanefe Ibori; the late Senator Francis Okpozo; the late Chief Felix Ibru; Senator Patrick Osakwe, Admiral Ojinika Onah; Senator Nwajei and Pa Godwin Ogbetuo. Others were: the late Chief Daniel Okumagba; Chief Edwin Clark and a host of many other men of goodwill.
In the context of the above, this “gentleman agreement” comfortably stands on a tripod just as the people have over the years imbibed the understanding of this political brotherhood and even a toddler in the State can easily explain this simple and unambiguous power equation. It is as simple as that.
The line-up prior to the emergence of Chief James Ibori, who contested on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), spoke volume of ethnic rivalry as Professor Eric Opia of the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) from Ndokwa nation roared from Delta North Senatorial District challenging the Urhobo-born Chief James Ibori from Delta Central Senatorial District.
At the end of the day, the fierce political battle left a bitter taste in the political system and that eventually brought about the imperatives of friendship among the people which snowballed into the sustained tripartite arrangement that fostered peace and tranquillity in the State till date.
As the administration of Chief Ibori’s PDP wound down after successful second term in the Office in 2007, a new political line up took the field of the 2007 contest and this time they were: Chief Godwill Obielum, a retired police boss from Ndokwa extraction leading the pack from Delta North with the campaign and slogan of “it is our turn to rule.”
He was the most popular in the State and in that line up was Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, a Medical Doctor from the Itsekiri bloc in Delta South Senatorial District.
Apart from Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru, who came roaring from same Delta Central District with Chief Ibori ostensibly undermining the zoning arrangement on the platform of the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) no other Urhobo man seriously challenged the rotational arrangement, save for few political minions from the District who are traditional challengers with no impact in the system but use same for post-election negotiation.
Of note, was the attitude of the people of Urhoboland as expressed in their voting pattern in 2007. Chief Ogboru, an Urhobo man, for daring to distort the tripartite political arrangement was roundly defeated at the polls by a little known Dr. Uduaghan who emerged the Governor of the Big Heart State thereafter.
Uduaghan’s landslide victory then emphasised the allegiance of the people of Delta State to the beautifully and generally accepted and sustained zoning arrangement that has brought peace to the people as a result of a clearly defined system of political ascension to power. Also, from the look of things, the people are not prepared to jettison that arrangement no matter whose ox is gored.
In the 2019 gubernatorial contest, the Urhobo political bloc once again disciplined Chief Ogboru at the polls as he attempted to thwart the rotational arrangement in his bid to be Governor at the expense of the zoning arrangement.
It was made clear to him that the people of Urhoboland were not prepared to undermine the zoning format but he defiantly threw his hat in the ring; a development which culminated in his disgrace at the polls. Not even his electoral strongholds were spared as Governor Ifeanyi Okowa overran him severely even in his homestead. It was a bitter lesson for the Abraka-born politician who was loved by his people.
The above analysis emphasises the absolute faith of Deltans deeply rooted in zoning arrangement and their firm stand and trust in the process.
Fast-forward, as the post-Governor Ifeanyi Okowa era beckons on the State, gladiators have once again gone back to the political trenches mapping out strategies on how to undo one and other in their bid to clinch the exalted position.
Surprisingly, some persons are at the forefront of undermining the integrity of the zoning arrangement that hitherto build peace in that State. Governor Okowa, an Ika politician from the Delta North Senatorial District who is a beneficiary of the existing zoning arrangement knows as much as all Deltans do, that the rotational agreement must not be jeopardized for any reason and under any guise.
As a complete gentleman whose heart is nurtured by good conscience, Governor Okowa is faced with the challenge of nurturing a transition that will return power to Delta Central Senatorial District where it should rightly go in 2023.
As it stands today, the contemporary leaders of thought who are eminent and respectable in the oil-rich State have again re-affirmed their stance and believe in the zoning system. From the Delta North Senatorial District, Chief Senator Patrick Osakwe has thrown his weight behind the zoning arrangement ditto Pa Arthur Okorie Okowa, who not only adopted the man he refers to as his son—Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi but reinstated his love for the existing zoning formula, which was why he rained blessings on the aspirant who many described as a colossus. Added to the duo from that political axis are all the current political office holders and leaders from that District.
Of course, the respected elder, Chief Senator Edwin Clark, from Delta South Senatorial District has not only affirmed his stance for the zoning arrangement but had further adopted his godson, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi from Urhoboland.
Therefore, it is a general knowledge and undiluted fact that the Urhobos will line up their “best 11” for the gubernatorial race in 2023—God willing.
The rotational zoning system started from Urhoboland and as it heads towards the largest homogeneous entity in State, it behoves on the people to thrust up their best and also take cognisance of the fact that the Ethiope axis had taken a shot at the exalted seat of power and therefore, massively support their son, the former Minister of State for Education, an entrepreneur of repute, the largest employer of labour in the Niger Delta region—Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, to succeed his friend—Governor Okowa in 2023.
Nothing justifies treachery in the body polity to the extent that politicians from Delta South District are also jostling for reasons best known them for the 2023 gubernatorial race in a manner that suggests political perfidy and flagrant disrespect for the existing zoning arrangement.
No man or woman of integrity will ever rise against the tripartite arrangement in good conscience, because that political brotherhood had fostered enduring peace in the State and it is worthy to be promoted and supported by all and sundry.
Delta State is not and will never be an exclusive preserve of any person or group of persons who will want to take advantage of the electorates to perpetuate themselves in power.
Power rotates to each Senatorial District and it is left for the ethnic blocs in each District to struggle for it. For instance, as power edges towards the Delta Central Senatorial District of the State, the people of Urhoboland have chosen Olorogun Gbagi from the Ughelli bloc to succeed Governor Okowa, just as the politicians in Delta Southern District will wait for 2031 to clinch the governorship again—everything being equal.
In the southern divide (Delta South) of the three Districts in the State are four blocs out of which Itsekiri had gotten its own fair share, so, the battle will then be among the other three blocs nay: Isoko, Ijaw and the Warri-Urhobo speaking Agbarha/Okere-Urhobo people in that belt.
Again, when political power shall return to the Delta North Senatorial District, the Ika nation would not have the moral rectitude to struggle for it, again; as the battle will strictly be between Ndokwa nation and the Aniocha bloc. With this arrangement in place, even development is sure, equity assured and justice served.
As it stands, towards 2023, in their massive support so far for Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, the Urhobo has shown a preparedness to capture power once again being the tribe with the largest voting strength in the State.
In that 2023 line up are: Olorogun Gbagi, Chief David Edevbie, Chief Ejaife Omizu Odebala, Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori and a host of others on the platform of the PDP, while under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), boasts of the likes of:
DSP Obarisi Ovie Omo-Agege, Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru, Olorogun Festus Keyamo (SAN), Olorogun Otega Emerhor and others who are perhaps afraid to throw their hats in the ring early enough due to lack of funds in the war chest to sustain a long drawn political race which, of course, in that part of the country is very expensive.
It goes to show that the race for 2023 is not for the boys but men who possess the financial strength to prosecute such political battle to its logical conclusion.
Among the above illustrious sons of Urhoboland mentioned, the most acceptable is Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi who has all it takes including the required war chest to defeat his opponents. He is the richest with the needed political war chest to achieve victory for his party and all who believe in him at the polls.
Olorogun Gbagi is gubernatorial in style and actions—he has excellency of ideas capable of catapulting the State and her citizens to be the best among equals; he is executive in his leadership philosophy and nobody can match his grit. He has the political acumen to defeat any challenger at any point in time irrespective of what you may represent.
In his drive to the Asaba Government House come 2023, nobody, and I repeat, no politician born of woman has the strength to stop the political hurricane called Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi. Gbagi is PDP and PDP is Olorogun Gbagi. The people love him, he is their choice, we must support this new dawn in the change of baton from one friend of progress to the other. It is Olorogun Gbagi, all the way.
Uzezi lives in Oleh, Delta State