By Emma Amaize
Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, leaders in Delta State, who attended penultimate Friday’s caucus of the party at Government House, Asaba, the state capital, discerned before commencement that the conclave would be explosive, but what they could not immediately put their fingers on was how stormy it would be.
The state Chairman of the party, Kingsley Esiso, a lawyer, sensitively introduced the only subject matter for the meeting, saying there had been contradictory talks about zoning of governorship by the party, stressing there was need for the caucus, which is the highest decision making organ of the party in the state, to take a decision on the matter ahead of 2023.
A source told Sunday Vanguard: “Contrary to media reports that Esiso said zoning of governorship for 2023 should restart from his Delta Central, he never said so at the meeting. He only introduced the only agenda for the day as zoning and called for discussions.”
First state Chairman of the party and Ijaw governorship aspirant, Senator James Manager, strongly opposed zoning the 2023 governorship ticket of the PDP, arguing that since the formation of PDP in 1999, the party had never zoned the ticket and it should not start in 2023.
Manager’s apprehension was that Delta Central had possibly concluded plan to inveigle the party to zone the 2023 governorship to the district (Urhobo) and he presaged that no matter what materializes at the end of the day, Ijaw must contest the party’s 2023 governorship primary.
The longest serving senator in the country dug into protracted history of how the PDP was formed, how leaders and governors from different ethnic groups emerged in the past, the role of the Ijaw nation in their emergence and why nobody should stop Ijaw in 2023.
“Senator Manager took the garb of former militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, at the meeting, as he stated that Ijaw must participate in the 2023 governorship primaries no matter whose ox is gored”, a party leader who attended the meeting told Sunday Vanguard.
Uzor supports Manager
Chief Edwin Uzor, a former state Chairman of the party and current Special Adviser of Peace and Conflict Resolution to the Governor, stoutly supported Manager’s contention that there had not been zoning of governorship in the party since 1999
Ijaw unstoppable – Otuaro
Deputy Governor, Deacon Kingsley Otuaro, another Ijaw governorship aspirant, reaffirmed why Ijaw must not be excluded from the 2023 governorship race of the party under any facade, let alone zoning, insisting it was non-negotiable for the ethnic group.
Uduehi, Omu, Oritsejafor, Elumelu stick to zoning
A member of the party’s Board of Trustees, BoT, and former governorship aspirant, Dr. Esther Uduehi, lashed out at Manager, saying zoning (rotation) was the way to go and even the Senate seat for Delta South, which he (Manager) has commandeered for five tenures must be rotated.
Minority Leader, House of Representatives, Hon Ndudi Elumelu, came down very hard on Manager and other challengers of zoning which, he argued, has brought stability to the PDP in Delta.
Elumelu submitted that rotation of governorship should start in 2023 from Delta Central, tasking Urhobo leaders to put their house in order just like Delta North leaders had done and listened to Okowa as their leading light.
Senator Stella Omu from Delta South argued in favour of governorship rotation beginning from Delta Central in 2023, saying the district would have waited for a 16-year period by then, a position Chief (Dr.) Roland Oritsajefor, a former Minister of State for Defence, further explicated, emphasizing that zoning has brought stability to the party.
Oyovbaire, Amori reiterate zoning
A former Minister of Information and political father of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, Prof Sam Oyovbaire, and Deputy National Organizing Secretary, PDP, who also leads Delta Central- 2023, DC-23, a lobby group of the senatorial district for 2023 governor, Chief Ighoyota Amori, also spoke in favour of zoning of governorship by the party.
Uduaghan wants decision expedited
A former governor of the state, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, who spoke from experience, counseled that the caucus should take a decision on zoning, possibly on that day, so that governorship aspirants likely to be affected by the resolution would not be waste their funds on campaign.
Let the right thing be done – Ibori
Another ex-governor, Chief James Ibori, in measured words, also advocated that leaders of the party should always do what is right in the interest of the party.
The mood at the meeting was that members of the caucus should vote on zoning beginning in 2023 or otherwise and it was also unmistakable that Urhobo would have carried the day if it was perfected.
But for Okowa, who, as leader of the party, has overruling power, saying the decision should be deferred to another day, Ijaw would have lost the tally.
Our source said: “The governor, in his contribution, noted that Ijaw were not against zoning, but apparently viewed it from a perspective different from others.
“However, since the arrowhead of the Ijaw lobby group for 2023 governor, a former Minister of Police Affairs, Alaowei Broderick Bozimo, was not present, he said it was better to postpone the discussion to another day to get a fuller house before final decision.
“The spirit of the governor’s ruling is that it will be unfair to take a decision on the subject matter when only the head of one group advocating for zoning was available and the other absent.
“You know that when the governor speaks, no caucus member will challenge him, so the matter was left at that.
“But the party chairman, Esiso, was directed to reconvene another meeting in not more than three weeks or thereabout for another deliberation on the contentious matter”.
Why I didn’t attend meeting – Bozimo
Sunday Vanguard contacted Bozimo on Monday over the distinctive respect accorded him by the governor, and the elder statesman, who said he could not attend the caucus meeting because of his health condition, disclosed that none of the Ijaw leaders that attended the meeting had called or visited to brief him on what transpired.
He said it would, therefore, be imprudent on his part to respond to our inquiry, adding that he would wait for Ijaw governorship aspirants and others who attended the meeting to brief him before making comments.
However, an Ijaw leader, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard, said: “I suspect that there was pre-caucus meeting by Urhobo people and other people to go into zoning on that day the matter was thrown up.
“The Chairman of the party, Esiso, just came out with the proposal and that a decision should be taken on it.
“Of course, Senator Manager rose to give the history of the party and all that, but Otuaro, the deputy governor, stressed the need for the caucus, which is the highest decision making organ of the party, to avoid taking a decision that cannot be implemented.
“Otuaro pointed out that for an acceptable decision to be taken on the matter, the caucus has to appraise whether there had really been zoning of governorship by the party in the state before now, if there was zoning, was it enforced in the past? He said as for Ijaw, the ethnic group would contest the 2023 governorship primary of PDP and nobody would stop it”.
Some party members who spoke to Sunday Vanguard after the caucus meeting, said from the governor’s statement at the meeting, he seemed more disposed to the Ijaw because everybody knew that Ijaw would have lost it if voting took place that day.
But our source said: “Those who said the governor sided with Ijaw are unfair to him. He never took sides, he saw that the leader of the Ijaw lobby group for governor, Bozimo, was unavoidably absent at the meeting and, as a good leader, he suggested that the caucus should not be in a hurry to take a final decision on that day, but a meeting should called as soon as possible for a fuller house to deliberate and take a decision.
“I think we should congratulate him for his maturing and wisdom because if he did not that, things would have gone out of hand at that meeting”.
Otuaro commends Okowa
Contacted, Otuaro, who refused comments on what happened at the caucus, said: “I am pleased with the decision of the state governor, it statesmanlike.”