•C’RIVER: Ayade picks Otu; Imoke, Duke groups fight
•DELTA: Okowa picks his battle, Ibori strong-willed; Omo-Agege, Nwaoboshi fence-off rivals
•A’IBOM: Udom controls PDP; Akpabio, Akpanudoedehe clash over APC
•RIVERS: Wike keeps contenders guessing; Amaechi, Abe continue face-off
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Egufe Yafugborhi, Emma Una and Chioma Onuegbu
THE two-term tenures of four South-South governors: Senator Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta); Nyesom Wike (Rivers); Emmanuel Udom (Akwa Ibom); and Ben Ayade (Cross-River) will end May, next year, but their their states are embroiled in intra-party supremacy battles and manoeuvrings for successors.
Three of the governors: Wike and Udom want to go pick the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for the 2023 elections, while Ayade, who cast off PDP for All Progressive Congress, APC, May, last year, is also gunning for the presidential ticket of his new party. Only Okowa of Delta state is not in the presidential race among the four governors. He initially desired but later changed his mind.
However, each of the four governors also wants to have a say on who takes over from them, but some leaders feel otherwise with others backing them. This is where the fight is in the four states. Bayelsa and Edo states are not in the fray owing to the varying dates of last-held gubernatorial elections.
Ayade faces protest from Eba, Agara
In Cross River state, Governor Ayade, who filled both presidential and senatorial nomination forms, had endorsed Senator Bassey Otu as APC gubernatorial standard-bearer, but two other aspirants – Senator John Eno and Barrister Chris Agara vehemently objected to his consensus treaty.
The state chairman, Mr. Alphonsus Eba, had warned aspirants not to buy form until the state caucus reached a decision on who to bear the party’s flag, but Eno and Agara disregarded his caveat, bought, filled and returned their forms. Other APC aspirants include Asuquo Ekpenyong, Senator John Owan Eno, Mr Ben Akak, Chief Eyo Etim Nyong and two other dark horses.
The in-house APC fightback is only the commencement of Ayade’s struggle to claim the state for his new party, the real battle is with his former party, PDP, which wants to take the state back from him and APC in 2023.
Imoke, Duke dead end
However, two former governors of the state, Liyel Imoke and Donald Duke, who handed over to Ayade, are not decided on zoning of the governorship slot to the southern district. Those scrambling for the party’s ticket are Senator Gershom Bassey, Senator Sandy Onor, Mr Arthur Jarvis, Mr. Efiok Cobham, Ambassador Nkoyo Toyo, Mrs. Philia Henshaw, Mr. Eyo Okpo Ene, Mrs. Ima Nsa Adegoke and Mr. Daniel Asukwo.
Recently, a meeting convened by Mr. Donald Duke’s to select a consensus candidate among the southern aspirants to face Senator Sandy Onor, who is from the Central district ended in a deadlock, as Senator Imoke and Gershom Bassey, not satisfied with the proceedings, walked out. Duke forged ahead to choose Mr. Arthur Jarvis, who other stakeholders rejected.
Currently, PDP has Senators Bassey and Onor as front-runners, but nothing is clear until the May 25 primaries of the party. The APC-led state government relieved the paramount ruler of Calabar- South, Professor Itam Hogan, of his position for allegedly meddling into politics with his participation in the deadlocked meeting.
PDP leaders informed that neither Imoke nor Duke would be willing to allow Ayade to install an APC government in the state in 2023, so they naturally resolve the differences after the primaries, May 25, to fight a common cause, thereafter.
Udom meets resistance
The situation in Akwa Ibom is also stimulating with the incumbent governor, Udom, who had hand-picked Pastor Umo Uno as his preferred successor obviously in-charge given the outcome of the ward and local government congresses. Other governorship aspirants are Rt. Hon Onofiok Luke, Senator Bassey Akpan, Mr. Akan Okon and Ide Owodiong.
Following the zoning arrangement of the parties, all the governorship aspirants in PDP and APC are from Akwa Ibom Northeast (Uyo) senatorial district. But some aggrieved PDP aspirants had gone to court over the conduct of congresses and also raised the alarm over Udom’s choice of Army Barracks for the primaries.
Akpabio, Akpanudoedehe slug it out
In APC, the combat for control of party structure between Senator Godswill Akpabio and Senator John Akpanudoedehe factions is worrisome. Recent developments in the party with the swearing-in of Akpabio’s loyalists as the state chairman indicate that Akpabio was in control. But the other faction still has a case pending in the Appeal Court over the contention.
Wike holds the ace in PDP
Rivers governor, Wike, who has enormous power to determine his party’s standard bearer has kept his favourite candidate close to his chest, while making every other person to conjecture. Unpromising silence presently pervades the state because of his strategic temperament.
All of about 14 governorship aspirants fighting for the party’s governorship ticket, except serving Senator George Sekibo, former Minister, Abiye Sekibo and remanded House of Representatives member, Farah Dagogo, are current or one- time appointees of Wike. Many, however, see the Account General of the state, Sim Fubara, who may have retired already; Secretary to State Government, Tammy Danagogo; or immediate past state Chairman, Felix Obuah, as the governor’s likely picks.
Amaechi plots to dislodge Wike
APC in Rivers remains torn apart along lingering feud between party Leader and immediate past Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi and Sen Magnus Abe, who is still aspiring for the governorship ticket. In what signposts more troubles for the party, even Amaechi’s own camp has been thrown into disarray with four more loyalists buying form in rebellion after party leaders picked Tonye Cole as consensus aspirant.
Governor Wike is ready to do anything to stop Amaechi from taking over Rivers and similarly, Amaechi is not prepared to allow Wike to have his way.
Okowa in apparent control
In Delta State, Okowa has not officially declared support for any governorship aspirant, but many, despite his disavowal and explanation, still speculate that his preference is the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Rt. Hon Sheriff Oborevwori.
Oborevwori is obviously not the choice of a former governor of the state, Chief James Ibori, who is the leader of the commanding Ibori PDP political family in the state, which Okowa is part of. Ibori is supporting a former Commissioner for Finance, Olorogun David Edevbie, but does not have the power to palm off his choice on the governor and the party.
Okowa had explained to newsmen that there was no crack in the Ibori family because of the visible variance, saying what was happening was politics.
From available indications, Okowa with his powers as incumbent governor is largely in control of the party, which parades other governorship aspirants, including former Minister of State for Education, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, Deputy Governor, Deacon Kingsley Otuaro, Senator James Manager and Hon Ejaife Odebala.
Also in the race are former Commissioner, Olorogun Fred Majemite; ex-Commissioner, Peter Adogbejire Mrakpor, SAN; Deacon Chris Iyovwaye; ex-Commissioner, Mr. Onajefe-Gift Bright Edejewhro; Mr. Lucky Ohworode Idike and Chief Abel Oghenevo Esievo.
Ibori, who has demonstrated great conviction in his political belief has navigated parts of the state, especially in his Delta Central senatorial districts, canvassing support for his candidates in the PDP primaries.
But who actually emerges the party’s 2023 governorship standard-bearer will be established at the May 25 governorship primaries, after which the party, So far, will retreat to plan for the generation election proper.
Omo-Agege, Nwaoboshi call the shots in APC
Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, and his Chairman, Senate Committee on Niger-Delta counterpart, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, both of whom are contesting for governorship and senatorial tickets are unquestionably the two musketeers running the show in Delta APC.
The party structure is in the hands of the two powerful senators. They have successfully warded off those that challenged their authority and managed to build understanding with a number of alienated leaders, but there is no space in the party for anyone opposed to Omo-Agege’s governorship bid.
Omo-Agege is most probable to clinch APC’s gubernatorial ticket unopposed just as Nwaoboshi will grab Delta North senatorial ticket of the party. The duo decide what happens in the party but Nwaoboshi through an older politician defers to Omo-Agege as Leader of the party.
Sources said the two former members of Ibori PDP political family before they exited the party for APC, have for months now, been planning how to seize power from PDP in 2023 with Elder Sobotie Omeni, a former PDP tactician and former Chief Political Strategist to the Delta State Government, Chief Paulinus Akpeki, who are state chairman and Delta Central senatorial district chairman respectively, providing necessary fall-back plans.
Omeni, a former Senior Special Adviser, SSA, to Ibori and Akpeki were former members of the Ibori PDP family and if wishes were horses, Akpeki, Nwaoboshi, Sobotie and Akpeki would all have wish Ibori to join forces with them to take over the state, but Ibori trenchantly believes in PDP and wants the party to continue its dominance of the state.