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Delta: Guber race narrows in APC, as Okowa, Ibori tango in PDP

By  Godwin Ijediogor (South-South Bureau Chief), Asaba
22 May 2022   |   2:43 am
The governorship elections in Delta State are certainly between the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC). It has always been a crowded primary election

[FILES] Okowa. Photo/facebook/IAOkowa/

The governorship elections in Delta State are certainly between the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC). It has always been a crowded primary election in the PDP, and this year is no different.

The intrigues over who flies the party’s ticket have been playing out gradually since one year ago when Governor Ifeanyi Okowa off-loaded cabinet members and political appointees with eyes on elective offices in next year’s general elections.
During the South-South zonal screening in Port Harcourt, the committee, headed by Bayelsa State Governor, Douye Diri, cleared 15 aspirants to contest for the party’s slot. Since then, there have been negotiations and horse-trading by interested forces in attempts to prune the number and garner more support.
Since a year ago, it was obvious that the supremacy battle, by proxy, is going to be between Okowa and former governor, Chief James Ibori, and as the primary election holds next week, both camps have intensified their lobbies and negotiations.
The Diri-led committee had okayed Deputy Governor of the state, Kingsley Otuaro; Senator James Manager, representing Delta South; Speaker of the state Assembly, Sheriff Oborevwori; former Minister of State for Education, Kenneth Gbagi; former commissioner for Finance and one-time chief of staff to Okowa, David Edevbie; former commissioner for Lands, Survey and Urban Development, Fred Majemite; former attorney general and commissioner for Justice, Peter Mrakpor; Chris Iyovwaye; former member of the state Assembly, Ejaife Odebala; former commissioner for Local Government Affairs, Onajefe-Gift Bright Edejewhro; Lucky Ohworode Idike and Abel Oghenevo Esievo to jostle for the party’s ticket.
Otuaro and Manager are from Delta South district, while the rest are from Delta Central district, with Delta North, from where Okowa hails, not in contention, ostensibly in adherence to the rotational principle.
Deltans, including politicians, are agreed on the rotational arrangement, but the thorny issue this time around is whose turn it is, the position having gone round the three senatorial districts, in which case it would be the turn of Delta Central, made up of the Urhobo, but the Ijaw from Delta South insists on ethnic rotation, especially being a major ethnic group.
Ibori has since declared Edevbie, a former principal secretary to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who was also recently endorsed by the apex Urhobo socio-cultural organisation, Urhobo Progress Union (UPU), as his choice for the position.
It would be recalled that in 2014, Edevbie contested the primary election against Okowa and lost by a narrow margin, following the massive support of the Ijaw for Okowa.
Before now, some of the aspirants have relied heavily on the governor to further their ambitions and had after meeting with him to formally intimate him of their aspirations, claimed that he had endorsed them, a development the government always denied, insisting that the governor remained neutral and would ensure a level-playing environment for all aspirants.
The aspirants have traversed the state and local councils, meeting the delegates to canvass for votes. And some have been able to extract commitments.
Not long ago, rumours of Okowa covertly backing Oborevwori gained ground, more so with the increased momentum of the Speaker’s consultation and presence across the state, with some political appointees alleged to have joined his campaign train.
Again, the government has consistently denied mandating its appointees to campaign for any aspirant. Commissioner for Information, Mr. Charles Aniagwu, has insisted that the governor has not anointed any of the aspirants and that they may have misunderstood him during their consultations about their ambitions.
Aniagwu decried the rumours of endorsement, saying the aspirants might simply be latching on to the governor’s achievements, noting: “The governor will not be interested in asking anybody to step down, because he is a democrat. But his achievements and pedigree will speak very loud.”
Amidst the tango, Okowa had on several occasions reiterated that his successor would emerge by divine providence. At the party’s mega rally late last year, he promised all aspirants a level-playing field, assuring that there would be a free, fair and transparent primary election in choosing the party’s governorship candidate and called on aspirants to control their followers.
Ibori, at the event, called for an open environment for all aspirants to pursue their political ambitions without hindrance while commending Okowa for ensuring a level-playing field for all the aspirants.
There have been several meetings, attended by Ibori, Okowa, his predecessor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, and other major party stakeholders to reach a common ground and resolve the difference in the choice between Ibori and Okowa, all to no avail, as both camps reportedly stuck to their choices.
Fearing that this divide under the umbrella could affect the party’s chance in the election proper, the national leadership of the party was said to have waded into the matter. Indeed, its National Chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, during his recent visit to the state, counselled members, especially leaders, against any act that could jeopardise PDP’s chances in the elections.
Ayu commended Deltans for their massive support for the PDP since 1999, urging them to remain steadfast in the forthcoming general elections. 
The impact of that counsel and his meetings with the different camps remains to be seen, as not much has changed since the visit, with uneasy calm pervading within the PDP.
Indeed, a fortnight ago, there was rumour that Ibori, who was said to have been in Abuja for some time, may have had his way, as Okowa was alleged to have abandoned Oborevwori and finally directed his supporters to accept Edevbie.  
But that rumour couldn’t fly, as it died soon afterwards, with all stakeholders on both sides contacted for comment denying knowledge of such development.
While Ibori, whose political dynasty, to which Okowa belong(ed), has been dictating the tone of Delta politics since the return of democratic rule in 1999, struggles to hold on to its/his monopoly of the state’s politics, through Edevbie, the governor’s followers seem to be gradually queuing behind Oborevwori in this epic battle.
But the Ijaw in Delta South is not giving up without a fight, as they continue to strategise on how to clinch the ticket, which is only possible if they present a common front in either Otuaro or Manager.
Omo-Agege Certain In APC

DEPUTY Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege is certain to pick the APC ticket whenever the coronation in form of a primary is held. In short, he inches closer to the vehicle by the day, as there is no other aspirant that can match him.
Indeed, he may be looking beyond the primary election already, with the focus now on next year’s battle with whoever eventually emerges from PDP’s crowded race. He has been making inroads in Delta North with the support of Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, who represents the district in the National Assembly.
Nwaoboshi dumped the PDP last year to join Omo-Agege in APC when it was thought that the governor was going to seek a return to the senate. But with Okowa announcing that he would not be returning to the senate, Nwaoboshi sees his chances being brighter, even though many believe he is likely to run with Omo-Agege as deputy.
On the surface, APC now controls two (Delta Central and Delta North) out of the three senatorial districts of the state, which, if taken as a yardstick in deciding the outcome of the general elections, could be in its favour.

The opposition party in the state had until now faced an internal crisis, with some prominent members, including its former governorship candidate, Great Ogboru; Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo; former Speaker of the state Assembly and Executive Director, Maritime Labour and Cabotage Services of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Victor Ochei; former member of the House of Representatives, Cairo Ojougboh, and others opposing Omo-Agege’s alleged hijack of the party to ensure his eventual emergence as the candidate.
Ahead of the primary election, there is currently no known name or politician that can match Omo-Agege for the ticket; hence it is assumed in many quarters that he has already emerged by design or default.
But the permutation remains that if Okowa should support the Delta South (the Ijaw) against Delta Central (Urhobo), the latter could likely dump PDP and throw their weight behind their other son, Omo-Agege, to clinch the position, depending on who gets the block delegates’ votes of Delta North, who are awaiting a clear direction from the governor.
There is also the fear that if Ibori fails to install his godson, Edevbie, or for whatever reason, an Urhobo, in PDP, he might switch support to another godson, Omo-Agege, in APC.
For Okowa, some analysts also see options that are never mentioned, or may never come to play, such as switching support to another Urhobo or an Ijaw on another platform if Edevbie picks the PDP ticket.   
The above scenarios have been dismissed by chieftains of the ruling party in the state, who consider them “unthinkable,” saying the two actors would not want their national reputation within the party diminished.
The other political parties are observing the situation with keen interest, hoping to benefit from an implosion within the two major parties.

In all, the few remaining days to the parties’ primaries remain very crucial, and it would not be unusual to see some aspirants step down for others after horse-trading, climb down or even switch platforms if it becomes clearer where the race is headed.


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