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Fresh rumble in Delta South over Senate race

By Owen Akenzua, Asaba
20 October 2017   |   4:17 am
Anytime the duo of former Delta State governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan and Senator James Manager sneeze, the entire Delta South Senatorial District, where they both belong, catches cold.

Emmanuel Uduaghan

An expected repeat of the contest for the senatorial ticket of Delta South on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) between former governor Emmanuel Uduaghan and fourth term Senator James Manager in the 2019 elections is already raising the bar of politics and threatening ethnic balancing in Delta State.

Anytime the duo of former Delta State governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan and Senator James Manager sneeze, the entire Delta South Senatorial District, where they both belong, catches cold.

This was true during the 2015 Senatorial primaries when the two political gladiators geared up for an electoral battle that threatened the delicate inter-ethnic balancing between the Itsekiri and Ijaw nationalities to which Uduaghan and Manager belong respectively.

Uduaghan as the incumbent governor had to face a formidable opposition especially from the Abuja powerhouse of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the preparations and conduct of that election which favoured Manager at the end of the day.

This time around, political undercurrents emerging from the oil and gas wetlands of the Delta South Senatorial District suggest that the Senate as part of Uduaghan’s retirement plan from the Asaba Government House may still be intact while Manager appears to still have an unfinished business at the upper chamber of the National Assembly where he is currently on a fourth term.

Political analysts believe that as it was in 2015, Uduaghan has a solid reason for aspiring to replace Manager as the Senator representing the District on the platform of the PDP. It is a fact that the former governor’s ethnic group, the Itsekiri, is the only one out of the three groups in the zone that is yet to take a shot at the Senate.

And since former governors appear largely to be following the tradition of retiring to the Senate, where scores of them are contributing to national discourse as senior federal legislators and playing relevant political roles at the national level, Uduaghan believes that by his ambition, he is not asking for too much.

Manager on the other hand, is said not to be unaware of the historical acrimony between his Ijaw group and Uduaghan’s Itsekiri which are largely out of a supremacy battle, a volatile situation that threatens to set off the ever ticking ethnic time bomb in the area.

Indeed, there were hushed drums of war as it was said then in 2015 that the Ijaws had threatened that should Uduaghan as governor use his power of incumbency to replace Manager in the Senate, his own people would pay for it.

Watchers of Delta South politics insist that not much has changed of the Ijaws’ disposition as they are said to still believe that an attempt by Uduaghan to replace Manager in 2019, would be viewed as an affront against Ijaw political interests.

It was said that it took the intervention of former President Goodluck Jonathan to detonate the ticking time bomb as he allegedly asked Uduaghan to step down for Manager in exchange for an undisclosed top political appointment although the former president did not remain in power to fulfill that promise to the former governor. With the unprecedented defeat of PDP in 2015, the promise could not be fulfilled thereby putting Uduaghan in political isolation.

The former governor walked away to fight another day but not without praises for sacrificing his ambition for the peace and security of the Senatorial zone.

But this time around, Manager is without that presidential cover that he enjoyed in 2015, hence, many are left to wonder what length he is prepared to go to keep his Senate seat from the desperate hands of Uduaghan and the rival Itsekiri tribe with the implications a potential dirty electoral battle may have for the peace of Delta South, comprising many oil and gas producing communities.


However, it may be wrong to dismiss Manager as a political orphan. He is described by his supporters to be as intelligent as Niccolo Machiavelli, the Italian political philosopher and statesman and that there is no limit to his political shrewdness and manoeuvering.

Manager was said to have willingly relinquished the juicy Senate Committee Chairman on Niger Delta to Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, a close ally of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State in a move considered a one towards getting the support of the governor at the decisive PDP Senatorial primaries.

And to Uduaghan’s political discredit, it is believed he never wanted Okowa to succeed him, so it could be pay back time for the governor to pay back his predecessor in the same coin given the enormous influence that state executives have over their political platforms. Little wonder, it was once rumoured that the former governor had concluded plans to defect to the All Progressives Congress (APC), but he promptly denied making such move.

A veteran journalist from the area who has been following events, William Bozimo, warned in a recent article on the Delta South Political battle in 2019, that “when considered on the grounds of Delta South being the wetland for gas and crude oil export, from the Forcados Terminal and the seasonal echoes of restiveness from the Gbaramatu mangrove swamps, it (oil and gas) is a delicacy we could not afford to toy with on the altar of political convenience and arrogance.”

Not a few agree that the bitter political rivalry between Uduaghan and Manager can be put down to a personality clash, which has overtaken issues of development and restoration for an area, which has suffered greatly from oil exploration and exploitation over the years.

As the two are determined and even desperate to grab the PDP ticket for Delta South come 2019, the eventual winner may depend to a great extent on political horse-trading in the multi tribal Senatorial district comprising three ethnic groups across a total of eight local government areas.

Of this number, the Ijaws where Manager hails from exclusively populate three local government areas, the Itsekiri to which Uduaghan belongs are found predominantly in Warri North but are also present in Warri South and Warri South West which they share with Ijaw and some Urhobo neighbours. The remaining two are Isoko North and Isoko South local councils.

And as preparations commenced for the epic battle between these political and ethnic forces, the two gladiators will have to prove through the ballot, which one of them can checkmate the other.