In Delta, APC dreams victory as PDP steps up reconciliation
The outcome of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship primary election in Delta State is yet to sit with some contestants and members of the party who are yet to come to terms with the reality.
Besides, the emergence of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as running mate to the party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has added a new dimension to the unfolding drama.
Across the state, there are still grievances over the emergence of the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Sheriff Oborevwori, as the governorship candidate, though the choice appears to have widespread acceptance. An example is a suit challenging Oborevwori’s qualification for the contest before the Federal High Court in Abuja.
On the eve of the primary election in Asaba by elected ad-hoc delegates, one of the frontrunners in the race, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, had opted out, citing intimidation and threat to his life. He later dumped the party and joined the Social Democratic Party (SDP), where he picked the governorship ticket.
Another worrying sign is the absence of top politicians from the state, including former governors, Chief James Ibori and Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, as well as Senator James Manager during the reception organised by the PDP for Okowa in Asaba on arrival from Abuja last Thursday.
But party faithful and the governor’s appointees, supporters and associates were at The Cenotaph, the venue of the reception, tagged, ‘Welcome home Ekwueme.’
Long before the party primaries, the governor had assured the aspirants of a level-playing field, even as he battled Ibori over the choice of his successor. While the former governor endorsed a former commissioner for Finance and immediate past chief of staff to Okowa, David Edevbie, for the post, Okowa, perhaps a few weeks or months before the exercise, gave Oborevwori his nod.
And weeks after the process, the crack in the umbrella is yet to mend, with rumours of possible anti-party activities rife, especially in Delta Central senatorial district, from where the major parties picked their candidates, the issue now for determination before the court is whether Oborevwori was qualified to run or not.
Asked about what the state PDP leadership was doing to unite members, following the fallout from the primaries, state PDP Chairman, Kingsley Esiso assured us that reconciliation was ongoing, adding: “We are on it. It is an ongoing process.”
He was optimistic that the party would be united before the elections next year.
As the parties settle down in preparation for next year, virtually all of them with candidates from Delta Central is looking at picking their deputy governorship candidates from Delta North, from where Okowa hails. Recall that Otuaro is from Delta South.
Ostensibly in consideration of micro-zoning understanding, most of the candidates are zeroing in on Ndokwa nation in Delta North, which has produced neither a governor nor deputy governor in the past.
Already, PDP has picked the Executive Chairman of Delta State Board of Internal Revenue, Mr. Monday Onyeme as Oborevwori’s running mate. The 57-year-old chartered accountant and acting Chairman of the Joint Tax Board hail from Ibabu community of Onicha-Ukwani in Ndokwa West Council.
Governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, told The Guardian that his running mate will definitely come from Ndokwa nation.
The All Progressives Congress (APC’s) attempt to sweep PDP off Government House, Asaba may have started, but more work needs to be done to realise that ambition in a state that has been predominantly PDP since 1999.
But its candidate and Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, is optimistic about causing a major upset in the state’s politics, not minding its internal challenges prior to the local council, state and national congresses, which cannot be wished away.
A chieftain of the party in the state stated that members will close ranks and queue behind Omo-Agege before the election, adding: “Watch and see what will happen. Delta State is yearning for a change.”
The reception organised by the PDP for Okowa on arrival from Abuja, attended by the governor’s wife, Edith; Deputy Governor, Kingsley Otuaro; Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Ndudi Elumelu; Oborevwori; state PDP Chairman, Kingsley Esiso, saw supporters throng the Asaba airport as early as 8 am, but the aircraft conveying Okowa and his entourage did not touch down until hours later.
Okowa, while addressing a large crowd of supporters who thronged The Cenotaph to welcome him after his emergence as vice presidential candidate of the PDP, said the Atiku-Okowa ticket would give Nigerians victory over “insensitive and careless administration,” and renewed hope for greatness.
Thanking the people of Delta for their support, he stated: “What you have done for me is what is lifting me up today into greater heights. I thank God, and Abubakar, who found me fit and worthy to be his running mate.
“In the last seven years, all has not been well with our nation and when a challenge comes, such as this, as I tell people, what we need to do is to pray to be resilient and hopeful and the hope has come.
“Many may not immediately appreciate it but God has endorsed it and by His special grace, the process of rebuilding and recreation of hope for our Nigerian youths, students and for our women will start on the first day, that is, May 29, 2023. It is not going to be by our might; it is coming from the Lord God, and God is going to use the youths, women, elders and opinion leaders of this country to cause this change to come.
“The change that is coming is a positive change and it will be very constructive and will bring meaningful life to our people.”
The governor expressed concern for all young people, urging them to rise up to the challenge ahead, “because what is going on nationally is not the Nigerian nation that we thought of,” just as he charged them to be committed to the course of rescuing Nigeria, which must not be carried away by the “euphoria of the moment.”
Okowa recalled that his administration had worked closely with youths in the state to deliver on his ‘SMART’ and ‘Stronger Delta’ agenda for the people, assuring: “I stand to represent the interest of the youth, because the youth in Delta can truly affirm that in the last seven years, we have worked together to build peace and create entrepreneurial programmes that have impacted on the lives of our people.
“We have worked together to rebuild vocational and technical education, to create three more universities for our people and working together, we have built Delta State that can be envied.”
He assured that the Atiku-Okowa ticket would not make promises they would not keep, as they were prepared to impact strongly on the lives of the Nigerian youth and women, stressing: “The Atiku-Okowa administration will never allow lecturers to go on strike. Our universities will not go on strike, neither will students’ unions go on strike, because we understand that education is very important for our youth and women and will not revisit the current pain that the APC government has visited on our families.”
Okowa charged the youth: “Let us go all out there to ensure that we register and have our PVCs and by the special grace of God, we will send the APC government packing in February 2023.
“Our candidate has a well-documented programme to rebuild the nation, a nation in which we can trust ourselves again because Nigeria today is very divided and that is not the Nigeria of our dream. He will tackle, along with me, the issues of insecurity, and in tackling insecurity, we realise that we have to provide jobs for our youths.
“We need the support of the youth and women of this country to put food on the table of all Nigerians. Hope is coming, because that ticket of grace, hope and victory are coming and it will turn Nigeria around for the good of each and every one of us and Nigeria will yet again be respected in the comity of nations.”
Elumelu said Okowa stepped down his personal ambition for the good of the party, recalling: “I went to Okowa to tell him to run for the position of president, but you told me he was more concerned about building the party. I remember that I came for a second time, urging him to run for the senate, but he told me he was contented with what God has done for him.
“On behalf of Deltans, we thank Atiku for finding him a worthy man to run for the position of vice president as a committed and religious man.”
All the speakers at the event, including Alhaji Aminu Madaki for Arewa community in the state; President, Ohanaeze Youth Council, Mazi Okwu Nnabuike; Chief Iduh Amadhe; Chief John Oguma; Alaowei Broderick Bozimo; Chief Solomon Areyinka and Ohanaeze women leaders across the country, congratulated Okowa on his nomination and pledged their support for the Atiku-Okowa ticket.
Certainly, it is going to be a keen contest next year in Delta State, unlike in the recent past, where the race was mainly within the ruling PDP.