Insurgent politics rendering APC vulnerable in Delta State
Going back to the state chapter’s display at the party’s national convention last year, it is clear that Delta APC is afflicted by advanced political confusion.
Prior to the recent development, especially the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari as president, Olorogun O’tegar Emerhor and Great Ovedje Ogburu were the notable faces of opposition in the state.
Emerhor, who is also chairman of Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) Special Fund Management Board, contested Delta Central Senatorial by-election in 2013 following the death of Senator, representing the district, Pius Ewherido. He lost to Emmanuel Agwariavwodo of the PDP. He also lost the 2015 governorship as APC candidate.
On his part, Ogboru, contested the Delta governorship on various political platforms, including Alliance of Democracy (AD, 2003), Democratic Peoples Party (DPP, 2007) and Labour Party (LP, 2015).
When therefore those two political heavyweights converged on the APC platform, many a politician on the opposition corner in the state felt that the ‘come’ was coming to ‘become’ in their lofty aspiration of dislodging the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from its unwavering dominance of politics of the oil-rich state since 1999.
The two serial governorship contestants had different ideas as they found themselves within the same APC, such that while Emerhor thumbs his chest as the first candidate to stand election on APC, Ogboru points to the fact of his consistence in the progressive flank to lay claim as leader of the party in Delta. In the real sense, it was Emerhor who built the Delta APC from scratch and Ogboru and even Ovie Omo-Agege came as joiners.
But Ogboru and Emerhor soon became the proverbial two captains in a ship. Their different standing came to the fore and helped accentuate consideration of issues surrounding the 2019 governorship. Thus the usual confusion and insurgence politics began to play out once again.
Who was the best candidate to confront Governor Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa and from which of the three senatorial zones should that prospective come from? Those were the simple questions, which answers would have clearly defined APC preparedness to take over Delta from PDP.
Sustaining zoning stand
ALTHOUGH most APC stakeholders believe that the zoning arrangement in the state was a PDP contraption, at the build up to the 2019 governorship, the popular sentiment among Delta voters was that power at the level of governorship should continue in Delta North in the next four years.
But the matter generated division within APC. While most chieftains wanted the party to get its gubernatorial standard bearer from Delta North, others like Ogboru would have nothing of such. They claimed that Okowa, having, according to them, performed abysmally low in the last four years, Deltans should be allowed to choose their governor on the basis of merit and ability to manage the state’s economy.
It so happened that while as many as four aspirants emerged from Delta North in anticipation that the zoning format would be sustained, only Ogboru was coming from Delta Central, thus ensuring that the candidates of the North would most likely divide their votes and leave the coast clear for the Central candidate.
All attempts to make APC faction loyal to Ogboru to see reason why the breach of zoning would mostly hurt the party failed, as it contended that the Northern candidates’ claims of serving just one term in office would not cut ice with voters or sway Delta North electorate to discard Okowa in search of a new candidate on a dubious platform.
It was perhaps based on the hidden bumps on the way to the governorship primary that one of the governorship aspirants from Delta North, Dr. Leroy Edozien, withdrew from the contest, describing APC as being the same kettle of fish as PDP.
In a statement announcing his withdrawal, signed on his behalf by Konwea Christopher Chukwuemeka, Edozien referred to a meeting held on September 12, 2018 at his country home, Asaba, where the chairman of Team Leroy, Mr. Anslem Onianwa, disclosed that having consulted with members of the team, they came to the conclusion that the N22, 500, 000.00 fee stipulated by the party was too high.
While noting that the fees would end up ripping off Delta North of huge sums of money that could be used to empower the people, Edozien stressed that “such a high amount of money would impoverish the four https://editor.guardian.ng/wp-admin/media-upload.php?post_id=892507&type=image&TB_iframe=1aspirants from Delta North” and diminish the chances of the zone to produce the gubernatorial candidate.
The statement added: “The implications of indirect primaries were also considered. In the light of the above, the chairman, on behalf of the team, recommended that Prof. Leroy Edozien should reconsider his wish to purchase the nomination form. After discussions, the principal and team unanimously adopted this recommendation.”
But it was obvious from the calculations of the two opposition juggernauts that Emerhor, in order to prepare for 2023, chose to go to the senate and encouraged Ogboru to ‘go and die’ politically by contesting against the incumbent.
Meanwhile, Omo-Agege, expecting political gratuity from his theatrics against embattled outgoing President of Senate, Bukola Saraki, by way of possible Deputy Presidency, insists that he is the authentic candidate and therefore the rightful beneficiary of APC’s victory in Delta Central Senatorial election.
Retreat to senate contest
IT has been held by various commentators that the inability of the Urhobo to play as a team has been opening them up for diverse political calculations such that they are unable to put their numerical strength to electoral advantage.
That could explain Olorogun Emerhor’s bid to reap from their apparent solidarity whenever opportunities call for repayment of political IOUs. His decision to contest Delta Central senate seat was perhaps to put himself at a pole position for 2023 gubernatorial chase.
But his claims have been seen by Omo-Agege’s supporters as an attempt to deny their principal of a golden opportunity to become Deputy Senate President in the forthcoming 9th NASS.
That was the impression created by a former military administrator of Abia State and member of APC national caucus, AVM Frank Ajobena (rtd), when he recently dismissed Emerhor’s claim of victory in the February 23, 2019 Delta Central Senatorial poll.
Ajobena told journalists in Abuja that Senator Ovie Omo-Agege emerged duly elected winner of the poll, saying that there was no way Emerhor should lay claims to the seat despite the Asaba Federal High Court ruling, which upheld the Chief Cyril Ogodo-led executive committee as the legitimate executive of APC in Delta State.
Playing up the crisis of confidence in Delta APC, Ajobena accused Emerhor of working against the interest of the party, even as he expressed disbelief that the APC leader should suddenly turn around to claim Omo-Agege’s victory that came by way of “his popularity with the electorate at the grassroots level.”
Ajobena, however, noted that the cause of justice was served by the Asaba Federal High Court judgment, adding, “There are two sides to the court judgment. One side of the story is on the legitimacy of the Ogodo executive. I believe there was justice in that direction. The other side of the story is on whether Emerhor should claim that seat; I don’t think he should take that seat if there is any way the law could interpret it.
“He created confusion among that group (Delta North) to the extent that they could not even come up with a candidate. He didn’t want any of them to emerge. Yet, the Ogodo-led executive was to be the platform to present a Delta North candidate for the party with all the northern candidates, including Chief Okotie Osiobe except Chief Great Ogboru being on the mainstream Delta APC platform which was being championed by Emerhor.
“But Emerhor made sure he created confusion among these people to make sure none of them emerged. On the surface, you will think he was supporting a Delta North candidate, but in reality, he wasn’t interested in any of them neither was he supporting Ogboru but was working for himself and calculating for 2023.
“He wants to be governor of Delta State in 2023 and wasn’t supporting any APC governorship aspirant for 2019. He saw it that if Ogboru emerges, Ogboru will want to do eight years (two terms in office).
So, how will that help his cause in 2023? So, to justify what he is doing, he claims to support a Northern candidate, but what is the guarantee that if a Northern candidate emerges, he will serve for one term; hence he wasn’t comfortable with that.”
WHEN he defected to APC, former governor Emmanuel Uduaghan manifested similar political hubris that ended Senator Godswill Akpabio’s rising political profile in Akwa Ibom.
This is because Uduaghan knows that the PDP family, which enabled him serve two terms as Delta State governor, has a father-figure in former governor James Onanefe Ibori.
But perhaps in apparent desire to be his own man and claim political independence, the medical doctor-turned politician hurried to APC, and instead of raising one of his legs like a fowl newly visiting an area, decided to contest the senatorial seat of Delta South, thereby helping to foul the already muddy waters of the opposition platform in the state.
As things stand, in the event that Senator Omo-Agege emerges as Deputy Senate President, the recalibration of APC in the state would receive further shocks, especially given the fact that it would be the turn of Delta Central to produce governor in 2023.
In the light of imminent tremors in APC at the centre, would it remain a strong platform to put up a better fight against PDP? And knowing that Omo-Agege is a staunch and faithful ally of Ibori, how would his next four years in the Senate dispose him for enlightened political action in Delta State?
Depending on how Emerhor manages the present recriminations in APC, he may be forced by extenuating political circumstances to retrace his steps to PDP or become vassal to Omo-Agege, who would most likely use his enhanced clout to diminish his (Emerhor’s) electoral weight in the party.
Could it be that President Muhammadu Buhari is interested in the one they call ‘General’ (Omo-Agege) in a fresh strategic move to entrench APC in Delta State? All options would remain on the table until the ‘come’ comes to become in the National Assembly and the emerging dispensation takes root. But all of these shall be consequent upon what happens at the Supreme Court where all the pre-election arrangements of the APC are being threatened with a nullity. It also means the election of Senator Omo-Agege can become a non-event.
The worst-case scenario is a transfer of Omo-Agege’s mandate and all other mandates secured by the APC in the last general elections to other beneficiaries. Olorogun Oghenetega Emerhor is one of the other beneficiaries who stand to replace Ovie Omo-Agege in the senate if the Supreme Court upholds the decision of the lower courts on the matter of APC executive in Delta State.
All said, no matter how any observer might see the shifting sands of Delta State politics, a lot depends on the keen political understanding of Chief Ibori.
The 2019 election has proved that the man is not about losing grip of the state just yet. Those who might gainsay that would have another thinking to do.
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