IN DELTA, PDP IS ITS OWN GREATEST OPPONENT
Delta State was created on Tuesday, August 29, 1991 by the General Ibrahim Babangida administration. Carved out of former Bendel State, it is divided into Delta Central, South and North Senatorial Districts.
Chief Felix Ibru, from Central Senatorial District was the first executive governor of the state. He ruled between 1992 and 1993, precisely 18 months before the termination of the Third Republic by the Gen Sani Abacha junta. Chief James Ibori, also from the Central Senatorial District, ruled the state for eight years between 1999 and 2007. He was elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
After the keenly contested primaries of the PDP in 2006, Dr Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan emerged as the party's governorship candidate in the April 14, 2007 election. He was subsequently declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) after the polls.
However, the declaration of Uduaghan, from Delta South Senatorial District, by INEC as governor of the Big Heart State was greeted with legal actions by some of the contestants in the election including Chief Peter Okocha of the Action Congress (AC) and Great Ogboru of the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP).
According to Dominic Areole, 'with the recent development, the battle ground seems to have shifted to 2011 when the parties in the matter will test the depth of the political sea of the oil rich state with both feet.'
In terms of content and character, Delta State politics is unique. Indeed, the complexity of the state and the immensity of the contending interests define its political perspectives and temperature. There is a sharp ethnic difference in the state resulting in suspicion, distrust and allegations of marginalization among the groups. To start with, some of the constituent units never bargained to be included in the state even as the choice of capital remains an issue. In some sense, it is a union of strange bedfellows and this reflects profoundly on the political equation of the state.
According to Barrister Alex Mandy Nwadiamu, a chieftain of the Anioma Political Forum (APF), 'politics in Delta State is very robust in the sense that there are many tendencies. There are different types of the same thing.'
In the same vein, Prince Obaro Unuafo, chairman of Forum of Registered Political Parties in Delta State, noted: 'Delta is a cosmopolitan state. It has a multiplicity of towns and cities. It is unlike some states that parade single homogenous tribe. In Delta State, you have big cities like Asaba, Agbor, Ughelli, Ozoro, Ole, Warri, Sapele, Koko, Bomadi, Burutu, among others. Again, you have a kind of dividing line between those who are onshore and those who are offshore. So, it is very unique, different from any other state in the country.
'Over here, there is a kind of homogenous religious affinity. Most of our people are Christians because our religion and education came from the West. So, Delta State is one big family, there is a unity in diversity. It is kind of mini Nigeria or a replica of Nigeria. Therefore, Delta State politics is quite interesting and very sophisticated at the same time.'
Unuafo, however, lamented that the state has also 'thrown up a lot of leaders, who are like predators supervising and overseeing what some people call our growing or evolving democracy. Even though the politics we play here is well advanced, there is so much politics of acrimony, a kind of destructive tendencies.'
One of the tendencies of Delta politics is the neglect of the capital, Asaba, because governors of the state since inception hail from the opposite axis. Until recently, Asaba lacked infrastructure befitting of the capital of an oil rich state. In fact, most of government businesses are done at Warri seen as alternate capital.
One party state
According to Engr. Johnson Ajeboghuku, Delta State MRRD chairman, there are 'about 35 political parties in Delta, 30 of them are solidly behind or in support of Governor Uduaghan.' Being behind the incumbent governor means that most of the parties would not be fielding gubernatorial candidates in 2011. Some of the leaders of the political parties in the state acknowledged as much, including Prince Unuafo, chairman of FRPP.
Earlier in the year, the state chapter of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), in a unanimous decision, had passed a vote of confidence on Uduaghan, saying: 'We (the association) look forward to an era of consolidation and extension of the gains by another four years for the governor.'
Uduaghan's endorsement was further boosted by ALGON, which established a political structure where 'all key players in the third tier of government will be involved'. Known as Grassroots Campaign for Uduaghan, it will be saddled with the responsibility of mobilizing and canvassing for support for the governor as it markets his policies and programmes to the people.
Bread and butter politics
According to a chieftain of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), Ogbueshi Ben Oburota, 'the adoption (of Uduaghan) is not surprising because that was why they (chairmen) were rigged into office. How many of them were elected properly? Their monthly allocations come from him. So, if they don't adopt him quickly, he can starve them of fund, strangulate them or better still, remove them.'
In the same vein, a political analyst, Mr Oscar Obi, attributed the development to what he described as 'the politics of the stomach being played by some politicians in Delta State.' He said: 'It is all politics of the stomach. Most of those parading as leaders in the state can do anything to have their palms greased. Many of those clamouring for the reelection of Uduaghan are not doing so because of their personal conviction in his ability to deliver concrete dividends of democracy to the good people of Delta State. Again, some of those who criticize the governor in the open go to apologize to him under the cloak of darkness.
'Most of those prancing about the political stage in the state have no ideological leanings; they are mere political contractors and jobbers. The tragedy of the situation is better defined by the opposition parties, who rather than angling to take over power as it is the case in other climes, are campaigning for the return of Uduaghan.
I think it is a function of poverty: Poverty of the pocket, poverty of morality and poverty of the mind.'
However, in the view of Barr Alex Onwuadiamu, Secretary General of the Anioma Political Forum (APF), another term for Uduaghan means that Delta North will produce his successor.
He argued: 'If Chief James Ibori from the Central Senatorial District ruled Delta for eight years and Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan from the Southern Senatorial District is ruling the state now and by the special grace of God for eight years, the only part of the state that would have been left out from the governorship of the state is Delta North. It is only logical that it becomes the turn of Anioma. We recognize the fact that some persons out of either political naivety or ignorance would wish their senatorial district take the turn of others. But we know it is impossible; it is a task that they cannot achieve. Everybody in Delta State knows that come 2015, the governor of this state will come from the Anioma nation. And that is beyond bargain or argument.'
Indeed, apart from the PDP, there is hardly any other party on ground
Where they exist at all, their presence is hardly beyond their signposts and tattered flags. As a matter of fact, some of the party offices are also put to private uses. Worse still, the Action Congress of Nigeria, regarded as the strongest opposition party in the state, is crises ridden. The crises rocking the party reached a crescendo on March 27 when its governorship candidate in the 2007 elections, Chief Peter Okocha, dumped the party. Defending his action, Okocha, who is seen as the strongest obstacle Uduaghan could encounter, noted that 'there have been several attempts to infiltrate and weaken the resolve of our party members to stand firm in its opposition to the existing government in our state.'
Weak as the opposition may appear, Mr Moses Abeh, state chairman of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), insisted: 'Opposition parties in Delta State will not endorse Uduaghan for 2011. The reason being that the Delta South, which the governor hails from, is made up three ethnic groups: the Ijaw, the Isoko and the Ishekiri, called the 3-1's, and each of them is agitating for a taste of the plum position.'
Abeh argued that 'if the other groups allow Uduaghan's second term ambition, it will mean that the other two groups would wait for another 16 years for any of them to smell the governorship seat, while the other group will have to wait for an additional 16 years to get there which, for me, as an Isoko man, is tantamount to political slavery. So, you can see that those endorsing Uduaghan here and there are ignorant.
'Regrettably, most of them are political hallelujah boys, neophytes and sycophants who claim to be representing the people's interest whereas they are scampering to line their pockets and get appointment from the governor.'
Offering insightful perspectives, the CDC chieftain said: 'Mark my words today, after the South must have had its eight years like Ibori (Central), the North will be shocked that the Central, which Ibori represented for eight years, will not allow for a Delta Northerner. So, endorsing Uduaghan here and there is senseless. The governorship seat is not a royal dynasty. Delta is not meant for Ibori/Uduaghan family alone. Even if the people are sincerely calling for his second term, he should reject it and go home in 2011.
'Opposition parties must field candidates in 2011 against all odds and let nobody deceive the governor to believe that he ranks as the leader of the opposition parties in the state and that it will be business as usual in 2011. Hasty adoption, as it was done in 2007, by some hungry and self-acclaimed politicians in opposition clothing will be resisted.'
PDP Vs PDP
All is not well in the Delta PDP. There are groups fighting for the control of the soul of the party in the state. Admitting that there are internal wranglings within the party, the Chairman, Peter Uwaoboshi, volunteered: 'Some people are doing one thing or another to seek relevance or to disrupt the rhythm of things. In an election year, there are bound to be political intrigues and forces.'
The 'war' in Delta PDP took a new dimension on August 18, 2010 when scores of protesters from the state stormed the national secretariat of the party in Abuja. Calling for the dissolution of the state executive, the protesters carried placards and banners, saying, 'Dissolve illegal PDP exco in Delta State led by Peter Uwaoboshi.' 'Uduaghan has killed Delta State PDP.' And 'Extend your PDP reforms to Delta State,' among others. They danced around the PDP secretariat and chanted anti-Uduaghan slogans.
It was gathered that some state PDP elders had met with the national chairman of the party, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, over the matter in July. In a letter, the group said 'the teeming membership of the party in Delta State is angry, disillusioned and restive' because the 'illegal executive committee has not been dissolved.' The letter added: 'INEC's position on this matter is very clear- that there were no congresses in Delta State.'
Of course, if the dispute rocking the party in the state is not resolved quickly and to the satisfaction of various groups, those who feel shortchanged may work against the party or seek their political salvation elsewhere in 2011.
The Ibori factor
Until he ran into troubled waters, Ibori was regarded as the godfather of Delta State politics. Acknowledging that Ibori could not be ignored whether you like him or not, Uwaoboshi said: 'You may not like him but he made his own mark. Today, some people are still saying that Ibori did this or that. He made himself an issue in the politics of Delta State.'
Ibori's running battle with the EFCC, and subsequent arrest has changed the dynamics. Sources insist that he was on a collision course with Uduaghan before security personnel swooped on him. The former was said to be breathing down the neck of the latter, whose attempt to assert himself as the man in-charge caused bad blood between the duo. The 'war' ended in Uduaghan's favour due to his predecessor's predicament with the law within and outside Nigeria. Some of those calling for the dissolution of the state PDP exco are believed to be Ibori's boys.
Uduaghan recently officially declared his intention to run for governor in 2011. In the words of his manager (communications), Mr Paul Odili, 'it would have shocked a lot of people if he had said he didn't want to go for a second term.' Of course, Uduaghan's body language had all along indicated that he wanted another term as chief executive of the oil rich state.
Former Secretary to the State Government, Ovie Omo Agege, is another politician who has thrown his hat into the ring. Ironically, he was among those who worked for the success of Uduaghan in 2007. Omo-Agege, who was defeated for the PDP ticket in 2007 by the incumbent is said to enjoy the support of Chief E.K. Clark.
In 2007, Chief Great Ogboru appeared to be a promising candidate. Adopted by Delta Elders, Leaders and Stakeholders Forum led by Clark during the last election, his Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) has fizzled into oblivion. He, however, remains fairly popular in the state and may try his luck again.
But for the omission of Chief Peter Okocha's name on the ballot papers during the 2007 elections by INEC, the outcome of the exercise might have been different. Rich and charismatic, Okocha ran a remarkable campaign that made him one of the favourite candidates.
But Okocha has gone underground for quite sometime now. Moreover, he has dumped the Action Congress on whose platform he campaigned for the plum job in 2007. Yet, he remains a strong candidate any day. But his greatest challenge is the fact that Delta North (Anioma) where he hails from is supporting Uduaghan with the hope that power will shift to their area in 2011.
Other aspirants to the Government House, Asaba, include the Minister of Niger Delta, Elder Godsday Orubebe, Chief Braduce Angozi, Chief John Onoriode Kpokpogri, Engr. Emmanuel Igbini and Olorogun Felix Gbagi.
Many others are expected to jump into the fray in the days ahead even when they know that they stand no chance of winning whatsoever.
Many of the no-hopers will run because, according to Onuafo, 'today, in Delta State, people pride themselves as former gubernatorial candidates or aspirants.' In other words, mere declaration of intent to run for the post of governor is status symbol in the Big Heart state.
Next Week: In Benue, Suswam swims against high tide.