As the forthcoming February 14, 2015 Presidential and National Assembly Elections continue to gather steam, there are strong indications that the oil rich Delta state will be one of the states to watch in the unfolding contests.

Apart from being a state hitherto known for its traditional voting pattern, there are however strong indications that political competition could this time be defined by personality profile and grassroots popularity amongst the leading politicians.

A foretaste of what to expect is the activities leading to the recent emergence of the current Senate Committee Chairman on Health, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa as the PDP gubernatorial flag bearer in the state. Senator Okowa is said to have triumphed against the horse-trading which led to PDPs primary elections on December 8, 2014. Indeed the rhyme and rhythm leading to the primary election was not meant to favour him as the expected governoship flag bearer of the party.

Senator Okowa who hails from the Ika North-East Local Government Council is acclaimed to have over the years served his people in several exalted positions in the state including being the Secretary to the State Government, Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Water Resources Development and Health amongst others. He was however elected Delta North Senatorial candidate in 2011.

The second development in the political chessboard of Delta State is the emergence of Rt. Hon. Victor Ochei, former Speaker of the State Assembly as the candidate of Accord Party (AP) for the Delta North Senatorial zone. His emergence took place shortly after attaining runner up to Senator Okowa in the keenly contested governorship election of his former Party, People Democratic Party (PDP).

Rt. Hon Ochei, “stepped aside” from the PDP after losing the December 8, 2014 governorship primaries to Senator Ifeanyi Okowa.

In the build up to the National Assembly Elections in the state, the Accord Party, AP, Delta North senatorial candidate and former Speaker of the State Assembly Rt. Hon. Victor Ochei seems to be the man in the eye of the storm.

Although currently an ex-PDP member, he has been able to sustain enviable political sagacity which has made his seeming unpopular platform immaterial in the eye of his supporters who are ready to dine and swim with him.

In his several responses on why he pitched his tent with Accord Party he has been quoted as stating that “Accord Party is more like a party owned by the PDP. I have stepped aside from PDP because I require a platform to contest, not that I have left the PDP.” In further expression of confidence, he states that his relationship with the PDP governorship standard bearer, Senator Okowa, remained cordial before and after the primaries. Indeed to give a shot in the arm to his former party, he has been severally quoted to publicly declare his support for Senator Okowa for the governorship poll and President Goodluck Jonathan for his reelection bid. He maintains that since Accord Party does not have governorship and presidential candidates in Delta State, he is at liberty to work for PDP on such count.

Ochei is expected to square up against eleven other party candidates for the Delta North Senatorial election. It is however believed that amongst all of the eleven, his strongest opponent is the Ibusa born Chief Peter Nwaoboshi former chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party

Although Rt. Hon Ochei seems to enjoy stronger grassroots support within and beyond his senatorial zone which he has built overtime in his several years of politics, professional excellence and philanthropy, yet he carries the major challenge of explaining to the elites the logic of his foray to a relatively unpopular party having invested greatly in building PDP.

Nevertheless, Nigeria's few years of democratic practice has provided little hindsight to explain the dynamics of a party platform as a tool of social reforms and development, yet there is a growing body of knowledge on who actually is referred to as people's representative in a liberal democracy such as practiced in Nigeria.

Renown cases in political representation acknowledges that a peoples representative should embody four key qualities; messenger of his people, and an advocate of his peoples primary interest. He must also exude the competence to broker conflicting interests in the face of other contending but legitimate demands outside that of his people. Above all he must carry on as a trustee of the aspirations of his people.

The peculiarity of 'restrictive representation' as it is called, is that unlike executive representation where the elected chief executive idolises the party structure as the foundation of his political activity, the restrictive representative is the pal-bearer of his people's interest. His participation is defined by his ability to speak, advocate and make his peoples' voices, opinions, and interest “present” in the public policy making of the country.

Rt. Hon Victor Ochei though a product of PDP has historically been bonded to people beyond his Anioma nationality nor the party structure. His academic background, professional calling and political antecedents bear testimony to a great marathoner and bridge builder one who will rather plant trees than flowers. He is in one breath a proud graduate of Engineering, and holder of Master in Business Administration (MBA) as well as a graduate of law degree.

Rt. Hon Victor Ochei had in 2003 contested and won his legislative seat from a relatively unknown UNPP, from where he later re-joined the PDP to become the first member from Aniocha North to be re-elected and in the process served three terms.

Riding on the support and goodwill of his people, he has granted numerous scholarship awards to them as well as extended massive financial and related assistance to indigent students in tertiary schools; donations of brand new 18-seater Buses to all secondary schools in Aniocha North LGA; and the institution of a N2.5 million Naira scholarship scheme for the Federal College of Education (Technical) Asaba. He has also advanced plans to build an ultra-modern theatre for the Oleh Campus of his alma-matter DELSU.

Given his passion for development, Hon Ochei will be expected to improve on the record of outgoing Senator Okowa in the Senate. He will be expected to bring his experience to the fore in attracting modern industries to his senatorial zone. The power sector though largely passed on to private investors still requires appropriate legislations to ensure the aspirations of Nigerians inelectricity generation and distribution are adequately protected.

The nagging issues in the PIB bill and the need to accelerate the progress already recorded by the federal government in the area of agriculture will no doubt benefit from strong representation and proven capacity of Hon Victor Onyekachi Ochei.

February 14 2015, will indeed determine the future of the people of Delta North Senatorial zone in the current dispensation, either to vote along party lines or individual pedigree.

Written by E.E. Clement

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