PDP IN THE SOUTH-SOUTH: SOBERING VICTORIES
The South-South geo-political zone has for long been regarded as Nigeria's most volatile territory not only because of the phenomenon of militancy but also because it hosts the richest and yet most neglected communities in the nation. This is the heartland of Nigeria's economic stability and at the same time it is the breeding ground of both the symptoms and the causes of some of the nation's most disheartening political instability.
Until the overturning of the results of the 2007 elections favoured the ACN's governorship candidate, former labour leader Adams Oshiomole in Edo State the entire zone had a been a one-party stronghold under the PDP. Since then and especially in the last few months the stranglehold of the party in other parts of the zone has come under serious attack from opponents of some of the other PDP governors. Some of these attacks, especially in Bayelsa State, are based on well founded criticisms and genuine popular disenchantment but in some states, notably in Delta and Rivers States the attacks have clearly emanate from the personal pique of some of the critics.
The most important state for understanding the nature of the PDP's relevance to the national polity should of course be the President's home state of Bayelsa. Instead it has become the site of an incredible outpouring of internal disenchantment so much so that the recent party primaries for the selection of the governorship candidate for the state seemed to be a farce rather than a true example of a new order. It is well known that the ward congresses to select delegates for the primary convention were so improperly handled that no one expected any different result even though the documented public disenchantment with the government of the party in the state has attained deafening proportions. Chief Timipre Sylva's victory in those primaries has therefore become an albatross around the party's neck both in the geo-political zone and the nation as a whole.
The victories of Emmanuel Uduaghan in Delta State and Rotimi Amaechi in Rivers State were much more credible ones but hardly any less controversial because the circumstances surrounding both processes were fraught with the fall-out of political disenchantment within the party itself. First of all a new record of frivolity in political manipulation has been achieved in Delta State where Emmanuel Uduaghan was forced into a re-run election. Having emerged victorious and being sworn in for a second time he was subjected to a primary contest less than twenty four hours later to seek the ticket to continue in office for a second term. In the meantime the primary contest was virtually overshadowed by fall-out from the re-run election of less than a week earlier. In spite of our considered opinion that the challenge from Great Ogboru was handled in a frivolous manner by the Appeal Court our observation of what occurred during the re-run elections has forced us to admit that Ogboru has become a much more substantial challenger in Delta State politics than we had assumed.
Unfortunately it now appears that his entry into the field has generated an unprecedented level of ethnic division into the polity and the fall-out bids fair to create serious problems for the development of the democratic principle in the governance of the state. A new element of inter-ethnic disenchantment between ethnic groups in the Central Senatorial District of the state and those in the Southern and Northern Districts has reared its head in the course of the re-run and it is important to note that neither the ruling party the PDP nor the challenger's DPP can be full exonerated from blame in this matter.
That being said though it seems clear from all our investigations that in certain parts of the state it was the challenger rather than incumbent who initiated the negative aspects of inter-ethnic disenchantment as a strategy of campaigning.It is always easier to convince neutral observers that since power is in the hands of the incumbent party it is usually the guilty party where anomalies such as electoral fraud or voter intimidation is uncovered. From our observation of last week's events in Delta State we feel bound to point out that while in certain parts of the state there was documented evidence of that being the case in far more areas where the main challenger gained impressive support these anomalies were even more evident. This was therefore a case of the system of intimidation and bitterness being rendered almost regulatory because the challengers approached the contest with the assumption that the best way to fight against irregularity was to adopt irregular views and methods. The Government side was therefore forced to go on the defensive in order to preserve its dignity.
In doing so some of the Government's supporters may certainly have overstepped the bound of propriety but in fairness most of those who we have spoken to who complained about this admitted that the situation was provoked by opposition actions as well. This raises serious anxiety over the nature of forthcoming contests in a few months time. Delta State may very well take on the aspect of a territory under siege as the opposition emboldened by its seeming successes in the re-run will be determined to continue to use the same tactics in subsequent races.
This is an important challenge for the so-called 'largest party in Africa' in the major economic states of the nation. In both Delta and Rivers State's opposition forces are poised to make increasing impact in popular support even though both of these Governors, Uduaghan and Amaechi are certainly among the most effective and visionary of the party governors anywhere.
The fact that they were both publicly endorsed by President Goodluck Jonathan before facing their contests almost with any hesitation on his part vindicates this view of them. While he did appear at the Bayelsa primary Dr. Jonathan seemed to withhold public endorsement until after the result was announced and this is another major sign of the over-riding importance that the PDP places on trying to retain the party's monolithic grip on power throughout the South-South geopolitical zone. Dr Jonathan cannot be unaware of the breakdown of public confidence in the party's administration in his home state. At the same time it seems that he is now facing the dilemma of having to shore up his party's presence in his own state without allowing public sentiment to influence his views.
This has become the central factor of PDP fortunes in the South-South geopolitical zone because even though it has recorded important internal victories for its governors in the core states of the region it also has to acknowledge signs of disenchantment and popular apathy as being integral consequences of its stewardship. The governors will now have to overcome these problems of political disenchantment in order to convert their victories in collecting their party's mandate into popular rather than challenged victories at the polls. For this reason the victory of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan in the re-run election must be studied b y all of them and lessons learnt. That victory has generated contemplation rather than euphoria and will force any serious political operative who studies it alongside the primary victories to reflect soberly on the future of the PDP not only in the South-South Zone but throughout the nation as a whole.