Political scheming over who gets what in the next dispensation has become intense in oil-rich Delta State, reports JOE OGBODU.
One thing is clear as the next election date draws near: all the ethnic nationalities in Delta State are scheming for one position or the other. So, it is now a game of interest.
While in other parts of Nigeria the electorate is expected to vote on the basis of party ideology and suitability of the candidate for the position of chief executive officer, most ethnic groups in the state are preparing to vote based on what they get in the next dispensation.
Political geography divides Delta State into three senatorial districts, namely: the Delta North, Delta Central and Delta South Senatorial. All, except Delta Southern senatorial districts, are scheming to produce the next governor of the state.
The ruling People Democratic Party (PDP) gave its ticket to the Delta North after Senator Ifeanyi Okowa emerged winner of a keenly contested primaries. The Northern senatorial district, going by the original calculations, is the only zone yet to produce a governor in the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural state.
The All Progressive Congress (APC) gave its ticket to Olorogun O’tega Emerhor, who is from the Delta Central District while the Labour Party (LP) gave its ticket to Chief Great Ogboru who also is from the Delta Central District. All the governorship candidates are expected to pick their deputies from Delta South to balance the political equation and their chances of winning in the main election but Emerhor may likely take his deputy from the Northern senatorial district since the PDP candidate, Okowa is from the North and has picked a deputy from the South.
The desire of the Isoko ethnic nationality to produce the deputy governorship candidate on the platform of the PDP was dashed with Kingsley Otuaro, an Ijaw cousin of Chief Government Ekpemupolo (aka Tompolo) who now wields strong influence in the political arena in the state, emerged as Okowa’s deputy.
Political analysts say the emergence of Otuaro has unsettled the political calculation in the state as it relates to the Delta South Senatorial District. The district is made up of three main ethnic groups: Ijaw, Itsekiri and Isoko. The Isokos were expected to produce the deputy governorship candidate, while an Itsekiri man would head to the Senate.
Senator James Manager, also an Ijaw man, retained his seat and scuttled the Itsekiri’s chance of producing the senator representing the Delta Southerners. The hope of the Itsekiri to have the senate ticket on the PDP platform was dashed when incumbent Governor Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan quit the contest in the last minute. An Itsekiri, Prince Yemi Emiko of the APC is in the race. Don’t be in doubt if some PDP elements join forces with Emiko to pull a surprise in the general election in favour of Itsekiri man.
As it is now, and with the emergence of Otuaro, an Ijaw, as deputy governorship candidate, the Isoko and Itsekiri of the Delta South Senatorial District will have no outstanding electable position from 2015 should the PDP sweep the polls.
IDU on rescue mission
Sensing that the Isoko would be further endangered in the next dispensation if they continued to fold their arms and watch the political class dictate the pace of the polity, the leadership of the IDU and other prominent leaders in the ethnic nationality began a rescue mission. Watchers of political events say the Isoko elders believe the ‘political class’ were their problem and they were no longer prepared to further mortgage the future of the land on the altar of self-imposing politics being played by the political class.
It is no news that the Isoko political class comprises those representing the area in government like the Secretary to the State Government, (SSG), Comrade Ovouzoria Macaulay; Delta state PDP Scribe, Solomon Ogba; House of Representatives Deputy Majority Leader, Hon Leo Okuweh Ogor, Hon Johnson Erijo and a host of others who hold elective and appointive positions from the Isoko nation goofed during the last PDP primaries when they backed a wrong horse and couldn’t use their voting strengths to bargain like others.
So, when the Isoko ethnic nationality gathered at the weekend in a ceremony that was christened; luncheon for the Executive of the Isoko Development Union (IDU), held at the residence of the President General of Isoko apex socio/cultural organization, the Isoko Development Union (IDU) Worldwide, General Paul Ufuoma Omu (rtd), after much horse trading and bickering over the deputy governorship position lost to Ijaw, no doubt everyone now knows that the Isoko people would not rest until they get a meaningful political position.
Understandably, they were the least marginalized people in the Delta Southern senatorial district but with their voting strengths they still have the bargain power and can scuttle the chances of the ruling PDP if they decide to move to the opposition party to actualize their desire of producing the next deputy governor. Not knowing the kind of game their kinsmen who hold elective positions had played prior to the PDP primaries, the Isoko leadership under IDU, had threaten to dump the party like the UPU if the deputy governorship position is not left for them.
It was learnt that the Labour Party of Ogboru and the APC’s Emerhor had latched on this development and sensing the Isoko as the beautiful bride, hawked the deputy governorship position to them but two or three of the Isoko personalities including High Chief Iduh Amadhe, a well-known son of Isoko land and former IDU President General rejected the offer, preferring to remain with the PDP and realising the Isoko dream in the party.
No wonder, at the Igbide event at the weekend, the Deputy Governor of Delta State, Prof. Amos Utuama, an Urhobo who graced the occasion to honour his agelong friend, Omu who had within a short period built a formidable IDU, practically begged the Isoko people never to leave the PDP saying the Isokos were among the people who built the party and should not be seen as dumping it for failing to clinch one position when there are other good positions they could get from the next dispensation.
The event which was originally planned to reappraise the IDU leadership and forge a common front for 2015, was however stolen when the PDP Governorship candidate arrived at the arena with his enlarge entourage few hours after the state Deputy Governor, Prof Utuama had departed the ceremony.
Although nearly all in the political class in Isoko were conspicuously absent at the event even though they were invited, sources said the event which is unprecedented in the history of IDU attracted prominent Isoko sons and daughters, as well as notable Deltans.
Dignitaries at the event included the PDP flag bearer, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, former Information Minister, Prof Sam Oyovbaire, onetime governorship aspirant, Chief Ufuoma Obule, Chief Moses Odibo, PDP Chairman Delta Central Senatorial District, Chief Tom Amioku, former member of the state House of Assembly, Hon Moro Reginald Donbraye, member of the Public Complaints Commission, Hon Mathias Eto, former Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Alexandra Ogomudia (rtd), former PDP state chairman, Elder Emma Ogidi, pioneer Speaker of the State Assembly, Hon Emmanuel Okoro, Hon Victor Nwokolo, Hon Sam Obi, High Chief Iduh Amadhe, Chief Askia Ogieh, Barr Mike Edegware, Chief Joshua Uturu, Chief Charles Akeni, Chief Dennis Etaluku, General Amarie, Chief Judith Anamutor, the Ovie of Igbide, Odiologbo of Owhe, Ovie of Ellu among others.
Okowa, who said he came merely to wish the IDU President General, Gen Omu and his wife Senator Stella Omu, happy newyear, was astonished with the large attendance which turned out to be the gathering of the Isoko nation.
“I am glad I met the whole of Isoko nation in Omu’s place. I am a lucky man because I have people advising me in the right path to follow. I know the IDU President is no longer a politician but his wife is a politician so I would pass my messages through his wife,” he said.
Okowa assured the Isoko of a better deal in the next dispen sation if he is voted into office, pledging that his administration would partner with Isoko nation for the betterment of the state and the ethnic nation.
“From May 29th, there would be a great partnership between IDU and government of Delta State. I can assure you that my father, General Omu doesn’t have to come to Asaba, if he puts a call across to me, I will come and meet him here. I will partner IDU and government of Delta state come May 29th, and we will build bridges across ethnic groups…” he pledged.
He thanked the Public Relations Officer and representative of the Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) at the occasion, Chief Mike Okenini, for making reference to the need to build bridges with the Urhobo nation as they are brothers of the Isoko people. Okowa said the UPU advice was timely and needed by all Deltans.
“We have different languages, cultural values but we are one people. The partnership the UPU advice is what we would build upon and we would represent each other’s interests…whatever has happened in the past was because of exigency of politics”.
While giving his goodwill message, Okenini said that the UPU President-General, Chief Joe Omene was happy with the Isoko leadership, adding that being brothers to the Urhobo, the Isoko should continue to build bridges of unity with the Urhobo nation apparently referring to the need for the Isoko nation to support the Urhobo aspiration of producing the next governor either through Ogboru or Emerhor.
Okowa’s Campaign Director General, Prof Oyovbaire earlier thanked the Isoko nation for standing by Okowa during the primaries, saying that the candidate is a man who means well for all Delta people.
Former Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Alexandra Ogomudia, an Isoko, spoke on the need for the leaders of the nationality to create a better future for the next generation. “We need to create a better future for our children. We must be careful in doing that so that we don’t lose everything… the IDU leadership must ensure that the accreditation at Oleh Engineer Faculty is done…We don’t have excuses for the university to close down.”
Ogomudia was corroborated by Chief Dennis Etaluku, another frontline politician and PDP chieftain in the area who appealed to the Isoko nation to give Okowa their support. “The leadership of Isoko was drifting at a time so we rallied round to ensure the boat did not sink… we rallied round and convinced Omu to take up the job… the Isoko have got a grounded focus now. Omu is a member of the IDU party now… there was fuss about this or that but only one man takes up a position at the time…
“We have got a good man in Okowa and we should rally round him…Isoko people will not be the same by the time Okowa leaves office.
“We (Isoko) have extracted enough promises from Okowa to make the Isoko nation great”, Etaluku said, adding: “Let’s not allow others wrest Okowa from us….Omu is not a politician now but we are begging him to take Isoko people on the winning boat….and we shall all berth successfully at the Government House in May 29th.
Omu, who rose from a closeddoor meeting with Okowa later told newsmen after the luncheon that it was now understood why the Isoko lost out on the agitation for the Delta State PDP Deputy Governorship candidate seat.
While declining to give details of the meeting held with Okowa, Omu merely assured that Isoko would get better deals in the next dispensation.
But what are the dreams and aspirations of the Isoko nation toward the next dispensation, he was asked? In his reply, he said: “First and foremost, everybody knows that the Isoko have been marginalized for years because we have not been given our own share of the national cake. This has been on for a very long time now. We just hope that the new administration will give the Isoko a better deal. What has happened has dismantled the old era and the new era will better our lot…”
He said that the ceremony was originally planned to host his executive members only but was expanded after his wife who co-organized it had to ensure that his friends, and colleagues in other ethnic nationalities in the state were included in the plan.
He said: “ The deputy governorship’s agitation was in the mind of everybody but all political issues must be subjected to dialogue and dialogue remains the key to every political problem so we are still in dialogue but we now know why Ijaws got the PDP deputy governorship ticket…”
Omu said that the Isoko could get something better than the deputy governorship position it was questing for, adding that the Isokos’ earlier stance that any political party that did not field an Isoko as deputy would lose the ethnic nation’s support and vote was based on the ground that her people were so marginalized but since the ethnic group now knows why it lost that of the PDP to an Ijaw, a more solid bargain is currently on for the Isoko nation.
When reminded that political analysts had argued that Isoko people didn’t vote for Okowa during the primaries as such couldn’t have got the deputy ticket which the Ijaw bargained for prior to the primaries of the PDP, Omu said it was not true.
“Your source is not correct and at the time we made our press statement, our source was not also correct, but now we have our facts and it is not true the Isokos didn’t vote for him. They voted for him but the people regarded in politics as representing the opinion of Isoko people didn’t fully represent the opinion of Isoko people and they were the people who gave Okowa the wrong impression that Isokos were not behind him but on the day of the primaries it became obvious that Isokos were behind Okowa and those who were fighting Okowa, giving the wrong signals, are those who are now sidelined and not the Isoko nation, though we are still endangered, we would negotiate a better deal for the Isoko nation and we are still open to negotiations”.
When asked what he would do to convince the Isoko nation to vote for Okowa now that it was settled that the candidate means well for the Isoko nation, Omu said his people do not need further convincing.
“The facts are clear. The Isoko do not need convincing. They are discerning. Okowa is a friend of all. He respects elders and blends well with people. In all the years before now, he has been doing his homework and one does not need gospel in a pulpit to convince Isoko people”, Omu said and therefore tasked the his people to vote wisely and for a candidate that can truly win.
*Published in the Daily Times newspaper dated Wednesday, January 7, 2015