LEADERS and stakeholders of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Delta State are now beginning to fathom more clearly why the party’s leader and governor of the state, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, openly stated, May, last year, that there was no formal agreement on the principle of governorship rotation among the three senatorial districts.
As a political tactician, he foresaw the critical situation the matter could throw the party and wanted forthright dialogue and resolution among stakeholders before the 2023 governorship primaries of the party, now slated for 21st of this month (May).
This was topmost in his thoughts at a meeting of the state PDP Caucus in January, roughly three months ago, attended by former governor of the state, Chief James Ibori; his successor, ex-governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan and other top shots, in Asaba, to deliberate on zoning of 2023 governorship ticket.
The gathering dispersed with more strain , as the subject matter was not tackled head-on , and the proclamation to convene another meeting in about a month or thereabout to address the albatross before the primaries, remains unfulfilled two months after.
With zoning unresolved, governorship aspirants, especially from Delta Central senatorial district and Ijaw, Delta South senatorial district, who maintain it was the turn of their respective dominions in Urhobo and Ijaw to produce the next governor, practically went haywire.
Having decided back home as an ethnic group that zoning or no zoning, Ijaw governorship aspirants must contest the May 21 PDP governorship primaries, Ijaw aspirants as well as their Urhobo counterparts, one way or the other, swaggered the state, giving the impression that they just emerged from Okowa’s bedroom, where he freshly anointed them to take over from him.
Even those that have no visible political structure to win their local government area, not to talk of senatorial district, bragged that they had the backing of the governor. A number of them were already being addressed by their followers as “His Excellency”. Some of them also conscripted aides of the governor, who fed them with concocted tales to squeeze money from them.
One of the aspirants, a former Commissioner, who went with his godfather to intimate the governor of his intention, took Okowa’s comments of wishing him the best in his endeavor to mean that he (governor) had validated him.
In fact, at a time, last year, the names of two former Commissioners were everywhere as having been sanctioned by the governor. It was rumored that Okowa allegedly mentioned them in his conversation with other party top shots as his preferred two aspirants, but at no time did the governor make such confirmation openly.
Another gubernatorial aspirant, who pointed out the governor swore he would hand over to him, was already looking beyond the May 21 governorship primaries and the 2023 governorship election proper, but planning for his May 29, 2023 inauguration as governor.
While few made efforts to really campaign and others fizzled away, particularly after the Delta Central – 2023, the Urhobo pressure group for PDP 2023 governorship ticket, screened them out, narrowing the list of over 12 contenders to three, including the current Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Rt.Hon Sheriff Oborevwori, former Minister of State for Education, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi and former Chief of Staff, Government House, Asaba, Olorogun David Edevbie.
Boasting filters back to gov
However, the spectacle of dropping the name of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, who had long assured he would superintend over free and fair primaries plunged to an unbecoming level when some of the aspirants began to mouth in private what they had allegedly done for the governor in the past that would inescapably make him not break his purported promise to them.
Politicians and groups loyal to some aspirants also whispered the governor had passed instruction to some contenders to stop campaigning and all that. It was chaotic affair.
Saturday Vanguard was informed about how at least four governorship aspirants crowed to their followers to go and mark the date; that the governor had anointed each of them as his successor.
Deputy Governor, Deacon Kingsley Otuaro; Senator James Manager; Dr. Braduce Angozi; Olorogun Gbagi, Rt. Hon. Oborevwori, Olorogun Edevbie, Peter Mrakpor, SAN, Chief James Augoye; Senator Emmanuel Aguariavwodo; Hon Ejaife Odebala and others are all good friends to Okowa, therefore, it is not easy to say who is the chosen one or otherwise.
Unfortunately for most of them, the information they peddle about the governor’s supposed discussions with them filter back to the governor through party leaders that communicate with him and he hooted over most of the twists and turns of the endorsement narratives.
Okowa denounces pretenders
But noting the inclination the lies of endorsements was assuming and damage it could wreak on the party if not checkmated, the governor, speaking through Commissioner for Information, Charles Aniagwu, during the week, deflated the allusions of having certified any governorship aspirant on the platform of the party.
Aniagwu claimed the aspirants may have misconstrued the governor when they consulted him about their governorship quests. He faulted the aspirants for dropping the name of the governor, stressing the aspirants were simply identifying with the achievements of his administration and the integrity he has built over the years.
The commissioner said the governor as a democrat would not be interested in asking anybody to step down, positing: “The governor will not be interested in asking anybody to step down because he is a democrat. But his achievements and pedigree will speak very loud.”
After Aniagwu’s repudiation, it has now dawned on the governorship aspirants that the governor was not prepared to assist any of them to Government House, Asaba, by rigging for them. The burden is on them to work hard just as the governor himself toiled inflexibly in 2014 to win the governorship primaries convincingly and also made his 2019 re-election mere convention with his first- term performance.
Back to basics
This paper was reliably informed that the governorship aspirants have now returned to basics, mindful that Okowa was not going to bend the rules for anybody, no matter their rumored relationship.
It has also come to the notice of some aspirants that political leaders and power brokers they were banking on to secure delegates in their respective wards and local government areas have precipitously abandoned them for a perceived underdog aspirant, who is trending in the state.
Whereas Gbagi, Oborevwori, Otuaro, and Mrakpor are known to have collected their expression of interest forms to contest governorship as at Tuesday, others are bidding their time to collect, while a source hinted those who consider the overheads too big given the present-day reality may even chicken out from buying expression of interest form.
However, aspirants like Manager, Edevbie, Odebala, Fred Majemite, and Abel Esievo are said to have subsequently obtained forms in what promises to be a crowded governorship race.
Ibori raises the alarm
Meanwhile, former governor, Chief Ibori, last Saturday, at the formal declaration of the national chairman of DC-23, Chief Ighoyota Amori, to secure the Delta Central senatorial ticket of the party, in Mosogar, Ethiope West local government area, sounded the alarm that some politicians were maneuvering to undercut his influence in Delta politics, saying those who want to humiliate him would be shamed by God.
“I am behind and I will support Senator Ighoyota Amori every step on the way, and anybody, anyone conspiring, anybody that thinks that because I am now a former governor they want to conspire to disgrace me, God will disgrace all of them.
“This is not issue of money, all mothers should call their children to order, this is my senatorial district, I am a stakeholder in this party (PDP) and I am a stakeholder in Urhobo, this is my place of birth, I am with Senator Amori all the way.
”Please, join hands with me. Support him to go to the senate. I know that some of you from your various houses will probably be thinking, please have a rethink, I am begging of you. Ibori is begging you and you are refusing? Please, support me to send Senator Ighoyota Amori to the Senate.
“I want to say it again that this senatorial race, this Senator Amori’s bid, is my bid. Please, join hands with me and join hands with senator Amori to the Senate”, he supplicated.
New crop of leaders, power blocs
Amori’s chief opponent in the Delta Central senatorial primaries, an Executive Director of Finance in Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, DESOPADEC, Chief John Nani, is reinforced by a new crop of Delta Central leaders and power brokers, who feel that Ibori’s time of calling the shots in the politics of the district was gone.
They are prepared to enthrone Nani as the party’s senatorial flag-bearer and are also opposed to Ibori’s preferred successor to Okowa.
But those conversant with the politics of Delta Central have shrugged off any threat against Ibori’s preferred candidate, emphasizing the ex-governor’s all pervading clout in Delta politics remain unassailable.
Politics ,they say is dynamic and unpredictable. How the emerging political developments in Central senatorial district and Delta 2023 would eventually crystalize is a matter of time, with the clock ticking so fast.