To say the choice of a successor for Governor Ifeanyi Okowa in 2023 is going to be a bigfight between the Urhobos of the Delta Central and the Ijaws of the Delta South of Delta State is an understatement. The political atmosphere is unclear as to which ethnic nationality between the two zones will coast to victory.
While the former governor of the state, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, whose political dynasty has been at the helm of affairs in the oil rich state since the advent of democracy in 1999, is representing his people in Delta Central, where the pendulum may likely swing to, Senator James Manager, a fourth term member of the national Assembly, who is a factor to reckon with in the politics of the state, has thrown his hat in the ring to call a shot for his people at the Delta South.
The jostle assumed a dangerous dimension the moment the body language of the incumbent Governor Okowa broke his silence on the agelong rotational agreement within the Peoples Democratic Party fold and said, there was no hard and fast rule to the power rotation system and only God knows who will succeed him. Pundits have argued that the statement suggested that his successor could come from any zone.
They are also of the view that since the three districts of the state – Delta North, Delta South and Delta Central have had their slots in Ibori, former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan (his successor) and Okowa respectively, the rotation can now begin with afresh with any of the zones, including the incumbent Delta North. Moreover, they maintained that the arrangement should be in a ‘reverse order’, with Delta North senatorial district, which took last, having waited for 16 years, eight each for Delta Central and Delta North, to kick-start the new order. Worse still, a school of thought within the political logjam argued that the power rotation should be jettisoned since the Urhobos of Delta Central, where Ibori hails from have no regard for the arrangement.
According to the proponents of this, the Urhobos have always contested governorship position in large numbers in any elections even when they are aware that it was not their turn. Hence, the three zones, irrespective of party affiliation should join the race to win. Unfortunately, these opinions have not settled down well with Ibori and his people who have insisted that it was their turn and power must shift to Delta Central. But the Ijaws have cried foul, stating that it was their turn to produce the next governor. following the ethnic nationalities making up the state..
In their analysis, the Urhobos, which had theirs in Ibori, the Itshekiris which Uduaghan represented, the Ika of Anioma, represented by Okowa, the Ijaws had not, neither had the Isokos nor the Ndokwas ruled the state. They maintained that the Urhobos as the only ethnic group that make up the Delta Central would produce the third governor of the state, first in Olorogun Felix Ibru, James Ibori, and third, if allowed to succeed Okowa in 2023, whereas other ethnic nationalities in the state have not.
As the succession heat gathers momentum, Governor Okowa has come out to say that the gentleman agreement which allows each senatorial district to produce governor was not signed in any formal gathering. He said, “the gentleman agreement is an agreement that is not written. But whether there was any formal meeting in which the agreement was reached, there was no formal meeting in which that agreement was reached. “There has been no formal meeting, so, it means whatever we are doing today is about what is fair, equitable and just. It’s only God that knows who will be governor after me. I don’t know who God will bring.
I know God will take the decision of who will be governor. “But at a point in time, we will sit down and look at issues to find out what truly should be fair and just. As to where the governorship is going, I think you should pray and ask God to reveal to you.”
Irked by this, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, representing Delta North, the zone which the governor hails from, who was a Special Adviser, a Commissioner and two-term PDP chairman in the state, but recently defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) owing to the bickering, acrimony and internal wrangling in his PDP fold, expressed disappointment in the governor’s outburst. He wondered how a governor who benefitted from the rotational arrangement now wants to betray it.
He said at Udu in 2019 when Governor Okowa was campaigning for re-election, he promised to hand over power to Delta Central in 2023. He said there was no need to tell Deltans to pray to God for direction on where 2023 governorship pendulum would swing if he is not trying to play pranks. Although, Manager and a host of others have gone to consult Ibori, the father of Delta politics, Ibori has maintained that the rotational agreement remains sacrosanct. He said, “Okowa will hand over to Urhobo in 2023.
The rotational system was not negotiable. Governor Okowa during his campaign promised to handover to Delta Central and as a gentleman and promise keeper, we have no doubt in our minds that he will do everything within his God given power to adhere strictly to his promise.
“We expect all genuine members of PDP to comply with the power rotation agreement. It is for the good of all, majority and minority, the weak and strong, for balanced society.” While PDP is battling with its power rotation, the challenge being posed by the Deputy Senate President, Chief Ovie Omo-Agege, a Delta Central man, is staring them in the face. That Nwaoboshi left PDP to join forces with Omo- Agege in APC, who is of Ibori’s political lineage, means that APC is now in control of two senatorial districts in Delta, a major yardstick to decide general elections in every state.
Besides Omo-Agege, over 10 governorship aspirants, including the former Commissioner for Works under Okowa, Chief James Aguoye, his counterpart in Finance and Chief of Staff, Olorogun David Edevbie, from Urhobo axis have indicated interest for the job.
It is believed that Nwaoboshi, being a former state PDP chairman and now in the opposition party in the same state would definitely leak the secrets of PDP election victories to its new found party. He has consistently told those that cared to listen that his defection to APC is a plus as his senatorial district (Delta North) now has a national outlook Besides that, he can enjoy free ticket of APC to re-contest his seat and slog it out with Governor Okowa who is again eyeing the position.
Omo-Agege who is vying the governorship position of the state in 2023 may pick him as running mate to win Delta Central and North votes. Okowa and PDP may have them to contend with, because his dashing entrant into APC has boosted the morale of other APC chieftains in the state. But the permutation remains that if Okowa should support the Delta South (Ijaws) in 2023 against the Delta Central (Urhobos), the district will have no other choice than to dump PDP and throw their weight behind Omo-Agege.
A governorship hopeful from Delta Central, Chief Kenneth Gbagi threatened that if PDP fails to allow him to fly its ticket as a senior and most qualified member of the party in 2023, “something will happen.” Delta PDP Chairman, Barr Kingsley Esiso, however said PDP will use Nwaoboshi to teach other traitors like him a political lesson in 2023.
While he said Governor Okowa has said it all about rotational arrangement in the state, he described Nwaoboshi as an ingrate, who, having enjoyed the privileges of PDP, betrayed the confidence that was reposed in him. He said: “2023 will mark his end in the politics of the state. If your father trained you in school, from primary to university level, and after 21 years of age, you decide to fight your father, will you succeed? “PDP made Nwaoboshi Special Adviser, Commissioner, party chairman and now a senator. Yet he is ungrateful. We are waiting for him in 2023; we will crush him and his cohorts at the polls,” Esiso boasted. The Publicity Secretary of APC Caretaker Committee in the state, Barr Sylvester Imonina, who disassociated APC from PDP’s controversial rotational formula said the state is a low hanging fruit for his party in 2023.
He said the decades of PDP failure would be corrected within two years of APC meaningful government. He said: “The people of the state want peace. Politics and economic consideration must not take front row on issues affecting our dear state. But it is suffice to say that PDP has largely failed the people of the state. Count is out of their mischievous power rotation. Our candidate will emerge at a credible primary election. We will prove our worth in 2023. All their white-washed and window-dressed projects will be exposed by our responsible government.”