2023: Twists in Delta guber race

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From Paul Osuyi, Asaba

No doubt, the political space in Delta State, is awash with arguments on who takes over power from incumbent Governor Ifeanyi Okowa.

This has left unsettled dust across the three senatorial districts of the state from various camps, loyalists and supporters of aspirants, particularly within the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Already, argument on the rotation of the governorship seat either on senatorial district basis or ethnic basis, has torn traditional rulers in the state apart.

Attempts by the Delta North Traditional Rulers’ Forum with the Asagba of Asaba, Obi (Prof.) Chike Edozien as chairman, to organise a summit to address the issue of zoning appeared to be scuttled.

The state leadership of traditional rulers, the Delta State Council of Traditional Rulers dissociated itself from the proposed summit on the ground that royal fathers remained apolitical in the electioneering processes.

Chairman of the council of traditional rulers and the Orodje of Okpe, Major General Felix Mujakpuerou, rtd, Orhue I, who distanced the state monarchs from the proposed summit insisted that there was no need to convoke such summit ab-initio.

But our correspondent learnt that the proposed summit came to the consciousness of Delta North monarchs based on suspicious plots by stakeholders in Delta central to hold on to power in perpetuity should the zone succeed to produce the governor in 2023.

Based on the unwritten rotational arrangement on senatorial basis, Delta central is primed to get the governorship in 2023, having started it out in 1999 with former governor James Ibori who handed over to Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta South) in 2007.

Okowa from Delta North took over in 2015 to complete the triangular power shift. But the race to 2023 has brought fresh issues on how to fairly and equitably identify the district to produce the governorship particularly in the PDP.

The argument that the fresh rotation should start from Delta North based on the principle  of ‘Osusu’ appears not to hold water among political stakeholders.   

But the sentiment that rotation should be on ethnic basis is very strong among the Ijaw ethnic nationality in Delta South.

Three of the aspirants who have procured PDP expression of interest and nomination forms are from Ijaw. They include current deputy governor, Kingsley Otuaro, Senator James Manager and Braduce Angozi.

Although the Urhobo nation in Delta central recently appeared to be relaxed in the quest for the exalted seat, no fewer than ten aspirants from the zone have also procured PDP forms, and are meeting potential delegates for the primaries.

The seeming silence from Delta central jolted Delta North traditional rulers who are speculating that such disposition is a booby trap by the Urhobo to hold on to power perpetually should they produce the governor in 2023 on any political platform.

Banking on their population, Urhobo in Delta central are said to be holding unity meetings comprising the leadership of the apex socio-cultural body of the Urhobo nation, Urhobo Progress Union (UPU), political stakeholders and royal fathers.

The agenda, it was learnt, is to harmonise, form a formidable bloc against Governor Okowa should there be any attempt to impose anybody whether an Urhoho son or outside on them; and shop for an acceptable candidate on any platform to win the 2023 election.

In the meantime, Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Sheriff Oborevwori from Okpe area in Delta central and perceived to be the anointed, is said to be facing rejection from his Urhobo kinsmen.

Oborevwori is enjoying the support of an influential political pressure group, Delta Political Vanguard (DPV) whose membership mainly comprise of loyalists and appointees of the governor.

But the Speaker appears not to fit the bill of what the Urhobo stakeholders want as governor, hence, they are secretly working round the clock to cause an upset either at the PDP primary or during the general election.

They are said not to be comfortable with any aspirant who has link with the former governor, James Ibori who is known to be backing the immediate past Chief of Staff to Okowa, former Commissioner for Finance during his days as governor, David Edevbie.

And based on the speculations that power might not return to Delta North in future, the Asagba of Asaba, Prof. Edozien is said to be mobilising monarchs within the zone to back Delta central for the governorship seat.

A source close to the Asagba said the nonagenarian king is insisting that there was an unwritten agreement of zoning the governorship seat on the basis of senatorial district.

The source informed that Prof. Edozien recently had a private meeting with Okowa where he advised the governor to respect the zoning arrangement, and ensure that there is power shift to Delta central in 2023.

Shortly after the private encounter with the Asagba, DPV members who in January this year, vowed to mobilise for Okowa’s anointed candidate, adopted Oborevwori as their preferred PDP aspirant.

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This is even as PDP stakeholders and opinion leaders in Delta South also endorsed Oborevwori as their preferred candidate.

The development has created a bandwagon effect in the polity with Okowa henchmen and core loyalists both within and outside government now as part of the delegates on the Speaker’s entourage to consultative visit to PDP structures across the state, giving credence to the speculation that Oborevwori is the anointed one.

There might yet be another twist in the race as news emerged lately that Okowa’s Chief of Staff, Festus Ovie Agas, resigned his appointment on March 31, apparently to join the governorship race.

But a political observer, Karifest Onyekaah disagreed, describing Okowa as a hugely unpredictable politician who would not make the mistake of unveiling his choice at this stage in the race.

“Okowa is a wise man and too mysterious to be predicted, hence he cannot pick anyone publicly to succeed him at this time except when he is sure that the person would not be rejected at the primaries.

“The Okowa that I know and have been following his works since his days as SSG is too pragmatic and too mysterious to be predicted. Those predicting that Sheriff is Okowa’s choice should put their hearts to rest and go to sleep.

“The Okowa that I know would stay quiet now and watch how the scene play out among the contenders even when he already has someone in mind,” Onyekaah said.

Meanwhile, Oborevwori is not the only aspirant that has dropped the name of the governor as having endorsed their quest to be the next governor.

Deputy Governor, Kingsley Otuaro and former Minister, Kenneth Gbagi, had at different fora said the governor has endorsed them.

But Commissioner for Information, Charles Aniagwu denied it all, saying that his principal, the governor has not endorsed anybody for governor.

Aniagwu said his principal’s name was merely being dropped for anticipated political gains in the race to Government House in 2023.

He said the aspirants were simply identifying with the achievements of the Okowa administration and his integrity.

Aniagwu who addressed journalists in Asaba, said the governor is a democrat and would not be interested in asking anybody to step out of the race to the exalted position.

“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.

“Everybody knows that the governor has recorded a number of achievements, and it is believed and rightly so that any direction he shakes his body will have a whole lot of advantage because he has been able to add a whole lot of values to the promises he made.

“If in that light because they believe the name of the governor is capable of giving them advantage, you can’t blame them, and we are not going to fight them for using the name of the governor because they are trying to associate themselves with what is good.

“At the end of the day, we are going to have one governorship candidate in the PDP. The governor’s pedigree is quite high and everybody wants to have that covering,” he said.

Aniagwu said there was nothing if the said aspirants misconstrued the governor when they consulted him about their governorship ambition.

“If you go and meet him to say you want to run, you are being courteous. Naturally, he will not ask you to stop because it is assumed that you have assessed and you have the capacity to run.

“And if you believe that because he did not ask you to stop, that it is an endorsement, there is nothing wrong with it.

“What is important is that we hope and believe that all our members who are interested in positions whether the governorship or legislature, that they are able to play safely and with respect for one another.

“So, the governor hopes that anybody who is contesting will use the most sane words; have respect for one another; recognize the fact that we are one family; recognize the need for us to sustain the development trajectory in the state.

“Not too many people are carrying money and jumping up and down because they believe that the best just have to come, knowing that the enormity of succeeding Okowa is a task that would require a whole lot of strength if the person must indeed command the respect that this administration enjoys at the moment,” he added.

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