Amid delay by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to release the list of successful candidates of each political party in Delta State, EBENEZER ADUROKIYA looks at the chances of major parties, the prospects of their candidates at the state’s 2019 general elections and the major players behind the scene.
Delta State is home to very hard politics and politicking. From 1999 when the current democratic journey began, the oil-rich state has consistently carved a niche for itself in several ways. The political parties primaries that held during the year had left behind lethal sores still needing healing.
As it was in the past, two major political parties will test their might against each other in the elections at various levels of contestations. It is the battle between dominant People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and war-torn All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state. The main opposition party, the APC, sits ingloriously in the seat of primaries’ woes. There have been two factions battling for supremacy in the state. Two leaderships emerged in the primaries that was dogged with subterfuge, name-calling and unnecessary intrigues. Chief Cyril Ogodo leads one of the factions that shelters business mogul and 2015 APC governorship candidate, Chief O’tega Emerhor, who’s leader of the party in the state. The other faction, led by Prophet Jones Erue, harbours rampaging defectors from the Labour Party (LP), led by maverick Senator Ovie Omo-Agege and effervescent Chief Great Ogboru, among others, as well as Dr Cairo Ojuogboh, a former chieftain of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
The two factions have cases pending in the court. Ogodo-led faction announced Prof Utomi as its governorship candidate in absentia during its primaries, while the Prophet Erue’s faction emerged albeit, controversially, with Chief Ogboru as its flagbearer. Similar shenanigans played out in each senatorial primary. For instance, in Delta Central, two parallel primaries sprung up Chief Emerhor and Chief Omo-Agege as senatorial candidates of the same party. The litigation that emanated at the instance of the outcome of the primaries barred INEC from accepting and publishing any candidate list from any of the party factions from the state.
As of the time of knitting this piece together, uncertainty still shrouded the identities of individuals who would make the final list of candidates of the various parties in the state. No information could be sourced from the INEC’s website to this effect. However, as regards the gubernatorial candidate of the party, an unconfirmed report said perennial contestant, Chief Great Ogboru, has, expectedly, emerged on the list as APC governorship candidate ahead of political economist, Professor Patrick Utomi.
With Ogboru eventually coming up for a fifth time as governorship contestant in the state, the governorship election in the state sure stands as a two-horse race even at the governorship level and others. The candidate of the ruling PDP in the state, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, certainly, earnestly covets a second term just like his predecessors. Other parties in the state, are hardly on ground. Hence, major contenders for the governorship candidates in the state in 2019 are believed to be Senator Ifeanyi Okowa of the PDP and Chief Great Ogboru of the APC. Other candidates from other parties could hardly bear the weight of these two political veterans. They include Frank Ubuoma Osanebi of African Democratic Party (ADP) and Richard Kimeku of the Democratic People’s Party (DPP), among others.
For the senatorial election, incumbent Senator Peter Nwaoboshi of the PDP for Delta North has a lesser traducer in the APC person of Doris Uboh, a former member of the House of Representatives to contend with in Delta North. In Delta South, former governor of Delta State, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, who was a two-term governor, is squaring it up with the PDP incumbent, Mr James Manager, who has already spent almost 16 years on the seat.
Senator Omo-Agege, also an incumbent Senator under APC, holds the ace in Delta Central under his faction. Chief O’tega Emerhor, who also emerged as candidate in his faction, if eventually authenticated by INEC through the courts, would not be a pushover as a former governorship candidate. Their major contender is 46-year-old PDP’s Evelyn Oboro, a current House of Reps member.
A peep into the chances of some of these likely major gubernatorial and National Assembly candidates in the state might give an insight into what to expect in 2019.
Senator Ifeanyi Okowa
How Herculean it will be for governorship candidates of other political parties in the state to halt the sailing boat of PDP’s Senator Ifeanyi Okowa into his second term. In his eternal favour, the major opposition APC has been plunged in disarray, defying all entreaties from well-wishers to sheathe their swords. Okowa is seen as fulfilling the destiny of the Anioma stock as governor, the position that has been occupied previously by Delta Central and Delta South for 16 years before 2015. This was part of the thinking of the Ogodo/Emerhor faction to ensure a governorship candidate from Okowa’s district emerged, but the Erue/Omo-Agege faction would not reason to the favour of Okowa.
Incumbent Governor Okowa swims in the pedigree of the James Ibori political dynasty that has had the state in its firm grip since 1999. The political structure, rather than wane, waxes stronger. The loss of PDP at the presidential election in 2015 was the gain of the one fondly called “Azikiwa.” He has been able to manage, with several creative appointments, the hordes of political orphans and returnees whose appointments or political tenures eclipsed at the advent of the Buhari administration.
Okowa thrives and prides in grassroots politicking. Born 1959, the soft-spoken indigene of Owa-Alero succeeded former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan as governor in 2015 after his one-term stride at the Red Chambers. At the grassroots realm, he was secretary to Ika North East Local Government Area at a time, then emerged as chairman from 1991 to 1993, coordinated the Delta North chapter of the Grassroots Democratic Movement (GDM), later became a commissioner under Ibori from 2001 to 2006 after which he contested the PDP governorship primary against Uduaghan and lost in 2007. He was reportedly compensated with SSG in Uduaghan’s first term before heading for the senate in 2011. With this pedigree, edging him to the oblivion in 2019 by the disunited and badly fractured opposition APC, would be a mission almost impossible. Cries that the state has been spelled under the PDP hegemony with the tacit supervision by Ibori could ignite some political insurrection to oust the Okowa regime. A likely formidable gang-up from Uduaghan, Omo-Agege, ably assisted by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole could pose some threats to Okowa returning to the Government House in 2019.
APC gubernatorial candidate, Chief Ogboru
In spite of his perennial failures to lift the governorship trophy in the four times he had contested, Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru remains hopeful, undaunted and still commands some cult-like respect and following from Deltans, particularly folks of the lowest wrung of the social ladder. They describe him as handsome, brave and defender of the common man.
The People’s General, as he’s fondly called, forayed into politics after returning from exile in 2000.
Ogboru has consistently gunned for the governorship of the state under the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in 2003, PDP in 2007, DPP in 2011 and LP in 2015. He was denied victory. Not even the various Election Tribunals and courts could help him but he provided a viable opposition platform.
A bigger threat to Ogboru’s fifth time governorship ambition in his state could be mortgaged on the altar of acrimony within the APC and his own faction. Former Speaker of the Delta House of Assembly, Victor Ochei, Prof Utomi and Ojuogboh are reportedly still incensed against the manner with which they were treated and disgraced out of the governorship primary in Asaba. The Ogodo/Emerhor faction, which preferred an APC governorship candidate from Delta North to divide the votes for Okowa, is a factor that may be unhelpful to Ogboru. But his running mate, Evangelist Ossai Abeh, a lecturer at Novena University, Ogume, who hails from Obiaruku in Ukwuani Local Government Area of the state could possibly curry in some votes from the Anioma region. Abbey is described as an astute grassroots politician and a dogged Ogboru fanatic from the days of Ogboru’s sojourn in AD, DPP, LP,
Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta South)
Being the immediate past governor of Delta State, Dr Uduaghan pulls some incredible weight in the Delta South Senatorial District. He has the financial muscle to prosecute his victory. With little or no further introduction, one of the stuff he’s made of reared its head during the last PDP and APC primaries in the state. He tactically took a walk out of the PDP on August 29, 2018 when it became obvious that some forces, allegedly including Governor Okowa and his foot soldiers, were indisposed to his senatorial ambition. He embraced the APC, which he had, like several others who had trodden the familiar path before him, vilified and maligned when he held sway as leader of PDP in the state. In 2015, he withdrew from the Delta South senatorial race due to an unfavorable political weather. He had attributed the reason to his determination to allow peace and security, which he had worked hard to entrench in the state, to subsist above his personal ambition. Like Okowa, Asamaigo, as Uduaghan is fondly called, has been in the PDP and Ibori Political Dynasty since 1999 as commissioner, SSG and the arrowhead of the committee that risked its life to visit the creeks and appeal to armed agitators to lay down their arms and embrace the amnesty programme which was spearheaded by the then Musa Yar ‘Adua/Goodluck Jonathan government. As a result, the former governor ranks among the very few who has traversed the deep creeks of the state. He knows how votes grow to victory there.
Uduaghan will test the senatorial waters with a veteran and four times senator, James Manager, who has defied all entreaties to step down for Uduaghan prior to his emergence as the Delta South PDP candidate. Some said his peaceful, non-violent disposition was the reason he chickened out in 2015 as well as the PDP lately. Manager’s insistence in remaining in power has generated bad blood among the three major ethnic nationalities in the district namely, the Ijaw, Itsekiri and the Isoko/Urhobo. The gentleman agreement of rotation of power in the PDP family presupposes that it was Itsekiri’s turn to occupy the senatorial seat. But the Ijaws, not all of them, are averse to this. Uduaghan’s strong support base therefore lies in the Isoko axis, of course the Itsekiri, his ethnic stock and parts of Bomadi and Burutu local government of the district. With able lieutenants like his former SSG, Ovuozourie Macaulay, former chairman of Delta State Board of Internal Revenue Joel Onowakpo-Thomas, and a host of others, Isokos will back Uduaghan for his victory because of his performance when he was governor. He would get votes from the Itsekiri, perhaps largely for ethnic sentiment, and the Ijaws of Bomadi and Burutu, Besides, Uduaghan, now a close ally of Oshiomhole, relishes federal might. He, may however, hav some challenges with the Ijaws of Gbaramatu, the stronghold of former militant, Chief Government Ekpemupolo alias Tompolo in his bid to dislodge his major opponent, James Manager.
Except managed well, Uduaghan’s traducers may also emerge in the persons of aggrieved APC Delta South Senatorial aspirants who through qualified and parted with the humongous nomination form fee, were screened out and Uduaghan declared a sole candidate.
Fifty-seven-year-old and Ijaw-born lawyer, Senator James Manager, is gunning for his record fifth term at the Red Chambers. He began the senatorial odyssey in 2003 after serving the PDP as state chairman between 1998 and 1999. He emerged at the PDP primaries after defeating his closest rival, Itsekiri-born Chief Michael Diden, alias Ejele, one of Okowa’s man Friday. Ejele’s insistence in contesting in the Delta South primaries and Manager’s ambition contributed largely to Uduaghan’s exit from the PDP. Ejele is currently a member of the Delta House of Assembly. Other ethnic nationalities, who constitute Delta South Senatorial district, however, take exception to Manager’s ambition, most especially when the PDP gentleman rotational agreement takes precedence. But he is resolute and banks on his pedigree as an incumbent, the strength of PDP, mand his Ijaw stock to clinch the trophy. It’s not clear if Governor Okowa condones Manager’s covetousness, but votes may sway his way if Deputy Governor Kingsley Otuaro, who’s also the running mate of Okowa, is factored in. Interestingly Okowa needs Manager too, to achieve his second term ambition. Besides, he has Uduaghan, who is said to have always worked for his electoral success in the past, to contend with. This is the first time he would be having no federal might backing him, The epic battle promises an interesting one as the senator is one that thrives in the terrain of tough fights.
Senator Omo-Agege of Delta Central
Delta Central APC Senatorial candidate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, warred his way into the Red Chambers after defeating Chief Oghoyota Amori of the PDP at the courts shortly after the 2015 National Assembly poll. Omo-Agege contested under the platform of the LP with Ogboru as the governorship candidate. But no sooner he reclaimed his mandate in the courts than he defected to APC with Ogboru and their supporters. The Orogun-born lawyer cum politician began his political journey in the days of Ibori, after his short sojourn in the United States, as former executive assistant to the governor in 2003, commissioner of special duties and then a gubernatorial aspirant against Uduaghan in 2007. He was reportedly compensated with the SSG position. Omo-Agege enjoys some irretrievable modicum of grassroots support as he’s a rugged mobiliser of the people, especially the youth.
His defection to APC with Ogboru, pundits have argued, led to the factionalisation of the party in the state, as they battle with leader of the party, Chief Emerhor, who was the 2015 governorship candidate, for the soul and control of the party. He’s armed with the intrigues and antics PDP has mastered over the years. He was part of the people who allegedly stole Ogboru’s mandate three times. With these, losing out to any opponent in the district will take some extra efforts, much more as the PDP candidate is a current one-time House of Representatives member, Chief Evelyn Oboro. Omo-Agege knows the best strategy to apply when the time to cross the bridge arrives as he’s a dogged fighter and currently enjoys maximum federal might. But his recent activities at the Red Chambers, particularly the stolen Maze saga, has received a mixed reactions of condemnation and approval from his district. Could this work against his reelection bid?
In all these, INEC and the courts hold the ace on whose name would be published as the authentic APC candidate between him and Chief Emerhor who also emerged as the Senatorial candidate for Delta Central in a parallel primary held at Ughelli.
Peter Nwaoboshi, Delta North
Senator Peter Nwaoboshi belongs to the Ibori Political Dynasty in the state. He was the state chairman of PDP during the reign of Gov Uduaghan and did well by PDP standards. The 61-year-old lawyer, who’s currently answering corruption charges with the EFCC in the court, became senator in 2015. Nwaoboshi, fondly called “oracle” and “miracle” by his political admirers, has rocked politics for 35 years. He seeks a second term at the senate and he could get it. He commands some good monetary clout to prosecute the war. His major opponent in the race, Doris Uboh, a former House of Reps member, is of the APC. Some say she’s a feather weight but she boasts of t supports of aggrieved APC stalwarts in Delta North such as former Speaker Ochei, Prof Utomi and Chief Ojuogboh, among others,
PDP’s Evelyn Oboro
Evelyn Oboro is, like Omo-Agege, rounding off her first term at the House of Reps. A strong grassroots politician, he humiliated Chief Amori, her strongest opponent in the PDP primaries to the chagrin of the electorate at the Sapele Township Stadium where the primary held. Lion-hearted Oboro enjoys the full support of notable elders in the district including royal fathers and Chief Ibori, the former governor. The 46-year-old member of the House of Reps, who’s representing Okpe/Sapele/Uvwie Federal Constituency, was Councillor from 1999 to 2002 and LG chairman in 2004 to 2007, before emerging member of the House in 2011. The delectable Law graduate of DELSU, who had it rough recently with Omo-Agege over a bill on FUPRE that was passed into law, is reputed to have taken several youths and women from the streets through her skills acquisition and empowerment programme. On whether she can outwit the cerebral and intellectual firepower of Omo-Agege is what political observers are wary of conjecturing. If she comes top in the election, the dwindling fortunes of the APC at the national level and, of course, the factionalisation of the party in the state, among other factors, would be seen as partly responsible.