Having successfully won reelection with the support of the state governor Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, re-cently, the party chairman made it clear that the next governor of Delta State will come from Delta Central senatorial district, a declaration political analysts described as premature.
This was coming at a time when the dust generated by his reelection which was against the wish of a major political bloc from his home base of Sapele and Okpe LGAs, is is yet to settle.
Recall that there was grand opposition against his reelection ahead of the state’s PDP congress early this year leading to a stalemate until last August when the congress was held.
Those opposed to his return as party chairman had hinged their arguments on the fact that since the party’s top position was micro-zoned to the Sapele bloc of the Delta Central and that the party chair-man, Esiso had transferred his voter’s card from Sapele LGA to Okpe LGA, he is not morally bound to occupy an office meant for Sapele.
Others political blocs opposed to his return insisted that since he is a close ally of the governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa who hails from Delta North, Esiso might work against their interests in Delta Central which is largely in control by former governor Chief James Ibori. The opposition against the re-election of Esiso was thick but with the support of the governor, he along side the other 38 state working committees of the party were returned unopposed.
Esiso’s comment has continued to generate divergence reactions, reenacting what is likely to play out in 2023 gubernatorial election in the state. Though many PDP stalwarts feel that Delta Central should naturally produce the next governor, however, the major challenge will be which of the blocs will have an upper hand in producing the governor.
The main actors in the ruling PDP who are in charge of the main blocs are not farfetched. It will certain-ly be governor Okowa and former governor James Ibori and Prof Sam Oyovbaire. They have been close political allies.
But the opposition mounted against Esiso’s return was a pointer to what will be expected ahead of 2023. It is believed that governor Okowa and Ibori may have their favourite candidates going by what played out during the party congress.
But pundits argue that if the interests are not properly harmonised, it might snowball into a gale of de-fection to APC to join forces with deputy senate president, Senator Omo-Agege, who is desirous of running for the coveted seat on 2023. Omo-Agege is an APC stalwart from Delta Central.
Esiso is cocksure that the next governor will come from in 2023 as he declared on Sunday August 30, 2020. Speaking, he said the power rotation in Delta State is strictly on the basis of senatorial district de-void of tribe nor ethnic nationality.
He added that the party leadership in the three senatorial districts of Delta North, Delta South and Del-ta Central had always been in one accord as to the devolution of power to Delta Central in 2023. Esiso’s comment put paid to speculations and political permutations in the state, analysts stated.
Since he made that policy statement endorsing the said agreement, counter reactions have continued to trail the announcement.
The heated debate generated so far has evolved around whether the party should zone its ticket on the basis of senatorial district or tribe. The state has some major tribes including the Igbo speaking parts of the state, Urohbo, Itsekiri, Isoko and Ijaw. The debates ahead of 2023 has been built around these tribes.
Collaborating the position of the PDP chairman, executive assistant to the governor of Delta State on Strategic Political Communication, Dr. Fred Latimore Oghenesivbe, while speaking to newsmen at the venue of the event in Oviorie said “It is simple enough for any 2023 governorship aspirant within the PDP family in Delta State, to understand that rotation of power is neither by tribe nor ethnic nationality but by senatorial district, and any governorship aspirant talking about tribe or ethnicity outside of his or her senatorial district does so at his or her political risk, and shall be ignored and allowed to wallow in political wilderness.
He said, “Okowa is in one accord with national leader and resource control ambassador, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, and that the duo and other party leaders deliberately and collectively turned the for-tunes of the state around for the better, placing Delta as a reference point in national politics, infra-structure development, jobs and wealth creation as well as the number one state in Nigeria, in terms of peace building and security, from 1999 till date.”
PDP chieftain and a close associate of James Ibori, Senator Ighoyota Amori, stated that the party has made remarkable progress from the era of Chief Ibori as governor till date, and gave kudos to Hon Lovett Idisi, for bringing leaders, chieftains and party faithful together to celebrate Esiso and Onoriode.
He further asserted that the party leadership is in total agreement as to the results of the state party congress which returned Esiso as State party chairman, adding that Chief Ibori and Governor Okowa are always working closely for the good and benefit of all Deltans, urging party faithful to support Esiso and the newly constituted Exco to ensure another round of uncommon electioneering victory, come 2023.
Reacting to the endorsement of a governor of Delta Central extraction in 2023, a PDP chieftain, Amb Okporu Augustine, said as the build up to the much-talked 2023 electioneering processes are gathering momentum in Delta State, there is no doubt that the political atmosphere is charged.
He noted that party is in the epic centre of a heated political discourse as the rival interests, especially from the different ethnic groups or senatorial districts are skimming for the governorship seat.
“From all indications, the PDP is on a tight rope of success for it to midwife the next transition process in the state. The State Party Chairman, Olorogun Kingsley Esiso and the Governor of the State, His Ex-cellency, Sen. Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa are the centre piece of the party’s survival in the next transition process. Only their neutrality will survive PDP for another political dispensation in Delta State. We hope that governor Okowa will avoid the mistake of some of his colleague governors in the neighboring states.
“We make bold to say that there has not been any zoning formula in the PDP since 1999 on the basis of senatorial districts. Zoning formula comes after the governorship candidate elected by the party. If we are lying then why has the Urhobo people from the Delta Central contested against people from the other senatorial districts in the PDP since 2007 after Chief James Onanefe Ibori finished Urhobo, Delta Central’s turn in 2003? Is it Urhobo people’s exclusive preserve to contest the governorship election in all the elections even when the office is supposed to be zoned to another senatorial district? Esiso and Latimore should answer these questions.
“No senatorial district is more politically valuable than the others. We are all equal stakeholders in the state project. After all, Delta South remains the beautiful bride. Are we only good at contributing eco-nomic wealth to bolster the state economy and as well be the source of victory to the PDP in elections but not too good to rule the statw” he asked?
But a former commissioner for Education in the state, Mr. Felix Tony Nwaka, said after analysing the statement credited to the PDP boss, Barr. Kingsley Esiso, he has decided to give his consent to the ide-ology.
The PDP stalwart from Delta North senatorial district called on those nursing the idea of contesting the governorship from the other two senatorial districts, to have a rethink as it would amount to waste of energy, time, money, campaigning and making enemies.
Meanwhile, Ijaw born politician from Burutu LGA, Hon. Angodi Otutu Agbor, is indifferent to the zon-ing arrangement as stated by the PDP chairman. He is more concerned about the marginalization of the Ijaw-speaking part of the state and the failure of Ijaw leaders in the state to secure the interest of their people.
According to Angodi, “For me, the blabbing and furore about an untenable ijaw Governor in 2023 in Delta State is as good as a chase in futility and a grope in the dark, since the governorship position via an open election is what we cannot get without the support and approval of the other sections of the state, irrespective of party leanings.
“When you always allow yourselves to be easily bought over to do the bidding of a Governor, govern-ment after government in Delta state, whose heart is full of disdain for you and your people, how then do you stem the tide of neglect and marginalization suffered by your people?
He lamented that the Delta Ijaw political leaders fought vigorously with the fibre of strength to en-throne a government that hardly think in their direction even on the smallest of issues.
He added that the current administration even proceeded to use them to re-elect Esiso as chairman of PDP “against popular demand by majority of right thinking Delta state PDP stallwarts, including espe-cially the outright denial and objection to his re-election by his own Sapele LGA PDP leaders on whose back he rode to become state chairman of the PDP in the first instance but showed his real characteris-tics by denying the Sapele people of a sense of belonging and patronage.”
Angodi however blamed the Ijaw’s for their woes saying, “our biggest political undoing is perhaps our keeping mute and unable to speak up when it mattered most as to include the “rotation by ethnic groups” clause that would have evened issues for us now when that unsavoury but binding rotational zoning arrangement was agreed upon in 1999 when our people were prominent players in the political process at that time.
“Agreements are created for convenience of ease of dealing with transactions between people and are meant to be obeyed and respected and held sacrosanct by all parties to it, irrespective of the ter-rain, especially politics based ones are far more sensitive to want to be flouted, so “he who has ears let him hear,” he said.
Another reaction came from Coordinator, Concerned Deltans 2023, Comrade Fidelis Ordia who de-scribed Esiso’s statement as posing a great danger to the fortune of PDP in the state.
Ordia added that as the chairman of the ruling party in the state, Esiso does not need any lecture to know thathe is supposed to be a neutral arbiter in the party’s elections no matter his political affilia-tions.
“On the issues Esiso has raised in his invidious statement, except he is telling Deltans that he lacked an understanding of Delta politics since 1999, Esiso cannot say zoning in the state is by senatorial districts.
“Since the state party chairman seems to be naive in the history of our recent past, let us educate him a bit. At the inception of the present democratic dispensation in 1999, two persons contested the gu-bernatorial election on the platform of People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
“They’re: Chief Felix Ibru (late) and Chief James Onanefe Ibori. The duo are all from the Urhobo ethnic group. Every other ethnic groups jettisoned their governorship ambitions to rally round these persons. At the end, Chief Ibori won the elections.
“In 2003, knowing fully well that the Urhobos must complete their constitutional two terms in the gov-ernment of Delta State, all other ethnic groups again, rest their oars to allow only Urhobo people to contest the election. Hence, Great Ovedje Ogboru contested on the platform of Alliance for Democra-cy (AD) against Ibori who again contested on the platform of PDP and won the election.
“In 2007 when Ibori left office, the thinking of many Deltans, especially the non-Urhobo tribes was that the various political parties must feature only other tribes to contest the guber election since Urhobo people have completed their own. Alas, the Urhobo had more contestants for the governor-ship race than even all contestants from the other ethnic groups put together.
“The likes of Sen. Pius Akpo Ewerido (late), Charles Obule, Ejaife Odebala, Oscar Ibru, Albert Okumagba amongst other Urhobo sons contested against Sen. Ifeanyi Okowa (representing Ika ethnic group) and Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan (representing Itsekiri ethnic group). Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan won the PDP primary and had to contest the real election against Great Ovedje Ogboru from Urhobo who contested on the platform of Democratic Peoples Party (DPP).
“In Uduaghan’s second term, Chief Great Ogboru contested against him on the platform of DPP and lost. Uduaghan’s two terms were supposed to be the exclusive right of Delta South Senatorial District to contest as it was in the case of Ibori but the Urhobos breached the zoning agreement.”
Similarly in 2015 after Uduaghan completed his statutory two terms, he noted that Deltans again agreed in principle to cede power to the Delta North senatorial district since the Central and the South had gotten theirs. The Urhobos came calling again and contested against the Delta North aspirants. The likes of David Edevbie threw their caps in the ring under the platform of PDP. Surprisingly, Gov. Okowa won the primary election. He had to contend with Great Ovedje Ogboru who contested under the platform of Labour Party (LP) and O’tega Emerho of APC.
“In 2019, again Ogboru contested against Okowa under the platform of All Progressive Congress (APC). The question now kissing our lips is whether there has been a zoning arrangement in the state? If there was any, has it been faithfully adhered to? Lastly, if there is any breach of of the gentleman agreement then who breached it? We are sure Esiso can answer these questions gleaned from the information above.”
While urging the governor to call the party chairman to order, Ordia added, “We do not want to be-lieve that the state party chairman and his Urhobo people who sold their senatorial seat to the opposi-tion APC are again planning to destroy PDP so that they can work for their APC governorship candidate in 2023.
“We wish to remind them that Delta North and South senatorial districts will resist any such move. We will not allow Esiso and his Urhobo people’s political apostasy to destroy PDP in the state,” he stressed.
As it stands the debate over how the party would zone its ticket has set the stage for a fierce intra-party engagement which pundits aver might affect the party’s fortune in 2023 if not properly man-aged.
All eyes are on the key party stakeholders in the state, including Okowa and Ibori to ensure that the knotty issues are resolved amicably. But time might be an essential element they don’t have as events leading to the elections begin to gather momentum.