The dominance of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), which has been at the helm of affairs in Delta State since the return to civil rule in 1999, is being threatened by internal wrangling within the chapter mainly over the choice of a governorship candidate.
There is a silent war over the choice of the governorship candidate in next year’s election between Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and his predecessors in office, particularly the acclaimed godfather of Delta politics, James Ibori.
The Delta State chapter of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) has boxed itself into a corner over the ‘failed coup’ against the aspiration of the former Finance Commissioner, Olorogun David Edevbie. There is confusion in the state following the omission of the party and its governorship candidate from the list of political parties and candidates published by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for next year’s general election.
The commission released a list of 16 governorship candidates candidates for Delta State, which excluded the PDP candidate as preferred choice of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa for the PDP governorship ticket, Sheriff Oborevwori. But, it includes opponents like Ovie Omo-Agege, the flag bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Kenneth Gbagi of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Great Ogboru of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
Nevertheless, the exclusion of the PDP from the list does not mean that the party has been disqualified from the race in the South-south state. The Federal High Court judgment, which nullified Oborevwori’s candidature, declared that Edevbie is the authentic candidate. But the PDP has compounded its woes by insisting on Oborevwori who won the May 25 governorship primary held at the Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba, as its candidate. This could be inferred from the appeal filed by Oborevwori, challenging the court judgment. INEC is waiting for the court to clarify, who the flag bearer of the party is.
As the primary approached, allegations were flying around that Okowa was at loggerheads with former Governor James Ibori who is backing David Edevbie for the party’s governorship ticket and that the incumbent governor was not favourably disposed to the former commissioner emerging as the party’s candidate.
Before long, stories of the governor’s preferred candidate began to emerge. First, the senator representing Delta South at the National Assembly, James Manager was said to be the governor’s anointed candidate. But stakeholders kicked against the idea, saying it was not yet the turn of Delta South, going by the subsisting power rotation arrangement in the state.
Delta PDP Governorship Candidate Has Been By Rotation
James Ibori from Delta Central took the first shot from 1999 to 2007. He was succeeded by Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan from Delta South who was at the helm of affairs between 2007 and 2015.
The incumbent Governor Okowa who took over from Uduaghan in 2015 and would be concluding his second term next year is utilising the slot of Delta North. Ibori was said to have aided Okowa’s emergence as governor in 2015, even though he was in jail in the United Kingdom (UK). So, having gone a full cycle, the governorship ticket ought to go back to Delta Central, which was the first zone to produce the governor in 1999.
But rather than allow his successor to emerge from an open and transparent primary, Governor Okowa used his office to engineer the emergence of the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Oborevwori, as the flag bearer of the PDP. Even when opponents of the speaker pointed out that the discrepancies over his academic qualifications would eventually disqualify him, the governor turned deaf ears to the allegation.
The Bayelsa State Governor Duoye Diri-led committee set up by the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) to clear aspirants for the primary also ignored the allegation.
All these prepared the ground for post-primary disputes. Dissatisfied by the process which led to the emergence of Oborevwori as the party’s flag bearer, the former commissioner for finance, Edevbie, approached the Federal High Court in Abuja to scrutinise the credentials submitted by Oborevwori to INEC. Justice Taiwo Taiwo who presided over the case declared that the defective nature of Oborovwori’s credentials makes him unfit to be presented as the party’s governorship candidate. The judge subsequently granted all the reliefs sought by Edevbie, among which was that having scored the next highest valid votes, he should be declared the authentic PDP flag bearer.
Many supporters of Edevbie insist that Okowa is not happy with the former commissioner for finance for daring to contest the party’s ticket with him in 2015, even though it was zoned to Delta North, where the incumbent governor hails from. Others believe only Okowa can say what he has against Edevbie. To them, the allegation that Okowa is against the former commissioner of finance because he dared to contest the 2015 primary against him amounts to nothing.
They added: “Did he (Okowa) not run in the primary against Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan many years ago even when he knew the governorship was zoned to Delta South?”
Observers in Delta believe that the struggle against Edevbie’s emergence by the Okowa leadership has degenerated into a clash of ego and that this might affect the chances of the party in next year’s election. Irrespective of the final decision of the court, the aggrieved party may opt to work against the eventual winner of the case during the election. This is particularly if the former commissioner of finance fails to get the party’s ticket.
Okowa, who is the running mate to the party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, needs all the support he can get ahead of next year’s general elections, to justify why he was chosen over others eyeing the slot. This is a time the governor needs to close ranks with aggrieved party stalwarts, so as not to play into the hands of the opposition, which maintains that the people of Delta are dissatisfied with his performance in the last seven years.
Okowa Calms Tension Over PDP Choice of A Governorship Candidate In Delta
Okowa has, however, dismissed the seeming disagreement rocking the party over the outcome of the primary. Speaking in Ozoro, Isoko North Local Government Area at a rally where Ibori, Uduaghan, as well as James Manager, were conspicuously absent, he said there was no cause for alarm.
He said: “I hear some people say that the PDP is dying in Delta State. How can? Why are they deceiving themselves? Whatever is going on in the party is a normal democratic process; no cause for alarm, no cause for worry and no cause for fear.”
But, observers of the political development in the state believe that the Ozoro mega rally was an exercise in deception, considering the enormity of the crisis rocking the party. Aside from Ibori, Uduaghan and Manager, many prominent members of the party refused to attend the rally. Some of them complain that the PDP has become a one-man show to serve the interest of the governor. One of such observers said: “What did we go to Ozoro to celebrate; the absence of a governorship candidate,” the Delta PDP chief quipped.
“Delta PDP is taking a chance on the choice of a governorship candidate. Okowa is trying to show that the party is united when it is not. Observers believe that the two sides to the crisis made mistakes before the governorship primary. An Urhobo pressure group, Delta Central-23(DC23) presented itself as a neutral body but it was contrived to anoint Edevbie to become the party’s governorship candidate. The Igboyota Amori-led group also made mistakes in their screening by not pronouncing Sheriff Oborevwori unelectable because of his bogus academic credentials.
“The same can be said of Okowa. It is unbelievable that a sitting governor with all administrative and security machinery available for his use can back a candidate for an election without prior checks on the background of the candidate’s credentials and qualification for office. He adopted Oborevwori without validating that the candidate is duly qualified and fit for the elective position he was seeking,” he said. Source: The Nation