The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recently released the 2019 election timetable. The governorship election is slated for March 2, 2019 along with the State Assembly elections, while the Presidential and National Assembly are on February 16, 2019.That is less than sixteen months (only 480 plus days) away.
Deltans, along with Nigerians, are looking forward to the elections with great anticipation. There is no gainsaying the fact that Delta State is a microcosm of Nigeria. The oil rich state is still a coveted price for any party. Currently, the State is in the hands of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), while the All Progressives Congress (APC), the ruling party at the national level, continuously eyes the state longingly. It does not help that the ruling party on one side of the State is APC, while on the other side it is the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
There has been some apparent development in Delta State since 1999. However, the question many watchers are asking is: will there be better development if Delta State falls into the hands of the opposition party? The comparisons have been about what Peter Obi did with Anambra State, especially Onitsha and what Comrade Adams Oshiomole accomplished in Edo State, in light of the disproportional monthly federal allocations. Both Edo State and Anambra State have been in the hands of opposition party for over ten years.
On the other hand, Deltans who believe Okowa’s SMART agenda is working, will agree and shout “Delta in safe hands.”
In all these conversation, the previous governor of the State, Chief James Ibori cannot be overlooked, even though he was absent from the state for a few years. When Chief Ibori returned to his hometown of Oghara, there were speculations as to whether the godfather of Delta State politics, may decamp to APC. The rumors were flamed by alleged tensions between him and his political grandson, the current governor, Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa. Ibori quickly quelled that rumor when he unequivocally proclaimed his support for Okowa’s administration and Okowa’s second tenure. Nonetheless, that has not presumably guaranteed Okowa a landslide victory in the 2019 governorship election. Undoubtedly, Ibori is still relevant in Delta State politics as evidenced by his loyal followers and those he apparently empowered when he held sway from 1999 to 2007.
The dynamics of Delta State politics can be unsettled as evidenced by the many court cases challenging successive governorship elections. The ubiquitous Chief Great Ogboru has again declared his intention to contest the elections in 2019. Chief Ogboru, considered by some to be a journeyman politician, has featured prominently in Delta State’s politics. He is personally responsible for putting several individuals in elective positions both in Delta State House of Assembly, Federal House of Representatives and the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Unfortunately for him, many of those he elevated later abandoned or betrayed him. He has never won any electoral office and never been in the military, but is affectionately referred to as the People’s General. Ogboru, known also for his incessant post-election court challenges, once almost succeeded in dethroning the previous governor, Dr. Emanuel Uduaghan. After a bitterly fought re-run election in 2010, Uduaghan came back and finished his eight years.
A very reliable source close to Chief Ibori, informed Politics Governance that no matter what, Deltans are stuck with Okowa. This is how the calculation goes. Ibori has successful enthroned rotationally governorship in the state. He (Ibori) from Delta Central, occupied the seat for eight years. He successfully handed over to Dr, Uduaghan from Delta South Senatorial District for eight years. Uduaghan thereafter handed over to Dr. Okowa from Delta North Senatorial District, who is finishing his four years, and is expected to seek another four years to culminate in a total of eight years. Afterwards, the Urhobos from Delta Central should then seek eight years from 2023. No matter your opinion as whether this encourages mediocrity or lack of true democracy, it seems to be working in the Nigerian brand of democracy (albeit not true federalism).
If Ogboru were to seek election in 2019, it is believed that Delta Northerners will resist him because he will be encroaching on their eight years. Of course, he will be constitutionally entitled to eight years. Ogboru could not make an agreement that he will be there for only eight years because he has salivated for that position for over a decade.
We are now faced with the potential of another Delta Northerner attempting to dethrone his brother, Dr. Okowa. The most widely rumored possible opposition candidate from Delta North is Prof. Pat Utomi from Ibusa. The Lagos based businessman and academician is expected to be the candidate of APC, if Ogboru or Ortega Emerhor do not squeeze him out. Again, the problem with Pat Utomi, who some believe will make a good governor, is that his election will be opposed by the Urhobos because it will foreshadow Delta North getting a total of twelve years, because Prof. Utomi will be constitutionally entitled to eight years. When added to Okowa’s four years, it will give Delta North twelve years. Prof. Utomi cannot make a promise to be there for only four years (one term). Nigerians already witnessed that with previous President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. This is why Pat Utomi’s candidacy is not tenable for Delta Central.
Whether or not you accept the Ibori’s factor in Delta State’s politics, it is beyond cavil that Okowa will probably come back for a second term in 2019.
Prof. A.O. A Akpodiete writes from Asaba and Washington DC. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.atawagroup.com