By Basil Okoh
The Urhobo caucus of the PDP in Delta State made an egregious political misstep by setting out, contrary to good counsel, to implement a damaging ethnic political agenda by contriving a pre-bended contest among Urhobo politicians wanting to be governors of Delta State under the PDP.
The Delta Central governorship candidates selection team, otherwise misnamed DC-23, remains an undemocratic self-entitlement project assembled by an unelected body determined to impose it’s preferred candidate on the state. This treacherous act undermines democracy and at the same time disrupts the PDP normative governorship nomination process.
It is to be expected that no good outcome will come out of the make-believe exercise and the DC-23 selection process will end in a fight that will give no credit to the Urhobo.
The entire exercise is booby-trapped in trickery to crown David Edevbie as the Urhobo candidate but everyone knows that Kenneth Gbagi will not go down without a street fight when that happens.
The Urhobo being the larger ethnicity in the state didn’t have to pursue a “we versus them, Urhobo versus the rest” political agenda. Such divisive political pursuits never work for a people who sum up less than a third of the voting population even when they are larger than other ethnicities.
Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, governor of the state, feels threatened by the Urhobo move and has been baring his fangs and taking vengeful actions that highlight his anxiety and apprehension.
The threat from the DC-23 versus his own growing sense of susceptibility, prompted Governor Okowa to dissolve his cabinet in order to remove from his government, ambitious aides aspiring to be governor and using their high offices to leverage their ambitions. He went further to also dismiss other lower level operatives who are fingered to be working for these retrenched executives.
Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa wants so much to project the image of a tough politician and as the governor who brooks no opposition, but experienced inquisitors know a man acting in fear and they read fear in Okowa’s vengeful actions. He is acting out of the fear of losing control of the party and the governorship nomination process to the DC-23.
Not minding the posture to project power and invisibility in the looming governorship primaries, Okowa sorely needs a trusted and strong successor for his own protection and to secure his reputation when he leaves the governorship seat.
Fear of the loss of power to influence the governorship primaries to favour his preferred candidate is the reason for the rash of political rallies across the state. The rallies are to project and affirm his power and validate his stranglehold on PDP politics in the state.
Okowa is the careful nuts and bolts politician who during the Local Government and Party elections, impulsively offended party bigwigs to ensure that his faithful acolytes emerge from the wards and Local Government Areas across the state to become the delegates to the forthcoming governorship indirect primary election.
So why is Okowa still tackling his perceived opponents in the DC-23 so hard even after he has mauled and run over the entire State and when he should now be cheerful that PDP lies naked, ready to be ravished by him the conquistador who now owns the political estate called Delta State?
For, despite the gerrymandering of the DC-23 Group, they know that Okowa has seized the political turf in PDP dominated Delta State and owns it lock, stock and barrel so far as the nomination of a PDP governorship candidate is concerned.
We have said it that Okowa wants to submerge James Ibori and his DC-23 client group and emerge the dominant political power in Delta State. But he wants to do it nicely without a ruckus and without causing permanent hurt and political division within PDP in the state.
James Ibori is a fallen hero and no longer has the ebullience that was once his trade mark, but he is a politician on the ropes who still has his wiles, boxing skills and tremendous political capital in Delta state.
In the emerging turf war, Okowa may win the battle for the nomination of a PDP governorship candidate for the 2023 election but there’s no guarantee that he will win the war of political dominance after leaving office as governor of the state.
The Urhobo are a strong ethnocentric people with a historical propensity to travel their own political road. They have mastered the tradition defined by stubbornness to their own ethnic interests and have the resilience and power to stay the cause. From the days of the NCNC to the present, the Urhobo vote exclusively for their own ethnic candidates against all others.
Example are the voting patterns of the second Republic when they refused to flow with the dominant force of the UPN in these parts and voted continually for the National Party of Nigeria NPN with Chief Daniel Okumagba as governor and David Dafinone as senator. They also chose in 2011, to vote for Great Ogboru even with an unknown political party DPP, against the PDP.
Sadly, Okowa is not guaranteed the same followership of his own Anioma people as even the elders of PDP in the region have warned him to leave them out of a fight with Ibori and the Urhobo that only serves his own interest. Many of the party elders grieve Okowa’s absolute control over delegates and the party in the region.
As one woman leader has said: “Whose interest is he serving by insisting that he alone should choose the next governor”? “How can one man hope to install the governor of a state of five million persons? That can only happen in an authoritarian regime”.
Despite all the tough talk and behind the scene maneuvers, Okowa’s men and the DC-23 Group must find common grounds to act together to forge peace for PDP and Delta state. The two groups must in humility yield ground to one another and search out a candidate that will serve the state faithfully. This candidate should neither be Urhobo nor Okowa’s candidate but a prospective governor of Delta State.
The DC-23 has to first dismantle and abandon it’s illegitimate and contentious governorship selection committee and process, first for violating the rule books for election. Secondly for its guaranteed troublesome outcome. Most importantly, it must not be perceived to be a counterweight to the ruling governor of the state.
***Basil Okoh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and @basilokoh on Social Media.