By Annabel Ogheneganre
As the nation moves towards the 2019 general polls, this is the time for the Urhobo nation to put on their thinking cap and ponder on the political tide and what it portends for the future. These are perilous times and anything short of critical and realistic analysis of the true position of things as they affect the Urhobo nation may result in a disastrous outing in 2019. As President Buhari stated in a remark during his 2019 Budget presentation, the world is watching and anything we do today would be used for or against the Urhobo nation tomorrow. When I wrote on ‘Why Urhobo should support Okowa in 2019’, I have reasons and those reasons would be developed further in this piece with facts and figures to underscore my conviction on the need for Urhobo to stoop to conquer. Our elders say that a good King is not only one who provides his subjects with the blessings of life, but also one who has the power of a lion but chooses to walk by the road side. That presupposes that power must be guided by wisdom. Deltans are watching and the way and manner we carry our much hyped demographic advantage in Delta state matter a great deal. Life is not all about fighting, a good fighting also tries to know when to pause and gather energy for other times. The time for Urhobo to pause, think, gather energy in terms of political relationship, building trust and bridges of friendship against tomorrow has come.
In 1999, the two major political parties in Nigeria were the Peoples Democratic Party and the now defunct All Peoples Party, APP. Northern Nigeria that controls 19 states and the highest number of registered voters did not field any strong candidate in either of the two political parties. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was on the ballot for the PDP while Chief Olu Falae was candidate of the APP. The North was not stupid neither did they lack the political nor demographic energy to cause upset in that election. But they chose to stay away for the first time on account of the events that culminated in the fourth republic. Chief M.K.O Abiola who won the 1993 Presidential election was denied his victory and eventually died in mysterious circumstances in 1998. The North felt a compulsive conviction to placate the Yoruba nation and stayed away from the election, voted massively for Obasanjo who eventually became President. That was a most profitable political calculation for the sake of the unity and peace in Nigeria. If the North had fielded a candidate against Obasanjo, who was even rejected by his Yoruba people, the northern candidate would have won. But they chose not to fight for once. And by the time Umaru Musa Yar’Adua came in 2007, he got the support of the north. The same reason was why Goodluck Jonathan lost in 2015 because, the North, having made the sacrifice in 1999, came back in 2007 but lost it to death in 2010, decided to bear the consequences of that lost for another term. By 2015, the North rolled out all her arsenals against the sitting Jonathan because they felt a king of cheating was being perpetuated against them, despite their demographic advantage and they got it. In 2019, it would be an all Northerner affairs as the race is certainly between Buhari and Atiku. That is the way to go in political relationship.
Delta State is not all about Urhobo: Writing on the topic, ‘Why Urhobo should support Okowa for 2019’, I did say that since creation of Delta State, the Urhobo nation has never at anytime supported candidate from any part of Delta State outside Urhobo. In 1991, it was Felix Ibru against Eric Opia. In 1999, it was Ibori and Kragha, all Urhobo and the rest of Delta gave it to Urhobo on account of our numerical and political strength. In 2007, Urhobo fought for Ogboru against Uduaghan. It was the same thing in 2011. In 2015, Urhobo again fought for Ogboru against the incumbent Governor Okowa. This writer was at fore front of the struggle to bring back Urhobo to government house. It did not quite work because, Urhobo was not united and all my preaching fell on deaf ears. Just four years away to when the tide will naturally flow to Delta Central, the argument is being championed once again for Urhobo to go for governor against the message of equity, which subsumes that Delta Central and South, having completed their two tenures of 4 years each, the North District should simply be allowed to complete their 8 years in government house before the position rotates to Delta Central without stress. And the position of the equity crusaders is the position of this writer. Delta State is not all about Urhobo nation but various ethnic nationalities locked together in one geopolitical estate by divine providence. The earlier we realize and work with this fact, the better for everybody, particularly the Urhobo nation.
Why we must stoop to Conquer: In taking a well informed stand on the 2019 gubernatorial election, we must examine the veracity of Urhobo much hyped demographic and political superiority of commanding enough voting strength to produce the governor of Delta State. At the end of the 2018 voter registration exercise, the total voter figure for Delta state now stands at two million, eight hundred and thirty one thousand, eight hundred and eighty two (2,831,882). The figures are distributed as follows: Aniocha North, 75, 672; Aniocha South 87, 073; Bomadi 95, 398; Burutu 99, 209; Ethiope East 103, 951 and Ethiope West 100, 911. Others are Ika North East 116, 295; Ika South 85, 469; Isoko North 129, 795; Isoko South 123, 601; Ndokwa East 71, 416; Ndokwa West 95, 027; Okpe 105, 889; Oshimili North 80, 935; Oshimili South 161, 143; Patani 45, 364; Sapele 131, 765; Udu 129, 471; Ughelli North199, 217; Ughelli South 113, 765; Ukwuani 80, 756; Uvwie 163, 005; Warri North 100, 520; Warri South 173, 695 and Warri South West 162, 540.
From the above figures, it is obvious that the so-called numerical voting strength of the Urhobo nation and Delta Central being able to do it alone is not an argument based on fact but mere fiction. This is so because Delta central presently controls 37.2% of the voting strength with one million and forty seven thousand, nine hundred and seventy four voters (1, 047, 974); Delta South has Nine hundred and thirty thousand, one hundred and twenty two (930, 122) controlling 32.80%; and Delta North with Eight hundred and fifty three thousand, seven hundred and eighty six voters (853, 786), that is 30.18% of the entire votes in Delta State. The implication is that the combined votes of Delta North and South is 62.98%, that is one million, seven hundred and eighty three thousand, nine hundred and eight (1,783,908); while Delta Central with One Million and forty seven thousand, nine hundred and seventy four votes (1,047,974), that is 37.2% of the entire votes in Delta State. The figure will rise marginally if the analysis is taken on ethnic nationality basis with Urhobo ethnic nationality controlling 40% of the entire votes in Delta State with 1,131, 065; Aniocha/Oshimili with 404,823 votes is 14.5%; Ukwuani/Ndokwa has 247,199 votes is 8.5%; Ika 201,764 votes is 7%; Itsekiri with 286,005 votes is 9.9%; Ijaw with 307,630 votes is 10.8% and Isoko with 253,396 votes is 9.3%.
From the above analysis, it is obvious that although the Urhobos are very important segment of Delta State, they can never go it alone in getting the governorship position. As things stand presently, there is no ethnic nationality that is willing to fully and totally mobilize for Great Ogboru of the APC in 2019. Incumbent Governor Ifeanyi Okowa is totally in control of the Anioma nation. Most APC leaders in Delta North are secretly working for the re-election of Governor Okowa. None will throw the Anioma interest away for any reason. Anioma is solidly united behind their son. The Ijaw ethnic nationality with 10.8% of the voting strength of Delta State is totally for Okowa. Itsekiri may be divided because of Uduaghan but something APC leaders do not understand is that Uduaghan has a boss in James Ibori who will not want him to hurt Okowa in anyway. Those banking on Uduaghan to mobilize Itsekiri votes against Ibori/Okowa may be out for some rude shocks in 2019. The Isoko nation also have reasons to vote Okowa again as that is the sure way of securing their heritage in a post Urhobo governor Delta State. Ibori and Okowa, God-willing, may still be relevant after 12 years and such may control the direction of things in the years ahead.
The point being made here is that Governor Okowa is the first from the Anioma nation to preside over Delta State and Anioma will do everything to retain him in office. The 30% of Delta votes from Delta North would be secured for Okowa. Victor Ochei, Pat Utomi, Ibe Kachikwu and other top Delta North leaders will not sacrifice their brother for the ‘selfish Urhobo nation ambition’ for 2019. They would rather swim or sink with their own. But Urhobo is not like that. The people are battle weary; many have jumped ship to align with Okowa; the tides are in his favour and the best Urhobo should do at the moment is to align fully with the governor for power to revolve smoothly to the Central District in 2023. The Urhobo nation will not go with Ogboru in 2019. PDP will stand their ground against Ogboru, but APC will not stand against Okowa in Anioma. The odds are in Okowa’s favour. And ‘wisdom’ calls her children to tread cautiously so as to make the most of the time.
Ola Rotimi in his famous epic on Kurumi, a generalissimo of the Yoruba nation, who possessed so much power but fails to locate the limit of his power underscores the beauty of my argument in this piece. A conversation between Kurumi (Are Ona kakanfo) and some of his lieutenants on the futility of going into war with Ibadan went as follows:
Epo: When five little hyenas combine strength they crush the father of lions!
Kurumi: Let them. I understand their purpose. A rat…When a rat laughs at a cat, there is a hole nearby. I know their holes; it is the combined intrigues of Areagoro Ajayi and Balogun Ogunkoroju. They have gathered the warriors of the land against me, they say, and the city gate is under siege….I lead wrongly?
Amodu: You have become too powerful my lord.
Kurumi went to the battle and lost. He was forewarned but he ignored wisdom and relied on his own strength. The wisdom in my argument is that Urhobo lacks supermajority to produce governor in the present circumstance. We must therefore learn to stoop to conquer instead of advocating for show of strength at every election. At what point will Urhobo ever vote for candidates of other ethnic nationality when it is certain Urhobo still needs the support of others to be governor in the future? Even if we have a supermajority as northern Nigeria can boast of, interest may also drive us to propagate ‘give and take’ as a philosophy of democratic stability. If Urhobo fails to understand the logic in this argument, a time may come when the other ethnic nationality may combine to undo Urhobo in the leadership of the State. Just as the people of Ibadan did to Kurumi by harnessing the strength of weaker entity with whom they share common ideology to undo their common enemy whom Kurumi was. Urhobo may end up being the common enemy of the other ethnic nationality if we fail to apply wisdom to our political struggles for the best to come. Let Okowa run his second term so that by 2023, Urhobo can be governor again!
Annabel Ogheneganre writes from Garki, Abuja. (firstname.lastname@example.org).