By Irikefe Umukoro, ——— November 16th, 2016 ————
The All Progressives Congress, APC just affirmed its acceptability as a party to reckon with in the modern day politics of Nigeria through its landslide victory in Edo State. This was no easy feat as the South-South and South-East states have always shown undying love for former President Goodluck Jonathan and the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP over the years.
Having asserted itself in neighboring Edo, the next should be Delta as it is not just a south-south state but a sister state to Edo as both were the former Bendel state.
Not too long ago, the media were filled with exchanges between APC front liner, Governor Adams Oshiomole and his PDP counterpart, Governor Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa of Delta State. The debate was on who would win which state. Oshiomole boasted that APC would win Delta from Okowa.
Considering the battles Oshiomole has fought and won his words should not be seen as mere rhetoric. And given the alleged role Okowa played in the Edo governorship election, this is a personal fight for Oshiomole. For good reasons, Oshiomole can afford to be confident; armed with strong performance in the past eight years, majority of Edo voters casted their votes in appreciation. That good governance is lacking in Delta state. And like Edo voters, Oshiomole can count on the support of majority of Deltans to kick out PDP. However, for the dream of APC to come true in Delta State, serious calculations devoid of sentiments have to be made by the progressives in Delta State and the national leadership.
It is no gain saying that the APC has not been fully entrenched in Delta State due to primordial needs and prejudice of the people. PDP has exploited these needs on the principle of zoning and power rotation. The opposition in Delta state has ignored this entrenched desire of the different ethnic groups in the state at a huge cost to the Urhobo nation who has consistently supported opposition candidates since 2003. It is not also news that the Delta Central which prides itself as having the highest population and where the APC has its stronghold, is lagging behind Okowa’s Delta North in terms of number of local government areas and political wards.
In elections, especially governorship’s primaries, technicalities as this matter.
In Delta North presently, APC is seen by many as an Urhobo party and knowledge of the ethnic differences in Delta State will be a strong guide for any politician and/or political party. While it is true that a handful of Anioma politicians are in APC presently, the greater number is and will remain in and support PDP come 2019 if the only choice available to them is Okowa.
APC can only have a chance to take the governorship seat in Delta come 2019 if it fields an Anioma candidate. It must not just be an Anioma candidate. Another political calculation comes in.
All Progressives Congress governorship candidates for 2019 general elections must be a candidate who will not only be accepted by majority of the Anioma people but one who would not be clannish like the man on the seat presently. He must also be able to enjoy a reasonable level of acceptance across the length and breadth of Delta, especially the Urhobos. He is going to be the Governor of Delta State after all, not Anioma. It must be one who would not treat the other nationalities as second class; and above all, a man of integrity whom the Urhobos can trust to do just one term.
The Aniomas are not politically explorative. Their pacifist nature plays a prominent role. They would always gather round their own from any of the three nationalities – Aniocha/Oshimili, Ndokwa and Ika.
The Ikas control a huge number of votes in Delta North. Agbor as a city with non-indigenes and the suburb of Umunede, have always pushed up their votes. The Ndokwas also have great numerical strength and appetizing voter-turnout during elections. Asaba the state capital including Okpanam, in no small measure, shoves up the number of votes that Aniocha/Oshimili churn out.
Barring any last minute change, the PDP will give its ticket to incumbent Governor Ifeanyi Okowa. An APC candidate from Anioma will not only divide the votes from Anioma but will totally sway the votes to APC as the Aniocha/Oshimili and Ndokwa nationalities are marginalized under the present administration and will seek change, although not outside Anioma. In Ika too, a reasonable number of votes will come to APC from other towns as Okowa has prioritized his Owa above others.
This would be different from the last election where even the party agents of other political parties, aided the PDP governorship candidate because he is one of them. The results are there to jog the memory of APC.
Any political party which plans to take over from the PDP in 2019, must as a matter of necessity and political correctness, choose its flag-bearer from Delta North. This will play on the sentiments of the people who have been stuck with the devil-you-know-is-better-than- the-angel-you-don’t-know mindsets as the angel would also be known to them.
It must be put on the front burner of all APC deliberations for Delta 2019 that it’s still the turn of Delta North, irrespective of party affiliation. This kills any thought of giving the ticket to any other zone. Anything contrary to this will push Delta North farther into the welcoming arms of PDP as APC would be seen in bad light as a bully.
For equity and fair play, Delta North should have the governorship until 2023 when it will rotate back to Delta Central. The other senatorial districts should give unanimous support to Delta North if the broom must sweep Delta by 2019. If out of greed and selfishness, they force the rains down in dry season, Delta North would grab her umbrella, making APC the vanquished.
Let an inward look be made into Anioma to see who can effectively challenge and win Governor Okowa in 2019. Who is that candidate who has pedigree, humility, respect and above all, acceptability in Delta Central and Delta South? He may not need to have been in politics for a long time or a known grassroot man, but one who is credible like Chief Great Ogboru whom the Urhobos so dearly love.
Dr Ifeanyi Okowa is from Ika nation and his clannishness (which recognizes mostly his Owa kindred), is already a clog, throwing challenges at other candidates from his senatorial district. This notwithstanding, at the appropriate time, APC should critically analyze its chances with aspirants from Delta North and settle for one.
It’s a big task but it’s very much worth the try.
By Irikefe Umukoro,
A political analysts,
Writes from Ughelli.