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…Ijaws, Urhobos in collision course

by Emerald Nigeria 2 days ago

Delta2023: Disturbing silence in govt house as governorship zoning tears Urhobos, Ijaws apart
After the last meeting attended by caucus members of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Delta government house ended in deadlock, there has been ominous silence from the power brokers in the state government house. The meeting, according to reports, was to discuss the thorny zoning issue which is the biggest political bone holding the jugular of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa.

The meeting as reports say revealed that there was sharp disagreement on zoning the 2023 governorship. While Ndudi Elumelu, member of House of Representatives, Stella Omu, former Delta south senator and all Urhobos present, routed for zoning, deputy Governor Kingsley Otuaro, Senator James Manager, Chief Edwin Uzor, former PDP chairman, disagreed, opting rather for no zoning, hence creating room for all Deltans to contest for the plum job.

At the mega rally the PDP held in Asaba, many who attended the rally, where multitude of opposition APC members defected to the PDP, expected the governor to make statement regarding zoning and possibly choose an aspirant to support, but the governor only said the PDP would allow free and fair elections. The statement of the governor may mean allowing all aspirants, irrespective of their senatorial district to contest the election.

Although Okowa is not necessarily the biggest man in the party but since he is the governor, all eyes are transfixed on him, seeing him as the beacon of the party, a development which is fueling the saying among the party members that “where Okowa go, we go.’ The party members with their utterances seem not to have a choice among the plethora of contestants for the job.

To them, any of the aspirants supported by the governor irrespective of his senatorial district becomes the candidate of the party, eventhough party primaries have not been held. While the Urhobos of Delta central and the contestants are clamouring for zoning of the governorship to Uthobo land, the Ijaws are hellbent and have blatantly refused to buy-in to the call of the Urhobo people.

The Ijaws have insisted that they are joining the race, flashing their minds back to the fact that David Edevbie contested with the incumbent governor in the primaries in 2014. They have also argued that since the three senatorial districts have had a shot at the governorship, it should now begin with the Ijaws in this second round. The development has polarised the political relationship between the Urhobos and Ijaws as both are holding to their decisions as the rock of Gibraltar.

But the governor who has become the cynosure of all eyes in this matter has maintained a deafening silence. He has refused to make a substantive statement as to the direction he is going and the need for others to sheath their swords, eventhough the governor has no constitutional power to block anyone from contesting the election.

But political watchers are not comfortable with the silence of the governor. While every Deltan whether PDP or APC ordinarily believes that the next governor should come from Delta central, the governor’s body language is giving credence to the agitation of the Ijaws to clamour for the coveted office. Okowa seems to have a soft spot for the Ijaws and the facts are clear.

Available reports revealed that the success of Okowa in 2014 primaries was the handiwork of the Ijaws with the full support of Tompolo, the former militant leader in the Niger Delta. Hence, political pundits say the 2023 election is to pay back the good job Ijaws did for the governor in 2014. But the Urhobos have insisted that the 2023 governorship is the turn of Urhobos, having waited for 16 years for Delta south and North to complete their eight years each.

Reports are also revealing that eventhough the governor beams his searchlight on Urhobo land, the hope of David Edevbie, the political godson of Ibori is dim. The belief is that Edevbie contested the election with him in 2014 where Edevbie emerged second in the race. It is believed that it was sheer luck that gave Okowa the victory Delta North is enjoying today. This action of Edevbie is the only sin of Edevbie and Urhoboland why Ijaws are bent on contesting with the Urhobos.

But there are indications that it may be impossible for Okowa to crush the political dynasty of Ibori, remove him from the leadership of the state politics and begin another political lineage in 2023. Again, a frontline runner like Kenneth Gbagi who has warmed his ambition into the hearts of many Deltans, having toured the entire state is another hard nut to crack. In most of towns and PDP families Gbagi has visited, the ovation is high. Many of the party delegates have openly surrendered their votes to him, saying he is the man needed for the great job.

While the Ijaws are reportedly banking on the support of the governor which is very fluid, the Urhobos, with Gbagi in the forefront, remain a formidable force which may be impossible to walkover. Many of the contestants have numerous followers in Ijaw land, most of whom have pledged allegiance to men like Gbagi to work for them and truncate the premature ambition of the Ijaws.

As it is now, the political atmosphere in Delta state is very tense. Okowa’s suspicious silence, the agitation of the Ijaws, Okowa’s alleged rejection of Edevbie, Gbagi’s weight in the race and his huge support base, Ibori’s insistence on the emergence of Edevbie, all together are the much battle Okowa and PDP must fight for a candidate to emerge. But if Okowa eventually have his way, what happens to Ibori’s dynasty? If Ijaw wins, what will the Urhobos do? Again, if Edevbie clinches the ticket, how will Okowa feel? What if Gbagi who is touted as the best man for the job eventually emerges with his beautiful promises for Delta people? But do you think zoning should hold or every qualified Deltan should contest? While these questions and others are raging, time and unfolding events will tell what will become of Delta.