Race for Government House Asaba
As a bona fide Urhobo man, I shouldn’t be heard saying what I am about to say. But even if I do not say it loud and clear others will do in hush tones but in more graphic details. I am saying the return of Chief Great Ogboru on the ballot paper for the Delta State governorship election next year does not make good political sense to him as an individual, the Urhobo as a group and his party, All Progressives Congress (APC). If anything, his choice as the APC candidate for the Delta gubernatorial is insensitive at best and suicidal at worst.
The APC led by Adams Oshiomhole would have made two key assumptions in settling for Ogboru who has been consistent as a contestant since 2003. First is the belief that he alone has the capacity in all ramifications to oust the incumbent, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa. The second consideration is usually hinged on the established demography of the state, which ascribes about 40 per cent advantage to the central senatorial district made up of eight council areas and exclusively occupied by the Urhobo. Chief Great Ogboru is Urhobo from Abraka in Ethiope East local government council of the State.
But much more critical factors were left out, which makes the assumptions baseless. It has been a changing dynamics in Urhobo land and Delta State in general since 2003 when Ogboru seized the stage with storm. Things are no longer the same. After four unsuccessful attempts to take control of the Government House Asaba, Chief Ogboru is now more battle weary than he is battle tested.
The once huge noise around the Great Chief as the Peoples General has significantly dissipated. He is no longer the Urhobo Centurion with pervading authority, who used to tell one man, come and he came; and to another, go and he went! These days, some people may actually go in the opposite direction, when Ogboru is shouting come this way! A measure of that power erosion can be seen in the challenges he is facing assuming the leadership of the APC even within Delta Central.
While it may be difficult to explain all the factors that have combined to make Ogboru now look less than himself, I will only say that a lot more people in Urhobo land are also desirous of what he desires – the governorship of Delta State. Within his political household, the Oedipal drive has heightened and his hitherto political sons could be itching to dispatch him to early retirement and inherit the throne and all the attendant benefits including the queen.
In other words, the number of people who lay claim to being the people’s general in Urhobo land is increasing and the APC can only discountenance this reality at its own peril. To drive the party in Delta Central around Ogboru as if he is the only factor that matters will not add up to any political capital. Ogboru is simply bulldozing without the consensus that strengthens a party and people he has swept aside shall wait patiently to strike back at the right time.
Before now, Olorogun O’tega Emerhor, who contested the last governorship election under APC, was called the party leader in Delta State. Ogboru was the Labour Party’s candidate in that same election. Both men are Urhobo, but neither agreed to step down for the other to create a better central front to confront Okowa from the North. Not even the Urhobo Progress Union (UPU), the highest collective leadership in Urhobo land could broker a truce. Both went into the election and returned bruised. It should be mentioned also that over the years, Ogboru had not stayed put on one spot to nurture a platform into real political competitiveness. Like hyena, he would break in to take over when the kill is made.
He started bidding for the governorship seat of Delta State on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in 2003. He switched over to the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) for the 2007 bidding and the 2011 re-run following the nullification of the 2007 election by the Appeal Court in Benin-City. He was in the Labour Party in 2015 through to 2017 when he stormed the APC to offset the status quo and clinch the party ticket to contest next year’s governorship election in the state.
Simply, the Chief does not like to play a subordinate role. He loves all processes to build around him as the central figure anywhere he is playing. And he fights hard to have it that way all the time. Today, O’tega Emerhor who had rallied others to sustain the APC in the state before Ogboru stormed in is struggling with every strength in him to have just a small bed-space in the house that he built.
Yet, it has not always been this way between Ogboru and Emerhor. They had got on well in their long opposition to the PDP in Delta State when the former was the permanent contestant and the latter permanent supporter with finances. Trouble started when Emerhor desired in 2015 what had somehow become the exclusive preserve of Ogboru in Urhobo land – the right to contest for the governorship of Delta State.
Some partisan quarters must have briefed Chairman Oshiomhole that in Delta party politics, Ogboru desires or even deserves (given his elaborate sense of entitlement) nothing less than the right to contest the governorship seat in all elections until he wins. And so, against the flow of the sentiments of the moment in the state, the party has handed to him the ticket to contest the next governorship election on a platter of gold.
The sentiments favour a governor from the north senatorial zone for at least another four years beginning 2019, so that the north, as the central with James Ibori and the south with Emmanuel Uduaghan, can also have its eight uninterrupted years in Government House Asaba.
By shutting out aspirants from the north, the APC has not respected these sentiments and that shall prove costly in 2019. In addition, I am saying that the Urhobo should not see the Ogboru APC ticket as largesse outside their fair share. The unwritten agreement on power rotation among the three senatorial zones in the state has worked well to curtail the disruptive ethnic tendencies and it should not be discarded for any reason, at least for now. The Urhobo who still feel pained by the location of the state capital in Asaba outside the original Delta Province when Delta State was created by the Babangida administration in 1991, have always sought to invoke their demographic advantage to perpetually hold on to the governorship to even up.
This has however not worked largely due to their inability to subsume their differences under a common purpose. The governorship they seek so desperately has also meant an opportunity for self-cancellation in successive electoral seasons since 1999 when the cancellation started between James Ibori and Moses Kragha. It is not the fault of other groups that the majority ethnic group in the state is stuck in attrition and is not able to rise with the deserved forcefulness for recognition.
There are therefore two things to consider going forward. One is for the Urhobo to be organised such that the jungle will be calm when they roar. Two is for them to show magnanimity in strength even when they eventually get reinvented and clearly in a stead to determine almost all the issues in Delta politics. For a peaceful Delta State and indeed society in general, this charge should be announced to all sides to come to equity with clean hands. Justice is good for all seasons and for all people.
For instance, there is a Senator James Manager who thinks representation of Delta south in the Senate is his birthright. Although there are Urhobo elements in the zone, political representation in the south oscillate among the Itsekiri, Isoko and Ijaw. But James Manager, an Ijaw from Patani, has weighed down on the slot like an incubus since 2003 after the four years of Mrs Stella Omu an Isoko at the Senate. He does not want to let go and this seems the primary reason former Governor Uduaghan, an Itsekiri, left the PDP for the APC in search of a place in the Senate.
It must be said also that even that quest by Uduaghan breached the principles of justice and fairness. Why him after being governor of the state for eight years? Why can’t the slot return to the Isoko who have been left out in virtually every power equation in Delta South, such that even in the on-going dispensation, the senate and deputy governor slots are consolidated in the Ijaw?
The situation is not different at the more micro level where some people wish to be permanent representatives in the House of Representatives or State House of Assembly. There is one called Leo Ogor in Isoko Federal Constituency and another called Nicholas Mutu in Bomadi Federal Constituency. This is the same injustice that permeates national schemes and which disadvantaged groups in the South-South and Middle Belt always seek to redress either through restructuring, resource control or the constitutionally empowered Federal Character policy.
Back to the starting point. The APC should not hope to achieve much with Ogboru candidacy in the governorship election in Delta State next year, except the party has other ideas not known to a transparent electoral process in mind. Aside the brewing divisions within the APC occasioned by Hurricane Ogboru, which weakens the party’s capacity to confront the PDP in the crucial contest, the Urhobo may want to wait patiently for another four years for the north to finish its turn in order to lay exclusive claim to the governorship in 2023. Even now, Senator Omo-Agege who is far more strategic among the lot in Delta APC will also be thinking that way and may actually want Ogboru to fail so that the coast will be cleared of cataracts and falls for him when the bidding opens in 2023.
But as it is in Chinese movies, Chief Great Ogboru is stepping in for the last fight. He must fight best also. After this, the curtain will drop to signal the END of the show. If he is dispatched, he ceases to be the hero and becomes the villain of the epic political battle that started in 2003.
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