THE politics of Delta State have always been played on a two way street fight since 1999 and past winners have enjoyed an uninterrupted display of power, influence and political mean streak from one side of the bloc headed by Former governor Chief James Ibori.
On the flip side of the puzzle is the face of opposition and the man that have serially lost out in all five elections, the people’s general Great Ovedje Ogboru. Like a vicious circle, the state have perpetually been governed by a family of common interest which have preyed on sentiments legitimised by the zoning formula of the Peoples Democratic (PDP). On the face value, zoning appears to be a noble practice of power consolidation between the three Senatorial districts of the state to maintain peace and tranquillity; in reality, while power has rotated – only one man calls the shot.
The above scenario holds true until now, a lot have changed in the political landscape since 2015 in Nigeria and Delta State in particular. There are lots of factors to consider, these are events since 2015 that will no doubt shape the 2019 governorship polls in Delta State. PDP Crises Since the loss of the former self-acclaimed biggest party in Africa, the PDP in the 2015 general elections, the party has never been the same.
The crises rocking the PDP has effectively fictionalised the party up from the National level down to the state structures. The cracks in the party have been evident in three governorship polls conducted in Kogi, Edo, and Ondo states which saw the party embroiled in dual candidacy – the party lost out in all three contest. The cracks are more than obvious in Delta State PDP, as a result of the uncertainty generated by Ali Amodu Sheriff’s tight grips on the party leadership and the pending Supreme Court judgement to determine the authentic chairman of the party, the incumbent governor, Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa is yet to decide on the party to run in 2019.
Many political observers in the state including myself believe Governor Okowa may dump PDP should supreme court favour Ali Modu Sheriff faction. It is also an open secret that Okowa’s second lifeline in the state is the Accord party, the party on which he rode to the Senate in 2011. Earlier this year in April, when pictures surfaced online of bags of rice with the face of Okowa campaigning for Princess Mrs Shola Daibo of the Accord Party in the Warri South I Constituency By-Election, Governor Okowa denied any endorsement of the candidate, an election the Accord party actually won. Already, Accord Party in Delta State has adopted the State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, as the sole candidate for the 2019 Governorship Election.
These events and uncertainties have only succeeded in throwing the race in 2019 open, nothing can be guaranteed as it stands now because a lot of politics that will soon play out ahead of 2019 polls in the state are in hibernation, awaiting a major court judgement. The Ibori factor Earlier this year in January when James Ibori returned from a London prison term, a lot of celebration erupted in applause to the former governor. Ever since James Ibori have enjoyed the goodwill of his constituents as well as his political godsons including incumbent Governor Ifeanyi Okowa.
James Ibori, the man who installed Okowa as the governorship candidate of the PDP in 2015 has been rumoured as a kingmaker even in prison, some of his political creations have openly boasted that while in prison, Ibori made governors, senators, House of Assembly members as well as key government officials. But that was in 2015 when PDP structure was still intact. Already, James Ibori has endorsed Okowa for a second term for 2019, a move many have said hold no waters considering the fact that for a man who just regained freedom from a foreign prison, his endorsement can only be held with a pinch of salt.
Another factor is that Ibori’s influence has not been tested since returning from jail, his electoral value has not been tested either, so it will be folly for Governor Okowa to stake his future in Ibori’s hands. Not just for Okowa’s second term aspiration, but for any other aspirant hoping to benefit from Ibori’s influence will have to understand that the politics of sentiments is fast fading away in the state, something Ibori has preyed on over the years.
Anyone hoping to win in 2019 will have to look up for other factors other than gaining from an uncertain and fast fading Ibori family, they have to stand on their own and prove that they are qualified to lead the state. Really, it has come to a point when winners are determined by the people, the era of Ibori manipulating the electoral process is over. Youths political consciousness. There is a movement currently waxing strong in the state, a movement with the ideology of “taking the future now” by the youths.
The youths in Delta State are tired of working for the older politicians who have manipulated them into election vices over the years. As the race for 2019 gets closer, the movement will be vetting young aspirants who share the same values woven around accountability, development and job creation. With the level of sensitisation going on, the youths are becoming more politically conscious and aware of the machinations of the older politicians who will stop at nothing in their quest to hold on to power.
The youths in the state believe the time for special adviser roles is over, they want to be calling the shots while the elders “advice” as it should have been. The more and deeper this ideology continues to spread like a wildfire in the state, the more disadvantaged Governor Okowa and the older politicians become leading to 2019 polls.
Delta State is gradually transiting to a new era as the first state in Nigeria with youths occupying key positions. The forthcoming governorship election in Delta State will be shaped by the youths, this gives the younger candidates better chances of taking up the top job in the state.
Ezekiel Enejeta, a concerned Deltan writes from Delta State.