Delta 2019: Hurdles before Okowa

As next year’s general elections draw near, the pace of consultations among members of the political class in Delta State has increased considerably.
Although some PDP political aspirants have started indicating interest to run for elective positions, none has indicated interest in the governorship poll.
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa will most likely pick the ticket, judging by the wave of endorsements by many pressure groups within the ruling party.
But, the governor, according to some analysts, faces three dangers in his quest to revalidate his mandate before Deltans.
There are puzzles: has Okowa performed in the eyes of Deltans to merit a second term in office? What is his scorecard?
Secondly, some analysts believe his success at the polls will, largely, be dependent on how he manages the ambitions of PDP members vying for various elective positions.
The questions on the lips of everyone is: will he side with his political associates seeking elective positions against other aspirants or allow free and fair primaries?
Thirdly, will the All Progressive Congress (APC) pose a credible challenge in the forthcoming election? Judging by stiff opposition by the party during the resent local polls, it appears the PDP will have to sit up.
Opinion is divided among Deltans as to whether Okowa has delivered on his electioneering promises or not, but a report released in 2017 by the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria (NCCN), using indices such as  human capital, infrastructure, economy and institutions, ranked the state second only to Lagos State.
The Chief Press Secretary to Okowa, Mr. Charles Aniagwu, said the administration has embarked on the construction of over 98 roads across the three senatorial districts, totaling 612 km with over 300 km drains constructed. He said, despite the paucity of funds occasioned by the recessive economy, the Okowa administration has made great developmental strides.
His words: “In our desire to change the face of roads in the state, we have commenced fresh construction of road projects in areas hitherto not attended to, particularly in the creeks where such efforts requires sufficient amount of courage, determination, fairness, equity and a deep sense of patriotism to undertake. Examples of such could be found in Okerenkoko, Ogulagha, Burutu, Sokebulou and others.”
Aniagwu in the education sector, the Okowa administration has established 24 new schools, adding that efforts at giving a facelift to technical education was on course with the construction of six technical schools.
On the youth empowerment scheme of the government, he said over 6000 entrepreneurs have been created.
But, Okowa’s critic and kinsman, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh disagreed. He alleged large scale larceny by the administration using harsh words for the State Executive Council and the legislature for their alleged complicity.
He said, “The Delta State House of Assembly has approved over 16 tranches of loans for the personal use of the governor and the lame duck State Executive Council and sleeping House of Assembly are unable to act as check. The governor of Delta State awarded to himself an approval limit of N250, 000,000. The commissioners do not have mandate for any approval whatsoever. Even in Ibori and Uduaghan administrations, the governor’s approval limit was N50million.”
Aside developmental issues, does Okowa possess the shrewdness to pilot the affairs of the party through the political minefield ahead?
For a politician who has risen through the rungs of the political ladder to becoming governor, it will be safe to conclude so.
Within the ranks of the party, bigwigs are warming up to contest the forthcoming elections. Will he support his political allies against other party members? Or will he insist on organizing a free, fair and credible primary to settle the contest?
Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, ex-federal lawmaker from Aniocha South/Aniocha North constituency, is gearing up to have another go at the ticket after his loss to Mrs. Onyemeachi Mrakpor, following his ill-advised decision to contest the 2015 governorship election.
Mrakpor is a staunch supporter of Okowa.
Another conundrum Okowa must resolve is the race for Delta North Senatorial District ticket. Will he support Senator Peter Nwaoboshi to reclaim the ticket or another political ally Prince Ned Nwoko?
Analysts believe either way, Okowa must tread softly or incur the wrath of two important party men and risk polarising the PDP, especially in Delta North.
During a recent PDP meeting of the nine local government areas in Delta North in Kwale, Ndokwa West L.G.A, the two politicians engaged in a battle of wits.
The simple tradition of donating money to the cause of the party in the locality became a battle of supremacy between both Nwaoboshi and Nwoko.
As a middle ground to diffuse the tension within the party, Okowa proposed setting up a college of PDP leaders in the nine local government areas of Delta North to liaise with the party executive to ensure the emergence of only popular candidates at primaries.
Okowa said: “College of Leaders should be established to comprise twenty persons in every local government area; we want unity in our party and we should avoid anything that can cause division in our party. Leaders must allow the people to choose their candidates; as aspirants, we should be mindful of how we go about our campaigns because, primaries will come and go but, we will remain as party men, we will remain brothers and sisters.”
A political analyst, Chika Chikodi, warned that this move by the governor may be costly as some leaders who may be overlooked may cause division within the party.
His words: “I think Governor Okowa’s decision to select leaders in the party to superintendent the emergence of popular candidate is fraught with a lot of problems. How do you select these leaders? Will some party members not feel aggrieved if they are overlooked? Why will the party not opt for a transparent system that allows party members test their popularity? I suspect a repeat of what happened during the local polls where candidates were foisted against popular choice of the people.”
The race for the Delta South Senatorial District ticket is raging, as former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, an Itsekiri, is interested.
Also interested is Mr. Michael Diden Ejele, another Itsekiri man, and member representing Warri North Constituency. But, the incumbent lawmaker, Senator James Manager, a four-time federal lawmaker, and an Ijaw, may still be eyeing the coveted seat.
Uduaghan pulled out of the 2015 Delta South Senatorial District election in the last minute allegedly due to pressures from ex-militant leader Chief Government Ekpemupolo.
Delta South Senatorial District is made up of the Itsekiris, Isokos and the Ijaws, but the Ijaws ethnic group appears to have monopolized the position since the inception of the fourth republic, leading to grumblings from the other ethnic groups.
Will Okowa back his trusted ally Michael Diden, or once again appease the Ijaws and risk alienating the other ethnic groups which make up the senatorial district? Or worse still, prevail on ex-Governor Uduaghan, to forgo his ambition?
In the run-up to the 2015 governorship elections, Mr. Michael Diden, against the wishes of Uduaghan, publicly supported Okowa’s candidacy when it was dangerous to so do.
Will Okowa back Diden’s claim to the senatorial ticket or risk losing the votes from Warri North L.G.A?
Waiting to benefit from the impending implosion within the ruling party is the opposition All Progressive Party (APC).
Although the APC lost the January local government polls, it pushed the PDP to the limit in that election.
The APC may stand to profit should the PDP fail to manage its affairs and pull together all the centrifugal forces within it.  Okowa has to tread on egg shells to reclaim his mandate for a second tenure.
Will Okowa, a wily grassroots politician adept at pulling the chestnut out of the fire, succeed this time? Will his warning to PDP faithful be heeded?
He said: “With 2019 elections coming up, various groups are beginning to cause trouble for us, but, we don’t want to go into the next election in groups. The more united we are, the stronger we will be as a people. Don’t allow your support for aspirants influence your decision because, you do not gain anything by working against the party.”


Source: The Nation

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