Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State must have known for a while that his predecessor in his office, Emmanuel Uduaghan, was not happy with the direction the PDP was going in the state. At stake was who called the shots of the party in Delta State.
So the news flying around that Uduaghan was likely to defect to the APC didn’t come as a surprise to him.
Though an Uduaghan defection wasn’t surprising, it would be a big blow for Okowa’s re-election bid in the state. The former governor is very influential in his Itsekiri ethnic group.
This is all about Mr. Uduaghan’s desire to become a senator in the 9th Senate after the 2019 elections. And because of that, Okowa might just see his chances of a second term go up in smoke.
On his own, Uduaghan is not influential enough to swing Delta state to the APC in the presidential elections. It is at the gubernatorial election that a big shift might occur.
The Great Ogboru factor
Great Ogboru has never hidden his desire to become the governor of Delta State. In the last election in 2015, he contested under the banner of the Labour Party and lost to the incumbent.
He is going to contest again and this time, this time around, it’s likely going to be on the platform of the APC.
An Ogboru and Uduaghan combination brings together two men from two of the major tribes in the state: Urhobo and Itsekiri. In Delta State elections, this combination is simply unbeatable on paper especially since Okowa is on the opposite side of the contest.
Okowa is from the minority Anioma ethnic group in Delta State. The prevailing narrative is that he won in 2015 because the PDP used their power at the center to influence the election.
The majority Urhobo would definitely vote for Ogboru. And with the help of Uduaghan from Itsekiri, it is hard to see how Okowa can prevail. In this instance, Okowa doesn’t even have the Federal government to back him up.
But then again, there is still James Ibori to consider in the whole Delta political landscape.
The James Ibori factor
Both Uduaghan and Okowa owe their rise to the top of Delta politics to James Ibori.
As the first civilian governor of Delta State between 1999 and 2007, he used his clout and state resources to create the biggest political machinery in the state. He is the undisputed godfather of PDP in the state.
There was talk that Uduaghan couldn’t defect without the blessing of Ibori. Sources claimed that PDP bigwigs in the state had reached out to Ibori to use his influence on Uduaghan.
Two scenarios are possible here.
Ibori gave Uduaghan his blessing to jump ship to the APC. The second scenario is that he has decided to put his political ambition ahead of Ibori’s wishes.
If the second scenario holds true, a rift between Uduaghan and Ibori cannot be ruled out. This can only be good news for Okowa because, with Ibori behind him, he might still clinch victory in the gubernatorial election.
In the first scenario though, Okowa is a definitely a goner. Some might argue that the enmity between Ibori and Great Ogboru can also work in Okowa’s favor.
Delta South Senatorial District
The Delta South senatorial district is the bone of contention here.
Presently, James Manager represents the district in the National Assembly. The problem for many people in this district is that he has been there since 2003.
The three-time Senator is from the Ijaw ethnic group.
The other two ethnic groups, Itsekiri and Isoko, believe it’s high time somebody from their own ethnic group occupies that seat. And that is where Uduaghan comes in.
Whether the Isoko people would support Uduaghan is another matter as they too want the senatorial seat to come to their own tribe.
Politics of election timetable
Though it is doubtful if the people of Delta would vote APC en masse in the presidential election next year, the presidency can leverage on the scheduling of elections to get a substantial amount of votes from that state.
Presidential and National Assembly elections would hold on the same day. While the gubernatorial polls are scheduled two weeks later.
If Great Ogboru and Uduaghan can mobilize enough votes for the APC in the presidential election, they can be sure the presidency would reciprocate in kind by using the influence of the federal government to sway the polls in Ogboru’s favor in the gubernatorial polls.
With this in mind, Okowa would do all he can to get on top of the situation. He might decide to concede the senatorial seat to Uduaghan under the PDP ticket, hence pre-empting Uduaghan’s defection.
But Manager is not going to let go of that seat without a fight though. The veteran senator has been around long enough to know the right buttons to push in high stakes political schemes.
Okowa can also do the unthinkable by defecting to the APC. That would really rock the PDP and the country. That option is always on the table because, in the battle for political survival, the only thing that counts is self-interest.