By Joseph Obukata
The politics of the 2023 governorship elections in Delta State is gathering momentum and the caucus of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, comprising Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, his predeccesors, Chief James Ibori and Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, are seemingly in a dilemma over whether to zone the seat or throw the race open for all aspirants.
At the Friday night meeting of the caucus which had in attendance top notch members of the party including Deputy Governor, Deacon Kingsley Otuaro, Senator James Manager, a 2023 governorship hopeful, former education Minister, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, also a governorship hopeful, a former female governorship aspirant and member, Board of Trustees, PDP, Dr. Esther Uduehi, a former chief whip, Senator Stella Omu, Minority Leader, House of Representatives, Ndudi Elumelu, and other high ranking party members, the leaders were divided on which senatorial district should produce the next governor of the state.
The division stemmed from a motion said to have been moved by the state chairman of the PDP, Chief Kingsley Esiso, for the caucus to take a decisive position on zoning of the governorship seat. Esiso had reportedly laid the contentious matter of zoning before the caucus but the meeting had to defer the discussions to a later date when it became obvious that the deliberation may become heated if they continue to stress it.
Both Senator James Manager representing Delta South senatorial district, a governorship aspirant of Ijaw ethnic extraction, a former state chairman of the party, Chief Edwin Uzor and the state Deputy Governor, Deacon Kingsley Otuaro, also Ijaw and gunning for governor had vehemently opposed the opinion that the governorship seat should be zoned this time to the Delta Central senatorial district.
After Ibori’s administration which was devoid of wrangling since he was the first to mount the saddle in 1999 at the birth of democracy in the country, Uduaghan coming to power in 2007 was full of intrigues, political schemes and agitations for power shift which was also a mantra in Okowa’s election in 2015.
Delta State has three senatorial districts. Currently, all the districts have produced the governor of the state under the PDP, from Ibori who had it between 1999 to 2007 (Delta Central), to Uduaghan who took turns in 2007 to 2015 (Delta South) and now Okowa from 2015 till 2023 (Delta North). Both Uduaghan and Okowa got power on the mantra of power rotation and strong agitations for power shift but had their different hurdles at the party’s primaries.
According to pundits, the development is the reason for the wide ranging arguments in the state that the governorship seat had never been zoned to any senatorial district since inception of democracy as aspirants from the three districts had contested previous elections with the former governors and incumbent.
This school of thought is the reason that prior to the party’s caucus meeting, the Alaowei Broderick Bozimo-led Delta Ijaw for Gov 2023 Lobby Team had insisted on Ijaw producing the governor despite feelers that Governor Okowa may have bowed to pressure that the position should return to Delta Central senatorial district in 2023 for a fresh circle.
Senator Manager and the state deputy Governor, Otuaro were said to have stood their grounds during the PDP caucus meeting that the contest should be thrown open, with Manager, in particular vowing that “no matter the situation, Ijaw would contest PDP governorship ticket in 2023”.
A former Minister of Police Affairs and Leader of the Delta Ijaw for Governor 2023 Lobby Team, Alaowei Broderick Bozimo had during consultation visits around the state maintained that the Ijaw nation’s quest to produce the next governor of Delta State was irreversible notwithstanding the falsehood being peddled by known detractors for cheap political gains.The stance followed speculations that Okowa had dumped Ijaw which pundits say was his first choice for the 2023 governorship race.
But whether Ijaws of Delta South senatorial district will shift ground to allow the Central district produce the governor as being canvassed by some top ranking members of the PDP caucus and the system is what political watchers are yet to establish.
Some stakeholders however believe the governorship seat should be zoned to sustain the PDP winning streak even though the Ijaws of Delta South are not likely going to bend. Those in support of zoning include former Minister of State for Defence, Dr. Roland Oritsejafor, former Minister of Information, Prof Sam Oyovbaire, Deputy National Organizing Secretary of the party and Chairman, Delta Central, DC-23 lobby group, Chief Ighoyota Amori and a former female governorship aspirant and member, Board of Trustees, PDP, Dr. Esther Uduehi. Others are a former chief whip, Senator Stella Omu, Minority Leader, House of Representatives, Ndudi Elumelu.
Pundits say Governor Okowa had last Friday, cleverly pushed the heated deliberations on whether to zone the governorship seat further to the next caucus meeting to allow further lobby by the senatorial districts but has kept his preferred choice of candidate and from which senatorial district to his chest.
The stalemate recorded at the PDP caucus meeting would in the days to come cause the beginning of horse-trading, intrigues, alignment, realignment and political schemes that would characterise the next year’s general elections.
A top ranking party member at the caucus meeting had last week told Daily Sun that the caucus meeting was mainly on how the PDP would institutionalise zoning of the governorship seat. The contentious issue in the state is whether the governorship seat should come from Delta South Senatorial District or Delta Central Senatorial District which currently have the largest number of aspirants gunning for the governorship seat.
Political watchers who appear to understand the tone of the 2023 governorship politics, said that once Ibori and Okowa including the party caucus have been able to agree on which senatorial District should produce the next governor, the issue of a successor would be a walkover.
Daily Sun had revealed that the only issue discussed in the caucus meeting and would be discussed in subsequent caucus meeting is the issue of zoning, because according to a dependable party source from Government House, the governor has agreed to the institutionalisation of the PDP zoning of the governorship seat.
The source said many things flying on social media about the meeting were all lies, saying that the meeting was more centered on pacifying the people from Delta South to allow Delta Central Senatorial District have the governorship seat this time as being canvassed in many quarters.
“It was a normal caucus meeting and a very enlarged caucus for that matter. So it was not like a meeting between four or five of them to agree on the governorship. In short, the issue of successor is not being discussed anywhere for now. It was an enlarged caucus where they discussed the way forward for the party.
“But it was more centered on trying to appease our brothers from the South to allow our brothers in Central to be the ones to run for the position of governorship. The meeting was also to pacify the South to down their tools and allow the people from Central to have it and after central, South can now go.
“They were just trying to find a way to institutionalise zoning in PDP but you know it is a PDP thing because you know the opposition people will always want to run every four years so it doesn’t concern them.
“So whether it is Delta South or Central or North, the opposition people must still run but PDP is now trying to see if they can institutionalise zoning this time round.
“Once our people from the South agree to the formula which I believe they will, at that point they can now have another meeting again. And in that meeting, the Delta South will then brief on their position. So, when it has been zeroed to Central, we can then start talking about who is the anointed one in the Central and see how we can manage the number of aspirants in the Central for the consensus candidate.
“That is what’s happening in the State. Anything other than this is just speculative, disregard it”, the source said.