From Paul Osuyi, Asaba
For loyalists of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Delta State, the recent confirmation of the defection of key political heavyweights into the party calls for jubilation, as they make concerted efforts to strengthen the party to wrest power from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2019.
At a recent meeting in Warri, the extended State Executive Council (SEC) of the party overwhelmingly accepted to welcome the governorship candidate of the Labour Party, Chief Great Ogboru, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege who represents Delta central and the national leader of the Accord Party, Engr. Victor Ochei.
Apart from Chief Ogboru popularly known as the ‘People’s General’, both Omo-Agege and Ochei have had successful stints with the PDP in the past.
Omo-Agege who was recently returned as the duly elected senator by the Appeal Court which sacked Mr. Ighoyota Amori of the PDP, served the state government under the control of the PDP in the past in various capacities including as Secretary to the State Government under ex-governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan.
He took a shot at the governorship seat during the re-run in January 2011 on the platform of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) but was unsuccessful. He quickly back-tracked and returned to the PDP, helping the party to win the Delta central senatorial re-run in 2013 that produced Senator Emmanuel Agwuariavwodo.
Omo-Agege however left the umbrella party again in the build-up to the 2015 general election to pitch tent with Chief Ogboru in Labour Party where he became the senatorial candidate, and was returned as the duly elected senator by the court.
Ochei, on his part, won election into the state House of Assembly in 2003 to represent Aniocha North on the platform of an opposition party before joining the PDP. He was re-elected in 2007 and 2011 and held the Speakership position for over two years before his inglorious resignation in the face of possible impeachment orchestrated by leaders of the PDP.
He contested the December 8, 2014 governorship primaries of the PDP but lost before moving to the Accord Party where he was the flag bearer for Delta North senatorial district, on an unwritten understanding that he would return to the PDP after the election dust must have settled.
But part of the terms of the unwritten agreement was purportedly breached when his stooge at the House, Mr. Osi Okocha also of the Accord Party was sacked by the Appeal Court on technical ground. The court declared Mr. Emeka Nwaobi of the PDP as the validly elected member to represent Aniocha North constituency in the post-Ochei era.
Chief Ogboru has been contesting the governorship election in the state since 2003 on the platform of various opposition parties without success but his entrance into the ruling party at the central may brighten his chances, all things being equal.
Before the recent defections, a colorful politician in Delta central and former Chief of Staff to ex-governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, Chief Paulinus Akpeki had last October, led some prominent PDP members including former commissioners into the APC.
Behind the frenzied defections however, is a potential upheaval that could rock the party as there appears to be a formidable leadership in the state to coordinate its activities, thereby creating a feeling of uncertainty among old time members.
The sack of the state executive committee under the chairmanship of Prophet Jones Erue by a Delta State High Court sitting in Asaba has not helped matters, even though the judgment has been appealed against.
Chief Adolor Okotie-Eboh of the defunct ACN had instituted the case against the Erue-led executive at the High Court on the ground that the congress which produced the executive committee breached the relevant guidelines for the conduct of such congress.
As a result of the undefined leadership status of the party in the state, the national leadership, it was gathered, invited the trio of Ogboru, Omo-Agege and the governorship candidate of the party, Olorogun O’tega Emerhor to Abuja where they were told to work together for the party’s cohesion.
But back home, while Emerhor convened the meeting in Warri to announce that Ogboru and others would join the party, Ogboru was said to have convened a separate meeting with his loyalists, apparently in a bid to take control of the party machinery.
Thus, there is an uneasy calm within the APC fold in the state, particularly as the unfolding events are coming on the heels of the dissolution of all federal statutory boards of commissions and agencies, thereby creating suspicion in some quarters within the APC that the defectors have come to reap where they did not sew.
High wire politics is said to be playing out at the moment within the party’s rank and file over who gets what position at a particular point in time. Before now, the state benefitted from the ministerial nominees as Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, a technocrat from Onicha-Ugbo in Delta North was appointed into Buhari’s cabinet.
A concerned party member disclosed that what is playing out in the party “was experienced during the formative stage when members expressed loyalty only to the leaders of their respective legacy parties.
“At the moment, some persons are running to Ogboru to protect their interest in terms of appointment while some others are running to Emerhor for them to be recognized and given federal appointments.”
However, some party loyalists are quick to exempt the recent defectors from the power play that is currently rocking the party on the ground that the heavyweights would be more invaluable in the 2019 general elections.
A party chieftain told Daily Sun in Asaba that the “party would welcome more people into its fold to form a formidable opposition to the PDP. I believe the quest for appointive position is not the driving force behind the defection of Ogboru and Ochei. These are very formidable and progressive-minded politicians with clout.”
Although, Ogboru and Ochei may not have joined the party for appointive positions at the moment, there are fears that they might be able to pull the right strings for their followers to benefit from appointments into boards of agencies and commissions.
Even elders of the party in the state, our correspondent learnt, are not comfortable with the development, as anxiety continued to mount over the influence that the defectors might wield in the near future to control the party machinery.
A source close to the elders confided in Daily Sun that “these people appear to be wielding huge influence already. Our elders who stood in the face of intimidation during the formative days of the party are gradually being cut to size.
“Most followers were looking up to the elders to press the right buttons for them to get appointed to boards of agencies and commissions but from what is happening now, it will be difficult for the elders to have their way.” Analyzing the situation, a political analyst, David Azuka described the intrigues within the APC as unhealthy, noting that the party was fast returning to its former status of the coming together of strange bedfellows in the days of the legacy parties.
“If the intrigues within the APC in Delta State are true, then the party is in for implosion even before 2019 unless they put their house in order. The party has come of age; it should be able to manage the different characters that it is accepting as defectors.
“For me, there must be defined responsibilities and rights of members of the legacy parties that finally coalesced into the APC. What I am saying is that nobody should usurp the rights of the other person.
“And the party leadership must be careful about every Tom, Dick and Harry it is accepting as defectors. They say politics is about number, but what are the antecedents of the characters that they are now accepting?
Some of them might be spies pretending to be part of the APC but they are working for the opposition. It is not just enough to welcome everybody because you are thinking of 2019, you must screen those who are showing interest,” Azuka suggested.