It has become a sing-song among members of the Peoples Democratic Party in Delta State that the party will rule the state in perpetuity. In fact, a few months ago, while celebrating a thanksgiving mass in Catholic Church of Assumption in Mosogar, the immediate past Senator representing Delta Central, Mr. Ighoyota Amori stated, inter alia, that PDP will rule Delta State forever. But not long after that sweeping statement, the Court of Appeal sitting in Benin City declared Mr. Ovie Omo-Agege winner of the 2015 Senatorial election, thus removing Amori who had spent approximately seven months as senator representing Delta Central from the Senate.
The removal of Chief Amori as Senator came as a rude shock to the Delta State PDP. It was not only unexpected, it was not in any way anticipated. This was because prior to the Court of Appeal judgment which declared Mr. Omo-Agege winner of the senatorial election, the same court and the same judges had given judgment in favour of Chief Amori in the case between the APC senatorial candidate, Mr. Halims Agoda who also challenged the election of Ighoyota Amori. Legal opinions were divided over the similitude between the case involving Hon. Agoda and Omo-Agege (who was the Labour Party candidate). Some were of the conviction that the two appeals parade the same facts in issue as contained in the issues formulated at the Court of Appeal while others were of contrary opinions. However, the judgment of the Court of Appeal which was delivered, less than twenty-four hours after it had thrown away Agoda’s appeal, jolted the state PDP exco and the PDP-controlled government. Unfortunately, the Court of Appeal is, according to the provisions of the Electoral Act 2011, the final bus stop for appeals in election-related cases involving petitions on Senatorial, House of Reps and House of Assembly elections.
Since the Court of Appeal’s verdict, there have been grumblings and kicking from the PDP camp across the state. They have been holding several stakeholders’ meetings to strategize on the next step to take. In one of the meetings held at the Eku country home of Mr. Bernard Edewor, PDP leader for Ethiope East Local Government Area, Mr. Amori spoke most confidently, assuring the party members and supporters that there was still hope for him to recover the senatorial seat. According to him, “nothing spoil”. In fact, he declared that he still remained the substantive Senator representing Delta Central. The local government chairman of a particular Council Area in Delta Central who spoke to The New Diplomat in that meeting on condition of anonymity, assured that there was high hope, adding that Omo-Agege would not be given a certified true copy of the judgment, he would not be able to secure INEC certificate of returns and therefore he would not be sworn in at the Senate. Furthermore, this message of hope which was sold to the well-attended meeting, also formed part of the resolutions taken at the occasion. Little wonders therefore, few days after the PDP meeting at Eku, the PDP executive in Delta Central sponsored a full page advertorial in some national papers petitioning the National Judicial Commission (NJC) to review the judgment of the Court of Appeal (whatever that means), wondering why the judges should deliver two different judgments in two separate appeals which had the same facts in issue. As at the time of this report, the NJC is yet to respond formally to the PDP petition but there is a strong rumour, some kind of dummy if you like, making the round that the Court of Appeal has constituted another panel to review the Omo-Agege v. Amori case. Our check on the validity of this rumour has so far not been in the affirmative.
However, while the kicking continues, Omo-Agege did not only collect the certified true copy of the Court of Appeal judgment with which he secured the INEC’s certificate of return, he has also been sworn in by the Senate president, Senator Bukola Saraki as the substantive senator representing Delta Central in Delta State.
Going down memory lane, it would be recalled that this is not the first time that a candidate from an opposition party had snatched the Delta Central Senatorial seat from the PDP. Late Senator Pius Ewherido achieved the same feat and was sworn in May 2011 as Senator representing Delta Central on the platform of the DPP. Unfortunately, he died mysteriously in June 30, 2013 barely two years after he beat the same Mr. Amori to the game.
On his part, Mr. Omo-Agege is not in any way a neophyte in what has become the game of political gerrymandering in Delta State. In 2006, when the political campaign to find a successor to the erstwhile governor, Mr. James Ibori who had completed his statutory two tenure administration in the state kicked off, Mr. Omo-Agege joined the governorship race on the platform of the PDP, a race which boasted of the likes of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, the incumbent governor, Senator Okowa, Mr. Great Ogboru and several others. Then, Mr. Amori demonstrated his choice for Omo-Agege and twenty four hours before the PDP governorship primary which held at Ogwashi-Uku on December 10, 2006, Amori organized a mock-primary in the Trade Fair complex in Osubi where he claimed that Omo-Agege won the mock primary. However, at the Ogwashi-Uku primary, all the PDP delegates at the venue had to bow to the whims and caprices of the outgoing governor then, Mr. Ibori who ordered everyone to cast their votes for Dr. Uduaghan.
A quick look at the political antecedent of Senator Omo-Agege would reveal a man who had seen it all in the PDP. Quite experienced in PDP political intrigues and strategies, Senator Omo-Agege appears not to be a stranger to the PDP family in Delta State. Indeed, he was one of them. Endued with such great tenacity and penchant to achieve any set political goal, his strength psychologically, socially and financially is not in doubt. Which is why his entry into the senatorial office of Delta Central (Urhobo nation to be precise) is sending a strong message to the state PDP who are already looking forward to 2019 that the fight is not going to be easy. In fact, when Amori moved the entire leadership of the National Assembly to Mosogar about two months ago to celebrate a thanksgiving mass in honour of his Senate victory (as at then), he also alluded the fact that the 2019 election campaign had started. Simply put, the emergence of Senator Omo-Agege at the moment appears to be giving the state PDP sleepless nights as Delta Central which is considered to be very strategic to an anticipated victory for the ruling party come 2019 in the state.
As it is now, the fear of Senator Omo-Agege appears to be the beginning of wisdom for the Delta State PDP. This is coming against the backdrop of the rumour of Senator Omo-Agege’s crossing to the APC. Besides, Senator Omo-Agege, riding on the crest of the enigma called Great Ogboru, commands a sizable popularity among the electorate in Delta Central, and indeed across the state, thus increasing the worries of the PDP as they contemplate the race to 2019.
Whether there is left any other strategy for Amori to upstage Senator Omo-Agege remains to be seen even though it is being rumoured that the NJC, in the light of Amori’s petition challenging his loss at the Court of Appeal, may cause another panel of judges to review the judgment which declared Senator Omo-Agege winner. A check with some legal experts on the possibility of the NJC, or the Chief Justice of the Federation as it were, to constitute another Court of Appeal panel to review an electoral matter that has been decided by the same court has not yielded anything in the positive. The pertinent question to ask now is: with the senate seat lost, where would Amori fit in politically at the moment? In a matter of weeks from now, PDP would embark on its congress which will cut across the different strata of the party’s leadership from ward, local government, state and national. In Delta State, the party’s state executive will be affected by a change of leadership with the Chief Uzor-led exco giving way for a new state chairman. Going by PDP’s unwritten zoning formula, it ought to be the turn of Delta Central to produce the next state chairman of the party. And considering the larger-than-life size political image of Amori, a cross section of PDP faithful across the state are of the view that he is the perfect man for the party’s chairmanship position in the forthcoming congress. But this remains a mere conjecture among Amori teeming supporters. Sampled opinions carried out by The New Diplomat seem to point to a different direction from Amori as a preferred choice. For instance, a top party leader who commented on the issue anonymously noted that there is a palpable fear on the part of the governor that he may not be capable of controlling Amori as a party chairman in the state. And if this is the position, it thus means that Amori may have taken so many steps backward into political irrelevance, a situation he found himself in 2003 when the then Governor, James Ibori, dished him for a while before he was appointed the Political Adviser to Governor Ibori then. Also, when he lost to late Senator Ewherido in 2011, Gov. Uduaghan then also appointed Amori the Senior Political Adviser to him. But with nearly all the political offices occupied, many of Amori supporters are wondering what would become of their leader. But some believed that Gov. Okowa, realizing the enormity of the political strength being wielded by the Mosogar-born now former Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, an office must be carved out for him if he is schemed out of the state party chairmanship.
Whether Amori succeeds through some unconventional means to reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeal which declared Omo-Agege winner of the Delta Central Senatorial election or not, what is very obvious now is that with Omo-Agege is the Senator representing Delta Central Senatorial district in the Senate and considering the rumour that he is about to jump into the political boat of the APC, the threat to the state PDP and its 2019 dream may not be far from real.