- As Gale of Resignations Hit PDP in Delta North
- Political Heavyweights Re-align Against Okowa’s Stance On Zoning Guber Ticket
“Turning and turning in the widening gyre; The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” For many political analysts who have been following political developments in oil-rich Delta State ahead of 2023 governorship race, the above lines by late literary icon, Chinua Achebe, inspired by the opening stanza of Irish Poet, W.B Yeats’s poem “The Second Coming,” best captures the political dynamics that have enveloped Delta State recently.
Headlining the hydra-headed crisis in Delta PDP is the unprecedented decision by the State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa to dislodge members of his cabinet, resulting in the outright termination of the appointment of all Commissioners (25 portfolios), Secretary to the State Government, Chief of Staff, Special Advisers, and other designated aides in one fell swoop.
In his epic novel, ‘Things Fall Apart’, Achebe dramatizes the chaos and anarchy that erupt when the old system which has dominated the community collapses as “the center cannot hold”, because “mere anarchy is loosed upon the World,” a development which heralds the rise of a new system.
In less than two years to the 2023 governorship election, The New Diplomat had reported that Governor Okowa on Tuesday, May 18, sacked his entire cabinet and expectedly sent shock waves across the PDP political groups in Delta.
While justifying his decision, the governor said in a statement released by the Delta state government: “Obviously, there has been a lot of distractions among some members of exco. We have been working effectively and strong, some of them have been very useful and I must thank them, I must acknowledge that a lot of them have worked with me to be able to achieve that which we have achieved.
“But in the next two years, we need to be able to reduce the level of distraction in governance. And if you do not take that action, I may have an exco that is currently divided in the two years and that will not enable me to achieve my vision.”
Insiders within the politics of the State however insist that the action of the governor may have been premised on high-wire political intrigues and mechanics that have divided the PDP along clearly divisive tendencies as some powerful political figures maintain publicly that the Governor should honour an agreement reached to rotate the governorship among the three Senatorial zones of the State, namely Central, South and North. Among those in the PDP who believe very strongly in the power-sharing rotation along Senatorial zone are said to be former Governor Chief James Ibori, former Information Minister, Prof Sam Oyovbaire, a former National stalwart of the PDP and an inspirational grassroot mobilizer, Chief Ighoyota Amori, among others. So far the governorship seat has rotated along the following order with it currently zoned to Delta Central (Urhobos) in 2023: Chief James Ibori (Central;1999-2007), Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan (South;2007-2015); and Dr Ifeanyi Okowa (North;2015-2023).
According to many politicians in Delta state, following this zoning arrangement which holds sway across the whole state irrespective of political parties, “it would be the turn of Delta Central to occupy the governorship seat in 2023 under the zoning principle since the Urhobos (Central) have respected the agreement and supported other zones including South and North to produce the governorship.”
A top Delta State politician who craved for anonymity put it thus in an interview with The New Diplomat: “It is an agreement that is sacrosanct. Governor Okowa’s supporters openly campaigned on the back of the pledge that by 2023, the governorship seat would go to the Urhobos under that rotational agreement… Prof Oyovbaire himself campaigned for Okowa on that basis. Ibori himself also told his supporters that the Urhobos should support Okowa and that by 2023, he would handover to an Urhobo…”
However, analysts maintain that Governor Okowa’s decision to publicly declare his stand on zoning, highlighting that there is nothing in existence “like zoning agreement upon which Urhobo could lay claim to the next governorship on the platform of the PDP”, he has inevitably thrown up a strong war of attrition within the PDP that could wear down the party, thereby paving way for the All Progressives Congress (APC), which has made very bold, formidable and impressive foothold across the three Senatorial zones of Delta state ahead 2023 to dislodge the PDP.
Those who share this growing political permutations cite the gale of resignations from the PDP that has hit the party especially in Delta North which trailed the dissolution of the state EXCO by Governor Okowa.
Following the rising political temperature in Delta PDP, The New Diplomat had reported that the Administrative Secretary, PDP, Delta State, Elder Charles Nwarache and the chairman, Oshimili North Local Government Area of Delta State, Hon. Peter Okocha both resigned their membership of the party, Wednesday over some “illegitimate” decisions made by the party.
Earlier, top chieftains who have dumped the PDP recently include: Ogbuefi Anthony Ejiofor, Assistant State Organizing Secretary of the party, Chief Dennis Oguguamakwa Ndukwe (PDP Oshimili North ward 10) and Chief Dr. Ben Uwezu (ward 1).
As of the time of this reporting, it’s not clear yet whether the aggrieved politicians have joined the ruling APC or other political parties in the state, but analysts familiar with the matter have argued that PDP’s loss in this instance is expected to become opposition’s gain in the state as politicians perfect 2023 strategy and its politicking.
Although Governor Okowa has explained that his recent sack of his cabinet and other key political appointees was to eliminate distractions two years to the end of his tenure, political analysts believe that may not be entirely correct. According to some political watchers, the governor’s decision to sack his cabinet may have been premised on a calculated move to specifically “whittle down the political strength of Delta Central, while trying to deny the existence of a zoning arrangement that catapulted him to the governorship of the state for two terms”.
The recent sweep by the governor has been described as a political cleansing of the ‘who is who’ among PDP stakeholders from Delta Central. These include 7 commissioners who were exco members, chief of staff to the governor, chief strategist to the governor, chairman of Asaba Urban Renewal project and several political advisers and assistants.
Coincidentally, among those who got the boot are Urhobo PDP stalwarts who have indicated interest in contesting the 2023 governorship race on the belief that it has been zoned to Delta Central. The aspirants who are part and parcel of the recent Chief Ighoyota Amori-led Delta Central-23 (DC-23), have vowed to go ahead with the pursuit of their ambitions.
In what could further draw a wedge between Okowa and his supposed godfather, Oyovbaire, as well as alter political alignment in Delta state, a source disclosed to The New Diplomat that the latter has been named as the Chairman of the DC-23 board of trustees to be inaugurated on Saturday, while Amori is to head the group.
Although Governor Okowa’s denial of the existence of a zoning agreement during his quarterly press briefing in Asaba which held on Wednesday continues to generate mixed reactions, the PDP political godfather himself and former governor, Chief James Ibori, is yet to publicly respond to it.
However, The New Diplomat has been able to recall the remarks made by both Ibori and Oyovbaire at Oghara stadium in 2019 during the flag off of Okowa’s Campaign for his second tenure was anchored on the principle of zoning and that it would be the turn of the Urhobos in 2023.
Expressing his support for Okowa and Delta North turn, Ibori had said: “The peace of this state is paramount; it is the turn of Delta north, let us allow Okowa for second term. As the head of this political family, I declare and decree that you have all it takes to lead our people in this battle.”
Specifically, Ibori, as reported by the Vanguard of September, 2016, entitled “Okowa will handover to Urhobo in 2023- Ibori, Oyovbaire, others”, Ibori re-echoed the existence of the PDP zoning arrangement when he said:
“Governor (Okowa) during his campaign promised to handover to Delta Central and as a gentleman and promise keeper, we have no doubt in our minds that he will do everything within his God given power to adhere strictly to his promise….Equity, justice and good conscience are some of the major pillars of constitutional democracy. Hence, PDP in Delta encourages power rotation to enable both the majority and minority and or ethnic nationalities via senatorial districts power arrangement to produce governor and that agreement remains sacrosanct.”
Given this development, what could have happened that has so fragmented the PDP and thrown up the soaring division, leading to splinter factions within the PDP across Delta state, especially in Delta North?
A reliable source in Delta State government confided in The New Diplomat that the acrimony has been brewing for long and that it took just the formation of the recent Urhobo group, the DC-23 set up by Chief Amori to shop for a credible governorship aspirant come 2023 for the division to blow over the roof top.
Though Okowa has not expressly or openly criticized the setting up of DC-23, but while citing reasons why he dissolved the state exco, he said it was to eliminate growing distraction in the governance of the state especially in the remaining part of his tenure. This has been interpreted by many political observers to imply his concern over the emergence of DC-23 which he believes may have enjoyed the tacit endorsement of some key political godfathers in the state.
A PDP stalwart hinted: “Don’t forget, even in Delta North, it would be a tough battle. Don’t forget the Oracle (Senator Peter Nwoboashi) of Delta North politics is already bitter and he would tilt the political dynamics in Oshimili North, Oshimili South and Aniochia North and South in favour of any party he goes while Okowa would naturally pick the Ikas Votes. Whoever wins the Ukuanis and two Ndokwas would win the 2023 Senatorial race in Delta North…So even in the Senatorial race that would soon erupt between incumbent Governor Okowa and incumbent Senator Nwoboashi, it would be a crucial war with no clear predictable outcome. And there would be heavy casualties of bitter war! Peter the oracle (Senator Nwoaboshi) is a fighter any day. So also is Ekwueme (Governor Okowa) who is equally a strong force. The battle of the duo would be interesting. My concern is that the Governor would be fighting too many battles and if you fight too many wars, chances are that you end up losing all…A wise General chooses his battles. If I were the Governor, I won’t go into the battle of trying to determine who succeeds me thereby attracting so much anger and disaffection across the state… !”
Early signs of the looming friction and war in PDP was reportedly evident when in August 2020, Kingsley Esiso, a lawyer and ex-state chairman of the PDP, expressed interest to seek for a second term in office.
Against the choice and expectations of Sapele PDP stakeholders who realized that, coming from Ethiope East LGA background, Esiso had continued to usurp the chairmanship position zoned to the Okpe people, the governor reportedly prevailed on them and gave the party chairmanship seat to Esiso.
While Governor Okowa is believed to be doing his homework now to re-constitute the state EXCO with those he feels could assist him in accomplishing his mission, many believe that he may be walking a very tight political rope in the countdown to 2023 given the emerging shape of political developments.
- With additional reporting by Pleasure Onohwakpo of The New Diplomat’s Delta State Bureau