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Who Will Be The Next Governor Of Delta State?

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Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, Delta State

By Annabel Ogheneganre

The coast is getting clearer by the day. From my understanding of the working of government and the body language of the governor, I can say Okowa will hand over to an Urhobo man in 2023.

The man is looking in the direction of Urhobo particularly the Okpe axis for his choice of PDP candidate for 2023. He has even narrowed it down to two options, either Rt Hon Sheriff Oborevwori or Chief James Augoye.

Prior to the 2015 general elections, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa had a path with the Okpe people with Prof Sam Oyovbaire as the arrow head of the deal. He gave his words on support for Governor Okowa in the 2014 gubernatorial primaries of the PDP with the promise that he was going to hand over to Urhobo in 2023 preferably an Okpe man. Okowa got tremendous support from the Okpe people in 2014 and the time to pay them back, irrespective of how the rest of Urhobo feels, is now.

One major challenge before Governor Okowa is the Senator Ovie Omo-Agege factor and his 2023 alleged gubernatorial ambition. Okowa knows the political worth of Senator Omo-Agege. He knows the danger posed by Ovie Omo-Agege to his succession plans. If Okowa fails to balance the forces in Delta Central in acceptable manner, there would be consequences. There are three federal constituencies in Delta Central, one in the old Eastern Urhobo comprising Ughelli North, Ughelli South and Udu Local Government Areas and two in the old Western Urhobo covering the two Ethiope Council areas of East and West together with Okpe, Sapele and Uvwie LGAs.
While the old Western Urhobo has produced the Governor of Delta State in the person of Chief James Onanefe Ibori in 1999 to 2007, the Eastern Urhobo only had a ‘missed call’ in the aborted third republic with Olorogun Felix Ibru who was governor for less than two years, whereas Ibori was in power for 8 years. One argument by the Okpe people is that the less than two years stint of Felix Ibru was the fit and appropriate turn of the Ughelli/Udu federal constituency, the largest constituency in Delta State. An Okpe man can be governor in 2023 but never on the argument that it is their turn. If 2023 is the turn of Okpe people, when was it ever the turn of Ethiope or Ughelli people to produce the governor of Delta state? Was it on the basis of Ethiope turn that Ibori became Governor or was it the turn of Ughelli north that Felix Ibru became governor for 18 months in the ill-fated and aborted third republic?

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Therefore, this writer wishes to maintain that the argument by the so-called OSU Movement is fundamentally faulty. Okowa is looking in the direction of Okpe and there is no problem about that. One factor Okowa may take into account is the ambition of Senator Ighoyota Amori to return to the Senate after his ill-fated stint in 2015. Giving the PDP gubernatorial ticket to an Okpe man may shut the door of senatorial ticket for Amori because either one of the gubernatorial or senatorial tickets must go to the Ughelli/Udu federal constituency to balance the interplay of forces in the central district. Leaving Ughelli/Udu open without a senatorial or governorship ticket yet, an Ovie Omo-Agege is in the ballot for Governor on APC platform would be a gamble taken too far by the PDP.

Amori wants to go to the senate, Okpe are laying claim to the position of governor as a birthright which may or may not go to them, and the Ughelli/Udu federal constituency, the electoral battleground is like a yawning cauldron of volcanic fire waiting to swallow any political party that dares her might. If the gubernatorial ticket goes to Okpe for instance, and Amori grabs senatorial ticket, Ughelli north would be too hot for PDP if Omo-Agege emerges flag-bearer. The heat may boil over to Udu and Ughelli south LGAs. One factor that must be taken into account is the near 300,000 voters in Ughelli north which no right thinking political party can or should gamble with.
If this writer is in a position to advise Governor Okowa, I will ask him to ensure the gubernatorial ticket goes to Ughelli North and perhaps Amori or an Okpe man be the PDP flag-bearer for senate. In the alternative, an Okpe man could be PDP flag-bearer while a man from Ughelli North is senatorial candidate. If the first suggestion, which is most appropriate, is taken, the two gubernatorial candidates for PDP and APC will come from Ughelli north for a fight to finish. 2023 is not an ordinary election year. Omo-Agege is not an ordinary politician that one should take for granted. The man carries a dangerous political anointing capable of reducing a giant to a puppet. But for the strength of the PDP as a party, I am yet to see any material who could match Omo-Agege from the Okpe axis. Promoting just anybody with an Omo-Agege as opponent is a sure invitation for trouble. Okowa should examine all the variables before settling for one man who could drive the system to achieve results. I strongly maintain that whatever governor Okowa may be shopping for, he must not let the Ughelli/Udu federal constituency open without a serious senatorial or gubernatorial candidate.
As far as this writer is concerned, the next governor will either come from Okpe/Sapele axis or Ughelli/Udu constituency. Sheriff and Augoye may emerge PDP flag-bearer or a man from Ughelli North which include Chief David Edevbie or Chief Festus Agas. Sheriff and Augoye are good to go because once either of the two men is in the ballot, Sapele and Okpe LGA would be for PDP to keep. Another man that Okowa should watch out for is Hon Samuel Mariere who carries a formidable political force. He has the courage to dare anything. Omo-Agege is a sure bet for APC. But in the most unlikely event that Okowa pushes the gubernatorial ticket to Ijaw nation, he may face the worst political battle of his life. That is not an option Gov Okowa should consider.

It is certain that the PDP ticket is coming to Delta central. APC too is looking in the direction of Delta Central. There are eminently qualified political power brokers with unquenchable fire for results in the central districts. The PDP is loaded but many of the available characters do not possess the right spirit for the envisaged clash of the titans. Sheriff and Augoye are credible materials. David Edevbie looks good to go. Kenneth Gbagi is not in the mood yet. Chief Andrew Orugbo of Udu is a material Okowa could also consider. Ejaife Odebala and Efe Oforbruku are men to watch out for too. Another joker is Michael Diden (Ejele) who has roots in Okpe. There are men with proven track records for excellence, progress and visible results he must identify so as to produce a choice successor.

Governor Okowa sure has a huge task before him. 2023 is going to be rough. PDP should pray hard that APC should not unite ahead of 2023. In the event of unity for the party, PDP may be forced to surrender to a mightier force in 2023.

Annabel Ogheneganre writes from Garki, Abuja. (09030558731 SMS only or [email protected])

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