In the past few months, there has been political amnesia in Delta State where matters of who succeeds the incumbent Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan in 2015 are discussed in subdued tones. The fear of heating up the political space might be partially responsible for the obvious apolitical approach among those aspiring to the exalted position.
But the speculations and subtle campaigns that characterised the last quarter of 2013 are gradually giving way to clearer signs. At the moment, political pundits are now shifting discussions on the contentious zoning arrangement to the character, pedigree and antecedent of the individual aspirants.
Besides, the activities of some political gladiators during the last Christmas and New Year celebrations gave credence to the much touted speculations that the said gladiators were interested in contesting the governorship election in 2015.
In a philanthropic gesture, these political bigwigs distributed gift items accompanied by customized seasons’ greeting cards to the vulnerable groups across the state in such a phenomenal manner that has never been witnessed in recent years.
The extension of such gifts to political party executives/leaders in all the 25 Local Government areas, and in some cases, in all the wards underscored the political intention behind the gesture. Also, erection of billboards at strategic places across the three senatorial districts wishing the people a joyous season by some of the gladiators further amplified that political message.
While these early signs have been described as the right step in the right direction and captured in the age-long adage that the early bird catches the early worm in some quarters, some observers see it as dangerous political signals capable of ruining the chances of the gladiators.
“They should thread cautiously to avoid costly political mistakes because more often than not in Nigeria, the big masquerade in terms of political contest is not unveiled early and that scenario is very peculiar to Delta State.
“I can still recall that in 2007, nobody thought that the present governor was interested in the contest until about two weeks to the primary election. It was a huge surprise to other numerous aspirants when the party machinery mobilised support for him and he emerged as flag bearer and subsequently as governor.
“I am not saying that the steps being taken by these early risers, so to speak, are wrong but proverbially speaking, the big masquerade does not dance early in the public. There might be a lot of political undercurrents like consultation and bridge building going on, but these will not be made public yet,” a political analyst said in Asaba.
Meanwhile, beyond the ‘it is our turn’ slogan being trumpeted by the Anioma nation (Delta North senatorial district) is the desire for a governorship candidate whose appeal does not only cut across the three senatorial districts but whose character and antecedents are unblemished.
Stakeholders in Delta North had for long embarked on what they called campaign of fairness, equity and justice for one of their own to govern the oil-rich state on the ground that since the state was created in 1991, nobody from the area has occupied the seat.
The promoters of this campaign are quick to point out that in 1991, Olorogun Felix Ibru, an Urhobo man from the central was elected governor; in 1999, another Urhobo man also from the central, Chief James Ibori ruled the state for eight years. Then in 2007, the incumbent governor, an Itsekiri man from the South was elected and is at present completing his second term in office.
But this argument does not hold much water in the central and south senatorial districts as well as in the circles of some opposition political parties as there is a counter-argument that it was not a free ride for those who had emerged as governors in the past.
“There is no written rule that it is the turn of one senatorial district or ethnic nationality. The primary election of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that produced Dr. Uduaghan in 2007, for instance, was contested by people from the five ethnic nationalities of the state.
“We do not preach the gospel of power shift in PDP. Everybody is entitled to become governor but we really don’t care where the governor comes from provided we have the right candidate. Right from 1999 till date, every part of the state has always participated in the governorship race. And after a winner had emerged, before we start talking about zoning other positions,” Chief Ighoyota Amori from the central had argued.
A stakeholder in Delta North while rationalising the need for power shift, said it was understandable that “every part of the state contested in 1999 since it was the first election after the return of democracy but it was only foolhardy that Delta northerners contested the PDP primaries in 2007 because it was only natural for somebody from the central to support somebody from the south in that election if not for anything but for the fact that the city of Warri has over the years established that affinity between the south and the central.”
Beyond emotions and the traditional pandering to partisan considerations, however, is the question of character presentation, political pedigree, political experience and proven economic management credentials of the respective aspirants.
“Delta State stands on the threshold of another epoch making history as we approach 2015 and the stakes are very high; aspirants are everywhere canvassing support but we must get it right this time,” a chieftain of the PDP told Daily Sun.
According to him, “Delta State at this point in her political life does not need a neophyte or mediocre politician as governor. We need a tested and trusted hand to steer the wheel of the state to the next level.
“Delta State needs an experienced politician with an unblemished record in public service. We need somebody who has been in the system probably since 1999 when the present democratic dispensation started but has been maintaining a low political profile because of his uncontroversial but principled nature.
“At this point, we need somebody with integrity who has been involved in party politics at both the state and national level. I say this because Delta State is a complex state with a lot of resources. It will only take somebody who is level headed and principled to manage the affairs of this complex state as so many people are interested in this state.
“We have such persons in abundance across the state particularly in Anioma nation but as they begin to throw around ideas and visions, the clarity of such ideas and visions and the quality of the owners of such ideas and visions begin to influence a general decision in a particular direction and before you know it somebody will emerge.”
Meanwhile, Daily Sun gathered that a lot of political activities are going on in the camps of various aspirants. Among the plethora of aspirants, Delta North has the highest number with the likes of Rt. Hon. Victor Ochei, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, Mr. Godswill Obielum, Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Olejeme, Rt. Hon. Sam Obi, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, Prof. Sylvester Monye, Chief Clement Ofuani, Dr. Tony Nwaka, Dr. Festus Okubor among others maintaining the front burner in public discourse.