OLUSESAN OBA writes that the ruling Peoples Democratic Party faces an intense battle to retain power in Delta State as the main opposition All Progressives Congress and Labour Party are giving the PDP a run for its money as the electorate decides the fate of the candidates of the three parties in the March 18, 2023 governorship elections
Since the advent of the Fourth Republic in 1999, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party has utterly dominated the political space in Delta State but the PDP faces its biggest threat ever as the governorship elections take centre stage on March 18 across the country.
James Ibori, the first man to become Governor in the state on the platform of the PDP, blew away opposition to clinch the job in 1999 and worked even less to retain the seat in 2003.
His friend and associate Emmanuel Uduaghan took over from him in 2007 and his reelection in 2011 faced little opposition and the party had less job to do when the incumbent Governor Patrick Okowa took over in 2015 and also had a smooth sail in 2019 to seal his reelection.
However, the dynamism of politics in Delta State paints a delicate future for PDP with the growing influence of the All Progressives Congress and the spontaneous popularity of the Labour Party backed by the Obidients Movement linked to the presidential candidate of LP Peter Obi, changing the political landscape of the state.
The candidate of the APC, Senator Ovie Omo Agege who is the incumbent deputy senate president, is a formidable force in Delta politics while the flag bearer of the Labour Party Deacon Ken Pela is breathing down the necks of the two bigger parties.
The flag bearer of the PDP in the March 18 polls, Sherrif Oborevwori, could have wished to have emerged as the party’s candidate at a time of his party’s total domination than at a period when one of the opposition parties could potentially sweep the ruling party out of power.
Sadly, the PDP entered the contest with a divided house as Oborevwori’s emergence tore the leadership of the party in the state apart with the Governor clashing with bigwigs including Ibori who is regarded as the godfather of politics in Delta State.
Okowa rooted for the incumbent Speaker of the House of Assembly Oborevwori in the primaries against Ibori’s candidate, David Edevbie.
Ibori’s preferred choice Edevbie challenged the emergence of Oborevwori as the PDP candidate at the court, accusing him of presenting fake academic credentials. The legal battle dragged to the Supreme Court level where the candidacy of Oborevwori was finally confirmed.
Ibori was believed to be behind the legal battle initiated by Edevbie and he is also known to still be embittered as the party goes to poll on Saturday.
Political watchers believe Ibori is keen to prove to Okowa he is still the main man in Delta politics by withdrawing his support for the party’s candidate and probably throwing his weight behind one of his opponents suspected to be Omo-Agege.
Opposition parties are hammering on the fact that Okowa hasn’t covered himself in glory in terms of performance despite the huge federal allocation he received in eight years. It is a message that is resonating with the voters in the buildup to the elections and could badly affect the chances of the PDP’s candidate in the state.
The outcome of the 2023 presidential election seems to be the reflection of the feelings of voters towards the ruling party. The PDP lost the election in the state to the Labour Party despite the fact that Okowa was the vice presidential candidate. The party scored 161,600 votes compared to 341,866 votes recorded by the Labour Party.
Oborevwori’s chances could also be affected by the fact that he is also an Urhobo man as Omo-Agege but the Deputy Senate President is believed to be on the ground than the Speaker of the House of Assembly.
Omo-Agege’s strength in the Delta Central where both candidates hailed from could be underlined by the fact that he won a Senate seat in the district under the platform of a relatively unknown Labour Party in 2015 before he defected to the APC in 2017.
Omo-Agege is the son of former Delta State Chief Judge, James Omo-Agege, and the Senator intensely leveraged the influence of his father among the Urhobo people to boost his political strength.
He is also believed to have used his representative powers dutifully to the benefit of his people, and at a time challenged Oborevwori to prove he has equally served the people.
“I hereby use this opportunity to challenge Sheriff Oborevwori, Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly and governorship candidate of the PDP to a debate on national television to give an account of our stewardship so far to the people we represent,” he said at a time.
The outcome of the senatorial elections shows that the APC is on the ground given the fact that the party won two out of three zones. The party won in Delta Central where Ede Dafinone, the anointed candidate of Omo-Agege, defeated Ighoyota Amori of the PDP.
The APC candidate, Joel Thomas, also emerged as the senator-elect for Delta South Senatorial District leaving only Delta North to the PDP which was claimed by Ned Nwoko.
The Labour Party won the highest number of votes in the presidential election; 341,866 of the electorate in the state cast their ballot for Peter Obi but the party did not win any senatorial seat which underlined the fact that the number was just for the peculiarity of the LP presidential flag bearer and may not translate to electoral success for the party’s governorship candidate Pela on March 18.
A depleted squad caused by internal acrimony and a dwindling support base due to the seemingly poor performance of the Okowa’s administration in the last eight years, the Delta PDP could lose the power to APC.