Although the Peoples Democratic Party in Delta State and the opposition All Progressives Congress are locked in a fierce battle ahead of the January 6 council elections in the state, there are little expectations that the opposition will make any impact in the polls. From Asaba, JONATHAN AWANYAI reports.
Since the inception of the present democratic dispensation in 1999, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has remained the dominant political platform in Delta State.From 1999 when James Iboriwas elected governor to 2007 when he handed the baton to Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, and in 2015 when the former Secretary to State Government Senator IfeanyiOkowa took over the mantle of leadership in the State, it has been PDP all the way.
Apart from a few occasions when opposition parties made slight inroads in election into the National Assembly, the story hasremained practically the same since then. However, it is trite to state that within these periods under review, the party had equally dominated the nation’s body politic—it was the ruling party and in most of the States.
The story, however, changed in 2015 when the All Progressives Congress (APC), which also controls most of the States, upstaged the PDP at the national level. This is now a major tonic that has encouraged the opposition party in the state to begin to dare to upset the applecart.
The strength of the two major parties will be tested in the State which prides itself as the big heart of the nation on January 6, next year when the Delta State Independent Electoral Commission (DSIEC) under the chairmanship of Chief Mark Ogboduwill conduct council election in the state.
DSIEC has consistently pledged its readiness to conduct a credible election but the fear remains that the trend whereby ruling parties clear all the seats in states where they are in control might still repeat itself in Delta. With the conclusion of primaries by the two main parties, electioneering campaigns are going on inearnest throughout the State, with each party making efforts to outdo the other.
Unlike in the past when most PDP chairmanship and councillorship candidates were returned unopposed following the inability of opposition parties to field candidates, the APC will field candidates in all the 25 chairmanship seats and councillorship slots.Other fringe parties like All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Accord Party and Labour Party will also field candidates in some areas.
At the moment,Okowa is leading the PDP campaign tours to all the councils bearing in mind that the outcome of the election would to a large extent give a clear picture of what to expect in the state during the 2019 elections when the governor will be seeking a second term.
The PDP has resolved to embark on vigorous campaign in order to win the forthcoming council polls since that would form the bedrock upon which the party will work to ensure victory in 2019.
The PDP believes that the performance of the governor in the past two years will ensure victory for the party. The governor also enjoys an overwhelming support across the state. The governor has recorded achievements across all the sectors especially prompt payment of workers’ salaries, massive road rehabilitation, construction of classroom blocks, healthcare delivery,job creation, among others.
It is also believed that the incumbency factor would play a huge role in the election as some of those presently in the race on the platform of the PDP are seeking re-election.
The PDP campaign tours have also witnessed massive turnouts of enthusiastic party members and teeming supporters, as the governor continues to appeal to politicians to eschew any form of bickering and divisive rhetoric during the campaigns and the elections for the party to enjoy a landslide victory.
The governor has also urged party faithful and supporters to go to every household to canvass for votes, saying that the people would be receptive to their message because they are already at home with the PDP and its government in the state.
Okowa, while presenting flags to the party’s candidates, entrusted their candidacy into the hands of God and urged the people of the state to come out en masse on January 6 to vote for candidates of the PDP in all the councils and electoral wards of the state.He preached peace, harmony and a united Delta State, stressing that the state remained essentially one family, admired for its inclusive style of leadership.
The governor continued: “There is nothing greater than a united family and I am happy that our party is strong, united and peaceful. Let us continue to campaign and prepare ourselves for the January 6 elections. We should sensitize our people to come out and vote.”
At the campaign rallies, Chairman of the PDP in the State, Barr Kingsley Esiso assured the people that the PDP would continue to work for the people by delivering on its electoral promises.
He urged Deltans to resist political parties that are not known and have records of failing in their promises, asserting: “We should not follow parties that tell us lies, they will tell lies in the state, if the lies fail, they will call their masters to continue with their lies.”
The Senator representing Delta North, Barr Peter Nwaoboshio reiterated that the PDP has a winning streak in Delta State and such will continue because the people are comfortable with the party and are ready to remain with the PDP.
A stalwart of the PDP from Aniocha South local government area, a former member of the House of Representatives and Special Adviser to the governor on NASS and National Affairs,Hon. Pascal Adigwe also applauded the governor for entrenching peace and good governance in the State, notwithstanding the meagre resources at his disposal, saying that the unprecedented achievements recorded and the governor’s uncommon leadership style, have enhanced PDP’s chances of winning all the elective positions in the forthcoming council elections.
The candidate of the PDP in Ika North East local government area, Barrister Victor Ebonka thanked Governor Okowa for showing interest in the local government area.
“We have received an appreciable share of your various appointments, empowerment and development of projects,” he said. “Our amiable governor deserves accolades for being able to deliver the dividends of democracy to the people since he came into office. He has been able to construct roads, build schools, hospitals and execute a lot of projects across the 25 local government areas of the state.Governor Ifeanyi Okowa has done well and is still doing well. We pray that God Almighty continues to direct him on the right path to enable him deliver more of his promises to Deltans.”
He also thanked the governor for creating direct and indirect jobs, which includes the STEP/YAGEP empowerment programme that has lifted thousands of Deltans from the shackles of poverty.
The APC on its part is mainly relying on the support base of notable chieftains of the PDP that joined its fold. They include former deputy national chairman of the PDP, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, wife of former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Maryam Ali,Senator Omoagege, Chief Ominimini Obiuwebvi, Chief Khalil
Ofuomukoro, Chief Malachi Orode, Prof. Patrick Utomi, Chief Adolor Okotiebor, Chief Hyacinth Enuha, among others.
At the moment, none of the federal appointees has joined the party’s campaigns. Many believe this may eventually affect the party’s chances in the election.
Currently, the party is battling with internal wrangling, which has pitched supporters of Chief Great Ogboru against some party leaders who are in favour of the 2015 governorship candidate of the party in Delta State,Olorogun Otega Emerhor.
Chief Ogboru who defected to APC at Abuja in the company of a former Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly and governorship aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party in the state, Engr. Victor Ochei in June last year had convened a pressure group christened Light of APC in a bid to unseat the incumbent governor of the State, Dr.Ifeanyi Okowa come 2019.
Emerhor, who is referred to in some circles in the party as the leader of the party in the state, also convened another pressure group named Mainstream Delta APC, with the sole aim of occupying the Delta State Government House come 2019.
Apparently undaunted, leaders of the APC in the state have warned that on no account should the local government election be rigged by anybody.
Recently, chieftains of the party came together ahead of the January 6 council polls in the state with a charge to the Delta State Independent Electoral Commission (DSIEC), to conduct a free and fair election.
The chieftains in a meeting hosted by OlorogunO’tega Emerhor at his Evwreni residence, had in attendance, minister of state for petroleum, Dr.Ibe Kachikwu, Hon. Victor Ochie, Prof. Patrick Utomi, Chief Adolor Okotiebor, Chief Hyacinth Enuha, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, Hon Temi Harriman, Engr Sam Adjogbe, Dr Ogaga Ifowodo and a host of others.
The State chairman of the party, Jones Erue who attended the meeting in company of some members of his exco, congratulated Emerhor for hosting the unity meeting and the other leaders for putting their differences aside and uniting to give APC a fighting chance in future elections in the state.
Leaders of the party from Delta Central Senatorial district also met at the Ughelli kingdom hall to foster unity between Emerhor and Ogboru over a purported lingering dispute between both chieftains. At the meeting, Senator representing the district, Senator OvieOmo-Agege explained that he would consult with Olorogun Emerhor, Chief Ogboru and other chieftains of the party on how to ensure that DSIEC conducts a free and fair council election in the state.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Oracle Today in Asaba, the youth leader of the party, Christopher Agali noted that the APC has come to stay as the party is ready to floor PDP in the forthcoming local government polls.
He disclosed that the mega rally of the party held in Bomadi was to consolidate ahead of the local government elections for the party’s victory.
“The rally was to sensitize our people and the teeming supporters of APC that there is no other person that can fight our fight for us,” he said, stressing that the rally was also aimed at ensuring that “APC wins chairmanship and councillorship positionsin the January 6, 2018 election.”
He took the opportunity to call on President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government to move swiftly to put a stop on the suffering of Deltans.
“The youth wing of APC in Delta state is calling on the federal government to put a stop to the PDP bad government in Delta state,” he contended, stressing that PDP has failed Deltans amidst the promise of prosperity for all Deltans.
As the expected local council election date draws closer, political actors in Delta State are clearly looking forward to something positive but how far their expectations will be met is left in the hands of time.