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[OPINION] On Zoning We Stand; If PDP Must Continue To Govern Delta State

Chief James Ibori and Governor Ifeanyi Okowa

By Ogheneakpobo Edward,

 

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had been victorious in all gubernatorial elections in Delta State since 1999. The victories might have been due to the good strategy and policy which were adopted by leaders and was able to work among the members in the various constituencies, and, therefore, thinks that it’s infallible.

The party is known as one of the biggest and most populous parties in Africa. It is dominated by people with political wisdom whose intelligence quotients are high, making the party continue to wax stronger. Most of the members are highly experienced persons in politics, they, therefore, know what to do and how to satisfy the masses without such problems such as self-aggrandizement, selfishness, domination of a major tribe over a group, and in Delta there has been even distribution of projects and positions which has led to the progressive movement of the party.

The strategy and policy as adopted since its inauguration in Delta state in 1998, might be what become rules, ethics, and laws that are fused together into the party constitution, thereby standing as a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the members of the party, especially the situation that calls for competition or election into a higher position as the Gubernatorial seat or Presidency. From the archives of the party’s history, the most respected political leader in Delta State, Chief James Ibori who was then the governor of Delta State and a host of other PDP leaders such as Chief James Manager, Chief Pius Sinebe, Dr Emmanuel Udaughan, Chief Emmanuel Ogidi, Chief Peter Nwaboshi, Chief Ighoyota Amori, Chief Professor Sam Oyovware, and Chief Kenneth Gbagi jointly agreed on an accord that Zoning of the Governorship position should be adopted and rotated among the three senatorial zones- viz Delta Central, South and  North respectively.

It was said to be clearly stated that the zoning is strictly on Senatorial districts and not on an ethnic basis. And by 2023, the first zoning might have completed its circle, with a repeat, starting from Delta Central senatorial district. As it tends to go back to the Delta central where the Urhobos dominates, a voice from the creek where the Ijaws live began to echo rejection to senatorial district zoning accord, and now demanding for ethnic-based zoning arrangement in order to create room for the Ijaw nation.

The objections can liken a coup if the sponsors failed to withdraw from the zoning accord. A total breakdown of the zoning accord might give room to the All Progressives Congress (APC) to lay a foundation on how to secure Delta state, where the people would be exposed to the harsh policies of President Mohammadu Buhari government and his Fulanis and herdsmen invaders.

The Urhobos who had long regarded the Ijaws as best of friends and brothers see the resistance as a painful act as history showed that the Ijaw nation had lived in harmony with Urhobos and had fought a common course.  The unity and peaceful co-existence may have made it possible for some Urhobo’s extraction to live peacefully and becomes part of Ijaw communities, even when they knew that they are Urhobos by birth, such communities are; Gbaregolo, Uduopholi, Odorubu, and Ofoni in Delta and Bayelsa State.

It is on record that the zoning accord started in1999 with Chief James Ibori of the Delta Central, even as the position was keenly contested by aspirants from the three Senatorial districts in the first tenure. No doubt, what looks like a zoning accord came into play in the second tenure since the leaders of the party agreed on zoning. Hence, Chief James Ibori was returned unopposed simply to maintain the zoning accord.

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In 2007, it was expected that only the candidates from Delta South, where the Isokos, Itsekiris, and Ijaws lived, should have struggled it out at the party’s governorship primary. However, other aspirants from other zones joined the race; this was a sign that the accord was not accepted by some members of the party as the three senatorial districts were well represented at the party’s governorship primary.

The wisdom and prompt attention of the PDP leadership to issues were immediately put to work and both the aspirants from the Central and North decided to withdrew for the zoning accord to stay. Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, an Itsekiri born from Delta South was allowed to pick the ticket without a hitch of any kind, and to fulfill the electoral procedure, all the delegates that were at the venue of the election, being North or South voted en-masse for him and were declared nominated.

The resistance of the zoning accord was again repeated with multi-aspirants from the three senatorial zones in 2015, when the baton was to be handed over to the PDP faithfuls from the Delta North that consist of the Ukwanis, Ikas, Aniochas, and Oshimili people to present a desirable candidate for the seat. This was vehemently resisted by the party’s leadership since Delta Central and South had taken their turn through the zoning accord and have also been identified as a good strategy and policy to winning elections, especially with the zones to which the accord favoured. Chief James Ibori who is the initiator of this policy and whose voice was always accepted stepped in and spoke up to support the continuation of the zoning accord. This turned the table against David Edevbie as many Urhobo delegates made a U-turn on Ibori’s instruction and cast their votes for Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa mainly for the continuity of the zoning accord.

In reality, if the Urhobos had resisted, disobeyed the voice and opted out of the zoning accord, and was able to unite behind their candidates as one, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan and Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa wouldn’t have been governors in their respective tenures. In an ordinary manner, no ethnic group or Senatorial district would have been able to outrival any of the Urhobo contestants since the Urhobos in Delta Central and Delta South is almost two-third of the population of Delta State.

It is a clear fallacy and misconception of facts that the Urhobos now live in a disintegrated environment and no longer speak with one voice. This is not true as deviation from the zoning accord; come 2023 will unite the Urhobo Nation as it concerns politics.

Although, the Urhobos, for now, have not been able to reason together and helped themselves in the presentation and contesting of elections into positions such as the governorship seat. The situation where almost everyone that can buy form to contest the gubernatorial seat jump into the race is bad and does not show the Urhobos as a serious people, this trend must change if we are to be taken seriously, only our best should step out.

The attention of Chief Moses Taiga, the President General of Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) should be drawn to it, if the Urhobos must occupy the No1 seat at the government house, come 2023, else they stand the chance of losing it to other ethnic group and would be kept out of leadership for another eight or more years if the crack on the zoning accord remains unresolved.

To further resolve the state of disunity among the Urhobos, Chief Moses Taiga is, therefore, advised to go into the archives of Urhobo history to know the trick, wisdom, and methods which the past leaders adopted,  on how they were able to unite and move the people to wage war and put behind our close neighbors who intended to extend their territorial expansion to some towns and villages in Urhobo kingdom and how they were able to lead and control them towards voting en-masse for Urhobo candidates such as the governorship seat, so as to maintain the pride and dignity of Urhobo people in politics like we did during the leadership of Chief Jereton Mariere, Chief Daniel Okumagba, and Chief Felix Ibru.

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The Urhobo resolve was also demonstrated when they wholly and aggressively supported Alhaji Shehu Shagari by casting over 25% of it votes for the NPN which then became the saviour of the impossibility of mathematical Chike Obi and Richard Akinjide battle to convert the Orchestrated 12½% to 13% vote cast before Shagari would have been declared winner of the 1983 presidential election.

The unity and spirit of oneness of the Urhobos are beyond party affiliation. A typical example was the election of Ovie Omo Agege into the position of Deputy Senate President. The Urhobo people supported it across the party line because they see the position as upliftment for the nation. Then, when Honorable Chief Evelyn Oboro was to prosecute him in what looks like a fraud that brought him to victory in the court, Chief Moses Taiga and his group of executives in the Urhobo Progress Union wade into the matter and pleaded with their sister/daughter to allow sleeping dog lies. That spirit still lives on in the Urhobo nation, and when it matters, it will be activated.

To further strengthen the place of Urhobo in Delta politics, the Isokos and Urhobo should come together because of their ancestral relationship. Isokos are expected to be a supporting pillar to the cause of Urhobo political struggle. It will be unprofitable for them to keep away from the Urhobo people who by history are born of the same parents and migrated together from Ife and Benin kingdom. It is high time the Isokos should know that they are closer to the Urhobos than the Itsekiris and Ijaws which by political boundary sharing kept them in the same Senatorial District. They should endeavour to align with the Urhobos for a common battle and at any time assist one another especially in contesting positions such as the governorship race so that when zoning comes to the South, the Urhobos in Delta South and Central will also support them in a brotherly spirit.

The unification will not result to infringing on the respective political rights of one another, rather, it’s a recognition that they are one. Evidence of close relationship is also shown with some similarities in names of towns, villages, quarters, and communities in the present home of settlement of both the Urhobos and Isokos. The Isoko nation should also recall that before the increase of the Delta State local government areas to twenty-five, they were together with some of the Urhobos as a Division and was called the Eastern Urhobo division with headquarters at Ughelli.

Therefore, a careful look at the origin and culture of the Isoko people, they are the same as the Urhobos. They should without delay pitch tent with their brothers in the pursuit of the governorship position to seal what tends to be denial which is about to be created with a break of 2023, governorship race accord.

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It is sad to hear that some of the founders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the custodian of the zoning accord in Delta State, who knew its advantage to the party, had risen up to pull down the house they built in the past 23years. Some of them had already prepared to consult and go about campaigning for the topmost seat of government in the state, whereas they are ruled out of the contest by virtue of the zoning formula.

It sounds unrealistic that Chief James Manager, an Ijaw by tribe and the Delta state longest-serving Senator who is expected to be seen as the father of PDP and political motivator of all, is romoured to start consultation soon for his governorship aspiration, thereby jettisoning the zoning accord, except he forgot that Delta South can no longer contest the seat, until 2031.

A political party is usually owned and maintained by a conglomeration of many hands. And if by rumour, he (James Manager) is not happy because the Governorship position of the state was not handed over to him after the expiration of Chief James Ibori tenure, before it rolled back to Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan and later Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa, it is, therefore, a wrong perspective and unacceptable. His long stay as a Senator that represented Delta South Senatorial district would have been a compensation to that secret accord, where he would have been satisfied and begin to think of preparing the young ones for the seat in 2031 because, at that time, age may have caught up with him where he will be forced to sit as a kingmaker or father of politics in Delta State.

Similarly, Dr Kingsley Otuaro, another Ijaw PDP faithful and one of the most cool-headed, humble, and submissive Deputy Governor of Delta State, is said to have also prepared for the race base on the call of his people, however, he should put the interest of the party first and put off the idea, as 2031 is not a decade and with his tender age, it will be optimistic that come 2031 he will be the Governor of Delta State.

The leadership of PDP and the detribalized, hardworking Governor of Delta State, Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa should know that the time has come where many will show to him that they are the best for the seat. There is an adage which says that; “Many are called, few are chosen.” Many are already on the streets trumpeting their desire to contest the seat. For the interest of the good people of Delta State, he should avoid being persuaded with secret accord rather, a careful assessment of several aspirants from Delta central to know who is more prepared and equipped with what it will take to win and institute good governance to further maintain his footprints, that should be his focus.

Therefore, Zoning or No Zoning accord, Delta South and North Senatorial zones should withdraw their intention to contest the race and give way for the candidates in Delta central, where the Urhobos dominates, since there is a viable and most serious aspirant like Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, David Edevbie, Peter Mrakpor, Ovie Agas, James Aguoye and Sherrif Oborevwori whom at moment are trying to find their feet, the leadership should look at them critically and check their abilities and competence for the seat.

 

Long live the zoning formula

Long live the Urhobo nation

Long live the three Senatorial districts

Long live Delta state

Long live Nigeria

 

By Ogheneakpobo Edward

PDP Stalwart/Political Analyst

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