To say that Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan made a series of ‘forced errors’ in the run up to the Delta PDP Governorship primary, and in what many Delta political analysts refer to as his presumed intent to cripple Senator Ifeanyi Okowa’s desire and ambition to become the next Delta State governor, is an understatement.
In fact, many Delta watchers believe that Uduaghan must assume full responsibility for the debacle that not only engulfed the Delta PDP governorship primaries, but eventually consumed his own Senatorial ambition to represent Delta South in the Senate in 2015.
The political space in the state had been warming up for the 2015 elections and the consensus opinion across the land was the Senator Ifeanyi Okowa was the man to beat in the race to pick the governorship ticket of the PDP.
However, several other formidable aspirants began to emerge from Delta North, in the genuine hope and expectation that with their financial capacity and political connections both at home and in Abuja, they stood as good a chance as anybody else in the race for the ticket.
There was really nothing strange in the desire of so many people to seek the one governorship ticket in the state PDP, but instead of letting sleeping dogs Governor Uduaghan decided to stir the hornet’s nest by drafting Sir Tony Chuks Obuh, then serving as Permanent Secretary in Government House, into the race and deploying the full political arsenal and financial might of the state political structure into the campaign to install Obuh as the next governor of Delta State.
Obuh’s emergence became an unexpected game changer in the political equation in the state and grabbing the Delta PDP governorship ticket was a foregone conclusion for him. The agenda to whip Deltans into line for the 2015 elections, by any means necessary was thus set in full operation until two things happened to dramatically change the political equation in the state.
The first was that the other PDP governorship aspirants from Delta North, who had appeared to be sulking, with their tails tucked between their legs, over the looming imposition of Obuh as governor, suddenly woke up from their slumber and fourteen of them signed a strongly worded petition to protest the actions and alleged interference of Governor Uduaghan in the political space, even as they denounced the Obuh factor in the governorship race.
And the reverberations of that political storm had hardly died down when the second event happened and President Goodluck Jonathan cancelled an earlier scheduled ground breaking ceremony of the Ugborodo Fertilizer plant due to uncertain and disturbing security signals.
There had been widespread speculations of a frosty relationship between the Presidency and Governor Uduaghan over the political fortunes of the PDP in Delta State, especially since Tony Obuh had been painted as a very unpopular candidate whose imposition by the governor, would open the way for the opposition APC to defeat the party in the state.
Uduaghan’s assurances that he was in control, had allegedly fallen on deaf ears in the Presidency and his situation was further compounded not only by the widely reported deadly crisis and conflict of interests amongst the Ugborodo community indigenes, but also the agitation of the Ijaws to be part of any agreement involving the multi-billion dollar project, which led to the threat issued by ex militant warlord Government Ekpemupulo (aka Tompolo) that the project would not be commissioned until the Ijaws had their way.
Several other little events followed in quick succession. First, Uduaghan, according to sources, compelled the Delta PDP to remove the Chairmanship ticket of Warri South/West LGA from Mr Weyinmi Omadeli, who had already been allegedly given the party ticket to George Ekpemupolo, younger brother of Tompolo who was also the immediate past substantive chairman of the Council, allegedly on the grounds of threats from Tompolo who, it was reported, pointed out that the Itsekiris had cornered all the political positions, except the Senatorial seat, in the area to themselves and marginalized the Ijaws.
Uduaghan himself was gunning for the Delta South Senatorial ticket against incumbent Senator James Manager and the decision to shortchange his kinsman, Omadeli in favour of an Ijaw, was interpreted in political circles as an opportunistic move to favour his own personal ambition and win the Ijaws over in his Senatorial bid.
This action however, was the proverbial last straw that broke the camel’s back and angered his own kinsmen, who through the Itsekiri Leaders of Thought, led by Pa J.O.S Ayomike, authored a damning petition published in a major national newspaper owned by a Deltan, against Uduaghan, in which they not only derogated his leadership achievements in Itsekiri land but painted him as a pariah in his own land, stopping just short of verbally pronouncing their rejection of his political ambition to go to the Senate.
There was equally the James Manager factor, as the ranking Senator had made it abundantly clear that he intended to return to the Senate, especially given the backdrop that the PDP had at that time, opted to give all their serving elected members in the National Assembly, automatic tickets to return if they so desired.
Indeed the propaganda that he and Governor Uduaghan had reached a truce on the matter was quickly rubbished by a couple of widely reported altercations between both men on the matter and the alleged instruction by the Presidency that both men should go home and resolve their differences, remained unattainable.
Recall also that Governor Uduaghan had, just a few days to the primaries, effected a major cabinet reshuffle of his commissioners, in which many Delta watchers claim had been aimed at purging his exco of those loyal to his political opponents and bringing in those that have been identified as key players in the constituencies where the governor’s interest are likely to be promoted and protected.
Senators Ifeanyi Okowa and James Manager were seen as those at whom the cabinet purge was primarily aimed at as the two major Commissioners; Kingsley Emu and Neworld Safugha, who were dropped outrightly, were regarded as their frontline loyalists.
On top of all these was also the alleged report that the Urhobos had insisted that only a Delta Central candidate would have the clout to deliver the PDP in Delta State in the general elections and had threatened to withdraw their political support from President Jonathan if an Urhobo was not made the Governorship candidate of the PDP in the State, a position which according to insiders, led the Presidency to compel Governor Uduaghan to choose between either to select his successor and jettison his Senatorial ambition or stick with his desire for the Senate and forget about choosing his successor.
It was a choice, according to political analysts, between the devil (choosing his successor, especially against the backdrop of the new threat from Delta Central) and the deep blue sea (in form of the political wilderness he would be banished into if he did not go to the Senate in 2015).
In the end, Uduaghan chose both options. First he withdrew from the Senatorial race and left the field clear for Senator James Manager to coast home to victory in the Delta South Senatorial Primaries, a move which sent out wrong signals about his authority and underlined the fact that he was not in full control of the political structure not just in his own Senatorial zone but indeed in the state.
Secondly he chose a successor, but instead of sticking with Delta North and making good his promise to effect power shift in the state, he abandoned Sir Tony Obuh, who he had propped all the way and instead opted for David Edevwie, a Delta Central aspirant, who was not only a green horn politically, but had only been endorsed by the powerful Urhobo Political Union, UPU, only a few days to the governorship primaries, deploying all the arsenal and machinery of the government which he had hitherto availed Obuh, into the new agenda to make Edevwie the PDP candidate.
To his credit, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan has always been a peace maker in the Delta PDP family, as he has on several occasions reportedly sacrificed his own political interests for the greater good and unity of the party in the state, including the negotiations which led to the emergence of the Peter Nwaboshi led Delta PDP exco and even most recently, his decision to allow party leaders and elders decided their local government chairmen, in an election which is seen politically as the Governor’s election.
The fact that relative peace has reigned in Delta PDP has, according to insiders, been largely due to Uduaghan’s brinkmanship and his willingness to always allow the consensus opinion to hold sway in all decisions that involve the party in the state, opting always not to allow reckless and unguarded political behaviour heat up the polity when such incidences rear their ugly heads.
Many Delta political analysts have opined that the Uduaghan’s decision to withdraw from the Delta South Senatorial race may have been taken in line with his political philosophy to avoid any unnecessary volatility in the political space, especially since the atmosphere in Delta South was getting heated up considerably in the run-up to the Senatorial primaries.
Uduaghan, in his defence after the governorship primary has told of how he averted a planned sabotage of the election process at a critical time, when such an action would have led to dire consequences and even fatalities.
Addressing the Delta Political Vanguard, a pan-Okowa group led by Hon. Michael Diden, (DESOPADEC Commissioner representing Itsekiri ethnic nationality and PDP Flag-bearer for Warri North Constituency in the forthcoming February 28, 2014, House of Assembly general elections), Uduaghan disclosed that there had been plans by certain individuals to disrupt the primaries and where that failed there was another attempt to switch off the electricity during the counting of votes when it was obvious that Dr. Okowa was leading.
He said “I had to ensure that the security operatives nipped all the plans in the bud”, adding that his commitment towards a peaceful transition process compelled him to sacrifice his Senatorial ambition in the interest of peace and security during the primaries.
“There is no position that is too much for us to sacrifice for security reasons, if one person dies you cannot bring him back but any position sacrificed can be regained in the future,” the governor said.
Indeed, his decision to eventually pitch tent with Delta Central in the Delta PDP Governorship primary, even while ensuring that the election process was not destabilized, has also been translated by Delta Political watchers in the same light, as both the Presidency and the Urhobo political structure may now be rest assured that all their fears have now been laid to rest with the way and manner the primary was conducted.
In fact the people of Delta Central will now not have any excuses to withdraw their support to President Jonathan in the general elections as it is now clear that the presidency had no hand in their inability to produce the PDP candidate for the 2015 governorship elections.
But in the final analysis, only Governor Uduaghan himself can satisfactorily explain to the world, why he did what he did, which in the end became a monumental political miscalculation. For a wily political fox, who had survived three high voltage elections and passed through the forge of at least seventeen volatile court cases and triumphed, these two political decisions may perhaps remain as the defining legacies of his very eventful political trajectory, unless of course there is more to it than meets the ordinary eye, especially when President Jonathan returns to Aso Rock in 2015.