An otherwise local contest in Delta State has put politicians of all hues in the country on edge as they size up the consequences of the unfolding crises in the two major parties on their immediate political objectives.
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
THE chairman of the mainstream faction of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in Delta State, Barrister Kingsley Esiso, was yesterday morning, locked in a strategic meeting and could not speak much when asked about his preparations for today’s make or mar Warri 1 State constituency bye-election.
“We are on the field working,” he said in a tone reflective of the confidence he had going into the forthcoming battle that is set to give a national interpretation to the weight of the factions in the opposition PDP and also in the All Progressives Congress, APC.
When asked about who he was working for, the chairman jovially but spiritedly asked that the question be deferred to Thursday, after the election. The bye-election is a test of might between the Senator Ahmed Makarfi, led mainstream which claims to have the loyalty of the grassroots and the Senator Ali Modu Sheriff faction of the party, which has the ensign of the party in the offices of the election management body, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
Ahead of today’s election, the mainstream of the party in Delta met in Warri last Saturday for what was dubbed a senatorial meeting under the chairmanship of the Delta South PDP chairman, Prince Emmanuel Amgbaduba.
The attendance was a roll call of the leading political gladiators in the area and was boosted by the presence of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and his predecessor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan. Also present were the deputy governor, Barr. Kingsley Otuaro, the senator representing the district, Senator James Manager, members of the House of Representatives and state legislators from the district.
The first of the three-part resolution read at the end of the meeting was to back Okowa for a second term. “That the Delta South Senatorial District is happy and satisfied with the performance so far of the Governor, His Excellency, Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa and hereby, passes a vote of absolute confidence on him and equally endorses him for the 2019 general elections as the candidate of the party.”
Officially, the meeting did not discuss the issue of the state constituency election as a participant disclosed that it would have been out of the way for the party to discuss the issue given that the mainstream of the party does not have a candidate. However, the fact that the meeting took place in Warri, political pundits believe, was to serve as a show of force by the Okowa mainstream and to send a signal to political rivals contending against it.
Original APC founders
The official PDP candidate, Mr. Ojere Edeyibo who is backed by the Sherif faction is contending against APC’s Mr. Stanley Emiko and Accord’s Princess (Mrs.) Shola Daibo, who is an aunt to APC’s Emiko.
Mr. Emiko is backed by APC godfather and billionaire businessman, Ayiri Emami who joined the party in 2015 after he fell out with the PDP mainstream as represented by Okowa. Emiko emerged as APC candidate despite strong opposition by original APC founders in the state and the decision to present him was taken by some national officers led by the national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun. However, party leaders told Vanguard yesterday that the bitterness has now been put aside as everyone was now working for the candidate.
The PDP mainstream, according to multiple sources is projecting Princess Daibo, on the platform of Accord, the political party through which the Delta PDP had in the past used to rebel against the national PDP.
The backing of the PDP mainstream, it was claimed, has transformed Daibo as the candidate to beat. “We have not done it once, but we have done it several times,” a PDP leader from the constituency said yesterday. The most memorable occasion when Accord came handy was in 2007 when the mainstream PDP in the state used the party platform to re-elect Senator Patrick Osakwe as senator for Delta North after the wife of the then national chairman, Dr. (Mrs.) Maraim Ali had taken the PDP Senate ticket for the district for herself. Osakwe trounced Mrs. Ali in that election to the utter embarrassment of the PDP national leadership.
PDP chieftains aligned to Governor Okowa are hoping to repeat the same feat today. However, they will have to operate within the constraints of the determination of new entrants in the APC to upturn the apple cart. The new APC chieftains led by Ayiri want to use the election to prove to those in Abuja that they are in control of the party in the state. It is thus no surprise that the election has become an animated one with emotions and intrigues at every turn of the way.
Emotions and intrigues
The PDP mainstream is equally challenged by the presence in its fold of what some allege as moles especially those who are disgruntled over the emergence of Okowa as governor and are openly aligning against the “PDP’s” preference for the Accord candidate. Some of them including a prominent state legislator from Delta South who remained in the PDP after Ayiri left have through Facebook postings been openly campaigning for the APC candidate, a development that gave insinuations about the political intentions of a former governor of the state who had been seen as their political benefactor.
How the election goes would inevitably realign political interests. A victory for the Accord candidate without the collaboration of INEC and security agencies now in the control of the APC would be damming for the aspirations for the new defectors from the PDP to the APC and the APC national leadership. A victory for the APC would, however, put Ayiri on the ascendancy and raise his profile in Abuja.