Some stakeholders of Delta State chapter of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) recently endorsed a former Minister of State for Education, Chief Kenneth Gbagi, for the 2023 gubernatorial contest in the state. And like everything politics, which has been found to be local, the development has thrown up a lot of issues regarding, not only the direction of zoning, but also other considerations, especially how it tallies with the stance of incumbent governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, and notable political godfather in the state, Chief James Onanefe Ibori.
Unlike the pre-2014 politics in the country, Delta State no longer brags as being predominantly PDP state. In the current dispensation, for instance, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has shown a strong presence in the state by returning one candidate apiece as Senator and member of the House of Representatives in the persons of the Deputy President of Senate, Ovie Augustine Omo-Agege, and House committee Vice Chairman on Intergovernmental affairs, Rev. Francis Waive.
It should be noted that flowing from its historic merger in 2013, APC brought together tendencies from the former mushroom opposition parties in the state that could not pose serious electoral challenge to the PDP. Prior to that merger, both Great Ovedje Ogboru and Olorogun O’Terga Emerhor had tried their luck without success in the governorship contests against PDP from Labour Party (LP) and the legacy Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
Although the two opposition political figures hail from Delta Central Senatorial District, where it is expected that Okowa’s successor would come from in 2023, it is on record that they (Ogboru and Emerhor) did not give heed to the zoning arrangement in the state when they contested for the governorship seat.
Just a quick recall: In 1999, Ibori, who hails from Delta Central started his eight-year sojourn, followed by Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, from Delta South. He completed his two terms in 2015 and handed over the governorship mantle to Dr. Okowa, who is currently on the final lap of his two terms in office. Going by the rotational arrangement for the governorship seat, it could be seen that the trail would run full circle by 2023 when Okowa from Delta North rounds off his tenure. The focus would then be on Delta Central and the question would be how APC would react.
Not that alone, it could also be seen how the Itsekiri, Isoko, and Ijaw groupings would join the debate. Is it possible for Delta South to join the governorship contest on the claim that the zoning was not etched in stone? Would Omo-Agege’s ascension as the highest political office holder in APC throw him up as a compromise candidate to neutralize the Ogboru versus Emerhor’s age-long rivalry?
It should be noted that even while Governor Okowa indicated his interest to seek a second term in office, some aspirants emerged from his Delta North Senatorial District on the platform of APC. The aspirants, including Prof. Pat Utomi, Dr. Leroy Edozien and Dr. Cairo Ojuogboh indicated their preparedness to serve for just one term of four years in office. Nonetheless, the fact that there was no zoning in APC constitution did not make them to deny the gentleman’s convention of zoning.It was gathered that some aspirants are also warming up from Delta South Senatorial District to contest the 2023 governorship on the platform of APC.
That consultations for the 2023 governorship have begun in earnest within the fold of Delta PDP is now an open secret. One of the early risers, Gbagi, has received the endorsement of eminent statesman, Chief Edwin Clarke, who explained that the former Minister of State for Education has never been found wanting in his previous positions of authority. However, it is not known yet whether Governor Okowa’s succession plan envisages a Gbagi entry.