By Julius Oweh
The conduct of parties’ primaries had come and gone but their echoes, political vibrations and earthquake continue to shake the very foundation of politics in the country and it is much more serious in Delta State.
The two major political parties – Peoples Democratic Party and All Progressives Congress are still savouring the sweetness and bitterness of that exercise respectively.
Party primaries are meant to choose candidates for various elective positions ranging from the councilor to the president. Primaries if properly conducted should mark internal democracy within the party. Parties should respect their own constitutions.
But most times, political bigwigs and godfathers would want to impose their candidates on the other members. There is the school of thought that a party which rigs its own primaries is likely to carry the same vice to the general election. That is one plausible reason that politicians in this clime see politics as a game of do or die, more so that politics is the fastest means of acquiring wealth and fame in Nigeria.
In the case of the PDP, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa was the sole candidate as he was given the choice of first refusal and members of his party all lined up behind him. The event was more of a carnival as the delegates affirmed the candidature of Okowa for 2019. An elated Okowa was full of gratitude for his party members and expressed so in clear terms.
Said the governor: ‘The PDP in Delta State is a family and because we realize that we are a family, PDP has insisted that there will be equitable process where there is justice and fairness. Because we are one family, the PDP endorsed my candidacy in 2014 and I went through by the special grace of God during the elections and we won.
Today in your belief for equity and justice and fairness, the party has returned me unopposed as its candidate. I am very grateful and I thank you for being a party that reasons that we can only be a family where there is equity and fairness‘.
However, the case of APC was a different ball game. The party not only displayed that it was not one family; the actual conduct of the primaries was mired in controversy. For an event that was billed to start at 10 am, the delegates and the governorship aspirants waited and the officials from Abuja were not forthcoming. When they even arrived, they came without the list of delegates for the primaries.
Some of the governorship aspirants insisted that they could not go into a contest when they did not even know the list of those that are expected to vote. It was like a blind date. The venue of the governorship primaries- the Federal College of Education, Asaba was tension soaked and you could even cut it with knife.
Goose pimples began to develop on the faces of the aspirants and their supporters. And akin to the meeting of witches in a coven, the primaries were held in the wee hours, about 2am and Great Ogboru was declared the winner of the primaries. According to General Lawrence Onoja, Ogboru polled 3,292. Victor Ochei, 160,Prof Pat Utomi, 26 and Dr Cairo Ojougboh, 12. There and then, Ochei and Utomi denounced the result as cooked up, saying that there was no semblance of election and that what happened was mere allocation of figures.
Victor Ochei, a former speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly rejected the result. He said: “The national chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole had ab initio skewed the whole process in favour of his preferred aspirant based on his fixation, which should not be allowed to prevail in Delta state.” Ochei, on the issue of delegates’ list for the exercise, he maintained that the irreducible minimum in an electoral college contest was that the electorate is known to the aspirants so that they can canvas for their votes.
He further stated that `the Chairman of the Nomination Panel, General Lawrence Onoja confirmed that the National Chairman provided a list of delegates at 7.30pm on 29th Sept 2018, a few hours before the primary, which only Great Ogboru, one of the aspirants, confirmed he had access to in a meeting with the panel. In other words, there was the ulterior motive of tilting the process to a particular aspirant’s advantage.
There were other deliberate ploys to undermine the exercise, prominent amongst which were, the crude disruption of accreditation of delegates by thugs which enabled voting without accreditation, poor lighting of the venue, poor security as thugs loyal to their preferred aspirant invaded the venue and subjected people to intimidation and harassment.
All these glaring flagrant infractions and violation of the party’s primary guidelines leave one with no option than to seek an outright cancellation of the exercise and a repeat, where all these anomalies can be corrected otherwise, the chairman and NWC will be seen as working against the democratic ideals of the APC which President Muhammadu Buhari advocates,”
The sentiment of Ochei about the rejection of the result was also echoed by Prof Pat Utomi. He said: “Returning Officer, Major Gen Lawrence Onoja spoke about peace, that and that, after which I raised a question that I have been asking for delegates’ list for some time and demanded that we should be given the list right away. Onoja looked to his left and right and said, we are a family, why not we go to the field and act like a family.
As we speak, I have not set my eyes on the delegates’ list.: I will petition the appropriate organ of the party. If I go through due process and they fail to do the right thing, if they decide that this is okay by them, then I will quietly resign my membership of the party, become non partisan, but never give up on the fight against obnoxious coup plotters, who plotted against the military, against civilians and against the constitution of the country. This cannot be the legacy we will leave for our children.”
However, there was discordant tone from Dr Cairo Ojougboh who stated that he would abide by the party decision since the party was supreme. Hear Him : “We thank the leadership of the party at the national and state levels and my supporters, but I want to state categorically that I did not participate in any of the primaries, both O’tega faction and APC primary by General Onoja (retd) and Jones. “Nonetheless, the party is supreme and we believe in party supremacy. I, therefore urge my supporters to accept the wish of the party, and I accept it. Moving forward, we will work for the party. In spite of the underlying circumstances towards and during the primaries, we accept the result,” Even ingrained in the speech of Ojougboh was the admission of not participating in the primaries and that there were two factions of the party conducting parallel primaries.
Despite these drawbacks, Chief Great Ogboru was not only upbeat about his success in next year polls, making him to contest the position for the 6th time. He also chose Evangelist Ossai Abeh of Ndokwa extraction as his running mate. Speaking recently at a rally at Orerokpe, Ogboru said of his famed liberation of Delta State:
‘The time for liberation has come and the chief of that liberation is no other person than our president, President Muhammadu Buhari, who is our chief liberator because he is coming here leading a pack of liberators amongst whom are our chairman, Mr Adams Oshiomhole and my very good self who is one of the liberators now. With all of us joining hands with you, the liberation for Delta State has indeed started. I will speak to you people when I meet you soon.”
It would be an uphill task for Ogboru to win next year election against the backdrop of Ochei and Utomi avowed commitment to work against his candidature. It is also instructive to note here that the frosty relationship between Ogboru and Senator Ovie Omo-Agege shall be any obstacle to Ogboru getting to Government House; Asaba.It would also be political suicide to ignore the sentiments of Chief O‘Tega Emerhor, a leading figure of APC in Delta State.
Emerhor is of the strong belief that the contest for the governorship position should not be restricted to the prism of Urhobo affairs as presently canvassed by Chief Great Ogboru. Emerhor has a more liberal attitude towards 2019 governorship election. Listen to his sentiments: ‘Ogboru has been playing politics and has been failing for the past four or five times, only Urhobo cannot produce a governor. We need the three senatorial districts to win.
Turner Ogboru went on live television to say I am supporting an Anioma agenda, how does that make Anioma people feel? Doesn‘t he need Anioma people to win. Ogboru cannot continue to spoil the chances of APC winning the governorship by making it Urhobo party, and we need the Anioma, Ijaw, Isoko, Urhobo and Itsekiri. Unless we do not want to win which Ogboru doesn‘t want to do‘