Okowa Picks Otuaro as Running Mate, But Serious Challenges Ahead
It is no longer news that the Delta State People’s Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, has picked Mr Kingsley Otuaro as his running mate. What is news is that while the emergence of the commissioner representing the Ijaw ethnicity on the board of the State’s oil agency, Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC), brings to an end the search for Okowa’s running mate that nearly tore the party apart, it has unfortunately opened a new battle front for Okowa and the State PDP. This is because Otuaro is a cousin to the former militant commander in the Niger Delta, Chief Government Ekpemukpolo, popularly known as Tompolo, and Tompolo is an alleged major financier of Okowa’s governorship primary elections.
Going forward in the general elections and during his tenure as governor, if he wins the elections, Okowa would continue to fight a battle that is really not of his own making nor did he envisage. This is because the jury is already out with a long knife, calling Otuaro “Tompolo’s anointed candidate,” screaming that the ex-militant has hijacked the structures of both Okowa and PDP in the State. The jury is worried also that with the ex-militant, who recently acquired some war ships from Norway, Okowa would run into problem as Delta State Governor.
“It is a big moral burden for Okowa because of the affiliation to Tompolo. Otuaro is a lawyer and has the political experience to be the deputy governor. Unfortunately, the jury is not looking at the pedigree of the man Otuaro, but on the ex-militant and illiterate man Tompolo,” said a source very close to Okowa who asked not to be named.
XCLUSIVE Magazine gathered on good authority that Okowa’s choice of Otuaro as his running mate was not influenced by Tompolo, rather it was an option in Okowa’s original game plan. In fact, Otuaro was never Okowa’s first choice for deputy governor. He was not even his second choice. He was the third choice, only considered after first and second options had failed.
Long before the primaries, Okowa had promised Ijaws the deputy governor slot if he emerged as State PDP governorship flagbearer. Senator James Manager, Captain Pius Sinebe (rtd) and Kingsley Otuaro were the three masterminds that delivered Ijaw block-votes to Okowa in the primary elections.
At the time Okowa made the promise, Governor Uduaghan was in the Senate race and being the incumbent governor, Okowa thought Uduaghan was mostly likely going to defeat Manager. So Okowa had made the promise to the Ijaws with Manager on his mind. Uduaghan’s withdrawal from the senatorial race had threatened the game plan and thrown Okowa off balance.
Still, Okowa stuck to his original plan by attempting to get Manager to step down for Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan and take up the deputy governor position. Manager has been in the Senate for 12 years running since 2003. In what should now be the turn of Itsekiri, he was not expected to even contest in the just concluded senatorial primaries, seeking for a fourth term. It was at a secret meeting held in Asaba that the idea to get Manager to step down for Uduaghan and serve as Okowa’s running mate was mooted and agreed. Manager was not at the meeting, and an emissary was sent to intimate him on the decision reached and convince him to accept it.
Our source made it clear, however, that asking Manager to step down for Uduaghan was to make peace, not an attempt by the governorship candidate to resurrect Uduaghan’s political career, which appears to be completely dead in the State. The opinion of political analysts is that if Uduaghan was politically alive, in a party that he is the head as incumbent governor, he should now be playing a power-broker role, having a say on who should emerge as the deputy governor candidate.
Uduaghan’s loss of political power in Delta State is more evident in the loss of Mr Tony Obuh and Olorogun David Edevbie to Okowa in the State PDP primary elections and the recent disqualifications of his candidates: Hon Efe Ofobruku and Mr Reuben Azeze, by the PDP hierarchy. Ofobruku and Azeze did win State PDP House of Assembly primaries. It is not clear why their names were dropped by the PDP from the list that was submitted to INEC.
XCLUSIVE Magazine reliably gathered that Manager had flatly refused the offer even before it was laid down on the table before him. Although he told the PDP’s emissary that he was simply not interested in the deputy governor position, he confided in people very close to him that accepting the position would be a big step-down for him as a sitting Senator. Our source revealed that Manager said to whomever cared to listen that as a deputy governor he would have no say in the State affairs, merely serving as an “errand boy” for the Governor. But as a senator, with direct access to presidency, he would command his own authority in the State with backings from the presidency.
Now that Manager’s option had failed, Okowa had to explore his second option. Our reliable source told us that he offered Captain Sinebe the deputy governor position. And like Manager, Captain Sinebe rejected the offer, which surprised many. He did not offer any reason why he declined. Manager and Sinebe out of the way, Okowa was left with his third and final choice: Otuaro.
A source very close to Okowa revealed to XCLUSIVE Magazine that even though Otuaro was Okowa’s third choice, he was very worried that he too might reject the offer. Okowa had no Plan B and the INEC deadline given to all Governorship Candidates to submit the names of their deputies was just two days away. It was to Okowa’s relief that Otuaro had quickly jumped at the offer, the moral burden he was bringing to bear on Okowa notwithstanding.
Clark to fight to finish
Apart from its moral burden on Okowa, the emergence of someone related to Tompolo as deputy governor poses serious political challenges to Okowa. Chief Edwin Clark, for example, is opposed to an Ijaw deputy governor. Therefore, picking an Ijaw man and worst still Tompolo’s cousin, appears to have not only undermined Clark’s authority as an Elder Statesman in the State, but also has given Tompolo far more political edge, in terms of authority and influence, over any other person in the State including Clark. Sources told XCLUSIVE Magazine that Clark is not particularly happy with this latest development and “is ready to fight to finish.”
Isokos read the riot Act
Another political issue that Okowa would have to deal with is how to pacify the Isokos. Isoko have never occupied the governor or deputy position in the State. They were expecting that this time around an Isoko would at least deputise a Delta North governorship candidate. And with Otuaro, they have lost out.
Isoko appears to have also lost the Speaker of the House of Assembly slot if the PDP is able to hold on to the Delta State house come 2015. The Speaker is most likely going to be an Urhobo because of their numerical strength in Delta State politics. Urhobos have always occupied at least one of the top three positions in the State in every particular election calendar. It has been so since the creation of the State and it will not change now or anytime soon.
The deputy president of Isoko Development Union (IDU), Felix Ogbaudu, read the riot act to Okowa. In a press statement, the retired Assistant Inspector General of Police said that since an Isoko man was not nominated as Senator Okowa’s deputy, the Isokos would have no other option but to look elsewhere.
“As regards to the governorship issue, I was privy to the I.D.U press release and that’s my position. Isoko marginalisation in Delta politics must stop. What comes round must go round,” he said.
Mr Blessing Ugoh shares similar sentiment with Ogbaudu when he insists: “How long will Isoko people continue to remain behind other ethnic nationalities when we have more than 240,000 registered voters in Isoko alone? One thing is certain; the Isoko nation will speak with one voice via the ballot box this time around as we’ve been pushed to the wall by other tribes in the State.”
This is a threat that Okowa and his campaign team must take seriously!
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