How Okowa Won Delta State PDP Governorship Primary
Monday, 8 December 2014, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, Nigerian Senate Committee Chairman on Health, won the Delta State PDP governorship primary. The question that is now being asked is: how was Okowa able to pull this off?
In the run-up to the election, the general impression was that Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan was the one calling the shots, and that the governorship ticket was going to either Tony Obuh, Uduaghan’s preferred candidate up until two days to the elections, or Mr. David Edevbie, Uduaghan’s last minute candidate, whom he had to endorse out of political necessity.
It is understandable why the results of Monday governorship primaries have left supporters of Tony Obuh speechless and wondering where and how it all went wrong. The little known civil servant had been the front-runner in Delta gubernatorial race for a significant period of time. He was drafted into the race by Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, and XCLUSIVE Magazine reported on 5 December 2014 how the Governor had backed the candidacy of his former Permanent Secretary of Government House and Protocol with N10 billion war chest.
Up until two days to the primaries, things were going very smoothly and Obuh was the man to beat. Out of the blues, Uduaghan announced his support for Edevbie. The endorsement threw Obuh’s camp into confusion and panic. But Uduaghan was quick to assure them that nothing had changed; that Obuh was still the man, that his endorsement of Edevbie was a deft political strategy to cut through Okowa’s and Victor Ochie’s lead in Urhobo votes, which at the time was estimated to be at massive 70 per cent.
There has been fierce fighting between the Chief James Ibori and the Uduaghan camps. Not that Uduaghan hates Ibori per se, but he is flexing muscles with him. A reliable source revealed to XCLUSIVE Magazine that Uduaghan wants to build his own dynasty. He was opposed to Senator Ifeanyi Okowa winning the Delta Governorship primary simply because Okowa is a member of the Ibori’s inner political family and epitomizes everything about Ibori that Uduaghan is running away from and wants to possibly destroy. It was for this reason that he had drafted the little known Tony Obuh into the race, and for significant part of the race, Obuh was way ahead of his opponents. In fact, Okowa, who eventually won the race, was in a distant fourth position in opinion poll, behind Ochei and Ndudi Elumelu.
XCLUSIVE Magazine gathered on good authority that Uduaghan’s greatest political undoing in his fight for supremacy with Ibori was when he decided to run for Senate. He had expected to dislodge Senator James Manager, a sitting senator from his senatorial zone and his plan was to use that senatorial victory to entrench Uduaghan’s dynasty in the State. Senator Manager is a leading member of the Ibori political family, and if he was able to take down the last man standing, he would have conquered all.
Ibori may be in prison in faraway land, but he continues to cast an imposing shadow over the political landscape of Delta State. To Ibori, it was bad enough that Uduaghan was sponsoring Obuh to oppose Okowa, his candidate, but jumping into the senatorial race to dislodge Manager, his staunch loyalists, was a direct affront and more than he was ready to stomach. Obuh’s strength was in Delta Central Senatorial district, which became Ibori-Uduaghan battle ground. Delta Central has the population advantage in Delta politics, and with its over 400 delegates, it is a swing zone in the primary election. Ibori, through high powered manoeuvring, got Uvwie and Udu LGAs, which had already been bought by the governor, to quickly change allegiance and follow Ibori’s candidate, Okowa.
In his political fight with Ibori, Governor Uduaghan knew he had lost so much ground and needed to make the last two throws of the dice. First, he stepped down for James Manager from the race for senate. It was at Uduaghan and Manager’s meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan a few days earlier that Uduaghan realized he was not going to beat Manager in the primaries. He had expected President Jonathan to tell Manager to withdraw from the Senate race, but the President, who is also seeking re-election, reiterated his position that he was in favour of all sitting Senators returning in 2015. It was for Uduaghan, then, a case of if you can’t beat them, you join them. Having willingly stepped down, Uduaghan “approached James Manager and begged him to speak with his loyal delegates to vote for Obuh. Manager told him that he has no control over his delegates and that he can go and speak to them,” Secret Reporters reported.
Uduaghan’s second throw of the dice was to withdraw his backing for Obuh and threw his full weight on an Urhobo candidate. On Thursday, 5 December 2014, the Urhobo Progressive Union (UPU) adopted David Edevbie as the consensus candidate. He was an easy choice for Uduaghan because he was a more sealable candidate to the Urhobo delegates than Obuh. Uduaghan’s logic was simple: if Okowa was defeated in the primary elections by Edevbie, it would herald the end of Ibori’s dynasty. The endorsement of Edevbie was indeed a political game plan, but it was not one configured to favour Obuh. It was a well-orchestrated plan to help Uduaghan in his fight against Ibori.
On the eve of the primaries, Obuh’s camp was still upbeat and confident that the primary was going Obuh’s way. At a meeting held in a secret location in Asaba on Sunday evening, 7 December 2014, This Day publisher, Nduka Obaigbena, raised morals high, reminding the team that the Governor had invested so much in Project Obuh to now abandon it half way. He assured them that Obuh was still the anointed candidate of the Delta State governor and that Uduaghan’s public show of support for Edevbie was all part of the political game plan.
Obaigbena was honest and sincere to the limit which he knew – the message governor Uduaghan had told him to convey to the team. Obaigbena knew little of the political intrigues, horse-trading and supremacy battling between Uduaghan and Ibori. Most important, he did not know that Obuh had been sacrificed by Uduaghan in desperate attempt to win that battle. Also, Uduaghan, who was not present at the meeting, knew what nobody at that meeting knew: that the Delta Central delegates they were relying on had all switched alliance to Ibori, three or four days earlier.
A reliable insider told XCLUSIVE Magazine that it was in the morning of the election day that Obuh’s camp realised that delegates from the Delta Central had switched camp and that Uduaghan’s endorsement of Edevbie was for real. Obuh, an earlier front runner dragged into a political battle that he did not have the stomach for nor the experience to wage, went into the PDP Delta Governorship Primaries election chasing shadows. He knew he was never going to be the comeback king.
1,121 delegates voted, votes counted and results announced. Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, who got 406 votes to emerge as PDP governorship candidate for Delta, took all Obuh was supposed to get from Uvwie and Udu LGAs. And Olorogun David Edevbie, who got 299 votes to come second, took all Obuh was expected to get from the rest of the Urhobos. It was a miracle of our time that Sir Anthony Obuh got as much as 5 votes!
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