Having being close allies, the political gap between former governor Emmanuel Uduaghan and Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, his successor continues to widen with Uduaghan’s defection to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
With the defection of the immediate past governor of Delta State, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan to the All Progressives Congress (APC), the political permutations in the state is bound to take another dimension.
Uduaghan, who governed the state under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) between 2007 and 2015, unarguably is one of the pillars of a ruling political dynasty that betrothed the state polity since 1999.
However, the formidability of the dynasty was tested in the days leading to the change of baton in 2007, particularly during the PDP primaries that engendered the rivalry between the incumbent governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, who at the time was Health Commissioner and Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, then Secretary to the State Government (SSG).
Besides, there were other interest blocs within the PDP, notably the Chief Godswill Obielum’s camp, which had the tacit support of the then National Chairman of the PDP, Dr Ahmadu Ali and that of the Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark.
But against all the odds and threats, former Governor James Ibori from Delta Central transited power to Uduaghan, his maternal first cousin, an Itsekiri of Delta South, who was raised in the same house with him by Ibori’s mother in Oghara.
Despite the trepidations caused by the ensued implosions within the PDP in protest against Ibori’s choice of his successor, Uduaghan became governor and capably steered the ship of political affairs and restore harmony and unity of purpose among the gladiators and their supporters within the Ibori political dynasty and the larger PDP.
Uduaghan appointed Okowa as the SSG in his first tenure. But keen observers perceived the duo had not completely let off the steam from the contentious party primaries that produced Uduaghan.
Respite came when Okowa won the Delta North Senate seat in 2011 and left the state for a stint at the National Assembly. Since then, the Ibori political dynasty has grown in leaps and bounds and dominated virtually all the political spaces in the state.
But feathers were ruffled again in 2014 and 2015, reenacting the Uduaghan/Okowa rivalry when it was turn for Delta North to be considered for the Government House in consonance with the subsisting PDP arrangement.
From indications, it was obvious Governor Uduaghan was indisposed to Senator Okowa to succeeded him. Pundits alleged that he propped up a number of aspirants from Delta North in his cabinet and even the state house of assembly to vie for the position in his bid to stop Okowa.
At several political fora, Uduaghan was quoted to have said he may not be a seer to say who succeeded him, but he knew “those” who would not take-over from him and as if in response, Okowa at his governorship declaration said: “I know my friend His Excellency, Dr Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan will surely hand over power to me come May 29, 2015.” It came to pass.
Uduaghan’s disapproval of Okowa’s succession bid became evident when he gave tacit support to the pan Urhobo sociocultural body (UPU) to present a candidate from Delta Central to challenge Okowa’s aspiration, a move that breached the governorship zoning arrangement.
However, the Executive Assistant to Governor Okowa on Communications, Dr Fred Latimore Oghenesivbe noted that Uduaghan technically defected to APC in 2014, immediately his choice of governorship candidate, Sir Tony Chuks Obuh was rejected by Chief James Ibori and other major stakeholders in the state.
A former chairman of NUJ, Delta State Council, Comrade Norbert Chiazor, noted that their most pronounced political differences showed in 2014, when Uduaghan denied Okowa support in the December 8, PDP gubernatorial primary.
“The reason remains unclear till date. But the thinking, particularly in Delta North is that it was a huge mistake as Aniomas deserved governorship of Delta for equity after Delta Central and Delta South had it for 8 years apiece,” Chiazor noted.
Accordingly, it is believed that Uduaghan is seeking for political survival as he is likely to actualise his senatorial ambition by picking the APC Delta South senatorial ticket, which is easier for him than having to struggle in PDP where he had contended with the incumbent Senator James Manager who is insisting on a return to the Red Chamber for a record fifth term.
Nonetheless, for leaders of Delta APC, Uduaghan is an invaluable political asset and his defection is so far the deadliest blow to the PDP ever.
It is believed that Uduaghan is an asset with the capacity to dictate the pendulum in next year’s election, having affected the lives of many Delta people during his eight-year tenure.
Also, a leader of the APC in the state Olorogun O’tega Emerhor described the exit of Uduaghan as the deadliest blow to ever hit the PDP and has made the chances of the opposition party stronger to clinch the governorship position in 2019.
Governor Okowa took the defection philosophically noting that “In Delta State, we are very strong as a people and as a party. We are united and we will continue to stay united, God is our strength and the unity of our people is unshakable, we are right on course and we will continue to do the things that will unite us. We will continue to stay strong, there is no shaking at all.”
But whether there will be no shaking, developments in days to come will determine.