Okowa: The history maker | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Okowa: The history maker

Posted: Apr 21, 2015 at 1:45 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Rotimi Akinwunmi –  Snr. Correspondent, Abuja 


It was a dream come true for the people of Delta North Senatorial District when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Returning Officer for the Delta State Governorship election, Prof Bio Nyananyo, reeled out the result of the last Saturday election in the state and pronounced Senator Ifeanyi Okowa of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) the winner of the election.

Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa

Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa

In declaring the result of the election, Prof Nyananyo announced in Asaba that Okowa polled 724,680 votes to beat his closest rival, Chief Great Ogboru of the Labour Party, who got 130,028 votes. The All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Chief O’tega Emerhor came a distant 3rd with 67,825 votes.

According to the results, it was a sweeping victory for Okowa who won in 21 local government areas of the 25 in the state, while Ogboru clinched the remaining four LGAs.

The Returning Officer announced that 18 political parties participated in the governorship election while there were 2, 044,372 registered voters and 1,017,796 accredited voters.

He said the exercise recorded 931,808 valid votes while 24,913 ballots were rejected.

“Okowa, having won the highest votes in the elections, which was contested and having satisfied the provisions of the law is hereby returned as winner and governorship-elect for Delta”, he declared to the admiration of the Delta State indigenes most of whom had began to celebrate even before the result was officially declared.

What culminated in the joy of the Ika people today was a journey of many years, nursed with enthusiasm but with trepidation of possible failure.

The second civilian Governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori who hails from Delta Central Senatorial zone actually set the ball rolling when at the twilight of his administration, he expressed hopes that the people of the state will come to realize the need to allow power rotate among the zones in the state.

The first civilian governor of the state, Sir Felix Ibru is also from Delta Central. His successor, Emmanuel Uduaghan, (Delta South) also bought into the idea and pursued it with vigour which culminated in the emergence of Senator Okowa, now as the Governor-elect of Delta state.

The events leading to the emergence of Okowa as the PDP candidate was intriguing, as well as interesting. While it was agreed that power should shift to Delta North, the power that be within the state settled for candidature of Sir Tony Chuks Obuh who had all hopes that he would be the next governor of the state on the platform of the PDP.

Obuh who had about three years to stay in the civil service, with the possibility of becoming the Head of Service of the state, threw in the towel August last year because of the encouragement he had from stakeholders in the Senatorial zone about his possibility of becoming the next governor of the state. However, fate had a different thing in stock for him as political permutations changed against him at the last minute.

With discord brewing within the ranks of Delta North stakeholders who at the time saw as many as 15 of their kits and kins showing serious interest in the PDP governorship ticket, while the Delta Central seem to have settled for a particular candidate, in person of Olorogun David Edevbie, the need to unite against a “common foe” became paramount.

In solving the logjam, the Anioma Congress, the umbrella socio-cultural cum political group of the Delta North people,  took the initiative to wade into the brewing crisis, and decided to speak with one voice on whom the zone will present as its choice candidate.

Okowa had the best of chances, placed side by side with other aspirants from the zone and his people refused to commit political murder as he was picked as the favoured candidate at the end of the screening exercise conducted by the Anioma Congress. Hon. Victor Ochei and Hon. Ndudi Elumelu came second and third respectively.

The preference for Okowa candidature by the Anioma Congress was not surprising as he was really experienced in the game having contested in 2007 for the PDP governorship ticket in 2007 but narrowly losing to Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan.

However, some other aspirants from the North Senatorial zone did not easily accept their fate, preferring to go to the poll to slug it out for the PDP governorship ticket.

The need for compromise and re-alignment was obvious, and with the open declaration of support of support for his candidature by one of the big guns in the Delta South Senatorial zone, Chief Government Ekpemupolo, who is popularly known as Tompolo, the game changed totally in his favour.

Rather than be a Delta North project, Okowa agenda genuinely, became a Pan Delta project with prominent stakeholders from the Delta Central joining the trail.

With an agreement reached with the people of Delta South on the choice of Barrister Kingsley Otuaro, an Ijaw from Warri South West, as the running mate to Okowa, preparation for PDP party primary was concluded with assurances of victory.

It is instructive to note also that while most of his colleagues one way or the other, gave to themselves Senatorial tickets as retirement benefits, Governor Uduaghan who was set to pick the Delta South Senatorial ticket, forgo it in an arrangement at ensuring fairness and show unwavering commitment to the Okowa project, while pleasing those who demanded personal sacrifice from him too.

The atmosphere at the Event centre, Asaba, the venue of the governorship primaries held on December 8, 2014, was that of apprehension among the camps of all the 26 aspirants, their supporters and the accredited delegates.

Eventually, Okowa won the expected Pan Delta Votes with as expected when he had majority votes of Bomadi, Patani, and Burutu Local Governments. Okowa also won solidly in Isoko North and South. The votes from Warri South and Warri South West also went to him.

He received about 45% votes from the Delta Central, which was big enough to minimize the impact of the 185 votes that Hon. Ochei received and the 50 and 49 votes that went to Hon. Elumelu and Elder Godsday Orubebe, respectively.

With the first line of battle won, the real project planning commenced, as all stakeholders across the state within the PDP family, put aside their differences, worked together and ensured victory for him at the main governorship poll last Saturday.

Winning more than two-third of the entire votes cast across the state, irrespective of the presence of other candidates from “majority ethnic” groups within the state is a clear indication that the jinx of unnecessary ethnic sentiment in leadership selection has gone for good in Delta state.

The jinx has eventually been broken.