PDP Braces For The Battle Of Delta
By Pius Mordi
Unlike in previous years, the 2019 gubernatorial elections in Delta state is going to be a different ball game. In the four previous elections to elect governors in the state, apart from that of 1999 when every party started on equal footing, subsequent ones from 2003 to 2015, had seen the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) operate as the incumbent. The incumbency had the crucial added spice of also being the party in power in Abuja.
Although it remains the incumbent in the coming election, it no longer has the luxury of coordination from Abuja after it lost the presidency in the 2015 elections.
And with the much vaunted vow of Adams Oshiomhole, national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), to “snatch” the state from PDP, the nature of the battle to retain control of the state has taken a more exciting dimension.
Inaugurating the Delta state PDP campaign council on December 10, Ifeanyi Okowa, governor of the state who is seeking re-election, was unfazed about the challenges ahead. The campaign council is a coalition of the major political actors and leaders in the state.
Leading the council is Prof. Sam Oyovbaire, a former information Minister, as Chairman, Ned Nwoko, a former Federal Lawmaker, Vice Chairman and Funkekeme Solomon, Director-General.
The 60-member team also has Chief James Ibori, the first of the succession of PDP governors in the State alongside his then deputy, Chief Benjamin Elue and another former deputy governor, Prof. Amos Utuama.
“As we go into the campaign, it should be issue based, we are confident that there is a lot of achievements for us to campaign with which will earn us victory. Other persons may go out there to insult people and say what they do not know, don’t respond to such persons, tell the story of where we have been, where we are today and what we will do because, we have a lot of projects that if you are looking at projects to commission, we have a lot; we have commissioned several projects and there is a lot more to be commissioned,” Okowa said while inaugurating the Campaign Council.
Okowa who became governor using his belief in the politics of grassroots is hinging his strategy on direct penetration of the communities.
Not a few people were taken aback when Kingsley Esiso, Delta State chairman of the PDP, deployed many of the leaders generally seen as political heavy weights to the local government areas. Prof. Utuama, Chief Martins Okonta, Chief Nkem Okwuofu, Chief Edwin Uzor, Dr. Joseph Otumara as well as all serving commissioners were deployed to serve in the 25 local government areas as campaign chairmen and coordinators.
It is a page taken from Okowa’s manual on grassroots politics. Each of them are expected to concentrate on unit and ward levels.
“We want grassroots based campaign. Campaign at the unit levels; we must tell our people what Governor Okowa has done in the last three years and that Deltans believe in zoning.
Delta State has turn by turn zoning, the people have accepted the principles of zoning,” Esiso stated.
Recounting the achievements of his administration, the governor said the state was the first to introduce and implement the contributory health insurance scheme in the country and the state human capital development remained number one.
“Our technical colleges have received lots of awards and many youths and women in the state have been impacted through our jobs creation and entrepreneurial programmes.
We are committed to making things better and in three years, our tertiary institutions have had all their courses accredited.
And on road construction, we have done well and many more will be constructed.
In sports, our youths have been encouraged and I have made promises without regrets because any Deltan that has done well will be rewarded and we must continue to encourage our people,” he said.
Funkekeme Solomon, Director General of the campaign organisation, said the fact that PDP lost control of the federal government will not affect its fortunes in Delta State.
“If you recall, in the 2015 election where the presidential election came first, PDP lost at the federal level before the governorship election. It didn’t affect the fortunes of the party as we justifiably retained the seat.
Some people had come up with the term band wagon effect to explain the loss in some other States. It cannot apply to PDP in Delta State,” Solomon stated.
The campaign Director General said the 2019 election is a straightforward approach for the PDP. “We have a straightforward case of anchoring on the achievements of the governor to drive our campaign. Unlike what the APC is grappling with at the federal level, Senator Okowa is man that has transformed the state. The people can attest to his sterling achievements and distribution of amenities in an equitable manner,” Solomon said.
The Director of Publicity of the Campaign Organisation, Dr. Ifeanyi Osuoza, said despite having a lot to showcase over the stewardship of Okowa since he became governor, the PDP is not taking thorough planning for granted. “Our campaign is the best organised and most encompassing.
When you look at the composition of the members of the campaign team and their deployment, you will see that the emphasis is on reaching the grassroots. The governor is a grassroots man and in all he does and throughout his political career, he has always put the people first.
Of course, our campaign is issue based and like Dr. Okowa stated, our strategy will eschew the use of indecorous language and attacks of personalities. It’s a template we hope other parties will adopt”, Osuoza said.
Indeed, while inaugurating the campaign team, Okowa had expressly cautioned against divisive use of words. “Tell the people the truth about what we have done because we have done well to deserve their support and votes,” Okowa stated, charging the campaign team to go all out in one mind and to reconcile their differences in order to achieve success.
Mr. Timi Tonye, chairman of publicity in the campaign committee and member of the State House of Assembly, said the fact that PDP already has a head start by organising its campaign machinery to reach every corner of the state ahead of every other party involved in the gubernatorial election, attests to the fact that the party is not banking on its strength. “We have a story to tell, a story of stellar projects and programmes executed by our governor. That is where the true strength of Delta PDP lies. The depth of the achievements and the spread of the projects in an equitable manner can easily be attested to by every community.
We are confident that the people cannot gamble with their future knowing that they have a governor who has demonstrated enormous capacity to deliver even more,” Tonye said.
For Prof, Oyovwaire, the performance of Governor Okowa in the past three years will make the campaign easy as Deltans are aware that they will gain more in the next four years.
He also pledged that the Council will also work for the election of the party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, come 2019 general election.
In the 19 years of the fourth Republic, PDP has produced all the three governors in the State. Anchored on the unwritten rule of rotation among the three senatorial districts, Delta Central produced Chief James Ibori who ruled for two terms, handing over to Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan from Delta South in 2007. After two terms, Okowa, from the Anioma nation that make up Delta North, was elected in 2015.
Based on the expectation that Delta North is entitled to two terms, the PDP is confident that it’s candidate will emerge victorious.
“It is a strong factor as Deltans believe in equity. But beyond that, PDP has a candidate in Okowa that has endeared himself to the people through his numerous projects and emphasis in job creation. Many young men and women have been taken off the street and have become employers of labour themselves.
It’s a project Okowa has mastered and he is going to do more in his second term. The people know that,” Solomon added.