Prior to the annulment of the April 2007 governorship elections in Delta state by the Justice Monica Bon Gbam Mensen Court Appeal sitting in Benin in November, 2010, Dr. Uduaghan was almost sure of coasting home to victory in the 2011, Delta state gubernatorial elections. He had already set up his campaign organization, picked up his nomination form for a second term, settled with the national PDP, which even appointed him as the Chairman of the Fund raising committee of the party and equally managed to partially neutralize the influence of chief E. K Clark in the power game over who is in charge of the Delta PDP.
His confidence was such that he had even held critical meetings with political aspirants of the PDP at all levels in two senatorial districts of the state (the third was on the cards) and had told them in clear terms that he would not endorse anybody. He was on top of the game and had his opponents, both in the PDP and outside, in a fix. Then the bombshell landed, the election was annulled and now he must go for a new election.
THE REASONS WHY UDUAGHAN MAY WIN RE-RUN ELECTION
THE PDP IN DELTA: There is no doubt that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is the only party that has a vibrant operational structure in Delta state today, despite the fact that it is embroiled in some internal membership crises. An analysis of the other key parties in the state reveal that the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) is presently involved in a leadership problem since the departure of Peter Okocha back to the PDP. The Chairman of the Party Chief Sam Egwerome is fighting the politcal battle of his life to remain on seat, especially with the purported arrival into the fold of Chief Great Ogboru and Barr. Ovie Omo-Agege.
The Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) on the other hand has only been a party in name and signpost as it has not engaged in any visible political activity apart from fleeting statements from its chairman, Chief Tony Ezeagwu after court cases. Even its guber candidate Great Ogboru had been reporetd to have crossed over to the ACN to enhance his political fortunes, but now that he has won the right to re-contest the election it is left to be seen, what structures will be put on ground for the DPP as rumours also have it that he will quickly decamp to the PDP if he wins the forthcoming re-run elections.
The Labour Party is the third serious party in the state, but even in the words of its gubernatorial candidate Olorogun Abel Edijala, the party had been dormant since after the 2007 elections and is only now planning to dust up its old manisfesto from where it had been gathering dust to see how relevant it will be in the re-run.
The other Political parties are what is refered in political parlance as ‘Briefcase Parties’ and most of them had already thrown their weight behind the second term bid of Dr. Uduaghan before the Court of Appeal judgement.
THE POLITICAL AMBITIONS / EGO OF HIS OPPONENTS
Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan will face three two formidable opponents in the forth coming re-run elections namely Great Ogboru, Ovie Omo-Agege and Chief E.K Clark and the only way he can be defeated is if the three of them come together and put up one common front to battle him. But that is not very likely if the statements and actions coming from those camps are anything to go by.
Great Ogboru had already believed and even stated categorically that he was the only eligible candidate to contest against Dr. Uduaghan in the re-run. But he did not realize that Ovie Omo-Agege, as a wily political schemer had already discovered that the candidate of the Republican Party of Nigeria (RPN) was late and this offered him a clear opportunity, under the law to be nominated by the RPN for the re-run. He has since got the ticket of the party, informed INEC of the development and is well poised to contest the election, pending INEC’s endorsement. Omo-Agege’s doggedness and his vigourous campaign has lefy no one in doubt that it will be difficult, if not impossible to get him to step down for anybody.
Political analysts are of the opinion that both Ogboru and Omo-Agege will divide the votes in Delta central which is their power base. They are also expected to share the votes with Dr. Uduaghan in Ndokwa/ Ukwuani where Ogboru’s running, Fidelis Tilijie, is from and in some parts of Oshimili, Aniocha and Ika axis where Omo-Agege has made important inroads by appealing to the sentiments of those who feel that the present Anioma political leaders have betrayed the larger Anioma nation by opting to wait for 2015 to contest and supposedly win the governorship of the state, which is by no means a done deal.
Both Ogboru and Omo-Agege are very much aware that if either of them wins, then the other will have to wait for another four or even eight years to become governor and by then, the Aniomas would be very much in the race. The best option therefore may be to allow Dr. Uduaghan win the re-run and then prepare to give him a real battle in the general elections in 2011. But that is if the Courts intepret that his tenure will end in 2011 instead of a fresh tenure which will end in 2015. For both Ogboru and Omo-Agege therefore, this is the best opportunity for either man to become the governor of Delta state and after all the efforts and resources they have put into their governorship ambition since 2003 till date, it will be a huge miracle to get any of them to step down for the other.
Chief E.K Clark on the other hand has made it clear that he will not support Great Ogboru this time around, because Ogboru ‘chickened out’ of the struggle to fight Uduaghan after he was declared wanted for murder and even arrested and taken to Abuja, following the 2007 elections. Chief Clark has also reportedly fallen out with Ovie Omo-Agege because of the decision of Omo-Agege to continue his governorship quest. It had been rumoured in the days before the annulment, the Chief Clark had done a power sharing deal with Dr. Uduaghan, which would give him the power to produce his own candidates for the other elective positions from his camp and Senatorial district, while the Uduaghan camp would produce the governorship candidate and some other elected officers from the other senatorial zones, amongst others. The claim was that since Chief Clark’s son was running for the House of Representatives in the PDP, it would only be politically expedient for some compromise to be reached to ensure the ticket for the younger Clark. This, according to some sources, was what led to the decamping of Omo-Agege and Senator Adego Eferakeya, from the PDP. But with the annulment of the 2007 election, the political permutations have taken a whole new look, the alleged power sharing agreement between Clark and Uduaghan has been torn to shreds and it is now everyman for himself.
Which may explain why Chief Clark, according to Delta watchers, has renewd his battle to ensure that Dr. Uduaghan does not return as Governor of Delta state, with intensified vigour.
The only axis where Uduaghan is expected to have a landslide is in Delta South where his Itsekiri kinsmen will vote for him enmasse and some parts of Isoko too, although it is rumoured that the running battle between the ALGON Chairman, Delta state, Chief Askia Ogeah and some of his staff who were sacked some time ago will come back and haunt the Uduaghan campaign in that area of Isokoland.
There is also the calculation that the Ijaws may decide to support the opposition especially with the rumours making the rounds that Dr. Uduaghan is not working for President Jonathan. The recent decision of one of his strong ally Peter Biakpara (an Ijaw man) to decamp from the President Jonathan campaign and join forces with Atiku Abubakar, on the grounds of an Abuja High Court ruling on Zoning in the PDP, is an indication of this thinking, according to pundits.
Again, there are strong feelers that Elder Godsday Orubebe may have aligned with certain opposition to ensure that Governor Uduaghan does not return to Government House Asaba again, whether in the re-run or in the General elections. A new political movement called the United Democratic Party (UDP), a party which enjoys the full patronage of some very top PDP kingpins in Delta state, has been set up to fulfill that purpose and Delta Focus has reliably learnt that some top PDP chieftains, who are unhappy with the way some leaders in the party are imposing themselves in the state are planning to use the new Party, UDP, as platform to sponsor candidates against those endorsed by the PDP leaders in the various senatorial zones. The UDP is also said to have teamed up with a new coalition called the United Congress for Change UCC, a political pressure group set up for the very purpose of joining forces with the Rainbow Coalition of Great Ogboru, to stop Dr. Uduaghan during the re-run election.
But all these are mere permutations and will only be realized when the forces arrayed against Dr. Uduaghan decide to come together and fight him. But, according to analysts, there very big egos at play here and the chances of them working together is quite slim. Ogboru, they say has been embarassed and humiliated not once, but twice by the Ibori political machinery. The second in 2007 was even more humilating because he was declared wanted and even arrested after suffering a crushing defeat at the polls and the beneficiary had been Emmanuel Uduaghan. Ovie Omo-Agege is still smarting from the manipulation, allegedly masterminded by James Ibori, which edged him out at the last minute and planted Emmanuel Uduaghn as the Delta state PDP Governorship candidate in 2007. As if this was not enough, it was alleged that Uduaghan, while he he was governor, sponsored and instigated a certain Chief Andi Osawota, former Secretary of the Delta state Oil producing Areas Development Commission, (DESOPADEC) to give Omo-Agege a fight in his own Orogun Kingdom, which led to a forced relocation to Abuja, where he found solace and political rejuvenation in Aso Rock, with the emergence of Goodluck Jonathan as President of Nigeria.
Both Ogboru and Omo-Agege are men with very big egos and with Chief James Ibori out of the way and embroiled in his own battle for political survival with the British authorities over money laundering charges; (a case which has already nailed his wife, his mistress and his sister) they are more than convinced that this is the best time to tackle Dr. Uduaghn and stretcher him out once and for all. But is that possible? Delta watchers are not convinced that this will happen and if that is the case, then Dr. Uduaghan is sure to win the re-run
INEC AND THE VOTERS REGISTER
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has made it categorically clear that it will use the old voters register to conduct the Delta state re-run election. The new state Resident Electoral Commission Dr. Godwin Adah has confirmed that no new voters registration will take place and while efforts will be made to ensure that the cases of missing voters cards are addressed, the election will be a litmus test for INEC in preparation for the 2011 general elections and will be conducted strictly on one man one vote procedure.
This stand by INEC according to Delta watchers, is quite instructive, because according to them, it is only the PDP and its supports that may have supposedly secured and maintained their voters cards as the only party engaged in constant political activity since the 2007 elections. Most supporters of the other political parties may have been too disappointed with the results of that election and simply thrown their cards away of forgotten where they threw them into. Others may have even been unhappy with the way the Uduaghan administration had run the state since 2007 and moved out of town. Some others still may have even vowed to themselves to ensure they register in the forthcoming voters registration and so may not be around for the re-run. In the final analysis, the situation, according to political analysts, is that the number of eligible voters will be greatly reduced in comparison with what was witnessed in 2007 and if INEC succeeds with its one man one vote agenda, then the number will even be lesser.
The point which pundits make with this scenario is that it is not the crowds that win elections but the registered voters. Thus, the massive crowds which had been identified with some candidates may just be mere propaganda, because most of them may not have registered as eligible voters in 2007 and therefore will not be eligible to vote in the re-run. The fact that the PDP could still have more registered supporters than any other party in Delta state, is very much a possibility and if that is the case then Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan will surely secure a majority of those votes and go on to win the re-run. The fact that Dr. Uduaghan has embarked to a peace and fence mending mission with those whom he feels he had neglected or embarrassed in the past is a clear sign that he understands what is needed to be done to get to those who are likely to be the eligible voters in the re-run. But whether they are ready to forgive him and believe in his promises to change for the better is still a matter that hangs in the balance as we approach the re-run.
THE ANIOMA FACTOR
It is no longer a secret that the people of Anioma have set their eyes on 2015 as the year when the governorship of Delta state will rotate to Delta North. As a result, some of their top leaders have sacrificed their political reputation on the alter of speculation and earlier given Delta South and Dr. Uduaghan the mandate for eight years. But with the nullification of the 2007 election and the re-run ordered by the courts, Anioma is once again in the eye of the storm. The situation is even more complex because the 2015 arrangement is only a PDP affair and there is no guarantee that Delta central will not make a bid after Uduaghan’s tenure.
To further complicate issues, Omo-Agege has promised that he will make sure Anioma gets the governorship in 2015 as part of his campaign strategy to win their votes. So, the calculation is simple; give Uduaghan or Omo-Agege the re-run or another term and get the 2015 slot or give Ogboru the re-run and perhaps forget the governorship till 2019.
Chances are that Ogboru and Omo-Agege may divide the anti Uduaghan votes between themselves while the pro-Uduaghan block, which is quite substantial will be intact. If this happens then Anioma, which has traditionally been the deciding factor in any Delta election may once again deliver Uduaghan.
Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan is the only candidate in the re-run, who has the advantage of having served as a sitting governor and thus has a list of achievements to his his name in the three years of his administration, which have been well chronicled by his supporters. They visible ones include the street lights, the Delta city airconditioned taxis and buses, the free maternal care and free medical care for under Fives and the aged, the payment of examination fees for pupils and of course the big screen televisions. But the most important of all his achievements is the Micro Credit scheme under the astute management of Dr. Antonia, which has brought laurels and awards to Governor Uduaghan and Delta state.
Dr. Uduaghan’s re-run campaign has expectedly been targeted at those who have been direct beneficiaries of these programmes and many analysts believe that those persons who have benefited from such government initiatives like the micro-credit, the free maternal care and the massive crowds at the viewing centres were the big screen televisions are located across the state, will surely vote for Dr. Uduaghan in the re-run, provided they are registered as eligible
voters in Delta state.
From the foregoing, Delta political pundits are of the opinion that Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan stands a better chance of winning the forthcoming re-run elections in Delta state, but they also affirm that Dr. Uduaghan still has a lot to do to assure Deltans that his return will be much better than the last three years of his administration, if he eventually wins the re-run. Otherwise a run-off will be the most likely option in the long run