The odds seem to be working in favour of immediate past governor of Delta State, Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, candidate of the All Progressives Congress for the Delta South senatorial seat in the red chamber of the National Assembly who is squaring up to the incumbent, James Manager, touted a formidable opponent by reason of his running on the platform of the ruling party in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party, and coming from the largest ethnic group in the senatorial district, Ijaw
By the end of the eighth National Assembly June this year, James Manager, incumbent senator for Delta South senatorial district, would have done 16 years as Senator representing the constituency. And evidently, he is not done yet. He is fighting hard to retain the seat in the February 16 presidential and National Assembly elections. The Senate of the Federal Republic has become his farm. The lure of the bountiful harvest in terms of the mouth-gaping jumbo remuneration package and other perquisites of office enjoyed by members is too attractive to let go the farm for another to take over. And if his threat to violently resist an attempt by the erstwhile sitting governor of the state, Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan to wrest the ticket from him in 2015 is anything to go by, Manager, even now, has not back-tracked on his resolve to protect the seat with the last drop of his blood. Interestingly, the same opponent he easily stampeded out of the race in 2015, is the one standing up to him this time around as a major challenger. But unlike in previous contests when he effortlessly had his way, today’s reality is that it would not be a walk in the park for him. This is because since then, a lot of things has changed. One, they both no longer belong to the same party, Uduaghan having taken his political destiny in his own hands to dump the PDP when it became obvious to him that some powerful forces in the party, out of political vendetta, were all out to humiliate him and reduce him to a feather-weight in a party where he was a commissioner, secretary to government, SSG, and governor for eight years, by denying him its senatorial ticket. Secondly, the former governor has been able to achieve what many political pundits never thought was possible – uniting the party which over the years, had been in disarray and working at cross-purposes. The lack of cohesion and unity of purpose had been the bane of the party’s electoral fortunes in the past. The PDP had hoped to once again benefit from the APC’s intra-party disharmony to over-run it in the coming elections. Unfortunately for it, all the contending forces appear to have aligned to put up a good fight in the elections.
Thirdly, and perhaps very weighty, is the seeming ethnic realignment amongst the group of three (G3) -Isoko, Ijaw, and Itsekiri, popularly called the Three I’s – which make up the Delta South senatorial zone, a development which, from all indications, is working in favour of the former governor. After 16 years of representation by the Ijaw ethnic group, the people of the constituency appear desirous, and indeed determined, for a shift to another leg of the tripod for the sake of fairness, equity
For Uduaghan however, lines are falling for him in pleasant places with his record of service as governor being his major strength in the electoral contestation. This much is evident in the kind of endorsements he had received from various quarters since he started his consultations and door-to-door campaigns across the three ethnic divides in the last quarter of 2018. Most uncommon of such endorsements was that of traditional rulers from Isoko North and South. They were unequivocal in spelling it out to him that his adoption as their
Speaking in a similar vein in Ozoro at the palace of Anthony Ogbogbo, Idudu 1, Ovie of Ozoro kingdom, royal fathers from Isoko North local government area said they would not forget in a hurry Uduaghan’s support for the traditional institution when he was governor, noting how he accorded the traditional institution its due respect and as well, raised the status of royal fathers to an enviable position in the country. It was
Uduaghan had in his speeches at the palaces of monarchs of the two local government areas, said he was in Isoko land to intimate them of his vision before officially flagging off his senatorial campaign in the areas. He noted that as a former Secretary to the State Government, SSG and Secretary to the State Security Council, and later as a governor of the state, he had deep knowledge of the enormous role traditional rulers play in helping to ensure peace and security. “One of the reasons why I am seeking your support to go to the Senate is that I believe that our traditional institution should have legal backing in their role in ensuring peace in the country. I also believe that as people from oil-producing communities, we should have a major stake in the ownership of the oil and gas companies in our communities. Through this, our communities will benefit more from the oil and gas that is derived from our area”, the APC senatorial candidate told his hosts.
The medical doctor turned politician also promised to push for the cleaning of impacted communities, stressing that based on his experience as a governor, so much could be done to create jobs for unemployed youths in the region, while also ensuring that infrastructure reaches the people of the area. Uduaghan made a solemn pledge that as a senator, he would represent the interest of Isoko Nation and ensure that their pains were addressed by the federal government.
Apart from the traditional rulers, the umbrella body of Isoko ethnic nationality, Isoko Development Union, IDU, a socio-political group, had also endorsed the candidacy of the former governor. The endorsement came two days after that of the monarchs. Justifying the endorsement, President-General of IDU, Iduh Amadhe, noted at the IDU Unity House in Oleh, Isoko South, that “the political representation quagmire at the Senate has been giving us
The Delta South senatorial candidate kicked off his consultation visits September last year from his Itsekiri homestead. At the palace of Olu of Warri, Ogiame Ikenwoli, to intimate him why he was in the race, Uduaghan opined that the Niger Delta needed her first eleven at the Senate, stressing that “Delta South, and indeed all of Niger Delta, cannot afford to pass on this opportunity to send her best hands to the Senate to consolidate on the gains of the Buhari-led APC administration in our rich region”. He said as a two-term former Governor, he would also be available to other ethnic groups who wish to use his influence to get the Federal Government’s attention to their demands. “Politics of inclusiveness is the answer to our cries for even development in the Niger Delta -not a divisive one that has brought our region to its lowest ebb politically”, he told the Olu.
Apart from Isoko land, Uduaghan’s senatorial ambition has also enjoyed massive endorsements from numerous groups in the other two ethnic nationalities of Ijaw and Itsekiri. These include Ijaw Liberation Movement, Ijaw Women for Good Governance, Burutu Political Vanguard for Good Governance, and National Association of Itsekiri Graduates, NAIG, amongst others. Throwing their weight behind the former governor even before he picked the APC ticket, Ijaws, under the aegis of Ijaw Liberation Movement in Ijaw land, expressed their desire to have him represent them “this time around”. The group ’s leader, Peremotebi Simeon, said they wanted their son, Manager, to serve out his four tenures of 16 years in the Senate after which Uduaghan from the Itsekiri nationality, should succeed him. In his words, “ the only dynamic thing is change. I am not saying our brother did not do well or is not doing well, but I believe a fresh candidate will bring something fresh to the table for our own benefit. “We had followed Dr. Uduaghan’s painstaking effort to develop our area, nay the whole state, while he was governor of Delta State. We are also aware that he stepped down for our son to continue a few years ago, so he is the most suitable person for the job now. Above all, we the Ijaws benefitted so much from his government. Now it’s pay-back time as one good turn deserves another”.
Ijaw Women for Good Governance, (IWGG) on their part, said though the incumbent, Senator James Manager had been there for over 15 years, the people of Delta South had not felt his impact in the zone as “every part of the senatorial district smells backwardness” stressing that “the time has come for dynamism to be introduced into representation in Delta South Senatorial District to make our people smile for once”. While stating that they were not really interested
For the aspiring senator, it was a pleasant and welcome new year gift from the National Association of Itsekiri Graduates who on January 1, endorsed him as their candidate. In its 2019 new year message to Itsekiri graduates world-wide signed by its National President, Collins Oritsetimeyin Edema, the association explained that after several consultations with different interest groups and critical stakeholders, it concluded that amongst the four Itsekiri candidates gearing to represent the district, “Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan stands a better chance to wrest power from the incumbent senator who has under-performed”. Appealing to the conscience of his members, Edema said “the 2019 general election is a choice between immediate financial gains and sustainable development…Our choice in the 2019 general elections will either lead to the completion of the dredging of the Warri River or the suspension of the project. Our choice in the 2019 general elections will either lead to the opening of the Warri and Koko ports or the continuous closure of those ports. Our choice in the 2019 general elections will either lead to the commencement of work on the Gas Revolution Industrial Park (GRIP), Ogidigben, or the continuous hopelessness we face. Our choice in the 2019 general elections will either lead to the passage of the bill for the establishment of the Federal Polytechnic, Koko into law or the suspension of the bill. Our choice in the 2019 general elections will either lead to the gazetting and revival of the $5million vocational training center, Egbokodo that is in a sorry state, or the continuous neglect”.
According to the NAIG president, “my plea is premised on the fact that this election is our best chance yet to liberate the good people of Delta South Senatorial District from the incumbent political “Mugabe” hence we should not allow our personal ambition to becloud our collective ambition. It is better to be anti-party than to be anti-Itsekiri. Political parties will come and go but the Itsekri nation will remain. We need to make