There are emerging indications that Delta State will boil ahead of the general election next year. The political landscape will be different from that of three years ago when the last election was held. The forthcoming election will be a watershed with one hand firmly on the throne by a female aspirant in the state. She is so determined to completely grasp the throne that she believes has already been destined for a woman. There are a lot of contenders, some of them may be termed as underdogs, but political observers are saying the major contender with this female aspirant, is the senator currently representing Delta North. Now that the fight in Delta State is between one Woman and many men, the 35 per cent affirmative action for women sponsored by the wife of the president may give the female contender, Dr. Mrs Ngozi Olejeme an edge over others in 2015. All, the incumbent governor of the state, Dr Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan recently announced his intention to go to the senate as he ends his second term, with that declaration, unofficially the coast is clear.
Here in Ndokwa towards the end of 2013, political games were high, already members of the house of state assembly and their agents are already pasting posters and bill boards of the renewed intentions. So who says the game is yet to start in the state.
Or what can one say of the different type of political manoeuvring and alignment that took place this January, recently the only remaining opposition member in the state house of assembly moved to the ruling party. It also saw how the different trends on how the gladiators tried to meet with interests groups in the state. Apart from the various interest meetings, there were also political statements especially with the ruling party, PDP camps in Delta north that the right for the governorship come 2015 is that of the Delta North. And it had been zoned to them. These believe have produced many contenders for the post in Delta North, just like Dr. Ngozi Olejeme and Senator Okowa. All PDP members.
However, though the All Progressives Party structure is still trying to find its feet in Delta State, it is assumed to be second strong party in the state, and will give the ruling party, PDP a chase for her money, the party also have interest in the position of the governor of the state. And who comes rightly in mind, is Chief Fidelis Tilije Okenmor, the running mate to Chief Great Ogbolu in the 2011 governorship election in the state under the Democtratic Peoples Party (DPP).
There will also be people from Delta Central and south, people like Chief Gariel Gbagi. The list is endless. But among all the supposed aspirants what do they have to bring to government. What are their experiences? Do they have political structure? What is their strength and weaknesses? And most especially, as the year 2015 approaches, politicians from Delta North have not stopped reminding their brothers and sisters from the Central and South senatorial districts of Delta State that it is their turn to produce the next governor since it is the only senatorial district in the state which is yet to occupy the exalted office.
Delta North which hosts the state capital, Asaba, has nine local government areas, and three federal constituencies. It boasts of heavy weight politicians, seasoned administrators, technocrats and academics, who are known within and outside Nigeria and have contributed immensely to the political development of Delta State in particular and Nigeria in general. In all ramifications, Delta North has all it takes to produce a state governor in 2015 but the big question still remains if the Central and South senatorial districts which have tasted the plum office will support it.
However, as Delta Northerners keep hope alive; many pro-Anioma associations such as Anioma World Assembly, (AWA), Anioma Welfare Initiative (ANI), including social media such as Anioma Voice, Delta Decides, Deltan in Diaspora, G25 Assembly, Anioma Agenda, Izu Anioma among others have been formed to help achieve the Anioma dream come 2015.
Illustrious politicians from the area have started oiling their wheels for the tough race which if won will change the political history of the district.
Top among the governorship contenders from Delta North are: Rt. Hon Victor Ochei, Speaker Delta State House of Assembly and member representing Aniocha North local government, Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, chairman, Senate Committee on Health, representing Delta North in the Red chambers of the National Assembly, Prof Sylvester Monye Special Assistant to the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Measurement and Evaluation, Rt Hon Sam Obi, former Acting Governor and Speaker, and currently represents Ika North East in the State Assembly, Prof Pat. Utomi of the Lagos Business School, Lagos, Chief Godswill Obielum, a retired police officer, Mr. Ben Ngozi Enwose, a.k.a Ben Lion Heart, Dr. Judith Ngozi Olejeme, Chairman, National Insurance Trust Fund, Hon Ned Nwoko, DPP candidate in the 2011 National Assembly elections and Clement Ofuani, a former commissioner of Economic Planning in Delta State. And Fidelis Okenmor Tilije, a retired banker, former DPP now in APC.
So what do they have, their structures, weakness and strength?
1. RT. HON VICTOR OCHEI
Rt. Hon Victor Ochei is from Onicha-Olona, in Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State. He is an engineer by training and currently serving his third tenure as the member representing Aniocha North in the State Assembly. His elevation to the office of the Speaker at the beginning of the 5th State Assembly in June, 2011 no doubt boosted his political career and made him one of the political heavy weights in the State. The youthful and vibrant Victor Ochei is one of the politicians in the state who many Deltans believe has good working relationship with Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan. Since he assumed the office as a Speaker, he has been working round the clock to make sure he becomes governor in 2015. Although he is still rated average among the political class in terms of his experience, many still believe that he has all it takes to move Delta State forward, hence, he should be given the chance in 2015.
Victor Ochei has a solid financial base. His present position as Speaker of the State’s legislature seems to give him an advantage. He enjoys some measure of acceptance across the state. His handling of the affairs of the House of Assembly has endeared him to the people. He is a well-known philanthropist.
At the other side, he is seen as too independent minded and somewhat arrogant. Compared to okowa he might not be deeply rooted in the party. He at the moment seems not to have that smooth relationship he once had with the Governor and top party officials. Many are of the opinion that he does not carry much political weight even in his region and the Speaker’s position is what seems to give him whatever significance he yields now.
2. SENATOR IFEANYI ARTHUR OKOWA
Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, representing Delta North at the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly is one of the experienced political heavy weights in Delta State. His name is a household one in the state, particularly in Delta North, his senatorial district. Senator Okowa is known and envied for his political prowess, sagacity and the large followership which he commands. During his days in Delta State Government as Commissioners and Secretary to the Delta State Government, Senator Okowa demonstrated a lot of goodwill which today have made him to be outstanding in the state. He is a grassroots politician to the core as he is known in virtually all the local governments in the state.
Okowa, who is popularly address as Ekwueme by his teeming supporters contested the 2007 Delta State governorship election but lost to the incumbent governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan in the primaries. Although, he has not officially announced his ambition to the public, but there is a strong indication that he will not decline the calls to serve as governor come 2015 if Deltans chose him.
Okowa apart from distinguishing himself in the state has since he became a senator of the Republic of Nigeria contributed immensely to deliberations at the floor of the senate. He is presently the chairman Senate Committee on Health, a position many believed has boosted his political career.
However, Okowa may not have it rosy going to the government House despite his popularity as a result of many toes they said he stepped on while he was in Delta State government. Again many who do not believe in his style of politics may act as a stumbling block to his ambition in 2015.
He is a well-known grassroots mobilize and arguably the most popular politician in delta north’s history. He has very formidable financial artillery to prosecute a campaign of this magnitude. He is assumed to have some measure of federal might. There is alleged to have been a political agreement in 2007 that conceding the primaries to Uduaghan he would be given the ticket of the party (P.D.P) come 2015.
Despite his strength, he is considered by many (especially within the P.D.P) to be a betrayer and there are allegations of anti-party activities against him. He is also considered selfish and too unpredictable. Reports say he does not have a smooth relationship with the Governor and some top P.D.P. chieftains in the state. His Senatorial ambition might have weakened his influence in the state. There are reports that his actions in 2007 have not been forgotten. He is not the only one from his locality in the contest.
3. GODSWILL OBIELUM
Godswill Obielum, a retired police officer is from Ndokwa/Ukwuani Federal Constituency. He is a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party and one of the top contenders for the number one political office in the state in 2007. His chances in 2015 are not too certain as he has lost many of his supporters. It is believed that because he is the only aspirant from his area and his recent romance with the state government he might be considered for the plum job. Back in his Ndokwa Nation, he is accused of not carrying the people. And not coming out like the rest contenders.
4. PROFESSOR SYLVESTER MONYE
Professor Sylvester Monye is from Onicha-Ugbo, Aniocha North local government area. He is one of the revered and highly connected politicians in Delta State. His academic brilliance and closeness to the presidency might be an advantage to the actualization of his 2015 dream. Prof Monye though not too known in the State is vast in knowledge and that might be a boat with which he will sail to government House. However, he is one of the underdog. Someone you will love to be there if you are with him.
He is however, an intellectual man you will want to be in the elm of affair of the state house. He is close to the President. Reports say he is financially solid. However, He is not a politician. He is unpopular. He has not contested in any election before. He has no political structure.
5. DR. JUDITH NGOZI OLEJEME
Dr. Judith Ngozi Olejeme is the only female aspirant for the Delta State governorship seat at the moment. She is a philanthropist to the core judging by the millions of naira she has doled out to assist the less privileged people in the society particularly widows.
Dr. Olejeme who is currently the chairman National Social Insurance Trust Fund and a member of SURE-P at the National level is very serious of her ambition knowing well that no woman has governed Delta State since it was created in August 1991. She has the support of the Asagba of Asaba, Prof Chike Edozien as she is a native of Asaba. She contested in 2007 and failed but has refused to give up. Although she is not too known in the state, she might pull a surprise because of her closeness to the presidency. From our investigation, her 2007 campaign structure is still intact, headed by people like Emmanuel Uduaghan (not the Governor).
In keeping to the political trend in Delta State, it is obvious that Dr. Ngozi Olejeme is the only aspirant that has ‘service’ as an egalitarian idea. How else can immortality be defined? Frank Rooney says “Immortality is to keep others moving when you have stopped moving. After the 2007 election, it is only Dr Olejeme that kept her campaign structure as well as her humanitarian foundation office to service the needs of the less privileged in the society.
The brilliance of Dr. Mrs Ngozi Olejeme is in her simplicity. The recent distribution of empowerment and gift items by the U&I foundation across the three senatorial districts in the state is to deepen cultural relationship. It is really about helping the poor. The trip emphasis was about scholarship award by her foundation to motherless babies home.
The personal bias of Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan will also come into play. The governor is seeking for a successor who will be able to market Delta as Delta without oil; a governor who can build an economy beyond oil and it requires much more to achieve this than just being a politician. The assumption that leadership is for men while followership is for women has for long been broken by the track record of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala in finance and Dr Ngozi Olejeme in the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) and the Trust fund Pension Plc.
For the first time in the history of Nigeria, we were able to have a workable workers social welfare and compensation scheme that works. The NSITF under the leadership of Dr Olejeme has received the greatest re-invigoration both in content and in human resources. For a job well done, President Goodluck Jonathan has constantly been involving Dr Mrs Olejeme in every committee set up by the Federal Government based on her usefulness in today’s politics.
6. PROFESSOR PAT. UTOMI
Prof Pat Utomi is an erudite scholar, politician, administrator and public affairs analyst. He came into lime-light when he became Special Adviser to President Shehu Shagari at the age of 27 years. And as a co-founder of the famous Lagos Business School, Lagos, and the Pacific university, Prof Utomi is known all over Nigeria. He has presented papers in many important seminars both local and international. His gift of oratory and openness to the discourse of issues of national interest won him the hearts of many Nigerians. He was the presidential candidate of the Africa Democratic Congress (ADC) in the 2007 and 2011 presidential elections. His change of mind to join the race for the Unity House in 2015 has been described by many Deltans as a welcome development even though he has very little number of followers in Delta State.
7. HON NED NWOKO
Hon Ned Nwoko, the soft spoken gentle man is a former lawmaker who represented Aniocha/Oshimili in the House of Representatives. He contested the Delta State governorship election under the platform of All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) in 2003 but lost to Chief James Ibori. He was also the candidate of the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) in the 2011 Delta North Senatorial elections where he lost to Senator Ifeanyi Okowa. Nwoko is not only a rich politician but also a lawyer of international repute. He is very popular in Delta North and a philanthropist. He is no doubt one of the political heavy weights to watch in the 2015 governorship election.
9. BEN NGOZI ENWOSE (aka Ben Lion Heart)
Ben Ngozi Enwose, a.k.a, Ben Lion Heart hails from Ilah in Oshimili North local government area of the state. He is a retired Air force Officer and rumoured to have strong structures that will upstage the PDP in 2015. How he will be able to do the magic is still in doubt as he is not known in the state.
DR. FESTUS OKUBOR (IKA).
A medical doctor and an orator, Okubor was director of protocol to former governor James Ibori (the first no-career civil servant to be so appointed in the state), He later served as commissioner for Special duties, Health and Information still during the Ibori era. He was then appointed Chairman State Hospitals Management Board in 2007 by Gov. Uduaghan. In 2010, he headed the information office for the rerun election in the state and later he became the Deputy-Director General of the Delta State P.D.P. Campaign Organisation. Presently he is the Chief of Staff to the Delta State Government.
Festus Okubor, an astute politician, was the National Publicity Secretary of the defunct Grassroots Democratic Movement (G.D.M.) and one time Local Government Transition Committee Chairman of Ika north-east.
Reports say he is one of the few controversy-free politicians in the state. He is one of the founding fathers of the P.D.P. in the state and also a core loyalist of the Party. He is credited to have played a very crucial role in the re-election of incumbent governor Emmanuel Uduaghan. His closeness to the governor is not in doubt as many see his appointment as C.O.S as more than just a thank you from the Governor. He is an experienced, tested and trusted political tactician.
However, He is seen by some as a dark-horse and an under-dog. He has not contested for any elective position prior to now. There are doubts of his financial ability to bankroll a contest of this magnitude. He hails from the same locality as Senator Okowa
CLEMENT OFUANI (FCA).
An accountant, Ofuani studied at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, Enugu and the University of Lagos, Akoka.He was a former Economic Adviser to the Governor of Delta state, former Commissioner for Economic Planning and former Senior Special Assistant to the President (Yar’adua).
He presently is the principal partner at Ofuani Maidoh and Co.
Clement Ofuani has held some key positions at the state and federal level. He is an intellectual. Financially solid. Like Monye, He is not a politician. He has not contested for any elective office before. He is unpopular in the state. He has no political structure.
Chief Fidelis Tilije Okenmor.
In 2011 he ran as deputy to Chief Great Ogboru of the DPP. Okenmor as he is popular called is now of APC. Where he tends to pursue his agenda to become the governor od Delta State, come 2015.
A retired banker, but very active in local politics, from Ukwuani Local Government Area of the state, though in a different party, is the second person from Ndokwa nation well known to have interest in governing the state. In a recent interview with Ndokwa reporters he favours the Idea of the next governor coming from delta north.