The Governorship and State Assembly Elections will hold across Nigeria on Saturday, March 18, 2023. In this report, NKPOTU EKALUGBU examines the chances of the top contenders in the race in Delta State.
In less than twenty four hours, the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly Elections would be holding across Nigeria. Eligible voters would be filing out in their numbers to exercise their franchise by casting their ballot for the choice candidates on both elections.
In Delta State, the race is pretty tight as there are as many as six strong contenders seeking to succeed Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, the incumbent governor of the state. In view of the gentleman's agreement on power rotation, all the governorship candidates hail from the Central Senatorial District, the home of the Urhobo ethnic group.
A glance at the list of the contestants shows that some of them are well known politicians who had contested the same election in the past while there are a few new faces. The race parades the following notable contestants: Rt Hon Sheriff Oborevwori, People's Democratic Party (PDP); Sen Ovie Omo- Agege, All Progressives Congress (APC); Mr Ken Pela, Labour Party (LP); Chief Great Ogboru, All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA); Chief Kenneth Gbagi, Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Comrade Sunny Ofehe, Young Progressives Party (YPP).
Rt Hon Sheriff Oborevwori is the current Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly (DTHA) and candidate of the PDP in the governorship election. Oborevwori is a native of Osubi in Okpe LGA of the state and had his political tutelage as a community youth leader. His candidacy has been dogged by several allegations including falsification of age and academic records, but he survived all the forces that threatened his emergence. As the candidate of the ruling party in the state, Oborevwori is seen by critics as a protege of Okowa, the incumbent governor of the state. In the build up to the election, Oborevwori campaigned with the achievements of the Okowa administration in the last eight years and promised to build on the success stories.
Ouite frankly, his emergence has torn the PDP. into two as some party faithful who do not like him have moved over to the APC and other opposition platforms. One half of the party believed to be loyal to Chief James Ibori, the former Governor of the State, wanted Chief David Edevbie as the standard bearer but Okowa insisted on Oborevwori. This internal wrangling, coupled with the presence of a number of other strong contenders in the race might make the election a hard nut for the PDP and its candidate.
OMO – AGEGE
Omo – Agege is the current Deputy Senate President and candidate of the APC. Until a few years ago, Omo – Agege was a member of the Peoples Democratic Party where he served as a Commissioner and later as Secretary to the State Government.
In many circles, Omo – Agege is regarded as the main challenger in the Saturday governorship poll given his position at the National Assembly and that of his party at the federal level. In the last eight years of his being in the federal legislature, Omo- Agege is said to had influenced a lit of development projects to his constituency and now hopes to reap a harvest of votes. But politics is not Mathematics and whatever constituency projects he may have attracted might not be enough to yield the quantum of votes he requires to win the polls.
Pela, the governorship candidate of the LP comes from a political dynasty dating back to the 1970s. His father and one of his elder brothers were politicians while he had also contested for the Chairmanship of Ughelli South LGA but was not successful at that time.
However, he has become a formidable force given the party he represents and the exploits of the Obidient Movement on the Presidential and National Assembly Elections. Pela parades a rich manifesto and has managed to warm himself into the hearts of the people.
In the course of the campaigns, he promised to increase the minimum wage for workers in the state to N100,000 if elected as governor. He has also guaranteed the people of Delta the best of roads, hospitals and schools if they vote for him.
“If you notice I am not talking too much about building roads, I am not talking too much about healthcare and all that because those are the rights of our people. I guarantee Deltans they will have the best roads, the best roads, the best hospitals and the best schools.
“But what we will do is to engender prosperity in the land and we have an eight-point agenda, eight prosperity drivers that will enable prosperity. The first is that we will pay a living wage; we are planning to break the minimum wage progressively to N100,000 a month, we are looking at 60,000 almost immediately,” he said.
The Labour Party candidate said he will cut waste and corruption to ensure money is freed to carry out the promises.
Pela said that he will ensure fiscal autonomy for the local governments in the state to ensure they get the necessary funds to execute projects and also ensure that the quality of the workforce in the local governments is improved.
As beautiful as these promises might look, Pela may find it difficult to clinch victory at the polls because of the rare dynamics of Delta politics. At best, the LP might succeed in snatching a handful of state assembly seats at the end of the day.
Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru, the governorship candidate of APGA, is a household name across Delta State. Ogboru has been a dogged fighter and a serial contestant, having taken part in every governorship election in Delta State since 2003. The fish merchant turned politician has switched political platforms on a number of occasions to actualise his dreams but all to no avail. Some political analysts familiar with the political trajectory of the state claim that Ogboru won some of those elections he contested but was shortchanged by the system.
Once again, Ogboru looks determined to do battle and pick the crown this time around, but the dynamics of elections do change at every season.
One major disadvantage which might hamper progress is the platform he has chosen to run with this time around. APGA is not particularly popular in the state and might be a hard sell.
Chief Kenneth Gbagi, lawyer, businessman and politician is also a familiar personality in the state. He once served as Minister of State for Education during the Goodluck Jonathan administration. Gbagi sees Delta State as a potential industrial hub waiting to be harnessed. As someone with investments in the food and hospitality sectors, Gbagi is itching to lay his hands on the plough to boost the economic fortunes of the state. However, he is running on a platform that is not particularly popular in Delta State.
Comrade Sunny Ofehe is about the youngest in the 2023 governorship race in Delta State. Incidentally, he is running on the platform of the Young Progressives Party (YPP), one of the 18 registered political parties in the country. Ofehe who is a Nigerian Diasporan based on Rotterdam, Holland is man of ideas. He is deeply fascinated about Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) and what global business partnerships could do to revive the ailing economy of Delta State. Although his messages has made some positive impacts on the young people in Delta State, he might not get the required number of votes to give him victory.
There is palpable tension across the length and breadth of the state because tomorrow's election is expected to throw up a new leadership for the state. Since 1999, the PDP had held sway in Delta State and is considered by many as the stronghold of the party. However, it is becoming evident that some parts of the state are getting tired of the dominance of the PDP and are craving for a change after Governor Ifeanyi Okowa's tenure expires. The performance of the PDP during the February 25 Presidential and National Assembly Elections showed that the PDP was losing ground and this appears to had emboldened the opposition. It will be a fight to finish for the PDP and APC while the other contenders would struggle to push both of them out of the way.
On the long run, the fate of the state will be decided by the electorate casting their ballots at their different polling units across the 25 Local Government Areas of the state.