In Delta State the struggle for power continues

13th February 2023

In heterogeneous states, there is always a tendency for disputes to exist among different ethnic groups and factions. This holds true in Delta State, an oil-producing state in the South-South geopolitical zone of Nigeria. As a result of its multi-ethnic nature, different ethnic and interest groups are always in a tussle for relevance and dominance. And the gubernatorial election is the battleground, which determines the status and fate of each group. The ethnic groups in Delta State are: Igbo, Ijaw, Ika, Isoko, Itsekiri, Olukumi, Ukwuani and Urhobo.

The dominant political party in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has maintained some sort of power-rotation agreement, which has won every Delta State governorship election since 1999. James Onanefe Ibori was Delta State’s Governor from 29 May 1999 to 29 May 2007. He was of Urhobo descent, and after his two-term tenure, he was replaced by Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, who is of Itsekiri origin. The current governor, Arthur Ifeanyi Okowa came in after Mr Uduaghan, and the rotation model made him the first governor from the Anioma region, which is the Igbo speaking region of the state. Dr Okowa is completing two terms, like the other governors, and is now in the race for the country’s vice-presidency.

As the state gears up for the governorship election, some aggrieved individuals within the PDP are not pleased with the PDP’s decision to pick an Urhobo candidate as Dr Okowa’s replacement rather than an Ijaw candidate. The Urhobo candidate in question is the current Delta State House of Assembly’s Speaker, Sheriff Oborevwori, who won the primaries with 590 votes while his closest rival, David Edevbie, the finance commissioner during the James Ibori administration, got only 113 votes.

Mr Edevbie is backed by his former boss, James Ibori, who some fear could work against the PDP candidate, Mr Oborevwori. But that would be difficult to achieve because of the inadequacy of other major candidates to quench the ongoing ethnic dissatisfaction.

A good example of this is the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate and Deputy Senate President, Mr Ovie Omo-Agege, who is Urhobo himself and is, therefore, unable to stand as a viable option for those seeking tribal justice. Notwithstanding, with the absence of key figures such as James Ibori, David Idevbie, Emmanuel Uduaghan, and Senator James Manager in his campaign rallies, Mr Oborevwori is facing push-back in his efforts to appease and unite the PDP’s factions.

The PDP is fighting for a return to Aso Rock, and the Delta State Governor is the vice-presidential candidate, which means there will be significant benefits for the Delta State chapter of the PDP if it can lay its differences aside and focus on getting Dr Okowa into national power. The presence of a big-picture goal might be able to force the dissatisfied parties to the negotiation table so an agreement can be reached. However, right now, Delta State can be seen as a powerful state with its fair share of power struggles.