From PAUL OSUYI, Asaba
The main opposition party in Delta State, Democratic Peoples’ Party (DPP) might be heading for the woods ahead of the 2015 general elections, as the party is at present mired in serious political quandary. Unless adequate steps are taken by its stalwarts, the party, which made remarkable success in the 2011 general elections may be plunging into irrelevance as another election year draws closer.
As it is battling to retain its status as the main opposition in the state in view of the rising popularity of the emerging merger party, the All Progressive Congress (APC), internal crisis is tearing it to shreds. In fact, DPP had earlier indicated interest to be part of the merger in its avowed bid to dislodge the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) from Government House, Asaba, in 2015, but later withdrew, ostensibly due to the internal wrangling.
The political tussle, as it later turned out, is between the governorship candidate of the party in the 2007 and 2011 election, Chief Great Ogboru, and Senator Pius Ewherido, who represents Delta Central Senatorial District at the National Assembly.
Ewherido was said to have ridden on the popularity of Ogboru, who also hails from the central senatorial district to defeat the PDP candidate in the 2011 senatorial election. But the rosy relationship between the duo has since gone sour, following the nursing of gubernatorial ambition allegedly by Ewherido at a time Ogboru was still oiling his political machine for the 2015 contest.
The bone of contention, Daily Sun gathered, is the party’s penchant for picking Ogboru as its candidate, while urging all other aspirants to step down in the previous electoral contests.
This practice the party intends to adopt, but Ewherido appears adamant and poised to change the status quo by throwing his hat into the ring.
The daring posture of Senator Ewherido, a former Deputy Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly became obvious during the formative days of the fledging APC. The DPP had nominated Ewherido and eleven others to pursue its interest in the new party. It was however learnt that the acting national deputy chairman, Olisemeka Akamukale, the vice chairman of Delta central senatorial district, Henry Olori as well as a leader in Sapele Local Government Area of Delta State, Cyril Ogodor, all of whom were members of the 12-man committee allegedly betrayed DPP.
They were alleged to have conducted a mini-convention in Abuja where Akamukale was said to have proclaimed himself as the national chairman of the DPP in an attempt to force the party into the merger. The Delta State leadership of the party had got wind of the political under-currents as regards the merger talks and subsequently warned its members not to attend any political gathering except that of the DPP in the state, saying that failure to adhere to the directive would earn any erring member suspension or outright expulsion.
It stated that irrespective of the position of the national executive council on the merger talks, it will maintain a splendid isolation to avoid balkanising the party in the state where it has the largest followership across the country.
But the political under-current persisted after the warning, leading to the suspension of Ewerhido, Akamukale, Olori and Ogodor by the Delta State Executive Committee. The state chairman of the party, Chief Tony Ezeagwu who pronounced the suspension, said the affected members were suspended “because of gross misconduct and engaging in anti-party activities.”
“We inaugurated a 12-man committee to midwife our joining the APC and we officially applied, but the application was not approved. But Ewherido and Akamukale went ahead and have been attending APC meetings when we have not been admitted into that fold. Akamukale went to INEC to say that he is the acting national chairman of the party in his bid to force us into the merger.
“And as it stands now, we have officially pulled out of the APC because majority of our members including those at the state House of Assembly said they cannot be members of an unregistered political party,” Ezeagwu told Daily Sun in Asaba.
In fact, the leadership of the party appears not to be happy with Ewherido for his romance with the bourgeoning APC when Ogboru who ran against Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of the ruling PDP in both the January 2011 re-run and the April 2011 elections still has his case pending at the Supreme Court.
“Ogboru has contested every governorship election in the state since 2003; when he first ran against former Governor James Ibori. He still wants to run in 2015, but his ambition may be truncated by the charismatic Senator Ewherido. “In the past, Ogboru was virtually unopposed as the party’s candidate.
But I do not think his word would still be law in the APC and he would have to contend with other aspirants in the party’s primaries should he decides to run,” a party source said.
According to the source, the state DPP is also weary of aligning with the APC against the PDP so as not to rattle President Goodluck Jonathan, a fellow Niger Deltan in the 2015 presidential election, adding that “instead of aligning with the opposition parties, a hopeful Ogboru whose case against Uduaghan as regards the re-run election comes up early next month at the Supreme Court may decamp to the PDP should he win and so was not disposed to be a part of the merger which Ewherido is very passionate about. These are the issues.”
However, reacting to the suspension of the DPP stalwarts, the faction loyal to Senator Ewherido described the “purported suspension as a ruse, nullity and complete sham that lacks tenable locus standi.” The vice chairman of the party in the state, Henry Olori, the state auditor, Chris Ezeuko and a leader of the party, E.U. Opukiri who jointly addressed a press conference recently said the decision by the state DPP to join APC was taken at the National Executive Committee (NEC) in a special convention held recently.
“Chief Great Ogboru, the DPP governorship candidate in the last election was at the meeting where the DPP resolved to join APC, and was part of the 12-man committee, but decided to discontinue when it was clear to him that he will not get the APC governorship ticket unopposed as he used to. “The purported suspension was orchestrated by those whose stock in trade is reaping handsomely from electoral defeats through unholy financial dealings with the ruling party,” the DPP leaders stated.
Meanwhile, the PDP-led Delta State Government appears ready to woo Ewherido back into its fold by apparently cashing-in on the unsavoury developments in the DPP. The state government through the Commissioner for Information, Chike Ogeah recently signed a goodwill message in the print media congratulating the senator on his 50th birthday anniversary.
But a source close to the commissioner told Daily Sun that the birthday message to Ewherido had no political under-one, but a standard practice by the government to congratulate prominent citizens of the state who attained the golden age.
“The practice is a standard thing to do for prominent citizens of the state including public office holders, traditional rulers and those in the private sector.
Recall that we did a similar thing for Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole of the ACN because of the historical affinity between Edo and Delta states. “We could not have done that to woo Oshiomhole to the PDP. It is not our duty to do that, so it is a standard thing here, that a prominent citizen clocked 50, hence the goodwill message. There is no political attachment,” he stated.