From PAUL OSUYI, Asaba
The hazy political weather as to who succeeds the incumbent governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State, is beginning to crystallise. Although, the debate over which senatorial district should produce the next governor has not abated, Delta North Senatorial Zone, otherwise called Anioma nation, has not wavered in its agitation to govern the oil-rich state for the first time.
Anioma nation reckons that for justice to be seen as done and the principle of fairness and equity to prevail, the other two senatorial districts must show understanding and concede the coveted position to it in 2015, since the area is the only zone yet to produce the governor since 1991 when the state was created.
But aware that power would not be conceded to it on a platter of gold, traditional rulers, elders and political stakeholders of Delta North extraction have since started taking steps, by way of politicking with a view to neutralising any counter-force that might emanate from the Central and South Senatorial districts.
A meeting of traditional rulers of Anioma nation was recently convened by a socio-political group, Anioma Congress, at the instance of the Asagba of Asaba, Obi (Prof.) Chike Edozien. The meeting, which held at the Asagba’s palace in Asaba, was also attended by some leading governorship aspirants from the area, who are secretly going about their individual political bridge-building at the moment.
However, a high ranking palace chief, who does not want to be mentioned in print, told Daily Sun that the meeting was not about the aspirants but that the traditional rulers deliberated on the need to enthrone peace and unity at their various domains so that “we will be able to achieve our dreams.”
Pressed further to state the dream of Anioma nation at this point in time, the chief said: “For quite a long time, for instance, the governorship of Delta State has never come to Anioma land and, therefore, we want it. If we are able to achieve peace and unity and speak with one voice, I think this opportunity to produce the next governor will not elude us.”
He said the perceived governorship aspirants were invited to attend the meeting “because they are Anioma people. “For now, we are not talking about who is the aspirant because there is still a long way to go. But everybody must attend Anioma Congress meeting and tell us what is happening at the political front so that we will be able to know the way forward,” he said.
Discreet investigation revealed that the forum advised political office seekers on the need to further the collective interests of Anioma nation rather than personal interest that might not augur well for the ultimate goal. Inside sources informed that the office seekers, particularly governorship aspirants, were reminded of the need to sustain their consultations and bridge-building efforts across the state in a manner devoid of character assassination of fellow aspirants.
According to the inside source, “this meeting is very strategic in the sense that the elders of the area have cautiously began an in-depth assessment of the pedigree of the various aspirants with a view to throwing their weight behind the one that has the most favoured political antecedents to win the heart of every Deltan at the general election.”
The source revealed that the forum was discreetly looking towards backing an aspirant with mass appeal, and a support base traversing both the north, central and south senatorial districts, and strong enough to neutralise any 2015 governorship ambition of politicians in the other two senatorial districts.
While this effort is seen as pulling the right strings, Anioma nation must address the question of unity among the Ika, Ndokwa and Aniocha/Oshimili ethnic blocs that conglomerate in the land. The tendency is that if political stakeholders in the area are able to speak with one voice, threats of governorship ambition from the two districts would dissolve into the Anioma project.
But this seems not to be favourable at the moment. Leading aspirants of Anioma extraction are all within the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) where it is believed that whoever clinches the ticket of the umbrella party, considered to be the most popular in the state, would win at the general election.
Speculations are rife that some notable aspirants are considering jumping ship if they fail to grab the PDP ticket at the primary election. And their destination seem to be the newly formed All Progressive Congress (APC). The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) which was assuming the status as the major opposition party in Delta State is a major stakeholder in the merger just as it is likely that the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) might also dissolve into the merger at the state level.
As if the perceived political conflagration is already playing out, an observer in the area who prefers anonymity stated that it would be ridiculous “to expect that a group of people as educated, knowledgeable and exposed as the Anioma people will just all troop in one direction.
Our source said: “Frankly speaking, in the political arena, the fact that you and I are brothers does not mean we should share the same ideology. As a matter of fact, certain things in our growing up can affect our world views and our perception about the society. Unfortunately, because of the kind of politics we played in the past, the politics that is driven mostly by sentiments, it is just assumed that there is an Anioma project and everybody must key into it.”
But Clement Ofuani, a former presidential aide believes that the desire for an Anioma indigiene to head the government is “a symbolic requirement of the people and is a question of equality of the citizenship of this state. That is what the aspiration is all about, if we are equal, then we can aspire to the highest position without let or hindrance, and it can only find expression when we attain that.”
According to him, the Anioma aspiration transcends beyond Delta north to the central and south senatorial districts. “This aspiration is also shared by a broad spectrum of progressive Deltans who are not even from Anioma part of the state. It is a universal idea and ideal of justice and equity that a lot of people share, and all we need to do is build up on that so that we can begin from this moment to rebuild the state and our society in such a way that at some point in time what would be most significant and relevant to everybody would be the quality of the person getting there.
“That is the second and sublime message for all the people that we need a quality leader, we cannot compromise on that. We need somebody who has a vision, who has the capacity to drive that vision, who is fair, who is firm and who can also win the trust of other people. And Anioma nation has the human potentials to give that kind of sound leadership to the state.”
However, while the unity and the political party factors are playing out, one factor that is easily undermined is the enormous influence of the incumbent governor in choosing his successor. Although, governor Uduaghan is yet to publicly declare his support for the Anioma aspiration, his body language speaks volume that he is favourably disposed to having an Anioma person as a successor.
The governor is said to be surreptitiously looking into his kitchen cabinet where two Anioma sons are secretly nursing governorship ambition, to pick his successor at the nick of time. Recall that in his emergence as the PDP governorship candidate in 2006, Uduaghan was the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) under ex-governor James Ibori. Ibori was said to have waited till about two weeks to the primaries before unveiling Uduaghan as the man to succeed him.