As political parties round up campaigns ahead of Saturday, 18th March gubernatorial and State Assembly elections, the top three parties in Delta State are putting finishing touches to their strategies to swim into victory.
Delta remains one of the most diverse oil-rich states in the South-South region of Nigeria. The state has been under the control of the Peoples Democratic Party since 1999 till date with the present governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, being on the ballot as running mate (vice presidential candidate) to Atiku Abubakar in the just concluded presidential election.
Apart from PDP, other leading political parties in the upcoming election in the state include the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Labour Party (LP), which emerged as the third force in the last few months.
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The PDP has been the dominant party in Delta State since 1999 and has produced notable political stakeholders who in one way or another influenced and still influencing the fate of millions of Deltans through their political decisions. Among these are former governors James Ibori (from 1999 to 2007), and Emmanuel Eweta Uduagha who took over in 2007 and ended his tenure in 2015, after his second tenure. Then comes the incumbent governor, Ifeanyi Okowa who took over from Uduaghan in 2015. They together with their associates have continued to influence Delta State politics. The heavyweights often have clashes of interest as witnessed in recent crises that rocked the party as a result of political disagreement on who will succeed the incumbent governor Okowa. In the end, the Supreme Court affirmed Sheriff Oborevwori as the PDP gubernatorial candidate.
The All Progressive Congress, (APC) over the years has played the role of an opposition in the State with its notable members like the minister of State, for Labour, Festus Keyamo and deputy senate president, Senator Ovie Omo Agege who was elected on the platform of the Labour Party to represent Delta Central but later joined the APC on 7th March 2017 and was re-elected in 2019.
Amongst all other political actors in the state, Omo Agege has distinguished himself and emerged as the deputy senate president and now, the gubernatorial candidate of the APC in Delta State with groups pledging their support for him.
The third candidate considered a powerful force at the moment and posing a serious threat to the chances of other candidates in the race is that of the Labour Party candidate, Deacon Ken Pela. The party has become a thorn on the flesh of two other parties, due to the growing support they enjoy from the public, most especially the youths known as Obidients. LP, though, hitherto not popular, has become a moving train across the country with the emergence of Mr Peter Obi as its presidential candidate. Some of the notable stakeholders of the party in the state include Mr Tony Ezeagwu, who is the state chairman of the party and Deacon Ken Pela who is the LP gubernatorial candidate in the state.
Their performances in the just concluded presidential election
The presidential and the national assembly elections that took place in Delta State saw the third force, Labour Party (LP) emerge as the overall winner of the presidential poll in the state defeating the PDP which controls the state and APC which controls the federal power. However, LP couldn’t win any of the three senatorial seats, as the APC won two and PDP won one, while the three parties shared the House of Representatives seats.
Battle for the next governor of the state
As the election gathers momentum and the two traditional ‘big parties’ unsettled by the outcome of the presidential elections, have started re-strategising. The three top political parties and their flag-bearers are gearing up and not leaving any stone unturned to ensure they secure victory in the governorship and State Assembly elections. PDP with the power of incumbency wants to retain its position. The state governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, who also doubled as the Vice Presidential candidate of PDP has been going around campaigning for his anointed candidate, Sheriff Oborevwori.
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On the other hand, the All Progressive Congress (APC) with the power at the centre, wants to claim the state front of the PDP because of its economic value and to expand its cost of political influence. With President Mohammed Buhari and one of his ministers, Festus Keyamo on his side, Omo-Agege through his campaigns is positioning himself to grab the seat from PDP. He has been trying to build up from where they thought to have got it wrong in the presidential election in the state.
Similarly, the Labour Party (LP) which is seen as the third force with its governorship candidate, Ken Pele has intensified his campaign to leverage its presidential victory in the state to swing to victory.
Expectations of the masses
Deltans have had their share of mismanagement of funds and underdevelopment even as one of the oil-producing states in Nigeria as a result of bad leadership. The people, therefore, may not want to continue to experience that for more years just like some other states. This hunger to get things done and in the right way has given birth to the third force, the Labour Party powered by the Obidient Movement.
Indeed, the tempo is high and this has instilled fear into both PDP and APC, pushing all other parties to sit up in preparation for the forthcoming governorship and state assembly elections in the state. As election day draws closer, the parties continue to up their game in attempts to win.