By Julius Oweh
Last Saturday, Oghara, the headquarters of Ethiope West local government area of Delta witnessed a gathering of PDP members in the state, their friends and sympathisers.
Oghara may not be the centre or political capital of Delta State but it has a special place in the reckoning of the ruling party. It may be at the extreme fringe of the state very close to Edo state. But the sentiments among PDP members is that Oghara is not only the home of Chief James Ibori, a former governor of the state but the epic centre of politics because Ibori remains the leader of the party and that explained the flag off the PDP governorship campaign in Oghara. These are political issues that cannot be wished away. Spanning from the GDM days in the ill-fated Sani Abacha transition programme to the present, Ibori remains a political colossus with large followership in the state.
The Campaign organization knowing the supremacy of God had a night vigil at Government House where the campaign was firmly placed in the great hands of God to direct. In a brief speech, the governor charged party members to put their trust in God, and that the campaign should be based on issues, stressing that by the power of God, victory shall be their portion. Said Governor Okowa: ‘Because we have put our God first, we have no need to be scared going into the campaign or scared of the elections. God is leading us into the battle and we will have victory. As a people and as a party, there is no doubt that we have been working hard these three and half years to deliver democratic dividends to our people. It is significant that we come to the presence of God today to seek Him. ‘
The Oghara township stadium, the venue of the mega rally was a sea of human heads as the stadium was full to brim with people overflowing into adjourning streets. When James Ibori delivered his address, the crowd shouted his name, giving credence to the reality that Ibori was still very much popular with the people. The theme of the former governor’s address was that of power shift and that for equity and justice, the people of Delta North should be allowed to complete their eight years in Government House Asaba, adding that the Urhobo people of Delta Central senatorial district were very supportive of the second term bid of Okowa.
Ibori argued thus : ‘We should allow the Anioma people to complete two terms, it is the turn of the Anioma people, don’t let them to deceive you, as you go into the field, be peaceful, we are peaceful people, sell your programmes to the people.”
Ibori also appealed to trouble makers to stay out of Delta State and spoke on the competence of Okowa : ‘Please, in the name of God, don’t come to Delta State to cause trouble; this is democracy, you tell the people what you will do, sell your programmes to the people. Anybody that is planning anything that is bad for our state, God will not allow it. The re-election of Governor Okowa is our challenge; I have no question in my mind that you (Governor Okowa) has done very well, I can say that without equivocation, you have done exceedingly well.
Okowa is competent, capable, and knowledgeable and have the capacity to govern the state for another four years; you (Governor Okowa) deserve another term, I am indeed very pleased with you, your achievements. In your first tenure, you launched your campaign in Oghara and today, you are here to launch your campaign, it means you know your history and as the head of this political family, I declare and decree that you have all it takes to lead this battle, for all the candidates of our party to win in the election, God will continue to guide you, you have humbled yourself, God will uplift you. The crowd received the message with thunderous ovation with smile beaming across the face of the man of the moment, Okowa.
In his own address, Okowa appreciated Deltans for their support, saying that if given the second mandate, more developmental projects will be built in the state. He said thus : ‘I thank all Deltans for the votes cast for us in 2015, together, we have crossed the very difficult times, our collective efforts have been recognized nationally and internationally, we have delivered on our promises. As we move into the next level, we will continue to grow prosperity, but, I cannot do it alone, working with you, all Deltans, we will build a stronger Delta that we will be proud of and others will emulate; what we need is cooperation and peaceful environment. From the Presidency to the House of Assembly, we will have to deliver all our candidates; I offer myself for debate because, it is not enough for All Progressive Congress (APC) candidate to come out and say he wants to be governor and relying on thugs or run to Lagos after every election.
I am going into the election, together with all Deltans and we will win in every local government area of the state, Deltans are happy; Delta State is a peaceful state; let us take the message from house to house, talk to everybody, so that before the election, all Deltans will belong to the PDP, tell them about what we have done, what we are doing and what we will do. When we said we were going to create jobs, people thought we were joking but, through the Job Creation office, we have created over 20, 000 jobs, we are organizing business fare for beneficiaries of our entrepreneurial programmes, we have revamped technical colleges, all the courses in our Polytechnics have been accredited, because of peace, our state has moved from number four to number one in oil production. This is the only state in the federation that has awarded more than 350 road projects, we are constructing drainages to check flood and in the course of this year, we will start drainage projects in Effurun/Warri axis of which we have made budgetary provision for to the tune of N3 Billion. We have constructed over 4, 738 classrooms; we have awarded contract for the renovation of the Teaching hospital; we are the first state in the country to start health insurance scheme of which we have captured the formal sector and already enrolling the informal sector‘. The speech which was laced with Pidgin English was interrupted from time to time with shouts of ‘Ekwueme‘.
Speaking on the sidelines of the campaign, Chief Emmanuel Edevor, former chairman of Isoko North local government area said that the mammoth crowd was a testimony to the popularity and acceptability of the PDP in the state. Argued Edevor: ‘The Oghara flag off rally is one of the best in recent time. The turnout is unprecedented. It is a gathering of eagles and convocation of stakeholders of PDP. It shows a total acceptability of the man, Senator Okowa. It also shows the focus, purpose and promises of keeping the governor for another four years. ‘
On what will sell brand Okowa, Edevor stated that the numerous roads projects, youths empowerment and human capital development especially civil servants salaries and welfare are some of the governor‘s unique selling points.
Speaking in the same breadth, Dr Timi Tonye, chairman , publicity committee of Delta State Campaigns Organization and a state legislator observed that the rally in Oghara has shattered the hopes of any doubting Thomas about the popularity of Okowa not only in the state but Delta Senatorial district in particular. His views: ‘Okowa is a man of the people. Any other party thinking that it will win in Delta Central senatorial district should have a rethink. Okowa is popular in Delta Central. His popularity in Delta South and Delta North is simply legendary. We are on a winning course and eagerly waiting for February 16 and March 2 polls. For those of us in the campaign council, Okowa has made our jobs simpler by his performances in office for the past three and half years.
Brand Okowa is popular because of his prosperity agenda and the empowerment of Deltans across the divide. He has the experience and exposure and Deltans are wise and would not change a winning team. Our political opponents are in disarray for they lack the political sagacity and focus of Okowa. ‘