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Presidential election: How Deltans served Okowa ‘breakfast’?



Delta State governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa
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BY Owede Agbajileke

Nigerians have unique ways of expressing themselves. Renowned for our positive can-do attitude, vibrant and friendly energy expressed through diverse creative expressions, we make light of every situation.

In January 2020, Oxford English Dictionary added an unprecedented 29 Nigerian words and expressions namely: barbing, buka, bukateria, chop-chop, danfo, gist, guber, K-leg, mama put, next tomorrow, non-indigene, okada, etc.

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However, one trending Nigerian slang is ‘breakfast’ which literally means heartbreak. In what could be termed a political tsunami, Deltans served their Governor and PDP Vice Presidential candidate, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa hot, spicy breakfast in the just-concluded Presidential election when he lost his state to the Labour Party (LP) standard bearer Peter Obi.

According to the State Collation Officer, Prof. Owunari Georgewill of the University of Port-Harcourt, while Obi of the Labour Party (LP), clinched the oil-rich state with a total vote of 341,866, his People’s Democratic Party (PDP) counterpart, Atiku Abubakar emerged second with 161,600 even as Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) garnered 90,183 votes to come third.

Since the return to democracy 24 years ago, this is the first time PDP is losing a presidential election in the state. A peep into previous exercises revealed that at the commencement of the Fourth Republic in 1999, former President Olusegun Obasanjo secured 576,230 votes for PDP, while an alliance between the defunct All People’s Party and Alliance for Democracy witnessed 240,334 votes for Chief Olu Falae. The 2003 poll also saw the PDP pushing their votes to 1.07million (representing 94percent), while the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) got 27,492 votes (representing less than 1percent).

Fast forward to 2007, the then governing party raised the stakes to 1.2 million votes as against 42,000 for the other 17 opposition parties.

Not done yet, PDP reached a crescendo in the 2011 presidential election in the state when it secured a record 1.3million votes, even as the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) received a combined figure of 22,000 votes.

In 2015, PDP garnered over 1.2million votes while APC managed to secure less than 49,000 votes. The 2019 polls saw the PDP winning 24 Council Areas (594,068 votes), as against one by the opposition APC (221,292).

Political watchers say the 2023 presidential election in the state speaks to the level of discontent by Deltans against the outgoing governor who has always bragged that ‘PDP is Delta, Delta is PDP’. Interestingly, votes by Labour Party across the state was a combined effort not only by LP members but also OBIdient Movement, consisting of young Nigerians mobilizing behind the former Anambra Governor’s candidature. They are drawn from LP and a cross section of PDP, APC, SDP, other political parties as well as non-aligned.

More embarrassing for the Atiku/Okowa ticket and their party was that besides not having the bragging right about PDP being sole winner of presidential elections in the state, the results of Okowa’s home area – Ika North-east Local Government Area – was rejected by the electoral body due to overvoting; all thanks to BVAS.

According to the results presented by the Electoral Officer for the council area, Dr James Olisa, the total number of accredited voters is 30,105 while the total number of votes cast is 31,681.

In Ika South Local Government Area, which forms the other half of Ika Federal Constituency, the ‘Umbrella party’ was pummeled by Labour Party which polled a total of 17,868 votes to the PDP’s 7,485.

The story was not any different in Oshimili North – home base of the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) Chief Patrick Ukah; Okpe – home of PDP Governorship Candidate in the March 11 poll, Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori; Oshimili South, Aniocha North, Uvwie, Warri South, Isoko South, Isoko North, Udu, Ukwuani and a host of others where the opposition recorded overwhelming victory. In all, OBIdients smashed a record 18 LGAs to PDP’s seven.

Nothing could better describe the humiliation suffered by the PDP with Oborevwori who doubles as Speaker of the state assembly, losing his Polling Unit to Labour Party by over 100 votes.

Without a doubt, Deltans voted along individual lines and not parties. For instance, in the build-up to the General Election, the song on OBIdients’ lips in Warri was ‘Obi for President, JOT for Senate and Agege for Governor’. This explains why in Delta South Senatorial District, electorate preferred an egghead like Joel Onovwakpor Thomas (JOT) of APC to Hon. Michael Diden aka Ejele of PDP who once promised at a campaign ground to add an Isoko girl to his harem. In the same token, a first-timer and renowned chartered accountant and business mogul, Chief Ede Dafinone trumped a more experienced politician in Chief Ighoyota Amori to clinch the Delta Central seat for APC. The APC also won the House of Representatives seat in Ughelli North/Ughelli South/Udu, while LP clinched Uwvie/Sapele/Okpe, Aniocha/Oshimili Federal Constituencies respectively.

Three reasons could be adduced for the massive revolt/vote of no confidence against PDP and its vice presidential candidate. First, the governor betrayed the collective decision of the Southern Governors Forum on zoning the Presidency to the South and the agreement that no Southerner should accept a Vice Presidential slot to a Northern Presidential candidate. Deltans were unhappy that their governor portrayed the state in a bad light, more so when he hosted the Asaba Declaration where the decision was reached.

Perhaps if he had not hardened his heart like King Pharaoh and heeded to calls by elder statesman, Chief E.K Clark and other well-meaning Nigerians urging him to resign as Atiku’s running mate to save the little left of his battered image, he wouldn’t have met his Waterloo in the February 25 exercise.

Related to this was his betrayal of his political benefactor and former Governor of the state, Chief James Ibori and his attempt to bite the political fingers that fed him by imposing his stooge, Oborevwori against the wishes of most party leaders. He paid dearly for committing the worst political blunder by breaching Law 1 of Robert Greene’s “48 Laws of Power”: Never Outshine the Master. As the adage goes, “The okra plant doesn’t grow taller than its planter”.

Consequently, Deltans came to realise that every word of their governor should be taken with a pinch of salt; and that when he says one thing, he does another.

Secondly, under the Okowa-led administration, the state has received about N4trillion Federal Allocation and 13percent Derivation with little or nothing to show for it. Following startling revelations by Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike and former Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole on the humongous receipts by the government, the people felt terribly shortchanged as major towns have been left in ruins in the last seven years, save for his Owa-Alero hometown.

Thirdly, the governor’s woes were compounded by the continued borrowing spree in the last seven years with nothing commensurate to show for it, increase of school fees in the state-owned tertiary institution from N25,000 to N250,000, owing senior citizens pension arrears and gratuities worth over N100billion. These disenchanted Deltans spoke through the ballot and their voices were heard loud and clear. They no longer trust Okowa with public office and this was demonstrated in the last presidential election.

Understandably so, this rejection would trickle down to the March 11 Governorship election where Oborevwori and other PDP state assembly candidates would be kissing the dust.

*AGBAJILEKE is a Media Aide to the Deputy President of the Senate and Delta APC Governorship Candidate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege*

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