Tejiri Ebikeme/Francis Sadhere

In Nigeria, the senate has become a retirement ground for ex-governors and so when Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State tactically ‘declared’ his intention on Thursday, January 9, 2014 to represent Delta South Senatorial District at the National Assembly in 2015, it never came to the people as a surprise.

Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State

The governor whose tenure would run its full circle on May 29, 2015 is only swelling the rank of ex-governors in the senate.

At a press briefing at the new Government House, Asaba, Governor Uduaghan made it clear that he has the right to contest for the Delta South Senatorial seat.

He added that he has grown in the politics of Nigeria and therefore qualified to contest for any elective position in the country.

Governor Uduaghan said there was an unwritten zonal arrangement among the different ethnic nationalities in Delta South, stressing that such rotational arrangement favours the Itsekiris where he hails from.

He also denounced rumour of his possible defection from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to another party as untrue, describing it as a plot to destabilize the party in the state.

He disclosed that those peddling such rumour of his defection to an opposition party to seek a senatorial ambition are out to destroy the existing peace in Delta PDP, adding that as a founding member of the Peoples Democratic Party, he was ready to sink with the party if the need arises.

While disclosing that there were pressure on him to declare for the Delta South Senatorial seat, Governor Uduaghan was quick to say that the time was not yet ripe for such politicking, emphasizing that all he was more concerned about at the moment was delivering dividends of democracy to Deltans.

But if performance is what will turn Governor Uduaghan into a senator in 2015, Chief Afro Biukeme, a challenger of the Delta State Governor in the 2011 governorship election under the MPPP wants the governor to pray harder or forget his senatorial ambition.

He claimed that the governor has failed Deltans, saying that, “And as somebody from Delta South Senatorial District, I do not think the governor is the best person to represent us at the senate because his performance as a governor is nothing to write home about. He has not done enough as a governor and that is why Deltans are not enjoying the dividends of democracy.”

According Governor Uduaghan, “I am a life member of PDP and I am not new in politics. As a foundation member of PDP, the party will not sink in Delta State in particular, and Nigeria as a whole. If PDP is sinking I will sink with it no matter what happened. Almost all the members in the Delta State House of Assembly are PDP members. PDP is now more united in Delta State than before.

“I am not dumping PDP. Though there are pressure on me to join senatorial race but when the right time comes the people will know where I am going. I have the right to go to senate come 2015. I have a lot to offer but I should not be breaking my head over 2015 senatorial election,” he said.

Meanwhile, the 2015 senatorial election in Delta South will be a litmus test in the struggle for legitimacy and freedom from election riggers, who rob the people of their mandate, says Organising for Delta, OfD, the campaign organisation of Prince Yemi Emiko.

The group, in a statement, in reaction to the purported declaration by Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State to run for Senate in the district in the next general elections, said that the Itsekiri know better than to give their support to those who cannot point to any tangible project they have done in any Itsekiri community in nearly eight years of their tenure.

The group in a statement by its Director of Operations, Mr. Tunde Okorodudu, condemned the timing of the announcement, which he said came at a time of great instability and protracted crisis in much of Iwere land.

It called on all Itsekiri and “indeed the good people of Delta South to rally support for All Progressives Congress, APC, in the zone, to checkmate the brazen rigging of elections.”

Judging from the crop of politicians in Delta South and with power of incumbency, Governor Emmanuel may have a smooth sail to the senate in 2015. The governor, it was learnt, Governor has been nursing the senatorial ambition long ago, hence, according to a reliable source, encouraged Senator James Manager to go back to the senate in 2011. Uduaghan has been in politics since 1999 and he has climbed to the highest pinnacle in Delta State to become the Governor. Just like many politicians who want to stay in politics perpetually, he is now ready to go a step higher. He wants to become relevant in the politics of Nigeria and that is why he is eyeing the senate.

A look at the history of Delta South Senatorial race since 1999, which the Governor is depending on, shows the out of the three ethnic groups in Delta South (Isoko, Ijaw and Itsekiris), the Isoko had it ones through Senator Stella Omu, from the Isoko speaking nation in Delta South. She became a senator during the fourth republic (1999-2003).

The Ijaw speaking ethnic nationality has been in the senate position since 2003, the longest in history of the district. Senator James Manager, has been representing the district for ten years now and his tenure is ending in 2015.

Now the coast seems clear for the Itsekiri ethnic nationality to go to the senate after the tenure of James Manager and things appear at least for now, to be working in the favour of Governor Uduaghan.

As the battle for the soul of Delta South Senatorial District heats up, the one million naira question now is who can stop the senatorial ambition of the Delta State governor? There are no major challengers from his ethnic group and this is why Governor Uduaghan may have a smooth sail to senate in 2015. But can the likes of Biukeme, Emiko and others mount the necessary road block against the senatorial ambition of the governor? Only time can tell.

During the recent press briefing in Asaba, the likes of Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, Senator James Manager and house of representative member, Hon. Leo Ogor, and others were present at the occasion where Governor Uduaghan dropped the hint of his desire to run for the senate seat.

On the crisis rocking the PDP, the governor said, “It is true we have some challenges that have made some of my colleagues to move out of the party. PDP will wax stronger in 2014; PDP is still a strong grassroots based party. Nobody is mourning over the lost of membership of the party to other parties.”

According to him, “Let me tell you something that you do not know. Because of the restructuring in 2007 my name was removed from my ward register. But I fought the battle in the party. I did not decamp to another party and at the end of the day I ended up becoming the governor. So, I make bold to say that PDP will not sink in Delta State and Nigeria.”