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Published On: Wed, Oct 9th, 2013

Delta Central Bye-Election: A Day Like no Other


By Onoriode Esobito-Ineh
News of the death of Senator Pius Ewherido, came as a surprise and shock to Urhobo’s at home, and abroad. This is due solely to his dedication to duty representing Delta Central in the federal house of Senate. During his brief tenure, Urhobos felt their concerns were properly channeled to the federal government. He was well liked by his people, and also by his fellow Senators. His sudden dead brought challenges and questions to the people of Delta Central. Key questions to resolve after his passing were—- (1) how can his good work be continued? (2) Who can effectively represent the people? Those were some of the questions on people’s lips, days and weeks following his death. Politically speaking, the process to find a replacement is done through a by-election conducted by the nation’s electoral body, INEC. As the byelection date draw closer, many aspirants made their intentions known through different party platforms. The following paragraphs, illustrates my understanding and opinion on the just concluded primaries for the upcoming Oct. 12, 2013 Delta Central byelection conducted by the three main parties, the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP), the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the newly formed All Progressive Party (APC).
Democratic Peoples Party (DPP)

DPP is the official opposition party in Delta Sate. The runner up in the 2011 governorship elections, Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru is from this party. Due to his popularity in the state, mostly in the Central part, many candidates in the 2011 elections were able to attain victory. Senator Pius Ewherido was elected under the platform of DPP, which makes it imperative that they present a candidate that can deliver victory on Election Day in order to retain the seat.
In the days leading to the primary, two aspirants emerged as top contenders for the ticket, Chief Napoleon Gbinije, and Chief Ede Dafinone.
Chief Napoleon Gbinije was popular among youths in the Delta Central, because of his philanthropic and flamboyant nature; he is able to connect freely with youths, and the young at heart. He is well loved by loyalists, mostly youths who constitutes a sizable number of the party’s base. While his contender, Chief Ede Dafinone comes from a family of Urhobo’s foremost Senator. Dafinone is a household name in Urhobo land and beyond because of the family’s Guiness book acknowledged achievement as having the most chartered accountants in the world. As an aspirant, Chief Ede Dafinone is popular among elders, and adults alike, who reminisce the days of his father. He also commands following among youths, who see him as someone that can bring empowerment and pragmatic change.
On the day of the primary, Chief Ede Dafinone was declared the party’s flag bearer. The primary result drew more suspicion than consent from key party loyalists. They argued that, the primary was not conducted in a fair and transparent manner. As days past, Team-Gbinije demanded an explanation to why their spirant was “cheated” out of the ticket. Despite being defeated in the primary, Chief Gbinije showed restrain in the ways he conducted himself. He dealt with his defeat graciously. However, with the byelection fast approaching, something needed to be done to reconcile the aggrieved party for the sake of peace and unity of purpose.
Finally, through the intervention of the party leader, Chief Ovedje Ogboru, as a peace mediator between Chief Ede Dafinone, and Chief Napoleon Gbinije, reconciliation was formed in the best interest of the party. Moving forward, this incident with the primary shows that no party is above internal conflict, but what matters is how they overcome these challenges. However, nobody can be able to predict the impact of this feud on the popularity and likability of the party until after the Oct. 12 elections. But one thing is sure, whatever comes out of it will either break, or make the party a formidable force in Delta State politics as 2015 draws near.
All Progressive Congress (APC)
The newly formed party needs a win in the upcoming byelection in order to show a strong introduction into Delta State politics. The primary battle in the party was between two likeable aspirants, Chief Festus Keyamo and Chief O’tega Emerhor. Both aspirants were seen by many to represent different breeds of politicians in Delta Central. Chief Keyamo, a lawyer by profession, is popular among progressives in the diaspora and at home who believe change can only come from a political “outsider”. Chief O’Tega Emerhor on the other hand, is a successful business man who commands support that cuts across party lines. He is also popular among traditional leaders, and leaders of Urhobo epic body, the UPU. Chief O’Emerhor is not new to Delta Central politics; he clearly understands the contours that lead to winning.
On the primary day, Chief O’Tega Emerhor defeated his rival, Chief Festus Keyamo . However, before the commencement of the primary, Chief Festus Keyamo was reported to have pulled out, citing irregularities associated with lack of process transparency. But party leaders still went ahead with the primary, and declared Chief O’Tega Emerhor the winner. According to insiders, party elders preferred Chief Emerhor to Chief Keyamo to be the flag bearer, because of the former’s popularity that cuts across age, and gender. The source went further to state that, party elders were not ready to “gamble” with a fresh face like Chief Keyamo in the upcoming byelection. According to the source, that was why Chief Ikimi was forceful when he rebutted media reports that, Chief Festus Keyamo was their consensus candidate.
The APC, as you are aware, is a new party in Nigeria, and also in Delta State. For a party that prides itself as the one to “sweep” away the excesses of the ruling PDP, a poor primary showing should be a thing of concern to party leaders in the state, and also at the federal level. How can a party campaign for transparency, fair play and equity be seen as corrupt and undemocratic? For onlookers, the withdrawal of Chief Keyamo sends a strong message that APC after all, is not different from the “others” they intend to “sweep” with their brooms.
However, through the timely intervention of party leaders, reconciliation was arranged to pacify aggrieved parties to show party solidarity. But the damage has already been done. To me, it was a poor showing, but the upcoming election will decide if APC can survive the rough and tumble of Delta state politics. However, the party flag bearer Olorogun O’ Tega Emerhor remains a strong contender in the upcoming byelection.
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)
As the ruling party in the state, the PDP has a lot of manpower at its disposal to choose a likable candidate for the byelection. The days and weeks before the primary, different aspirants declared their intention to run as the party’s flag bearer. The endless list of aspirants included, Chief Ighoyota Amori, Chief Edesiri Aguariavwodo, Chief Fred Majemite, and Chief Omo- Agege among others. In 2011, PDP lost the Delta Central Senate seat, they know that a win in this byelection will further strengthen their hold, and reduces the influence of DPP. Delta Central is believed to be the opposition party’s stronghold, so a win will be a thing of enormous joy for the PDP.
However, in the days leading to the primary, news started making rounds that there might be a consensus candidate for the party. Political pundits had it that, Chief Emmanuel Edesiri Aguriavwodo was going to be the candidate. According to political onlookers in the state, Chief Aguariavwodo was handpicked by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. On hearing the news, critics accused the President of interfering in the affairs of the Urhobo Nation. They argued that if an aspirant wants to run for public office, that person should be transparent, not deceptive. As the primary day approached, prospective aspirants were notified beforehand that party leaders preferred Chief Edesiri Aguariavwodo because he is the strongest candidate for the byelection. On the day of the primary, aspirants threw their support behind Chief Aguariavwodo, the result was clear; he emerged as the party flag bearer without any internal cry of foul play.
As a political observer, the winner from the just concluded party primaries was the PDP, because they conducted themselves without any known outcry from aspirants to present who they believed is their strongest candidate for the flag bearer. In my opinion, it does not matter who nominates an aspirant, because politics is all about winning. Every political party wants to put forward a candidate that will give them victory on Election Day. No political party wants to present a candidate as a flag bearer that will make them vulnerable to defeat and ridicule. Officials of all three parties want to win on Oct 12, 2013, so that is why they put forward candidates that they believe can deliver that victory. Most importantly, the take out from these primaries for me is that, although we are not there yet, but our democracy is working. I believe any one of the three candidates have a fair chance of winning the seat, because they are not only popular and likeable in their various parties, but also around Delta Central. They have excelled in their various past and present capacities either in government, or business, and a mandate from the people will be an added opportunity to serve. Finally, the outcome of this by-election in my opinion, might determine the party that will control Delta Central leading to the 2015 general elections in the state. Despite all efforts, it is now left to the voters to decide who they think will better represent them to continue the good work of Senator Pius Ewherido. I believe any one of the three candidates will make a good Senator because of their love and passion for the Urhobo Nation. I wish them all the best on Election Day.
Onoriode Esobito-Ineh is Political Analyst and Commentator.

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