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Published On: Mon, Feb 10th, 2014

Jonathan, Urhobo and 2015 Polls


By Annabel Ogheneganre
LAGOS FEBRUARY 10TH (URHOBOTODAY)-It is true that the Urhobos voted overwhelmingly for President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011, but the support of the Urhobo nation cannot be guaranteed for the president in 2015 given the way the Urhobos have been treated by his administration. The Urhobos who populate Delta Central Senatorial District gave President Jonathan over 800,000 votes in 2011, about twice what he got from his home state of Bayelsa. Urhobo voted for President Jonathan simply on the ground that he is a brother from the South South geopolitical zone. But given the despicable and inexplicable degree of disdain and deprivation suffered by the Urhobo nation under the Jonathan administration, the Urhobo nation will be unwilling to vote for President Jonathan in 2015 general elections based on sentiments.
Never in the political history of Nigeria, has Urhobo been so unfairly treated, not even during the military era. Under the Jonathan administration, the Urhobos, the fifth largest ethnic group in Nigeria and the majority ethnic group in Delta State has no Minister in the Federal Executive Council either by marriage or birth and no Chairman of Board of a Federal parastatal. Meanwhile Delta North and Delta South whose combined votes for Jonathan were less than votes from Delta central are well represented in his government at a time when Dr. Emmanuel Udughan, an Itsekiri from Delta South is the governor of the state.
Also from Delta South are the Minister of Niger Delta, Elder Godsday Orubebe, the Director General for Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Patrick Ziakede Akpobolokemi; Commissioner representing Delta State in the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Barr (Ms) Rita Irone Begho; Executive Director Projects, NDDC, Engr. Tuoyo Omatsuli; Secretary to the Delta State Government, Ovuozorie Macaulay and until about four months ago, Justice Tabai of the Supreme Court.
The Delta North Senatorial District has an Anioma daughter, Dr Mrs Okonjo Iweala as Minister of Finance and Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy. The Nigerian Ambassador to the United Nations, Ambassador Joy U. Ogwu; the Special Adviser to Mr President on Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation, Prof Sylvester Monye; Chairman, National Social Insurance Trust Fund, Mrs Ngozi Ojeleme; Director General of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, NOSDRA, Mr Peter Idabor; Director General of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Prof Epiphany Azinge; Chairman of Export Processing Zone, EPZ, Calabar, Dr Cairo Ojougboh; Executive Vice Chairman (Chief Executive Officer) of the Nigeria Communication Commission, Dr Eugene Etuwah and the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Hon Victor Ochei are also from Delta north.
Delta Central has only the Deputy Governor, Dr. Amos Utuama and the member representing Delta State in the Board of NDDCn Sir Tom Amioku. Urhobos are conscious of this marginalisation and come 2015 Urhobo will react with their votes and President Jonathan should not take the Urhobo votes for granted. In the Delta Central Senatorial bye election of last year the PDP campaign told the Urhobo nation that Urhobo should vote for its candidate to end the marginalisation of Urhobo and increase the visibility of Urhobo in the federal government. Urhobo agreed and voted for Chief Emmanuel Agwariavwodo of PDP who is now the senator representing Delta Central in the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
In return, Urhobo expected President Jonathan to appoint an Urhobo son or daughter Minister of the Federal Republic Nigeria but to the disappointment of all Urhobos, the President did not deem it necessary to reward Urhobo again for its support for his party as his recent nominations of 12 ministers clearly indicate. It is reported that five more nominees will be named soon. It is hoped that when these nominations are made Urhobo will be recognised. But then this will not be enough to persuade the Urhobo nation to vote PDP in 2015 in the presidential poll.
Should President Jonathan decide to run for re-election in 2015 he will need Urhobo votes to win Delta State and deny APC the 25% constitutional requirement. But Urhobo support in 2015 will not come cheap. It will be conditional on the PDP creating a level playing field for all contestants irrespective of their senatorial district to contest for the gubernatorial position in 2015 and the support of President Jonathan for Urhobo aspiration. The Urhobos consider the governorship a top priority and will not surrender it on the basis of zoning and power rotation as being clamoured by Delta North senatorial district.
The Urhobos also expect the Ijaws in Bomadi, Burutu, Patani and Warri south west local government areas to support Urhobo’s collective aspiration to produce the next governor of Delta State on the platform of PDP in return for their support for President Jonathan in the general election. This is not a threat. It is the gospel truth which the President and his Ijaw brothers in Delta State should be aware of. It will be a grave error on the part of PDP if it gives its ticket to another Ijaw man. If that happens there is no doubt that PDP will lose Delta state in both governorship and presidential elections.
Ijaw should know that it is inconceivable to have the presidency and the governorship with Urhobo support and nothing for the Urhobo nation. The Ijaws in Delta State should therefore sacrifice any gubernatorial ambition in Delta State and throw their weight behind a candidate from Delta Central to secure Urhobo votes for Mr President. If the Ijaws refuses to support an Urhobo candidate in the PDP primaries and Urhobo loses, then they should be ready to forego the votes from Delta central in the presidential election of February 14, 2015. If the President wins re-election without Urhobo votes, Urhobo will be prepared to pay the price and endure another four years of deprivation and neglect, after all Urhobo voted for Jonathan overwhelmingly in 2011and got nothing in return.
The Urhobos recognise the right of the Anioma people to seek the governorship but it should not be ceded to them on the basis of non- existing power shift arrangement. They have to compete with others from other senatorial zones as was the case in previous elections since 1999. Any attempt to exclude Urhobo on the premise of a non-existing power-shift will be resisted.
Urhobo must determine their destiny. The era of pandering to the whims of some external forces is over. The Urhobo Progress Union must rise to the occasion by standing firm for Urhobo interest in the coming polls. All Urhobos irrespective of party affiliation should also stand firm behind the leadership of UPU in the exercise of the mandate given to them by the Urhobo nation in a free, fair and credible election last year for the rebirth of Urhobo nationalism.
If PDP dare Urhobo by ceding its ticket to Delta north or Delta south unfairly either by zoning or imposition of any form, the party should be ready to face the consequences. The support of Urhobo for PDP in last year’s senatorial bye-election must not be misconstrued to mean our votes in 2015 are in the bag for PDP. It was only a kind gesture to demonstrate to the party that Urhobo is ready to play ball. The governorship position should return to Delta Central in 2015. Thereafter, if need be, all stakeholders in the state can then meet to negotiate and agree on a zoning and power rotation formula. In 2015 everyone who is interested should go to the field and compete, and let the best candidate emerge in the PDP primaries and the general election.
For the Urhobo nation, the task ahead is onerous but is achievable if all hands are on deck. All sons and daughters of Urhobo extraction must put aside their personal interest for the greater Urhobo interest. Chief Dr. Edwin K. Clark in particular must demonstrate his love for his mother land by signing up to this project. Those who are close to the Ijaw leader and Chairman, Board of Trustees of the Ijaw National Congress know how proud he is of his Urhobo heritage. But now is the time for him to prove to all Urhobos that he is truly one of us.

Miss Annabel Ogheneganre, writes from Garki, Abuja. (08092569702 SMS only or e-mail ananabel4christ@hotmail.com).

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