TONGUES have not ceased wagging in Delta State since January 17 when the All Progressives Congress, APC, flagged off its gubernatorial campaign at the oil city of Warri in preference for Asaba, the state capital, especially for the epic gaffe of President Muhammadu Buhari, the party’s presidential candidate.
Party faithful were surprised when President Buhari referred to the APC gubernatorial candidate, Chief Great Ogboru, as the presidential candidate. Those who thought it was a slip of tongue were further flabbergasted when he repeatedly addressed Ogboru as senatorial and governortorial (sic) candidate.
An embarrassed APC chieftain, who stood by him sneakily corrected him while he was handing the party’s flag to Ogboru, but he continued the blundering, saying, “I am handing over this flag of honour to our presidential candidate.”
Another concerned official of the party whispered ‘gubernatorial’, but unstoppable Buhari responded with “to our senatorial candidate”. Yet again, the man told him ‘gubernatorial’ and this time, Buhari said “governortorial candidate’.
Was Buhari worn out or suffering amnesia; why was he blundering on such occasion? The answer is ambiguous, but days before the rally, top leaders of the party, sharply divided along Urhobo and Anioma ethnic affiliations, had also been embroiled in a shambolic display over the choice of venue. It was evident that there was still deep distrust in the party.
Some of the leaders preferred Asaba, but they were branded pro-Anioma. The controversy extended to the national leader of the party, before President Buhari was said to have ruled on Warri.
Angry Anioma indigenes taunted APC, saying President Buhari’s visible incoherence on stage was a patent signal that he had lost equilibrium, while the choice of Warri in place of Asaba was an assault on the collective sensibility of Anioma people of the state.
Anioma moles in APC- Kokori
One of the fathers of APC in the state, former Secretary General of the National Union of Petroleum and Gas Workers, NUPENG, and Urhobo leader, Chief Frank Kokori, confirmed to Saturday Vanguard that there was actually a showdown between some Anioma and Urhobo APC leaders over the choice of Warri over Asaba as venue for the flag-off.
He stated, “When our brothers from the North (Anioma) insisted on Asaba, we told them no, that Asaba is virtually a government place and we are not in government as the government could use its machineries to sabotage us in Asaba and we are not fools.”
“We had the pro-Warri and pro-Asaba groups. However, we knew the pro-Asaba group are the people still playing the Anioma agenda. Actually, in the APC, there are some people we do not trust so much, who are working for the PDP. We regard them as moles and this is a fact as they are ready to sell the ticket to Okowa, I will not mention names but we know them.
“Delta central is the most advantageous point and the home of the APC in the state. 65 percent of people in the APC reside in Warri urban and there is no way you can compare the voting and electoral support here to what we would get in the North,” he said.
Excitement made Buhari to blunder
Kokori, who took a swipe at those criticizing the choice of the Warri Township Stadium as venue for the APC mega rally, said the party took advantage of the population in Warri urban to welcome President Muhammad Buhari to the state.”
Accusing PDP of becoming too “petty” in its campaign strategy by exaggerating the President’s gaffes, he said it was because of his excitement owing to the crowd that stormed the stadium for the rally.
His words, “Did they not hear President Buhari speak? Did they not hear him read his address? He was so much excited seeing the crowd of people in the stadium and made certain blunders, is that an issue? The PDP to me is becoming too petty because having tasted power for 16 years and abused and enriched themselves, they are going petty.”
The former labour leader charged, “The APC will not drop Buhari’s candidacy because that is what they want. He is the only man who can defeat anyone in the north, hence we ensured that we retained him even if he makes blunders or not.”
“If people like us, who are so sharp, can forget certain things, including names, what would be the case of someone in a situation like that seeing the crowd and becoming excited? He was excited, made some blunders and there is actually nothing wrong with it.”
Why we opted for Warri
“On the choice of Warri for the rally, the APC chieftain asserted that there was no sacrosanct rule cast in iron that political parties must hold their rallies in state capitals, noting that all over the years in times past, political parties in the country had held their conventions in Jos, Port-Harcourt and Lagos.
He said, “You take advantage of where you would have massive crowd and for a state, you take the senatorial district where you know you are strongest and for now in Delta, nobody pretends about it that, the APC and its candidate Ogboru, have more fanatical supporters in Delta Central. When I say Delta Central, I mean Warri urban with metropolises extending to Okpe, Udu and other areas, even though it is designated Delta South senatorial district.
“We have the population there and there is nowhere in Delta with that type of population and we keyed into that. It is rubbish for people to think it was an Urhobo affair. Every politics is local and we have our catchment area, which is Delta Central. We are talking about 95 percent in Delta Central and we will get it.
Nauseating disrespect by APC – Dr. Osuoza
Director of Publicity, Delta State PDP Campaign Organization, Dr. Ifeanyi Osuoza, who countered Kokori, told Saturday Vanguard, “President Buhari’s failure to campaign in the state capital speaks volumes for the disdain and disrespect the APC, as a political party, has for Delta state.”
“In fact, I stand to be corrected when I say that President Buhari has never visited the Delta state capital since he became President and this is a major slight on status and image of a big state like Delta state, which is one of the major states sustaining the Federal Government.
Buhari must go this year
The PDP spokesperson asserted that President Buhari’s blunder in Warri has shown that “he is incoherent, uncoordinated and suffering from forgetfulness and he is one who is totally unfit to hold leadership position as huge as that of President:
“For a President of a country to even forget that he is the Presidential candidate of the ruling party is a terrible and unforgiving error which should automatically make him lose in normal climes.
“Not only did he miss the whole point of the presentation, he was not even sure of what he was saying and where he was. This is very unacceptable. Buhari should go and Buhari must go this year. Nigeria is too cosmopolitan, too advanced, too progressive and far too modern to have such a man as our president in this generation.
Buhari should step aside – Nwagwor
Another strong PDP leader from Delta North, Mr. Ike Nwagwor, asserted, “With Buhari’s gaffe in Warri during the campaign rally, it is obvious something is wrong. I want to seriously align with former President Olusegun Obasanjo assessment of Mr. President’s state of health. His candid advice to him to step aside is courageous, I hope he listens.”
On his campaign outside Asaba, “The fact that he chose not to campaign in the state capital signifies nothing, he is free to campaign in any part of the state. I personally do not see any advantage of their campaign in Warri, It will not change anything, Delta state is PDP and it remains so.”
He maintained, “The people from the Central cannot afford to jettison the rotational agreement between the three senatorial districts because of the ambition of Ogboru. All other senatorial districts have completed their eight years and the people in the Central whose turn it is to take over the mantle after Okowa after eight years will definitely support Okowa in the coming election as they are presently doing with the massive support PDP is enjoying across the senatorial districts.”
Flag-off in Warri not to undermine Asaba- Ofehe
But, a former APC governorship aspirant, who stepped down for Ogboru, Mr. Sunny Ofehe, noted, “Since the successful flag-off of Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru as the APC governorship candidate in Delta state by President Mohammadu Buhari, the opposition party PDP has criticized the choice of Warri as the venue instead of the state capital Asaba. I have also received messages that the choice of Warri is a clear marginalization of the Anioma people.”
“We must understand first and foremost that this is politics and in politics you must take several factors into consideration when you organize mega rallies such as the one we had in Warri. Politics is a game of numbers, you want to bring together as many party faithful as possible and use the same event to spread your party popularity.
“Let us look back to history, during the administration of the former governor of Delta state Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, the two campaign flag-offs were held in Warri. He has continuously defended the choice of Warri as the venue without any iota of sentiment. As an experienced politician and custodian of State government for eight years, he played a significant role in ensuring the success of the rally.”
Some critics have even said the choice of Warri is because of Chief Great Ogboru. It should be worth noting that Chief Great Ogboru is from Abraka, which is in Delta Central and Warri is in Delta South.
“Delta State has three senatorial zones; you must consider the issue of logistics such as transportation and quick access to venues without hiccup. It is much easier to bring together people from the Senatorial districts to Warri than bring people from the riverine areas, Delta Central and South to Asaba. This reason clearly accounted for the huge turnout of people to the Warri township stadium.
“The choice of Warri was also to boost the state economic potential. Warri is the economic nerve of Delta state and the second after Port-Harcourt in the South-South region. In other to promote the State economic comparative advantage, it is in our best interest to use the choice of Warri particularly with the visit of the President in such event.
The choice of Warri was never to marginalize the Delta North senatorial people. Several of their APC political leaders attended the rally in Warri and had no issues with the choice. The organization of the event was a master class and the result was what the whole world saw in crowd turnout and most importantly the peaceful nature of the event. We also owe the success of the day to the very good work and coordination of the various Nigerian security forces.
Anioma should not fret about Ogboru
“I think we should stop playing ethnic sentiment in our politics and rather focus our energy on issues that have plunged our state into economic wilderness. For those who truly know our APC Candidate Chief Great Ogboru, they will tell you that he is not a politician with ethnic agenda.
“We should not forget that his running mate Evangelist Ossai Abeh is from the Senatorial North. We should also remember that APC inaugurated its state Campaign Council in Asaba. Ogboru is the most balanced ethnic politician in the state.
“As the campaign begins to unfold, the people of Delta state will come to understand the agenda of our party. We will continue to promote our policies during the campaign in a way that the people of the State can hold us responsible if we fail to deliver on our promises.
“The Anioma people have nothing to worry about in the candidacy of Chief Great Ogboru. So far, he has shown his full commitment to their yearning and his first statewide campaign took place in Asaba. Our common goal is to make Delta state a great state,” he said.