By Francis Ewherido
I did not plan to write this year, but I was moved by my spirit to do so. We are very fine. It is just this pain that refuses to go, and even gets heightened during your anniversary. Six years after, time has not healed anything. Anyway, I want to stay away from personal matters, because they are what they are: personal, and focus on public issues.
Your hope of APC winning the Delta State governorship election was again dashed in 2019. It is a long story, but the All Progressives Congress, APC, went into the election with a divided house. Even with a united front, it is uphill task dislodging an incumbent in Nigeria, so APC stood no chance; we were trounced. Any other story is for the marines.
In those days, we would do our permutations on where our votes were going to come from before elections. In your absence, we also did; it was a hopeless situation. You know, like you, I never believed in zoning. All interested Deltans should be allowed to contest and let the best win at all times. But the smaller ethnic groups in Delta want(ed) zoning.
They feel (felt) that is their only hope of ever producing a governor. It has happened with the Itsekiris and the others are waiting for their turn. Many of our people in Delta Central were (are) in agreement with them. It was (is) the dominant paradigm; it should have been allowed to prevail. The non-acceptance of the will of the majority escalated the split in the APC, which made it impossible to put up a strong showing during the governorship. The Aniomas should have been allowed to produce the governorship candidate.
Of course, some Urhobos had their fears that if an APC candidate of Anioma extraction won the governorship, he might want to go for a second term and deny the Urhobos the opportunity to get the governorship seat in 2023. Privately, I told them that if such a governor is transformational, does unbelievable things and delivers hitherto unheard of performance in Delta State, I will be in the forefront of those championing his re-election. Good governance is what we have always craved for, no matter where it came from. Good governance knows no ethnicity. Urhobo people will always have the opportunity to rule Delta State and even Nigeria. Your prayer then, and mine now, is that we put forth our best; somebody who will govern with the best interest of our people at heart. Ours is not yet a sophisticated society; our needs are still basic: security, good roads, good health facilities, good schools for our children, enabling environment for entrepreneurship and job creation to strive, etc.
Anyway, it is not all negative news, on June 11, 2019, the ninth national assembly was inaugurated and one of your successors, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, became the only senator from Delta Central to start a second since the re-election of the late Sen. David Dafinone in 1983. Hopefully, he will complete his second term, unlike Sen. Dafinone whose second term was truncated by a military coup. Even more joyous is the fact that he emerged the deputy president of the ninth senate, the highest position a Deltan has risen to at the national level since the return to civil rule in 1999. Much is being expected from him. He is currently the highest ranking Niger Deltan in this dispensation. Niger Deltans expect him to pursue the issues of resource control and fiscal federalism; we expect him to deal with the issue of devolution of power to the federating units and we expect him to liaise with the executive and tackle the insecurity in the region. You were an apostle of state police. A report on state police was submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari recently. I expect him to champion the constitutional amendment to enable states have their own police. Many states already have all kinds of security outfits. It is just that they are not supposed to carry fire arms, so there is no big deal anyway. Insecurity currently pervades the land and some of us sincerely believe that state police will ameliorate the situation. Of course there are fears of state governors using state police to intimidate and victimize their opponents. When we get to that bridge, we will cross it. Nigeria has crossed more hazardous bridges in the past.
Some people feel that as deputy president of the senate, Sen. Omo-Agege should automatically become the leader of APC in Delta State. It is a legitimate feeling, but he would have to earn it. Positions do confer leadership status, but in a fragmented set up like the Delta State APC, he has to earn it. He needs to reconcile with all those he is at loggerheads with and also reconcile other members at loggerheads. He needs to embrace all and now go beyond his current faction of the party in appointments and other political and economic benefits peculiar to Nigerian politics. That is only one strand of the matter.
If he is able to do these, hopefully, he would be allowed to assume the role of APC leader in Delta State and even South South. You remember how they almost tore you to shreds in the social media during the APC merger talks. It was not as if you claimed to be the leader of Democratic People’s Party (DPP). You never contested the leadership with anybody. A local newspaper only published a story with a headline, “Ewherido Leads DPP into APC” and hell was let loose. You never granted an interview and claimed to be the leader of DPP. Whatever the newspaper published was its opinion, but you were vilified. Now Omo-Agege is in the same situation, albeit deputy president of the senate. He did not bring APC to Delta State, you were the arrowhead. He was also not part of APC at the time you died. Shortly after your death, our political family invited Olorogun Otega Emerhor to take over your political structure. He obliged and substantially sustained the party until after the 2015 elections, which the party won at the centre. That was when APC became attractive to many new entrants.
Notwithstanding, the treatment meted to you by DPP must not be visited on Sen. Omo-Agege. In a state like Delta, where the current governor is not a member of APC, the deputy president of the senate should be the party leader, but he must earn it. This is hard teaching to some party leaders and their followers, but that is the way I see it. Whether older or elder brothers, everybody should queue behind him. That does not make them any less leaders, but there must be an arrowhead and deputy presidency of the senate has thrust that role on Omo-Agege. But Omo-Agege must be very magnanimous in his new status. He must learn from the mistakes of others. Politics of exclusivity and parochialism has never taken any leader far; his case will not be different.
I often say that politicians are the only group I know who forgive easily, much easier than Christians. So much wrong has been done. People who worked very hard for their elections and won have been denied their victories intraparty. Foundation members and financiers are now outsiders. There is so much healing to be done and Omo-Agege must work assiduously to heal the wounds and unite the party. Truth be told, he is a principal actor in the division within the Delta APC today. You do not come into a house, kick out the occupants you met and takeover everything. The Labour Party people who came into APC were very greedy. What they could not have condoned while they were in DPP, they meted out to people they met in APC.
I complained to people privately and at public fora: “How can these people want the Delta Central Senate senatorial seat and governorship seat at the same time?” That escalated the crisis. If the Emerhor group had been allowed to produce the governorship candidate while the Chief Great Ogboru/Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege group produced the senatorial candidate, we would not be in this mess. Mention must, however, be made that Olorogun Emerhor did not transmit his human management skills in business to politics. His human management skill in politics is not good enough. What happened when Chief Ogboru and Senator Omo-Agege came into APC is akin to what happened when my brother, Sen. Ewherido and his political family came into DPP. You do not bring people into your political party to strengthen the party and not properly incorporate them. They must be fully accommodated. Such terms as “authentic,” “original,” “genuine” are no longer necessary. Like Christianity, no more Jews or gentiles. Anything outside this is a recipe for crisis. The same poor human management made some key people in our political family to move to other APC factions or PDP. I particularly find this very distressing.
But we must move forward. We now need to sheath our swords, pride, egos, bitterness, anger and move forward. It is difficult to build peace on a foundation of injustice, so Delta APC needs to look for semblance of justice within the mountain of injustice that has been created. In doing that, it is my humble opinion that the Prophet Jones Erue-led executive and the Chief Cyril Ogodo-led executives should either be disbanded or they should resign, whichever is expedient. In their stead, a unity executive should be put in place to accommodate the divergent interests and make Delta APC one big family. Sen. Omo-Agege and other leaders should work hand-in-hand with the new party executive to clear the mess they created. Delta APC is bigger than any individual, so everybody should be ready to make sacrifices; egos and personal interests need to be subsumed.
Supporters of both factions have spewed so much venom in the social media especially. Their paymasters need to call them to order. You cannot build peace with so much hatred in the air. Delta APC must go back to the original goal of the chief promotor: provide Deltans with a viable alternative and ultimately takeover power. Right now, that initial objective is not on the leaders’ agenda; that is why this crisis is lingering. People are contented with positions, appointments and patronages coming from the centre. They forget that if the centre behaved the way they are behaving in Delta State, there would be no appointment or patronages to benefit from. People must be whipped into line now or we can forget the 2023 governorship election, which offers a great opportunity to have a strong showing. There will no power of incumbency, so APC chances of winning will be brighter, but first things first.
There is still so much to talk about, but I have to go now. I will continue to keep you posted. Continue to rest in the bosom of the Lord. I miss you.
Francis Ewherido, a brother to the late Sen. Akpor Pius Ewherido, wrote from Lagos.