As in other parties, the PDP in Isoko North is in the process of choosing its candidate for the House of Assembly election, albeit with feverish intrigues that many worry could threaten party cohesion.
Currently occupying the position and aspiring to return is Hon Tim Owhefere. It speaks to his acceptance in the community that he has been elected thrice, and also to his political clout that he subsequently was voted Majority Leader of the DTHA.
Besides his involvement in attracting central state projects, a multiplicity of major and internal roads, the accreditation of the Faculties of Law and Engineering of the Oleh Campus of the Delta State State University, and the upgrade of Ofagbe Technical College, he prides in a long list of completed and ongoing projects in the constituency. They include the ongoing reconstruction of the Owhelogbo/Abbi Road which provides the shortest link to Ukwani/Ndokwa, Edhomoko-Owhe Community Road as well as School Road in Akiewhe; constructions of Emevor Maternity and the Akiewhe Maternity Road, blocks of classrooms, perimeter fencing and renovation of the Principal’s Quarter at Emoeni Grammar School, Ellu, blocks of classroom at Okpe-Isoko, Ovrode, Ofagbe, Aradhe, Ovo Primary School and Azagba Primary School, Otor-Owhe; the erection and reactivation of street lights at Oyede, Edhomoko, Emevor and Iyede, and the building of ultra modern community halls at Akiewhe, Otor-Owhe and Aradhe amongst others.
His challengers are however arguing that he should pass the baton for having served a good while. Interestingly, they support the return of Hon Leo Ogor who is representing Isoko Federal Constituency for the fourth and seeking the fifth term.
They sometimes also tend to deny Owhefere credit of influence on major projects in Isokoland, rather conveying it to other political leaders, but his supporters insist that, even when different groups could request projects from the state government, as Majority Leader, he certainly bears good influence in following up on the executive and his colleagues for approvals, appropriation and release of funds for execution.
They point out that it would similarly be bad politics to deny Hon Ogor credit for his contributions in attracting federal and constituency projects like the ICT Centre at Ozoro Polytechnic, science laboratory, classrooms, roads, street lighting and health facilities projects through a number of communities.
With the common knowledge that the legislature is mainly to pass bills for good governance, Hon Owhefere is generally regarded as having distinguished himself not only in the mobilization of the Assembly to attain cordial, constructive and effective working relations but have enjoyed the respect of the executive in response to development issues in Isokoland, possibly surpassing some politicians who have held top executive positions but have little or nothing to show as their contributions, to justify their hustling to return to manipulate power, albeit through blackmails of both the state government and local party leaders while also flirting with the opposition APC.
At a point, they launched a propaganda against Gov Ifeanyi Okowa, alleging that he has hatred and bias against Isoko people in an attempt to induce the disaffection of Isoko people against the Governor, the party, its leaders in the community and serving representatives.
Though the allegation was proved to be unfounded, Gov Okowa, in his characteristic calm mien, took time to assure Isoko leaders of his equitability, also bending back to approve extra projects across a number of communities, the spills of that blackmail might linger for the opposition into the coming elections.
As these intrigues play out, Isoko sons and daughters are more disturbed about the condescension of their top leaders in flexing power only at the community level while shying away from pursuing more commanding heights at the national level. They lament that under the present republic, apart from Chief Stella Omu who represented Delta South at the Senate for one term, Isoko has neither produced a Deputy Governor nor minister nor another senator.
As it is, the Urhobos have had a shot at the governorship through James Ibori with Chief Benjamin Elue, from Aniocha, as his deputy. The Itsekiris have had through Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan with Prof Amos Utuama, an Urhobo, as his deputy. All did their two tenures. The Ikas now have with Gov Ifeanyi Okowa with an Ijaw man, Barr Kingsley Otuaro, as his deputy. They will complete their two tenures. In the Delta South Senatorial representation, Chief James Manager, an Ijaw, is possibly on his fourth term and angling for more, with Dr Uduaghan challenging to take over, even though it is rumored he is planning to bite the finger that had favoured and fed him for over 16 years by ditching the PDP for the APC should the party settle for Hon. Diden, his Itsekiri brother.
After Okowa’s second tenure with his deputy, Otuaro, power rotation would have gone full circle and while, in 2023, the gubernatorial mandate is expected to go to Delta Central, it will be tough to expect an Isoko running mate for an Urhobo Governorship candidate, considering their ethnic closeness. So, where that leaves Isokoland in the power equation of Delta State, particularly Delta South District, can only be imagined.
They contend therefore that Isoko should be more calculative by consolidating on the credibility of those who have attained reasonable positions of political influence to push for higher grounds. It follows that with his qualification as a lawyer and journalist, two credentials that suit well for legislative duties, and his growth to the rank of Majority Leader, Isoko can not afford to shoot itself in the hip by attempting to replace Tim Owhefere instead of supporting him to return as an highly experienced, senior ranking Assemblyman, with the possibility of elevation to higher influence to elicit more respect for Isoko nation in Okowa’s second tenure and beyond. Ditto for Hon Ogor, God granting him sound health.
Nothing could be more revealing, in this regard, than Gov Okowa’s testament at the Delta South Solidarity rally in Oleh that the Isoko Assemblymen are sound, vibrant and have been supportive in the good administration of the state.
It must be resounded that what Isoko needs is not vulgar rough riders but intelligent, calm and calculated congressmen who can build the right relationships and command the necessary respect for Isoko nation in the larger polity.
(Obaro Umukoro, from Ozoro, Delta State, is a lawyer and political/public affairs analyst)