-By Ashibuogwu Olisakwue:
With the Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa resolving to be totally neutral and allow delegates of his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to freely decide who they desired as their candidates for the approaching elections, the contest in the state, particularly his home district, Delta North promises to be keen.
Two PDP gladiators, the incumbent, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi from Oshimili North Local Government Area and a former member of the House of Representatives, Prince Ned Nwoko from Aniocha North Local Government Area are locked in a crunchy battle over the party’s ticket for the Senatorial District ahead of the 2019 National Assembly election.
There are striking differences between the two aspirants. While Ned Nwoko is a self-made political leader who is used to cracking his own coconut by himself, his chief opponent, Nwaoboshi had in most of his political battles since 1999 depended on the anointing and support of officialdom to compete. However, the scenario is fast changing for him in the current dispensation as Governor Okowa has sworn to be unabashedly neutral and detached by refraining from endorsing any aspirant.
Even some powerful forces in the state that Nwaoboshi had in the past flaunted as his godfathers and kingmakers such as former Governor James Ibori have joined Okowa’s principled stance that there should be a level playing field for all. Okowa and Ibori are definitely aware that foisting unpopular candidates on the people could backfire and result in PDP losing not only the senatorial but also the governorship election next year.
It is for this reason that the two powerful contenders for the Delta North Senatorial election and their foot soldiers have swooped on the nine constituent local government areas of Delta North to sway the party delegates to their respective sides.
An independent exit poll survey carried out by Image online newspaper (www.image.org.ng) gave a fore knowledge of how the nine LGAs that constitute the district may vote at the PDP senatorial primary as most of the delegates have taken their considered positions.
The survey further reveals that as the September 18 D-Day for the senatorial primary contest draws nearer, Senator Nwaoboshi is increasingly finding himself on unsteady legs to face his major opponent, Prince Ned Nwoko whose political rating in the district has been surging like hurricane. The survey by www.image.org.ng shows that Ned Nwoko is clearly ahead of Nwaoboshi in at least seven out of the nine local government areas that make up Delta North district.
The survey upheld Ned Nwoko as the clear favorite to emerge the PDP senatorial candidate and go all the way to win the election proper. The survey revealed these statistics:
ANIOCHA NORTH: Nwoko 90% – Nwaoboshi 10%
This local government area with its headquarters in Issele-Ukwu is the home base of Prince Ned Nwoko and he is sure to carry the day with as high as 90% margin. His hometown, Idumuje-Ugboko is located in this local government area. Ostensibly due to his strong moral character, philanthropic gestures including massive scholarship awards and empowerment. Ned Nwoko is adored throughout the area as a shinning example of a selfless , responsible and caring leader.
ANIOCHA SOUTH: Nwoko 60% – Nwaoboshi 40%
By extension, this is another home base of Ned Nwoko considering the usual solidarity between the two sister local governments. The fact that Hon Paschal Adigwe, one of Directors of Nwaoboshi’s campaign organization hails from this local government is expected to reduce the margin of victory for Ned Nwoko.
This constituency presents a peculiar scenario. While a good number of the party leaders including some local government executives here have pitched tent with Nwaoboshi, a vast majority of the councilors and ward delegates are staunch supporters of Ned Nwoko. He is expected to win this state constituency with 60 percent of the votes here.
IKA NORTHEAST: Nwoko 50% – Nwaoboshi 50%
This local government where Governor Okowa hails from is a veritable battleground zone for the two contenders. They are equally keeled here and both are expected to share the spoils of battle apiece by splitting the delegate votes 50 – 50.
IKA SOUTH: Nwoko 70% – Nwaoboshi 30%
In Ika South Constituency, Prince Ned Nwoko enjoys an upper hand with most of the voting bigwigs on his side. On the d-day no fewer than 70 percent of the delegates would queue behind Ned leaving 30 percent for Nwaoboshi and others to share.
Nwoko is projected to win here by as high as 70 percent.
NDOKWA EAST: Nwoko 75% – Nwaoboshi 25%
In this oil-rich but largely swampy local government area, Ned is sure to chalk up no fewer than 75 percent of the delegates’ votes while Nwaoboshi would make do with 30 percent . The people of this local government are unhappy with Senator Nwaoboshi for not doing anything to ameliorate their plight despite serving as the Chairman of the strategic Senate Committee on Niger Delta which supervises the NDDC. For instance, Abala-Uno and Abala-Obodo people are suspicious of him being complicit in the stalling of the 18km road project linking the two communities to the Warri-Asaba express road via Oloa-Ossissa junction. Also, Okpai indigenes are furious over his inaction concerning the problem of gas flaring at Okpai Gas Plant which has been on since 1965.
NDOKWA WEST: Nwoko 78% – Nwaoboshi 22%
As for Ndokwa West, Ned’s popularity among the leaders and delegates has been soaring. Here, he is projected to notch up as high as 78 percent leaving 22 percent for Nwaoboshi.
UKWUANI: Nwoko 85% – Nwaoboshi 15%
A similar scenario as in Ndokwa West and Ndokwa East will play out in Ukwuani Local Government Area, although the margin there is expected to be higher with Nwoko harvesting as much as 85 percent leaving a paltry 15 percent for Nwaoboshi. The Director General of Ned Nwoko Senatorial Campaign Organization, Hon Leo Esegbue and many other PDP stalwarts are from this local government area.
OSHIMILI NORTH: Nwoko 30% – Nwaoboshi 70%
If the primary election holds today, Nwaoboshi may garner as high as 70 percent in his native Oshimili North to Ned Nwoko’s 30 percent but that is about the only local government area where the incumbent is expected to run away with victory. This is the local government area where most of the NDDC projects awarded in the last three and half years of Nwaoboshi’s stay in the Senate are located. Also most of the beneficiaries of his okada empowerment scheme are youths from Oshimili North.
OSHIMILI SOUTH: Nwoko 55% – Nwaoboshi 45%
This highly metropolitan local government has its headquarters located in Asaba, the state capital. This is a battleground local government but Nwoko is projected by pundits to win most of the delegate votes marginally here. The ratio has been put at 55 – 45 in his favour.
Image News investigations revealed that generally, credibility, trust, perception and equity are critical factors that will influence the voting pattern of delegates. Money as usual may play some limited part as in other political climes but such role would not be overriding as the Delta North senatorial district is a place where high moral value prevails.
There is also the factor of equity and fairness in rotation of the senatorial seat among the four political blocs and cultural quadrants that make up the district. These are Oshimili, Ndokwa, Ika and Aniocha. Out of the four zones, only Aniocha bloc is yet to produce a senator from the onset in the First Republic to date.
In fact, Oshimili zone where the incumbent Senator Nwaoboshi hails from has produced four elected senators since the Second Republic. These were Senators Nosike Ikpo, Azinge, Nwajei and Nwaoboshi. Ndokwa produced a three-term senator in the person of Senate Patrick Osakwe while Ika axis has produced the current governor, Dr. Okowa as Senator between 2011 and 2015.
The survey equally showed that many influential political stakeholders including elders, youths, women and party stalwarts in the Delta North district are of the view that it is Aniocha’s turn to produce the next Senator for the district come 2019. This reasoning puts Prince Ned Nwoko in pole position of landing the PDP senatorial ticket next month.
September 18, 2018 will inexorably tell the rest between Nwoko and Nwaoboshi as to who emerges the PDP senatorial flagbearer but the prevailing variables favour Ned Nwoko.