Tuesday, June 5, 2018
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Asaba, Nigeria

he All Progressives Congress, APC, is the opposition party in Delta State. She has been in opposition for the past 19 years (since 1999) when this current democratic dispensation started. The Peoples Democratic Party, the PDP, has ruled the state for the past 19 years. In contrast, Edo State, a sister state that gave birth to Delta State, started 1999 with the PDP winning the election that year, but was wrestled down by the APC in 2011. In Delta state, the PDP had held sway, even against the run of popular opinion. This judgment is anchored on the uneventful eight year outing of the immediate past governor of the state.

2019 is again another opportunity for the APC to try and dislodge the PDP from Unity House, Asaba. But are they putting the right legs forward? The just concluded state congress on Monday 21st May 2018 got so much right but goofed on getting the right man for the job for a key office. And for a party that seriously yearns for power, there are no rooms for weak links in the battle chain.

One major thing APC got right in Delta state was to dislodge the self styled Prophet Jones Erhue, who masqueraded as the state chairman of the party for so long whereas he was a tool of the PDP to make sure that APC never found its feet to stand and pose any major challenge to the ruling PDP. With Jones was a state secretary of the party that brought neither elegance, capacity, knowledge, eloquence nor prestige to the party. One always wondered how the party was looked at when the young man presented himself at meetings as state secretary when the national executive committee (NEC) of the party gathered. The current state secretary of the party is from Delta South, away from Delta North where Mr. Chidi hails from. The permutation is that the key posts of party chairman, secretary and governorship candidate should be spread out among the three senatorial zones. And that is good thinking indeed.

Prophet Jones is still battling, vide a parallel congress, to force himself on the party and continue to do the bidding of his actual paymasters. But a few things that he is championing gives him away a lacking in depth and critical thinking but just out to remain in power at all cost. He is backing Chief Great Ogboru for governor for instance, knowing well enough that it is a wild goose chase. Ogboru is an Urhobo man from Delta Central senatorial district while the incumbent, Senator, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa is from Delta North senatorial district. Okowa is currently doing his first term and justifiably expects to go for his constitutionally prescribed second term. The faction of APC in the state headed by the duo of Olorogun O'tega Emerhor and Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, Minister of State for Petroleum, understand this elementary nuance, and have settled for producing a candidate from Delta North senatorial zone to wrestle the remaining second term from the PDP led government. Even first time sojourns in the rough and tumble world of politics know which option is less exasperating.

O'tega himself, who contested the governorship crown with Dr. Okowa in 2015, has since dropped that ambition this time around for the above reasons but the professional governorship contestant, Great Ogboru, who only recently defected to the APC from Labour party thinks he has a good chance of getting what rightly belongs to another senatorial zone, when he missed it when it was a battle reserved for his senatorial zone. He has contested every governorship battle since 1999, five in all. He probably draws inspiration from President Muhammadu Buhari who won the crown in his third attempt. He forgets that there were block coalitions that formed the bulwark for Buhari's victory, which are not in place for him now as he seeks to poach what rightly belongs to another senatorial district..

The major plank of this article however is the trivialization of the office of publicity secretary of the party in the state, upon which any chance of giving Governor Okowa a scare or even dislodging him from the governor's lodge rests. No doubt, Governor Okowa is doing quite well in the state. His score in road construction and infrastructure generally, is high. His focus on skills acquisition for youth empowerment is loud. But it is not for the opposition parties to sing his praise. It is for his media managers and the directorate for orientation to sing his praise.

It is the job of the publicity secretary of the opposition party to minimize the advantages or score sheet of the ruling party. It is the task of the spokesman of the opposition party to even discredit the claims of the ruling party and present alternative ways things could be done or done better under his party. That is what the publicity secretary of PDP at the national level, Kola Ologbodiyan is doing so well and no one is threatening his life like would be done in Delta State.

In the Delta State APC congress a few weeks ago, Moses Kamayan emerged as the state publicity secretary in an exercise of successful harmonization of offices to accommodate different personalities and tendencies that came into the party from their respective destinations. Some of the personalities that came into APC Delta of Delta North origin include Rt. Hon. Victor Ochei, Dr. Cairo Ojougbough, Engr. Doris Uboh, Prof. Pat Utomi, to mention those of immediate interest in this piece. Moses Kamayan, the new publicity secretary for the state who also came in from the PDP, is from Ika North East local government area, where veteran and accomplished journalists also hail. But they were ignored and someone who will have a herculean task getting his acts together publicity-wise was elevated.

When enquiries were made, it was confirmed that the state offices were zoned to big politicians in the three senatorial zones, accommodating those whoe who recently defected. These big politicians were to present candidates for the offices zoned to their local governments and zones. It was also confirmed that the post of publicity secretary was not zoned to Ika North East lga but to Dr. Cairo in Ika South. It was Dr. Cairo who chose Moses Kamaya of Ika N E lga to hold forth for now.

But there's work to do now, not just "to hold forth" for a key office like publicity secretary. This is time for aggressive bombardment of the airwaves to have a chance of giving Okowa a scare or even unseat him. This is time for putting together a crack team of young social media hawks to inundate cell phones with information. This is time for meeting with media groups (who should be the professional constituency of the publicity secretary in the first place) and courting them for the arduous task ahead. This time is for writing articles and commissioning more articles.

But what we see is zero work, where there is so much to do. The 2019 elections is less than a year away. To change minds take time. And for a governor who is generally adjudged to be performing, you need a highly professional and aggressive media manager. Areas to work on to level on points with the ruling party include looking into the looting of the state treasury. Go to Asaba and Warri and see the kind of high-rise buildings erected by individual whose only exposure to money is that they once worked in government in the executive or legislative arm. The kind of mind-boggling treasury looting that the Nigerian populace are bombarded with at the national stage needs to be replicated here in the state. And only a government different from the party that has held Delta prostrate for the past 19 years will probe those that have bled this state crazy all these years.

Other areas that the opposition can create and gain mileage include the area of pettiness of the serving governor, cheating and robbing of some local governments by smaller lgas because they have political appointees up there (relegating fairness and equity to the background). Yet other areas include infrastructure that can be made even better. And you need time to stay on your message to make them sink, to make an impact.

There is still time to make amends. Kachikwu, O'tega, Ochei, Uboh and all other right thinking progressives should please think aright if they are truly desirous of capturing power in 2019. One more advice is to know who is with us. The nPDP gamble will likely throw up more movements out of the party and we will be back to the old reliable horses that we once neglected.