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POLITICS: Ogboru, Ewherido plunge Delta DPP into crisis

THE unfolding scenario may just lead to the final fall of the political house of Chief Great Ogboru. At the heart of the matter is the tussle between him and Senator Pius Ewherido for the soul of the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) in Delta State, which Ogboru had carefully and stoically built over the years from the scratch.

Who, between the duo, should call the shots, and maybe fly the flag of the party in Delta for the 2015 governorship election, seems to be the real reason the state branch of the party recently suspended Ewherido, former Deputy and Acting Speaker of the House of Assembly.

Also suspended by the party is the acting national deputy chairman, Mr. Olisemeka Akamukale, the vice chairman of Delta Central senatorial district, Mr. Henry Olori, as well as a leader in Sapele local government council, Mr. Cyril Ogodor.

The crisis secretly rocking the party in the state climaxed on Tuesday when the State Executive Council suspended Ewherido, and some other top members.

Announcing the suspension, the DPP state chairman, Chief Tony Ezeagwu, said the decision to descend on the alleged erring members was because of their flirtation with the budding All Progressives Congress (APC), an action he described as gross misconduct and anti-party activities.

In a way, the 50-year-old senator is a kind of interloper, who is probably out to upset the apple cart, considering the fact that before now, Ogboru had been synonymous with the party in the state, while his nemesis (Ewherido) was in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and served for eight years in the House of Assembly between 1999 and 2007.

He decamped to the DPP during the 2011 general elections, when political scheming was too hot to handle in the PDP. And a magnanimous DPP gave him the platform to have a shot at the Senate and he won.

Nonetheless, the instant clash had been brewing because of Ewherido’s ambition, and his open romance with the emerging APC was all that was needed to axe him.

Even though the decision to suspend the senator was announced by the state chairman, political analysts concluded that it was the hand of Ogboru and the voice of the party chairman, Chief Ezeagwu.

A party source told The Guardian in Asaba that it is an open secret that the party leadership was also not happy with Ewherido for romancing with APC when Ogboru, who ran against Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of the ruling party in both the January 2011 re-run and the April 2011 elections, still has his case pending at the Supreme Court.

The source added that Ogboru, who had contested every governorship election in the state since 2003 when he first ran against former Governor James Ibori, still wants to run in 2015. But the charismatic senator may truncate his ambition.

Unlike when Ogboru was virtually unopposed as the party candidate, the source said that his word may no longer be law in the APC and would have to contend with other candidates in the party primaries should he decide to run.

The source said that the state branch of the party was also wary of aligning with the APC against the PDP so as not to rattle President Goodluck Jonathan, a fellow Niger Deltan in the 2015 elections.

According to the source, from being the top dog of the DPP where the buck stops on his table, Ezeagwu is jittery that his influence in a brand new APC will be considerably whittled down should he agree to the merger.

The source said that instead of aligning with the opposition parties, a hopeful Ogboru, whose case against Uduaghan, as regards the re-run election comes up early next month at the Supreme Court, might decamp to the PDP if he won.

Ogboru was not disposed to being part of the merger, which Ewherido is very passionate about. Therefore, the senator from Delta Central and some other top members of the party had to be suspended last week by the Chief Ezeagwu-led State Executive Council of the party “for engaging in anti-party activities.”

Undeterred by the unconditional romance between the DPP at the national level with the APC, the Delta State branch of the party had resolved to maintain a splendid isolation from the merger effort while those romancing with the new party were warned that they risked expulsion.

The leadership of the DPP in Delta State, where it has the largest followership across the country, distanced itself from the action on the ground the merger conditions were clearly spelt out.

In fact, Ezeagwu had warned members of the party to desist from fraternising with other political associations that are capable of balkanising the DPP.

He said: “We still remain DPP that we are and we have equally banned every affiliate political group masquerading within the party to balkanise it.”

He advised the members, who want to remain loyal to the DPP, not to associate with another political association that tends to pull out its faithful.

However, determined to weather the storm, Ewherido has dismissed the report of his suspension from the DPP, insisting that he was still a bona fide member of the party for the simple reason that his suspension was illegal.

He disagreed with the state party chairman, Ezeagwu, saying that the accusation of flirting with the APC did not hold water, as the national executive of the party had reached a deal with the APC to be part of the merger.

He said that the action of the state branch of the party smacked of ignorance because the executive council members were not aware of the decision of the leadership of the party to fuse with the APC.

The lawmaker said: “I am still a member of DPP. The suspension was not in order. I never engaged in anti-party activities. I am a loyal member of the DPP and can never go against it.

“The fact is that Delta State executive council is supposed to be part of the national executive, which agreed to merge with APC. The DPP is now a part of APC; so, holding meetings with them is not illegal.”

Uncomfortable with the ongoing squabbles, former Senator Francis Spanner Okpozo disclosed that he decided to wade into the crisis because the two (Ogboru and Ewherido) were his political sons and so could not afford to fold his hands and watch them engaged in a rough fight.

With a dismissive wave of the hand, Okpozo said he was yet to believe that there was a real quarrel between Ogboru and Ewherido, adding that even if the two had issues, he was ready to do everything to settle them.

“I have no knowledge of a crisis between the two gentlemen but if it is true that there is a quarrel between Ogboru and Ewherido, it is not above the competence of me and others to resolve,” he said.

“The quarrel will be ephemeral and so, opponents should not take advantage of what they heard to cause disaffection between the two.”

Trouble started last July when some members of the party pointedly accused Ogboru for sponsoring Mr. Isaac Akpoveta, a candidate of the ruling PDP in the 2011 House of Assembly election against his party member, in a long-drawn legal tangle against the victory of the DPP candidate.

But one year after the election, Mr. Rufus Akpodiete Edojah of the DPP, representing Ughelli North Constituency II, had finally heaved a sigh of relief, courtesy of a Federal High Court in Asaba, which upheld his victory in the April 26, 2011 election.

Dismissing the pre-election suit of Akpoveta, Justice Ibrahim Buba held that going by the facts before him, there was no doubt that Akpodiete was the real winner of the DPP primary and the subsequent election.

Justice Buba averred that the petition had no locus standi, as his opponent failed woefully to prove his case beyond reasonable doubt.

Even in victory, a renowned human rights activist and former chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA, Ughelli chapter), Mr. Peter Wanogho, had harsh words for the DPP and Ogboru, who, he said, lacked the capability to take firm decision on political matters, thereby causing crisis within his party.

Wanogho blamed Ogboru for having a hand in the numerous litigation against the election of Edojah, all in a single-minded bid to subvert the choice of members of the party.

He charged: “All the litigation brought against Akpodiete before the Federal High Court, Asaba, could be traceable to Ogboru with the intent of subverting or perverting justice against his own political followers whom he had fallen out with.

“He should go back to the drawing board politically and think the way of fighting for political goals.”

But Ezeagwu, who sharply disagreed with Wanogho, said that the activist was acting the script of his sponsors in the PDP, who, he insisted, were bent on discrediting the DPP and its governorship candidate.

Again in August of 2012, the state branch of the DPP described the purported dissolution of the executive council by some aggrieved members, as the machination of the PDP to stop it from taking part in the forthcoming council polls in the state.

For allegedly failing to conduct congresses and convention at the expiration of their tenure, some aggrieved members of the party, totaling 44, claimed that the party executive, from the ward to the national level, had been dissolved.

But Ezeagwu thundered, saying that the action of the petitioners was an aberration, stressing that the “faceless petitioners” were not members of the party, as their names were not in its register.

He described them as hirelings of the party’s opponents, who were determined to create the impression that there was crisis within the DPP.

He added that the strategy was to ensure that the Delta State Independent Electoral Commission (DSIEC) does not honour correspondence from the present coming local government elections in the state.

Indicating that the current executive was given a fresh mandate at the party’s national convention held in Jos in 2010, Ezeagwu queried: “And if you watch, it was only the 25 local government areas of Delta State that were represented there.

“We have 36 states in this country, and only one state and the FCT is dissolving the national body of a party; is that not an aberration?”

He noted that it was not the right of any individual, group or sycophant to register or de-register any political party but rather an exclusive preserve of the INEC.

Ezeagwu said the party was investigating the source of the advert, which, he claimed, had no address, with a view to taking necessary actions against those involved in the plot.

The fortune of DPP, which before now was the main opposition party in the state, and finished a strong second during the 2011 elections, seems to be on the decline.

Some members of the House of Assembly, like Dr. Alphonsus Ojo (Ukwani Constituency), had resigned their membership in favour of the PDP.

Dr. Olisa Imegwu had lost to the PDP candidate, Mr. Ossai Ossai, at the court, and Mr. Eme Mukoro of Ughelli Constituency lost to Mr. Taleb Tebite of the PDP, also at the court.

The suspension of Senator Ewherido and several others for alleged anti-party activities may be the icing on the cake for a once vibrant DPP that again and again gave — and still giving, that is at the court, though — the ruling PDP sleepless nights.

With the crisis in the party, there is no doubt that Ogboru is fighting the main battle of his political career. It is still hazy whether his long trek will finally lead him to the Government House, Asaba.

 

 

Source: Guardian 

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