By Owede Agbajileke
Call him the most-sought after political bride of Delta State nay the South-South geo-political zone, you may just be right. This view is reinforced by the factor that at a time of massive political alignment and re-alignment ahead of the 2023 elections, the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, is emerging as a rallying point of sorts. If the roll call of political heavyweights and gladiators who converged on Effurun, Delta State for his governorship declaration recently was anything to go by, this assertion gains traction.
From foremost labour leader and member, APC Board of Trustees, Chief Frank Kokori; Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State, his counterpart from Kogi State, Yahaya Bello; Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi; South-South Zonal Vice Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Chief Victor Giadom; the party’s governorship candidate in the 2015 election, Olorogun O’tega Emerhor; lawmaker representing Delta North Senatorial District and Chairman Senate Committee on Niger Delta, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi and a host of others, they were unanimous on three fronts: Delta State has been under bondage of under-development in the Okowa-led administration, 2023 is a year of liberation for the state and Senator Omo-Agege is the right man to take the oil-rich state to the promised land.
First elected on the platform of Labour Party in 2015 and reelected in 2019 under the ruling All Progressives Congress, the lawyer-turned politician broke the jinx by becoming the first lawmaker to be reelected in Delta Central Senatorial District.
Senator W.O. Eradajaye was first elected on the platform of Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the botched Third Republic of 1992-1993 (3rd Assembly).
On return to the Fourth Republic, Senators Fred Brume (4th Assembly, 1999-2003), Felix Ibru (5th Assembly, 2003-2007) and Adego Eferakeya (6th Assembly, 2007-2011) served only one term each. However, in the 7th Assembly (2011-2015), Senator Pius Ewherido’s impactful representation was cut short by the cold hands of death after two years in office in 2013, while a bye-election saw the emergence of Senator Emmanuel Aguariavwodo to serve out the tenure till 2015. Enter Senator Omo-Agege in the 8th Assembly (2015-2019), reelected in 2019 (9th Assembly) after his impressive performance which has made him the cynosure of all eyes.
Omo-Agege has recorded many firsts: first Delta Central Senator to be reelected for second term, first Urhobo/Deltan to clinch the nation’s Number Six position, first South-South senator with the most number of bills (20) sponsored at midterm of the 9th National Assembly, Top Five senator with the most number of bills (20) sponsored at midterm of the 9th National Assembly and a host of others. As of today, there are 26 bills to his credit in the current Assembly and one of them – Federal Polytechnic Orogun, Delta State (Establishment) Bill – has just been signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.
His declaration may have sent jitters to the governing Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Delta State as well as the Ifeanyi Okowa-led administration. Few examples would suffice.
First, soon after his earth-shaking declaration, both Delta State Government and Delta PDP hurriedly lampooned the personality of the distinguished senator rather than focus on his message of building a new Delta premised on “Employment and Empowerment, Development, Good Governance and Enduring peace and security (EDGE)”.
It is standard procedure for political parties and sitting governments not to pay heed to aspirants of other parties until their emergence as candidates. But the knee-jerk reaction of the Delta State Government which issued a 44-paragraph-long statement discrediting an aspirant of another political party points to one thing: the fear of Omo-Agege is the beginning of wisdom.
Another fallout from the declaration is the N150 billion loan set to be obtained by the state government on the eve of election. Observers have questioned the timing even as news making the rounds is that the Okowa-led government would use the funds to prosecute the forthcoming General Elections. Although public hearing on the loan is scheduled for 10th May, 2022, it is an open secret that members of the Delta State House of Assembly unanimously approved the facility on 26th April, 2022 without the input of Deltans.
According to data released by the Debt Management Office, Delta is the ninth most indebted state in the country with N154 billion domestic debt as of Q4 2021. The implication of the new loan is that our domestic public debt stock would rise exponentially to over N300 billion, overtaking seven other states – Rivers, Ogun, Akwa Ibom, Imo, Cross River, Bayelsa – and second after Lagos. And plunge the state into more debts.
Without a doubt, Omo-Agege’s declaration has sent cold chills to the governing PDP and the state government. The many forced and unforced errors after his declaration bear testament to the fact that they are grasping at straws.
…AGBAJILEKE is the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the Deputy President of the Senate.