AS the members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Delta State prepare for the forthcoming state congress, Kingsley Esiso’s bid to return as the State Chairman of the party has become a source of serious disagreement amongst members and powerful stakeholders.
The disagreement deepened during the week after members of Sapele PDP Leaders Forum held a crucial meeting over the matter and held that the next state chairman’s position had been zoned to Sapele and that the chairman, Kingsley Esiso, who is seeking re-election, is no longer part of Sapele Local Government Area.
Arising from the meeting, the leaders said: ”There is an impending injustice and injury about to be meted to the long suffering people of Sapele Local Government Area. The only position zoned to Sapele Local Government is on the verge of being hijacked by the forces of darkness. Some people are bent on causing crises and possible implosion of our great party, PDP, in Sapele Local Government Area,” the leaders said.
Speaking through its spokesman, Mr. Arusuaine Akoko, the forum said though Esiso had not officially declared his intention, there was the need to respect zoning. ”At the federal, state and local government levels, zoning is strictly adhered to. The case of Delta State must not be different,” they said, adding, ”the former Sapele Local Government chairman, Mr. Godwin Atose, is the only candidate for the party’s chairmanship.
”We believe in the principles of truth and steadfastness. There are 25 Local Government Areas in Delta State and for the sake of equity, transparency, fairness and inclusiveness, the party zoned the various offices to different local government areas.’
”This is a flagrant violation of party procedures and disregard of the principle of zoning in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). They underscored zoning aberration and the deliberate intention of some people to kill Sapele PDP because of their inordinate ambition. ”Zoning is a time tested winning formula of the greatest party in Africa, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The secret for the longevity or the phoenix nature of the PDP is the utmost respect for the zoning of all party’s positions.”
The forum therefore called on Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, Ex-Governor, Chief James Ibori, former Minister of Information, Prof Sam Oyovbaire and other PDP leaders in Delta State not to put the party and Sapele Local Government Area through unnecessary shocks and strains.”
The disagreement over the choice of the candidate for the plum PDP seat became public knowledge when Esiso’s opponents alleged that he is no longer from Sapele Local Government since 2015 when he moved his voting card from Sapele to Ethiope East Local Council and as a result can longer be said to represent Sapele, which according to them is zoned to produce the chairman of the party.
So, after the state chapter of PDP held a caucus meeting in Asaba, the state capital, and directed all zones to fill the various positions zoned to their respective local councils, stakeholders had to hold a special meeting at house of the former governor of the state, Chief James Ibori, in Oghara, to deliberate on the choice for the chairmanship seat.
Identifying the decisions arrived at in that meeting as parts of the reasons for the current rumble, a source said “This whole thing can be traced to the fact that Esiso moved his INEC voter’s card away from Sapele State Constituency in 2015 but on Thursday, March 19, 2020, leaders of Delta Central Senatorial District, following instructions of Delta State PDP caucus, in a meeting where the governor and the deputy governor of Delta State and other leaders of the party were present, zoned the position of chairman of the party in the state to Sapele Local Government. The meeting held in Chief James Onanefe Ibori’s residence. This reality has unfortunately created the current misunderstanding.”
The Nation observed that since after that crucial meeting, those opposed to Esiso’s return bid have been very vocal. Already, some of his opponents have openly declared support for other aspirants. There are, for example, reports last week that some influential Sapele PDP leaders like the member representing Sapele Constituency in the Delta State House of Assembly, Hon Felix Anirah and Chief Margaret Unukegwo have declared support for Godwin Atose for the party’s chairmanship seat.
An insider within Anirah’s supporters confided during the week that aside Atose, some of their members are also suggesting Dr. Festus Pemu as a likely aspirant for the chairmanship job.
Commenting on the development, Chief Felix Madu, who lives in Sapele, told The Nation that Esiso still has strong support base. “Yes, it may be true to say PDP stakeholders are divided over the choice of the next state chairman but there is no doubt that Esiso is still very popular. Don’t forget that before this story of his moving his voter’s card away from Sapele, he commanded great support base in Sapele. I can also point some influential PDP members that have not denied their support for his return bid. Apart from his life time friend, Mr. Linus Mba, who seems to carry his return campaign bid on his head, I think the Commissioner representing Sapele, Uvwie and Ethiope West in the board of Delta State Oil Producing Development Commission, DESOPADEC, and former House of Representatives member, Hon Joyce Overah; Director of Asaba Airport, Mr. Austin Ayemidejor and the Chairman of Sapele Local Council, Eugene Inoaghan are still behind his ambition.
Esiso’s supporters have also denied the allegation that he actually moved his voter’s card. One of the unnamed supporters was for example quoted as saying: “They should have found out if Esiso had moved his voting right to Ethiope East. What happened was that Esiso voted here (Sapele) during the Presidential elections and because he was the State Returning Officer at the governorship election, he left for Asaba and did not vote here. So, the Anirah group thought he had gone to vote in Ethiope East,” he said.
As the verbal altercation continuous, concerned observers express fear that the state congress may be tricky. As Madu puts it, “tension is building up already. So all of us interested in the affairs of PDP are today calling on the leaders to intervene and ensure a credible emergence of a new state PDP chairman.”