WITH his latest victory at the Supreme Court, it is perhaps time for the Delta State governor, Dr Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan to sleep, at least, with one eye closed. Oh yes, with his seemingly uneding travails in the seat of power in Asaba, there’s every reason for the medical doctor-turned politician to keep that second eye perpetually open; there may just be some more ‘battles’ to fight ahead of the 2015 elections.
The Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) candidate, Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru, had approached the court seeking for an order to set aside the March 21, 2012 judgment, which affirmed Uduaghan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the winner of the April 2011 election.
Delivering judgment on the suit, Justice Suleman Galadima, who led a panel of four justices, said the application by Mr. Ogboru amounted to a gross abuse of court processes, which was capable of setting a dangerous precedence for the legal profession. Aside from affirming Uduaghan’s victory, the court also awarded a cost of N150,000 against Ogboru. What a sweet victory!
A little flash back. On May 29, 2007, Dr. Uduaghan was sworn-in as the governor of Delta State in Nigeria, under PDP. He was formerly the Commissioner for Health, Delta State and later the Secretary to the Delta State Government (SSG). On May 29, 2011, he was sworn-in again as the governor of Delta State after the April 2011 general elections. But in between these two swearing-ins, was a third oath taking when on January 10, 2011, Uduaghan was sworn-in after winning the re-run governorship election in the state, following the landmark judgment by the Court of Appeal in Benin, Edo state, delivered by Justice Monica Domgbam-Mensen to annul the 2007 general elections in Delta State and order a re-run within 90 days. Now, you can at least understand why Uduaghan needs enough rest after that victory at the Supreme Court.
How he has managed to survive all these years as the governor of Delta State remains a mystery.
From the point his cousin and predecessor, James Onanefe Ibori, anointed him as his successor, Uduaghan had been on a hot seat. His candidacy was a big issue because some elders of the state, who wanted things differently, would not let him be. Even so, incompetence was not among the points counted against the medical doctor, having been in the corridors of power for years. Both friends and enemies managed to agree that he could do the job but the latter just wanted a candidate outside what they described as the Ibory dynasty.
By the time he finally picked the PDP ticket to contest the 2007 governorship election, there was serious crisis in the party; some aggrieved party men left and ganged up against him.
Some, who stayed back, actually did so to fight the medical doctor from within. But Uduaghan won the election in spite of the stiff opposition and was sworn in. Expectedly, his victory was followed by a litany of litigations.
The Uduaghan’s candidacy was reportedly driven home on the principle put forward by the G3, one of the informal political groups in Delta State in 2007, which preached the need for power shift after Ibori, from Delta Central to either the South or North Senatorial zone. This group argued that since Uduaghan is from the South, he should be allowed to move in after Ibori.
However, this argument did not go down well with other aspirants, especially from Delta North, who felt that the South should come after the North had had its turn. This was the thinking that created the likes of Godswill Obielum and Godson Echegile amongst others. Other aspirants from Delta Central like Chief Obule insisted on full participation of all zones in the PDP Primaries. These were some of the huddles Uduaghan hat to scale to pick the PDP governorship ticket in 2007; how he did it is entirely his trade secrete.
Aside from his main opponent in these elections and the subsequent tribunals and legal battles, Great Ogboru, who has challenged every Uduaghan victory, elder statesman Chief E.K Clark became even a bigger thorn in Uduaghan’s flesh.
At different occasions, Chief Clark had maintained that Ibori imposed his cousin Uduaghan on Deltans, adding that the governorship of Delta was not a family affair. And for E.K Clark to stay on one’s neck, hmmm… it was pressure enough to drive away sleep.
In all, the onslaught against Uduaghan was prosecuted from two fronts; some fought from within, while the others fought from the outside. The arrowheads of the inner attack were Chief Clark and Godsday Orubebe. In fact the heat was so much that stakeholder had to arrange meetings to work out a power sharing formula between Uduaghan and Chief Clark even only to douse the rising heat.
On the other hand, the late Senator Pius Akpo Ewherido who left PDP to join DPP, teamed up with Chief Ogboru against Uduaghan; their camp fought from the outside. Somehow, all the weapons of mass destruction fashioned against Uduaghan failed to prosper.
On the far side was Mr. Peter Okocha of the Action Congress (AC), who stormed the election petition tribunal at that time, alleging that he was unlawfully excluded from contesting the 2007 gubernatorial election of Delta State. Okocha’s prayers seeking the nullification of Dr. Uduaghan’s election held no ground for the B.S Mohammed’s led tribunal; therefore, he had no difficulty in dismissing the petitioner’s case.
Not satisfied with the decision of the election petition tribunal, he headed to the Court of Appeal in Benin City, but the Justice Monica Duogban Memser also dismissed the appeal. This time, Okocha, who is more of a businessman than a politician, read correctly the handwriting on the wall, took a break and returned to his business.
The Supreme Court ruling is one of the many things currently going well for Uduaghan. His enemies have also turned against themselves. During their battle days, Chief Clark and Orubebe were the best of friends. Today, things have fallen apart between both men; a detail of their faceoff was widely reported in the dailies. In fact, some elders and concerned Deltans are now said to be mounting pressure on Uduaghan to come up with a plan to restore peace in the camp of his enemies.
In the DPP camp between Ogboru and Senator Ewherido before the latter’s passing away, there was also turbulence. Ewherido, who was rumoured to be nursing governorship ambition under the party, was at crossroads with Ogboru.
Having persistently suffered defeats at the polling boots and law courts, the late Senator must have reasoned that it was time for someone to retire Great Ogboru from the governorship race of Delta State. So, in effect, the storm in DPP before the death of Senator Ewherido had everything to do with who became the next governor of Delta State.
Sentiments aside, Uduaghan is a different breed of politician; he has a way of combining the two incongruous tasks of fighting for his mandate and working to justify his mandate. His tacitumity is a virtue of sort in this regard. He had defeated Chief E.K Clark with sheer silence. He listens more than he talks and most times he tries not to talk anyhow. He does not also have permanent enemies and friends. At all times, it is the situation at hand that determines a friend or an enemy. So, who says medical doctors don’t understand politics? With what Senator Chris Ngige did with ACN in Anmabra State and now the survival streak of Uduaghan in Delta State, in spite of big powers and principalities, there’s need for a rethink about doctors and politics, especially when the doctor is short.
Uduaghan also knows when to completely lower his guards, relegate politics to the back seat and push to the front row shared humanity. When Senator Ewherido took ill and was bedridden at the National Hospital, Abuja, Governor Uduaghan reportedly turned the hospital into his second home; he was there throughout the three days Ewherido was on admission and frantically made efforts to save the life of the late Senator, who was said to have slumped while making a phone call in his (the Senator’s) Abuja residence. What a brotherly love.
Today, the Supreme Court has finally laid to rest, all anxieties regarding the last governorship election in Delta State. Now, the so-called cynics and detractors have no other option than to seek some form of accommodation in Delta State under Uduaghan at least till 2015.
As for Uduaghan, the proverbial cat with nine lives, he can take a deep breath, laugh aloud, pop champagne and possibly go for some more thanksgiving. But it is also time for him to roll his sleeves and get down to real business; the remaining two years is an opportunity to show true leadership. No more distractions and therefore excuses for under performance. Time is of the essence.
Published by the The Guardian on July 8, 2013.