By Binebai Princewill
It is no longer a news that Delta State was carved out of the former Bendel State on the 27th of August 1991. The state was created following agitations for the creation of a separate distinct state by the people of the old Delta Province: The Urhobos, Ijaws, Isokos, Itsekiris and Ukwuani (later joined Anioma).
There was yet another state creation movement designated as “Niger State” comprising the old midwestern Igbo-speaking Asaba divisions and Ukwuani-speaking Aboh division of the old Midwest region. This was transformed into “Anioma” following the creation of Niger State from the old Northwestern State by the Murtala Muhammed administration in 1976. The then Military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, created the state using the name “Delta” advanced by Niger Delta region and “Asaba” a prominent town within the “Anioma” axis as capital.
Asaba was designated as capital of the proposed Anioma State. The proposed capital was a virgin land or “Anioma city” in the heart of the two constituent divisions that had evolved to become the Anioma area.
Delta state was once integrated in the Mid Western state from 1963 to 1976 and later Bendel state, from 1976 to 1991. The name “Bendel” coined from the old Benin and Delta Provinces of Western Region-Delta to reflect the integration of Benin and Delta provinces.
Without delving into much history, Delta state that was created on the 27th of August 1991 with The Igbos, Urhobos, Ijaws, Isokos and Itsekiris as major tribes in the state that has 25 Local Government Areas with three (3) Senatorial districts became a PDP dominated state politically speaking beginning from 1999 when the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP was planted in the Nigerian politics.
Perhaps for the purpose of this report, a brief look into the former governors of the state will be very crucial.
Felix Ibru Governor from Urhobo, Delta Central, January 1992 whose tenure terminated on November 1993 under Social Democratic Party, SDP.
James Ibori Governor from Urhobo, Delta Central 29 May 1999 whose tenure terminated on 29th of May 2007 under the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP
Emmanuel Ewetan Uduaghan an Itsekiri from Delta South took over from Chief Ibori as Governor of Delta State on the 29th of May 2007 whose tenure terminated on May 29th 2015 under the PDP.
Then comes Sen. Dr. Ifeanyi A. Okowa who took over from Udughan as Governor of Delta state, he is an Igbo from Delta North on the 29th of May 2015 whose tenure will elapse May 29th 2023 under the reign of PDP.
However, we have just only looked at the civilian governors of Delta state, a point must be made clear that before the aforementioned governors, there were military governors of Delta state, but for the sake of this report, we are only confining it to only the above stated governors.
As it is, Delta Central dominated by the Urhobos have produced Chief Onanefe Ibori who became the first PDP governor in the state, he ruled for eight (8) years and handed over to his maternal brother Emmanuel Uduaghan, an Itsekiri from Delta South, he ruled his eight (8) years and handed over to Sen. Dr. Ifeanyi A. Okowa from Delta North who is now on his second tenure and will relinquish power to another senatorial district in the state come 2023.
The argument of the Ijaws in Delta state is that now that all the zones have produced governor of the state after Okowa’s tenure comes to an end on May 29th 2023, the rightful people to produce the next governor of the state should be the Ijaws.
According to them, there is no arrangement anywhere in the state that said since the Urhobos that constitute Delta central that produced the first PDP Governor of the state will be the right district again to produce Governor of the state come 2023 again.
The Ijaw nation had insisted that apart from the Delta North that ought not contest when Okowa will be leaving power come 2023, between Delta South and Central any district can contest for the governorship of Delta state.
The Ijaws seems to have an edge when it comes to that point, reasons be that Urhobo nation have produced two governors since creation of the state in 1991 which include Felix Ibru, January 1992 to November 1993 and then Chief Ibori who ruled from 1999 to May 29th 2007.
Itsekiris in Delta State, a people without any complete Local Government of their own have also produced a governor that had ruled Delta for eight (8) years in Emmanuel Uduaghan while the Ijaws que behind alongside others to support the system.
The Ijaws of Delta State is of the opinion that being the third majority ethnic group that have contributed politically and economically to the electoral successes of successive administrations in Delta state ought to have been freely compensated with the governorship ticket of Delta state come 2023 by the Urhobos and other tribes in the state.
When the Ijaws looked at it from ethnic basis as one of the largest and economically viable ethnic group in the state, Urhobos have produced, Itsekiris and the Igbos have all produced governors in the state while the Ijaws are yet to produce.
Politically speaking, Ijaws of Delta state have Burutu Local Government Area, Patani Local Government, Bomadi Local Government and are balkernized into Warri South West, Warri South and Warri North Local Government Areas of Delta State with lots of political and economic strength in Delta state and beyond.
The Ijaws believes that it is their turn to produce the next governor of the state after Okowa, stating that any attempt of denying them of such privilege will amount to what they described as a “grave injustice” and will be resisted by all means.
The Ijaws must not be treated continuously as sacrificial lambs, there are more than capable personalities from the Ijaw extraction that will rule and take Delta State to the promised land.
This is not a time to joke as Ijaw political leaders in the state must come together to collectively fight this political battle.