Deputies have always been a wild card in Nigerian politics. Some would say they are a spare wheel only called on at times the leader is indisposed, yet a strategic leader knows that their deputy is often able to shore up grassroots support and provide much-needed unity and development, whilst the grander topics of statehood are managed. A deputy is more than the sum of its parts.
Whilst the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Delta State has been decided, the next stage of discussion, coincidentally much like at the federal level, is for the deputy governorship slot.
It is by no means clear, at this stage, which candidate will be anointed. Though many candidates are vying for the role, rumours abound as to the right choice that will enable Governor Okowa to continue his legacy. There are rumblings that the war chest needs to be secured and certain leading candidates can provide that, yet this would break with tradition and beg the question; why is this loyalty required at this stage? Surely the war chests are already secure.
There is a second and perhaps a third option for Governor Okowa to continue his legacy in a manner befitting a governor with aims towards unity at the state level.
A possible alternative to the more vocal options is for Okowa to make peace with the mainstay of Delta PDP, Chief James Ibori, and remove certain obstacles to his negotiations at the federal level. Selecting a favoured Ibori candidate and likely one on the margins of the Ibori political family, would show unity and grant favour to a sub-section of the polity, whilst opening the gates to reduce the strain on his war chest. It would also widen a network at the Federal level for his favoured guber aspirant to benefit from.
Whilst Deltans are often focused, understandably, on their state, the benefits of the Federal purse and its network must be able to be accessed.
A third way is perhaps a curve ball for Governor Okowa to take. Over the past year, several leading Deltans have called for a woman Deputy Governor. This would reap innumerable benefits for the party in its election and moving forward, in the state’s development.
Whilst Delta State, like much of Nigeria, can be viewed as patriarchal, there are strong precedents for a female as a Deputy Governor. The APC presidential aspirant and political maverick, Tinubu was an early proponent of this and recognised that a female could help bring on-side an important part of the polity for his election as Governor in Lagos State. It is proven that women are focused on development matters and leaders amongst the grassroots, engaging with fellow women and, importantly, the teeming youth.
Previous women Deputy Governors in Nigeria have a history of conceiving and birthing pro-developmental initiatives that have contributed immensely to the success of their principal bosses.
Virginia Etiaba was exemplary during Peter Obi’s impeachment in Anambra, and so to others such as Otunba Grace Titi Laoye-Tomori in Osun and Lady Barr. Valerie Ebe in Akwa Ibom.
As an aside, the fact that Okowa’s daughter and that of Ibori have become the flag bearers for PDP positions in the state is a testament to the fact that women are valued and powerful allies within the political architecture of Delta. If, as the move by the daughters suggests, women are indeed a new force in Delta State politics, what better time than to prove it with a nomination for Deputy Governor.
Whilst Okowa and PDP’s chosen one, Sherriff Oborovwori, certainly has options for his deputy, it will take a bold decision by the PDP in Delta State to navigate through to the right decision.
The ideal candidate must have the ability to walk among both sections of the party within the state. They must also have a network among the wider political infrastructure within the country and importantly must be able to drive the grassroots support and strength in numbers that the women and youth of Delta State can provide.
If Okowa is to set a legacy and improve the lot for himself, his successor, and future political leaders in the state, it is likely a combination of options three and four that would work well.
The war chest is most certainly ready, the strategic choice is what is needed.