illegal substitution of candidate in Warri South-West local government election: You got this one very wrong

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan,

(Executive Governor of Delta State),

Government House,

Asaba, Delta State.


His Excellency,

Open Letter: illegal substitution of candidate in Warri South-West local government election: You got this one very wrong

Sir, you know that I have tremendous respect for you and many people also do. And this is principally because you have managed to meander your way through the thorny paths of heavy ethnic sentiments in the politics of Delta State with grace, calmness and uncommon dignity. But like all humans, you have just shown that you, too, have your own shortcomings. This is because, in the matter of the just concluded Warri South-West Local Government elections, it appears .that you may have taken a wrong and dangerous turn in this thorny path you have so well managed in the past. And it is regrettable that this is coming as you near the end of your sojourn in Government House, Asaba.

The fact of the matter at hand as it concerns Warri South-West LGA is that on the 9th of August, 2014 Mr. Weyinmi Omadeli emerged as the PDP Chairmanship candidate for that LGA after the conduct of the primaries. He was subsequently presented with the PDP party flag and his name forwarded to Delta State Independent Electoral Commission (DSIEC) for the elections slated for October 25th, 2014. For the records, Mr. Weyinmi Omadeli is an Itsekiri by tribe.

However, in a strange twist of fate, you summoned Mr. Omadeli to your private residence in Warri on Thursday, October 23,201 (barely 48 hrs to the election) and informed him that you had given orders to DSIEC to replace his name with that of Mr. George Ekpemupolo who is the younger brother to Mr. Government Ekpemupolo (alias Tompolo). For the records also, Mr. George Ekpemupolo is an Ijaw by tribe.

Mr. Ornadeli’s name was subsequently withdrawn and replaced with that of George Ekpemupolo. Mr. Omadeli had no time and opportunity to protest this strange substitution before the elections eventually held on Saturday, October 25th, 2014 and Mr George Ekpemupolo was returned as winner of the Chairmanship position for Warri South-West LGA. Along with others, he was sworn into office on Monday, October 27, 2014. Your Excellency, when you called me on phone on Monday, October 27, 2014 over this issue and advised me to look at this matter dispassionately before I take it up, I promised you I would do so. I have done so and I regret to say that despite so many sterling decisions you have taken in the past, in the governance of our dear State, I am of the firm view that you got this one totally wrong for the following reasons:

(1) For you to summon Mr. Omadeli on the eve of an election and inform him that his name had been replaced smacks of high-level interference with the job of DSIEC. It clearly shows that DSIEC is only an appendage of the Delta State Government. It also depicts the sorry and comatose state of DSIEC in the hands of the State Government (it is the same all over the country, anyway). But, why did DSIEC not have the courtesy to write or summon him to break the news (assuming, but without conceding, that they have the powers to do so?) Sir, you are not the Chairman of DSIEC and you have no business replacing one candidate with another in an election.

(2) Besides the means of communicating the news to Mr. Omadeli, why would a candidate’s name be substituted with another after nominations of candidates by parties had since closed (going by the time-table of DSIEC), and without cogent and verifiable reasons or without the death or decline of the nomination by Mr. Omadeli?

(3) Your Excellency, at the risk of sounding very tribal, you know there has been a delicate balance of power, privileges and opportunities between the Ijaws and Itsekiris in Warri South-West LGA over the years. This was occasioned by years of carnage and bloodletting between these tribes. We in Uvwie LGA, (their neighbours), sometimes bear some brunt of these problems. However, since the time of the Ibori administration, a truce was reached whereby it was agreed that the Ijaws and Itsekiris would be taking their turns in the governance of Warri South-West LGA. Now, the last substantive Chairman of the LGA was the same Mr. George Ekpemupolo that has now been returned as Chairman. In the interval between when he left and now, the acting Chairman or administrator of the LGA appointed by you was also an Ijaw man. What then is your rationale for this decision? Whom amongst the stakeholders of these two great and illustrious tribes in Delta State did you call to a meeting before this ill-informed decision? What .promise or arrangement did you extract from them before this decision?

(4) Your Excellency in our telephone conversation yesterday, you claimed there were threats from various Ijaw interest groups from the State and beyond, hence the decision to remove Mr. Omedali’s name. But pray, what is the point in Tompolo claiming to be fighting for the Ijaw race when, in fact, he keeps returning his blood brother as Chairman of the Council. So is the Ijaw race now synonymous with Tampolo’s family? And as a Chief Executive of a State, did you not see through this subterfuge and charade?

(5) Your Excellency, I hate to say this but say it, I must: there is a clear picture in the public domain that because you are Itsekiri by tribe and the member representing Ward South-West in the State House of Assembly is also an Itsekiri man, and because you also plan to go to the Senate by 2015, you had no choice but to sacrifice Mr. Omadeli to the ijaws so that all three slots would not go to Itsekiri. You opted to sacrifice the slot of your Itsekiri tribe to the Ijaws to protect your personal interest. In other words, your Senatorial ambition has a big part to play in this whole mess.

It therefore, appears that between you and Tompoio, both of you are playing ping-pong with affairs of our dear Delta State by promoting personal and family interests using ethnicity as a facade. Your Excellency, with due respect, we expect more from you.

Your Excellency, you will realise that I have always restrained myself from joining issues publicly with you, but even when I do, I do so with decorum. When some two years ago, I objected to a section of the Delta State Independent Electoral Commission Law regarding the stipulated age of its Chairman, I proceeded to court over the matter. When you called me to withdraw the matter so that the section would be amended, I obliged you and withdrew the matter, but up till today, nothing has been done over that section. However, I have not complained.

But, on this issue concerning Warri South-West LGA, I have no choice but to cry out, because your decision is capable of igniting a crisis that will affect all of us. The decision was taken whimsically and it is unjust, unfair, illegal and ungodly. Consequently, it is unacceptable and will be challenged legally and politically.

In the circumstance, we implore you to be quick in ensuring the setting up of a truly independent Local Government Election Tribunal so that parties can quickly proceed there to vent their grievances instead of resorting to other means. I do not subscribe to such “other means”. I would be prepared to proceed to the tribunal on behalf of Mr. Omadeli for this injustice done to him.

Secondly, Sir, you may do the needful by summoning all stakeholders to explain to them and to also extract commitments from them as to the way forward in the delicate power play between the Ijaws and Itsekiris before it leads to uncontrollable conflagration.

I remain.

Your loyal citizen.

Festus Keyamo

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