It was celebration galore Sunday as the Peoples Democratic Party, Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, and the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Hon. Victor Ochei, cheered the victory of the party's candidate, Emmanuel Aguariavwodo, in the Delta Central Senatorial by-election held in the state last Saturday.
Announcing the outcome of the election, the Returning Officer for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor John Arubayi, said Aguariavwodo of the PDP polled 263,024 votes to defeat eight other candidates by a landslide.
Mr. O'tega Emerhor of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Arubayi announced, scored 29,075 votes to emerge a very distant second, while Mr. Ede Dafinone of the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) came third with 29,055 votes.
Arubayi confirmed that the PDP won in all the eight local government areas in the senatorial district.
The returning officer described the conduct of the by-election as free and transparent and urged all the political parties that took part in the exercise to accept the result in good faith.
He commended the political parties and their agents for the peaceful conduct of the election.
Reacting to the outcome of the poll, the PDP described it as an indicator of what to expect in the 2015 general elections, while the state's governor commended members of the party in Delta Central Senatorial zone for bonding together to secure the overwhelming victory for Aguariavwodo.
However, the ACN and DPP rejected the result, saying the election lacked credibility, as the exercise was marred by electoral malpractices and widespread violence perpetrated by security agents and thugs hired by the PDP.
Speaking on the victory, the Deputy National Chairman of the PDP, Chief Uche Secondus, said: "This victory of the PDP in the Delta State Central Senatorial election is just to whet the appetite of what to expect by 2015.
"The victory of the PDP in the senatorial election in Delta State has confirmed that the PDP is the only national party in Nigeria. It has also confirmed that other opposition political parties are nothing but mere media propaganda.
"The opposition political parties will not go into the field to campaign but merely concentrate on empty propaganda in the media. Nigerians are not fools and can no longer be deceived. They want to belong to the national party and this is what the PDP represents.
"The significance of the Delta State central senatorial election is also a confirmation that despite the noise and propaganda of the opposition political parties, they have no room or electoral value in the south and precisely in the South-south. This is a no-go area for the opposition parties."
The ruling party also condemned the APC for "not being bold and sportsmanlike enough to accept its straight defeat in the by-election."
In a statement issued by the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Olisa Metuh, PDP described the APC as "a party borne out of violence and religious extremism; a serial bad loser which always finds it difficult to accept that it does not have the support of Nigerians."
Metuh said by protesting against an election where it lost woefully, the APC was merely "rehearsing its excuses ahead of the 2015 general election when it will suffer the ultimate humiliation from Nigerians."
"For the avoidance of doubt, the Delta Central senatorial by-election was free, fair and credible and the people freely gave their mandate to the PDP candidate, Chief Emmanuel Agwariavwodo. "In protesting the outcome of an election where it did not get up to 10 per cent of the total votes cast, the APC has shown that it remains a party borne out of violence, religious extremism and desperation; a party of bigots which fails to understand that it does not have the support of Nigerians hence its inability to win elections due to its undemocratic and do-or-die posture.
"The APC remains a serial bad loser which delights in overheating the polity, establishing fascism in the states under its control and refusing to be bold and sportsmanlike enough to accept clear defeats," he said.
In his remarks, Uduaghan said the resounding victory of the PDP at the senatorial poll, which has thus given the party control in all three senatorial seats in the state, was a testimony to the success of its "aggressive and thorough reconciliation process" that the state chapter commenced about a year ago.
Speaking at his Warri residence after a thanksgiving service yesterday, Uduaghan thanked "God who gave us the victory at yesterday's polls; and, also for us to congratulate ourselves for the unity of purpose that ensured that the PDP has won back our territory."
He said the outcome of the election was the result of the ward-to-ward restructuring in the last one year, and advised that the ward party meetings should henceforth be held twice a month to consolidate on the process.
He said the opposition parties had been deflated and "the opposition has completely collapsed."
Uduaghan however noted that the challenges ahead, "starting from the local government elections to the 2015 general election, demands that the PDP cannot afford to rest on its oars."
THISDAY gathered that in order to guaranty Aguariavwodo's victory, the Delta State governor had to relocate to Warri to prove to Chief Great Ogboru, his archrival and leader of DPP in Delta State that the PDP was in control in the state.
Uduaghan was said to have directed the warring chieftains of the party in Delta Central to sink their differences and work together but gave marching orders to party stalwarts and appointed office holders to deliver their polling units, wards and local governments to the party unfailingly.
Uduaghan confirmed yesterday in Warri that it was disunity that had robbed the party of its position in the past in Delta Central Senatorial District.
Speaking to party leaders from the area, he said it was the PDP chieftains, who left the party out of anger in the past that were responsible for whatever victory the party's rivals had been claiming, saying, "With the newfound unity in PDP, it has taken back its strength. Let us now see the power they are going to use again."
Also, Ekweremadu congratulated Aguariavwodo, saying his landslide victory at the poll was a proof that he "is a man of the people."
Ekweremadu in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media, Uche Anichukwu, said: "This is a great demonstration of the potency of the PDP and the immense confidence reposed in Chief Aguariavwodo by his people and the quality of representation he is bringing to the Senate."
In his reaction, Ochei congratulated Aguariavwodo on his victory and emergence as the Senator-elect from the by-election.
Ochei, in a press statement yesterday in Asaba, said the victory was a testament to Delta Central's preference for worthy representation at the upper chamber of the National Assembly, through a viable vehicle as provided by the PDP.
He observed further that this triumph could not have come at a more auspicious time, "when the electorate desire quality and result-oriented representation, attributes which Aguariavwodo has in abundance, considering his wealth of experience in legislative business as an erstwhile member of the Federal House of Representatives."
However, APC yesterday described Saturday's by-election in Delta Central Senatorial District as far from being credible, alleging that the exercise was marred by electoral malpractices and widespread violence perpetrated by security agents and thugs hired by the PDP.
In a statement issued in Lagos by its interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said there was no voting at all in most of the eight local governments and the 85 wards in the district, as the PDP had used armed security agents to chase away voters in the opposition strongholds.
The party also alleged that thugs who operated under the cover of security personnel beat opposition party agents and seized voting materials in many areas. "This election is nothing but a sham as the activities of the partisan security agents ensured that hundreds of voters were disenfranchised, while state government and PDP officials openly handed money to induce voters.
"Even in wards where voters successfully resisted armed security agents, the absence of complete electoral material meant there was no voting," it said.
APC said electoral officials were either overwhelmed by the intimidating presence of the security agents or were coerced into submission.
"Knowing it could not win a free and fair election anywhere in the country, the PDP simply took measures to suppress voting in opposition strongholds during the senatorial election.
"From what transpired in Delta on Saturday, it is clear that the PDP has resolved that there will be no free and fair election anywhere across the country henceforth. The party's new strategy is to use security agents as agents of destabilisation and suppression of votes," APC said.
The party said the federal government sent troops to Delta under the pretext of battling the notorious kidnapping lynchpin Kelvin and his cohorts, when in fact the deployment was a decoy for election rigging.
It cited some instances of the malpractices and brigandage which the PDP employed to compromise the elections, especially in Ughelli North, Udu and Uvwie councils. It said three Hilux vehicles had brought soldiers to Okpe LG Ward 8 Collation centre starting from Friday night to intimidate voters.
The party said security agents beat up voters, thus scaring them away from the polling unit in Sapele Ward 8, while election material were seized by thugs in Udu LG Ward 7.
It further accused the state government of hiring thugs to chase away voters in Sapele Ward 4, adding that the worst hit were Polling Units 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 as well as 14 and 15.
APC held that no election took place in Ward 8 of Okpe LG due to incomplete election material, whereas at the time, massive thumb printing was going on in Ward 26 in Ughelli North, with soldiers driving away opposition party agents It said in Ward 9, Ethiope LG, soldiers loyal to PDP chased people from polling centres, while at Oghara junction, PDP thugs beat up APC supporters.
On its part, the DPP called for the cancellation of the poll, on the grounds that the people of Delta Central Senatorial District had been "violently denied the right to choose a senator of their own," calling the election a complete sham.
In a statement signed by the candidate of the party in the election, the party said: "There was no election, as defined by our laws. The scale of impunity, assault, molestations and violence by the PDP, thugs/cultists and the supposed security agents was just unimaginable.
"The lopsided and partisan involvement of state security apparatuses in supporting the PDP and the brazen use of thugs to unleash violence and mayhem on our party members and the electorate is unprecedented. Thus there is now very serious concern for the progress of our nascent democracy and diminishing hope for peace, unity and good governance of Nigeria now and in the immediate future."
Dafinone said the significant confidence brought into the country's electoral process in 2011 due to visible improvements over the 2003 and 2007 elections was completely wiped out on Saturday.
"The PDP and the government have yesterday (Saturday) sent, in no uncertain terms, a strong message that the security apparatus of this nation will foist the PDP on the nation at every cost," he said.
He, however, promised that his "party would not give in or succumb to undemocratic actions which attack the political will or threaten the unity of our good people. We shall continue to explore all legitimate options to free our people from oppression, suppression and bad leadership. Our commitment to democracy and justice remains firm."