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The nine wire pullers in Okowa government

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•Ibori, Oyovbaire, Obi of Owa, Akpeki, Oshiegbu, Uredi, Enobaifo, Okwuofu, Ogbechie

By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South

SINCE  he took over from Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, as governor of Delta State, May 29, 2015, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, aka Ekwueme, has left no one in doubt that he is in charge. He has proved so for the more than three years he has been at the helm of affairs in the state.

He has also stamped his peculiar style in governance of the oil and gas-rich state, while the gradation has also changed according to his thump. Incontrovertibly, new hands rock the cradle under him despite that Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, remains the governing organization.

Ibori- The rock and godfather   However, former governor of Delta State and Okowa’s political godfather, Chief James Ibori is the dominant leader in his government. There is virtually nothing that the governor does that he would not consult the godfather and for this demonstrated loyalty, Ibori is pleased with Okowa.

On several occasions in recent times, Ibori had made it copiously clear that he is with Okowa in his second term ambition. He is the rock behind the governor. At the moment, PDP in Delta Central senatorial district (Urhobo), where Ibori hails from has resolved that no Urhobo man would vie against Okowa in 2019.

Reacting to the endorsement of Okowa by Ibori, leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the state, Olorogun O’tega Emerhor, said: “We in APC, Delta State, have anticipated this endorsement long ago and are quite prepared to meet him, Okowa and the PDP at the 2019 elections to finally determine which party now owns the state’s political landscape.”

Speaking during a reception in honour of Chief Ibori organized by his socio-political family in Anioma and hosted by the former Deputy Governor of the state Sir, Benjamin Elue  in Obior, Ika North East Local Government Area, penultimate Friday,  Senator Okowa said: “Our Leader,  Chief James Ibori is a bridge builder, you taught us to be selfless and accommodating. We will continue to appreciate you; we will continue  to take Delta State to greater heights and in the right direction.”

Oyovbaire – Political father and intellectual  

Prof Sam Oyovbaire, a former Minister of Information and Chairman, Delta State Advisory Council, is another powerful man in Okowa’s government. He is one of the eggheads that incubated the administration and the governor respects him for that. When many wrote-off Ekwueme’s gubernatorial quest for one reason or the other, especially in 2015, Oyovbaire burnt the midnight oil exploring how it would succeed. It was at his library in his modest residence in Benin City, Edo state that Okowa met him, many years ago, for what later translated to a blueprint to succeed Uduaghan.

In fact, he drafted the SMART agenda, the policy framework on which Okowa’s government stands.

He had opportunities to abandon the governor when things were difficult before and after the governorship primaries in 2015, but he rejected the offers and remained unfaltering.   His doggedness earned him more respect from the governor, who calls him his “political father.”

In one of his numerous birthday felicitations to Oyovabire, Okowa  asserted:   “On behalf of my family, the government and people of Delta State, I wish to felicitate with my political father, a party stalwart and leader of inestimable value, Prof. Chief Sam Ejite Oyovbaire…”

“Over the years, you have given yourself to the cause of peace and development in Delta state and Nigeria in general. For this, we owe you an enduring debt of gratitude.

“Your life symbolizes the assured reward for single-minded commitment to the ideals of diligence, humility, perseverance, focus and dedicated service,” he added.

Oyovbaire has influenced many appointments and policies in the Okowa government and is the head of a special team that is continuously appraising and re-appraising the administration wordlessly to keep track with the focus and promises of the government.

Obi of Owa- Royal guarantor

The traditional ruler of Owa Kingdom, Delta State, where the governor hails from, His Majesty, Obi Emmanuel Efeizomor II, is another influential man in the Okowa administration.

Besides being the Chairman, Delta State Council of Traditional Rulers, the monarch is a father to the governor, having carried him when he was a child.

His fellow royal fathers have also come to realize the influence of the one-time journalist and believe that through him, the governor would grant traditional rulers whatever is due them.

Okowa

Already,  63 recognized traditional rulers under the aegis of Delta North Traditional Rulers Forum (DNTF) recently at a meeting in the palace of the Owa monarch, passed a vote of confidence on Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State and expressed their support for his 2019 second term bid.

Akpeki – Chief political strategist

Chief Paulinus Akpeki, former Chief of Staff in the Uduaghan administration and Commissioner for Housing presently functions at the Chief Political Strategist to the Governor.

He and Okowa have been friends and in politics together for a long time. Just as Okowa is close to Ibori, so Akpeki too, but something happened between the time that Uduaghan was preparing to exit power and after he exited that warranted Akpeki to momentarily leave PDP.

However, when Ibori returned to Nigeria, he decided in the course of reconciling his political family that Akpeki, an acknowledged political strategist, must return back at all cost to the PDP and work with Okowa to play his well-known role.

Being the leader of the political family, which all of them belong he invited Akpeki and Okowa to join forces. Knowing Akpeki’s political sagacity, the governor did not find it difficult to accept the proposition, and since then, the tactician has been working largely from behind to put things together for Okowa ahead of 2019. Okowa listens to him, but many are still waiting for unconstrained manifestations of Akpeki’s footprints.

Nkem Okwuofu – Political Amazon

The Chairman, Delta State Local Government Service Commission, Dame Nkem Okwuofu, popularly known as Agu Nwanyi (Female Lion) is an Amazon in Government House, Asaba.

A former Commissioner in the state, she is one woman who believes in Okowa and mobilized women in the state to work for his emergence as governor. The governor loves her dexterity and that is the attraction between them.

She was previously working for the gubernatorial aspirant of the former Speaker of the Delta state House of Assembly, Rt Hon Victor Ochei, when something happened and she moved to Okowa. Since then, she has not looked back. She is a plus factor to her principal.

Oshiegbu, Uredi, Enobaifo – Financial musketeers

Not many understand the authority of Lawrence Oshiegbu, a two-time  Commissioner in the Delta state Executive Council and member of 05 Initiative founded by the governor’s wife, Dame Edith Okowa, in Okowa’s government, probably because of  his humility and gentleness.

The truth, however, is that he and the governor were childhood friends. In fact, Okowa once recommended him as Chairman, Rural Electricity Board and commissioner at various times. Oshiegbu is said to be meticulous and a silent achiever and because the governor knows his capacity, he can go to sleep with his two eyes closed with him on any matter trusting that he will deliver.     Today, he, Hon Ross Uredi, an ex-lawmaker and former Commissioner from Isoko axis of the state and Mr. Lulu Tokunbo Enobaifo are like the financial engine room of the governor. A source told this reporter:   “When you see Okowa, you see them, even at night, they are with him.”

Enaboifo, an Ibori ally from Edo state is one of the strong men in the Okowa government. Though he is out of public glare, the former Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Nigeria-Sao Tome and Principe Joint Development Authority is among the team executing critical economic assignments for the governor to keep the state floating.

Ever heard of Fast Track 90, the platform for expedited processing and issuance of Certificate of Occupancy, C of O, to land and property owners in Delta state within 90 days unveiled by the governor in 2016?  Fast Track 90, a critical energizer of the state economy is one of their inputs of the team. A new C of O goes for N200, 000 in the state and N50, 000 for renewal of old one unlike the previous one that could take up to one year or more to process.

Ugbechie- Investors’ investor

Chairman of Rain Oil Nigeria Limited,  Mr Gabriel Ogbechie, is one investor that has the ears of Governor Okowa. He is said to have contributed hugely to the governor’s campaign in 2015 and is expanding from petrol business to agriculture in parts of the state. Ogbechie is also giving back to humanity through construction of roads and philanthropic activities.

Because of the excellent business environment provided by the government, Ugbechie has basically turned Asaba, the capital of the state to the nerve center of his sprawling petrol business with imposing filling stations at strategic locations.

He is also attracting foreign investors to the state, barely two weeks ago; the governor was at Akwukwu Igbo, headquarters of Oshimili North Local Government Area of the state to perform the groundbreaking ceremony of 3,000 hectare oil palm plantation and processing plant, owned by Norsworthy Farms and Allied Industries Limited, owned by Ugbechie.

 

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