By Emma Amaize, South-South Regional Editor
IF there is a god of politics, then the opinionated divinity has been very generous to Senator Arthur Ifeanyi Okowa, the current Governor of Delta State, who in 2015, shattered a 25-year jinx to materialise as the fourth civilian governor of the oil-rich state.
Nobody, not even the former Premier of the defunct Midwest Region, the late Chief Dennis Osadebe and other Anioma founding leaders comprehended that the unassuming former Director, Victory Medical Centre, Igbanke in 1986, who obtained his SSCE at Edo College in 1976 and graduated in Medicine and Surgery at the University of Ibadan with an MBBS degree in 1981, would be the much sought battle axe for the political deliverance of Anioma people (Delta North Senatorial District).
Through a combination of hard work, unshakable belief in the powers of the Almighty and prayer, Okowa, born July 8, 1959 at Owa-Alero, Ika North-East Local Government Area, who had his first stint in the civil service as a medical officer in the defunct Bendel State Hospitals Management Board, did what no Anioma person before him did.
Today, the story of Delta cannot be written with him as governor or former governor alone, but as the first Anioma son to become the governor of the state. His initial incursion into politics was when he became Secretary to the Ika Local Government and later, Chairman, Ika North-East Local Government Council from 1991–1993.
Rise in politics
In a rare interview with Vanguard shortly after he assumed office, Okowa traced his impressive rise in politics to his political mentor and former governor of the state, Chief James Ibori, who he met in 1996 in the Grassroots Democratic Movement, GDM.
Recalling the encounter, he said: “That was quite a long time, there was GDM, though a small party then during the Abacha time; then UNCP where we had the moneybags and big politicians. But somehow, some of us, the younger ones felt that we needed to create new politics, that was in 1996 and we found ourselves joining GDM.
On the special attraction of Ibori towards him, he stated: “I think he found in me, somebody that is ready to work very hard at every point in time. Everything I want to do, without trying to praise myself, I think I am always very committed to it, right from my youth. I know I was very committed in the campaigns through the GDM. When we came to the PDP, I was very committed.
“Therefore, he (Ibori) saw in me someone with a very strong character. So I think that warmed us up because at every point in time, I always offered him the truth and told him what I thought was right and when things went wrong, others may speak politically, but I would speak based on the fact that what is right will always be right and what is wrong will always be wrong. I think that was what endeared me to him,” he said.
Governor Okowa joined the People’s Democratic Party, PDP in 1998 and was among those that marshaled the campaign and conquest of his mentor in 1988/1999.
He and other youthful politicians regarded as “Apostles of James Ibori”, including his predecessor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, Chief Ighoyota Amori, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi and Senator James Manager were all appointed into Ibori’s cabinet. He was Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources in Delta State from July 1999 – April 2001, Water Resources Development from April 2001 – May 2003 and Health from September 2003 – October 2006.
Smashing the jinx
Why that is the case is not out-and-out, but since creation, some Urhobo elite hold that since the capital of the state is located in Asaba (Anioma nation), the people of Delta North have no reason to seek governorship of the state. Like other Anioma sons, who confronted the albatross, Okowa resigned to contest the 2007 PDP primaries for governor and lost to Uduaghan, who appointed him Secretary to the Delta State Government in June 2007.
He was elected Senator for Delta North, in the April 2011 national elections and returned from the National Assembly to slug it with others for the PDP governorship ticket in 2014. The party nominated him as its standard bearer after overwhelmingly intriguing primaries.
He was inaugurated as Governor on 29 May, 2015 after winning the state elections conducted in April 2015 on PDP platform thereby becoming the earliest person from Anioma to clinch the governorship position of Delta State. Every Anioma son is proud of him for that. If Okowa was not a God-fearing man before 2015, he would have become one since then because the Finger of God wrote his victory, but those familiar with him said it was his trust in God that saw him through.
Detribalised and hard working
Born and bred in Anioma, Okowa is a detribalised governor and knows that he cannot be otherwise, having grown through the ranks from council Chairman, to Commissioner, Secretary to State Government and Senator in the complex state that is mini-Nigeria.
He has brought his doggedness and astuteness to bear in the governance of the state since he took over in May 2015 to the consternation of his critics, and not a few corroborate that he has prudently managed the resources of the state and opened new vista with his SMART programme.
Of all the governors that had ruled the state, including military administrators, only Okowa deemed it obligatory to create special agency for the development of Asaba, the state capital, and is presently executing, for the first time since the state was created, a comprehensive storm programme to check the flooding of the state capital. Despite conventional complaints of communities on lack of basic amenities, Okowa has taken development to the riverine area of the state beyond what previous governments before him did.
Man of integrity
There are governors and there are governors, Okowa, also known as Ekwueme (the one who does what he says) is one of the top regarded PDP governors in the country. He is celebrated by his party men for his integrity.
If the PDP as a party has a national assignment, which uprightness is of the essence, the first choice is Governor Okowa. He has demonstrated it over and over that he values his name more than anything else. At the party’s last National Convention that produced Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as the presidential standard-bearer, he was called and he never disappointed.
Obasanjo, Delta leaders endorse him
Since his return from London after an intermission, Chief Ibori, the undisputed godfather of Delta politics, has never ceased to tell Deltans about his approbation and love for Okowa. He had since called on his Urhobo kinsmen and all Deltans to vote the