By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South
AHEAD his swearing-in for a second term in office as Governor of Delta State, May 29, the jinx breaker, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, who Deltans overwhelmingly voted into power March 9 to complete the eight-year tenure of Delta North Senatorial district (Anioma), according to an unwritten power sharing agreement in the state, has momentarily switched his political antenna on “silent mode.”
Though All Progressives Congress, APC, faithful in the state have queried the controversial power treaty that has seen only the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, produce three consecutive governors from 1999 until date. By the arrangement, Okowa will hand over in 2023 to an Urhobo son from the Delta Central Senatorial district.
However, that is not the issue now. Silent mode is when you are quiet and not talking. Some people say it can also mean a “do not disturb mood.” It is also a setting available on mobile phones and pagers that, when activated, disables the ringtones and, in some cases the vibrating alerts or alarm. Unlike the air plane mode, the silent mode still allows the device to receive and send calls and messages.
‘Sorry, His Excellency is not seeing anybody now’
Whichever way you interpret it, political godfathers, lobbyists, office seekers and politicians in Delta state have their own knowledge of silent mode. They know it to be when their governor wants political merchants to leave him alone to take some critical decisions. Such a period, his close aides will simply tell you, “His Excellency is not seeing anybody now”, “His Excellency is busy and he cannot see anybody today” and “Sorry, Oga did not tell us he wants to see you.”
Moreover, the well-groomed politician that he is, Governor Okowa, aka Ekwueme (The person who does what he says) has built an awe-inspiring image the way he has handled affairs of the state since he came on board that nobody wants mess up and get spanked for trying to force his way in.
In fact, the way Okowa has configured the security arrangement in Government House, Asaba, you cannot even get to see him except you are on initiation.
Not hoodwinked by lobbyists
Ask any politician worth his onion in the state, mostly PDP faithful, they would tell you that whenever Okowa wants to take critical decisions or make decisive appointments, he metamorphoses to silent mode.
A politician told Saturday Vanguard in Asaba, “When the man wants to think and make a wise decision, he does want people coming to lobby for appointments because the failure or success of his administration depends on who handles what.”
“In fact, when you tempt, send people to lobby for an appointment for you or when godfathers begin to lobby for you, the governor senses something and impulse increases on the reason for the lobby. Therefore, is better you do not lobby and let him fish you out by himself because the governor is not hoodwinked by such gambles,” he added.
Cold war over political appointments
Therefore, while his May 29 inauguration is a top priority, internal struggle within the party for appointments is the matter of the moment and how the governor is handling it is the greater challenge;
Leaders of the party who delivered their polling units, wards, local government areas and senatorial districts are insisting on befitting appointments and that has squared them against those that failed to deliver in their areas in the last elections.
A top PDP leader who confided in this reporter, said, “How can somebody (name withheld) say he wants to be appointed ahead of those who performed in their areas. He has to wait for those who delivered to pick first. We are watching to see what the governor is going to do. Nobody is seeing him now because that is the unspoken rule, but we are watching,”
“You know, anybody who approaches the governor now for appointment or send people to lobby for him is worsening his case. The governor is on a quiet now until he comes up with the list he thinks is good for the state.
“Apart from the Deputy Governor, the Speaker, other lawmakers that are already elected and the local government officials, nobody is sure of appointment, be you anything until the governor announces your name and he does not want anybody to woo him,” he explained.
Handover, Okowa tells commissioners
At a valedictory executive council meeting with his commissioners on Tuesday, where he formally asked them to handover to their respective permanent secretaries latest yesterday (Friday), Okowa said, “In the last four years, I have had a working team, an executive that realized that we are together and that our success story will be told together.”
“I am proud to say that it is the collective efforts of each and every one of us that has given us our success stories which also resulted in the resounding victory we recorded at the elections. God’s grace was obviously with us.
“But I believe that if each and every one of us had our own different beliefs and worked in different ways, we would not have been able to achieve what we have achieved thus far. Therefore, I will first want to thank every one of you (members of the state executive council) for the wonderful comments that you have made this afternoon
“I appreciate you more for the commitments in your previous offices in the last four years because there is no doubt that you have all been very loyal to the deputy governor and me. In addition, that loyalty has kept the team together. I want to thank each and every one of you; I can rightfully say that none of you betrayed the confidence that I have in you.”
“In our executive meetings, we have had discussions and debates and I want to thank each one of you for being very frank, I have learnt a lot from individual comments, from ideas that people have, which I may not have thought of and I am proud that there was room for us to debate issues. We talk about an open-door policy and I have had at a point in time to learn that if you are a well-tutored politician, you will have no choice than to run an open-door government.
At the session, Commissioner for Local Government Affairs, Hon Joyce Overah, who is the Chairman of College of Commissioners, thanked Governor Okowa for giving them the opportunity to serve the government and people of the state as commissioners, stating, “Working with you (Governor Okowa), working with your Deputy, we learnt a lot of lessons and we are very grateful.”
“The crew you assembled as commissioners are very understanding and we pray that as you enter second term, God will guide you and your Deputy to continue to do it right for our people, the people of Delta State,” he said.
Other commissioners, who spoke at the session, included Chief Fidelis Tilije, Mrs. Mary Iyasere, Barr. Newworld Safugha, Dr Mordi Ononye and Mrs Omatsola Williams, while the Secretary to the State Government, Hon. Festus Agas, Head of Service, Mr Reginald Bayoko and Prof. Sylvester Monye also joined the commissioners to list their experiences working with the governor and his deputy.
Most complicated time to forecast Okowa
A dependable source said, “This is the most difficult time to predict Okowa, when he goes on silent mode. He can ask for you when he wants to see you, but for you to see him is difficult because they will tell you he does not want to be disturbed.”
According to the source, “You can speak to Okowa wanting to pull his leg and get something out of him; I can tell you are wasting your time because he already knows where you are going to.”
Okowa will not succumb to political pressure – Ukah
Erstwhile Commissioner for Information, Patrick Ukah, who spoke to reporters few days before the governor directed all commissioners to handover, said Okowa is not the type of governor, who gives in to people that lobby and jostle for political appointments.
Asked if he was one of those lobbying for reappointment, Ukah, who has worked with the governor for many years and, therefore, in the position to give an informed opinion, said the governor would never sacrifice meritocracy on the altar of mediocrity or political pressure.
He said the choice to reappoint those currently serving and new people into government was the constitutional prerogatives of the governor, who is very coordinated and meticulous in his decisions to uplift the state.
Ukah said he had served the state government with utmost zeal through the governor’s maximum support and would not resort to lobbying for reappointment. He described Okowa as a hero who has used his governance of the state to influence many lives, including mentoring people around him.
“You know Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa is one personality I have come to take as a hero. I do not give in to taking hero, but his Excellency, Dr Okowa is one man I take time to listen to and in every move he make he is teaching you.
“I have not seen a man, who does not listen to gossip and one-sided stories. Some people once they hear one-side story, they are okay to take decisions, but Dr Okowa is one man who would sit every one down and listen carefully to what you have to say.
“He is one man who always hears everybody out and what marvels us is that he goes with one gentle voice. Such a man I do not think he will give in to lobby. If you do well with your job, your job will speak for you, if you have not done well, your job will speak for you.
“His Excellency, Dr Okowa that I know is the type that knows the role he has for you to play. If that role is to go and carry ‘shit’, it means that that role is very important and he wants to achieve something good with it through you , so I do not think anyone should trouble his or her selves in that area of reappointment.
“I believe that we have a governor who is very meticulous with what he is doing and know who is working with him so when he has doubt about what you are doing, he calls you about it and he will ask you critical questions so I believe he knows everyone of us.
“The governor also knows many people who thought he does not know them…He knows everyone of us. Therefore, Dr Okowa is not that kind of person you will go and lobby. He believes in his dream for Delta state and he knows what he is doing and knows those who are working with him,” Ukah asserted.
Saturday Vanguard, however, gathered that there are people the governor has found be political liabilities and would want to ease them off in his second tenure. There are also some new hands he wants to bring on board in the last lap of an Anioma man’s stint as helmsman of the oil-rich state.