By Emma Amaize
YEAR 2023 is more than three years away, but politicians, especially those angling to emerge next governor of Delta State, have started mobilising and building blocs across the three senatorial districts of the state.
They have also launched social media campaigns on WhatsApp, Facebook and mainstream media, and strategic visits to power brokers and community leaders to enlist their support.
Going by obtainable political indices, 2023 is the turn of Delta Central senatorial district (Urhobo ethnic nationality) to start over the rotational governorship seat among Central, South and North, which former governor, Chief James Ibori kick started in 1999.
Though the arrangement is a contraption of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, it is working and the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, arguably, has no option than to adopt it in 2023.
One of heavyweight politicians from the central district that has stimulated the political scene in the past few weeks with his adept moves is a criminologist, lawyer, business magnate and former Minister of State for Education, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi. For him, the secret of getting ahead is getting started.
A one-time governorship aspirant, commissioner and protégé of a former governor is putting up his structures, while a top lawmaker is also weighing his options and empowering foot soldiers in his party.
However, the question in the lips of many is if 2023 is Gbagi’s time. Unmistakably, he stands tall among others, but for blurred reasons, the governorship chair has eluded him over the years.
Gbagi lost out to Ibori, who is from the same senatorial district with him in the 1998 PDP governorship primary. The chances were against him in 2007, when Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan mounted the saddle, but in 2015 he kowtowed to Senator Okowa and fought for his re-election in 2019.
Ohworode, Urhobo monarchs lead the way
With the saying that there is time for everything, Gbagi and his passionate followers across the state strongly believe that 2023 is his time. At the weekend, a leading royal father in Urhobo land, the Ohworode of Olomu Kingdom, HRM Ogoni Oghoro, who potted the Urhobo mantle for incumbent Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as two-time governor of the state, nominated Gbagi as the next governor in the presence of other Urhobo royal fathers.
The former minister has been holding consultations with political leaders and groups in the state on his renewed mission.
In several newspaper interviews in the past, Gbagi stated: “I am a founder of PDP here (Delta). In 1998/99 as history will have it, I contested the primary with Professor Sam Oyovbaire, and Chief James Ibori, I was the youngest of all of them. I believe very strongly, and records at our disposal have it that I have the Midas touch. I have what it takes to turn the fortunes of this state in quick match up to any major city in the world.”
Praising Okowa for his efforts in reversing the ill fortunes of the state for the better, he asserted that “if Deltans decide to choose as his successor a man that has not been able to demonstrate any effort other than participating in one government appointment or the other or having access to the treasury of a state, country and funds of a company, it will amount to a shame on our part.”
Last year, former President Olusegun Obasanjo declared himself an adopted son of Oginibu, Gbagi’s hometown in Ughelli South Local Government Area of the state because of the former Minister’s integrity.
He recounted how Gbagi single-handedly worked with him while he was President to end the inter-ethnic wars in Warri, describing him as a pillar of peace and development in the state.
Obasanjo described Kenneth Gbagi as a selfless, humble, honest and incorruptible politician, who works selflessly for the unity and progress of Nigeria and Delta State. Obasanjo narrated his several encounters and relationship with Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi and added that it was difficult to find such a person who is people and development oriented and who is committed to national and community development.
Delta’s biggest private investor
In 2013 when Gbagi visited Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, then governor of Delta State, Uduaghan said: ”Kenneth Gbagi is one of the highest investors, if not the highest indigenous investor, in Delta State.”
He described Gbagi as a committed Deltan and great industrialist, and thanked him for his faith and continuous investments in the state, urging other well-placed Deltans to emulate him.
Prior to Uduaghan’s emergence, former military President, General Ibrahim Babaginda(retd), whose administration created Delta State in 1991, told some politicians that the state needed a personality like Gbagi to turn it around.
Also, Okowa, who is in the saddle currently, has also come to make out Gbagi as someone that has the passion to develop the state.
But the question remains: is 2023 the appointed time for Gbagi, who has endeared himself to the people of Delta North with his dogged support of one of their own, Okowa?