By Emmanuel Aziken
The attacks on Justice Mary Odili following the judgment on the Bayelsa State governorship election may have reawakened public awareness of one of the most veritable political players at the onset of the fourth republic, H.E. Dr Peter Odili.
How time flies. If political permutations and money were the principal factors in political ascendancy, Dr Odili perhaps would have stepped down six years ago as president of the country. Well, that is if the insidious telltale of his traducers to the effect that he would have successfully altered the constitution to be life president was not to be reckoned with.
But Dr Odili was indeed, a political phenomenon! As governor of Rivers State between 1999 and 2007, associating with him was indeed, one of the most profitable political pathways to ascendancy. Who would forget that phrase that redefined his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP—Peter Dey Pay!
So potent was the Odili political phenomenon that not only did he make his local political rivals irrelevant, but became a political colossus at the national level.
Indeed, after the collapse of third term and as the end of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s second term became a reality, Dr. Odili emerged about the most formidable contender for the PDP presidential ticket.
His campaign machine was indeed, so formidable to the extent that improbable political upheavals were sparked by the Odili machine. Who could have imagined that an associate and a near relation of Atiku Abubakar’s in the person of Dr. Umar Ardo would abandon the sitting vice-president for Odili?
Or imagine the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Masari forsaking the aspiration of the sitting governor of Katsina State, Alhaji Umaru Yar‘Adua for Odili?
The intimidating show of force of the Odili campaign was evident in the hours leading to the PDP presidential primary in 200, with almost all rival aspirants locked out of Abuja’s choice hotels. Agents of the Odili campaign had reportedly booked down all the major hotels in Abuja, putting his competitors on edge.
However, for yet undisclosed reasons, a few men, just hours to the PDP presidential primary met in a house within the precincts of the presidential villa and took a vow that Odili would never be president and persuaded President Obasanjo to that effect.
Whatever was the pressure they brought on Odili has not been officially confirmed as it has been the point of several political anecdotes.
One line that has been subtly insinuated in some quarters is the unproven claim that Odili was despite his apparent support of third term a closet opponent of the scheme. The claim was that he secretly opposed third term as a way of easing President Obasanjo out to allow for a vacancy for him to contest. But it remains an insinuation. So also is the claim that Mallam Nuhu Ribadu swore that over his dead body would Odili be president on the claim of unproven allegations that are presently at permanent abeyance through a perpetual injunction.
Willy-nilly, on the eve of the presidential primary, Odili’s political horizon came crashing down and has remained fallow ever since.
The political landscape for the former governor was not helped with the emergence of his former political godson and assistant, Rotimi Amaechi as governor of Rivers State after the Celestine Omehia hiatus.
The two men had become estranged following insinuations that Odili easily caved in to pressures not to allow Amaechi become governor.
Whatever, for the two terms Amaechi was in power, Odili was frozen out as his former political disciples divided his political heritage.
The emergence of Nyesom Wike, who served as a local government chairman during the Odili years may have bettered the political ambience around Dr. Odili.
However, the emotional pain of the last-minute denial of the presidency may still be a personal issue for him. It is almost like the struggles David Lyon will forever face after conducting a rehearsal to be inaugurated as governor of Bayelsa State and then stopped from the office at the last minute.
Whatever, Odili will continue to live in the comfort that while he has remained silent, that the fortunes of his lovely wife have continued to soar.
Indeed, whatever good or bad anyone says of Odili, it is the unity, love and devotion Peter and Mary have for one another, and which radiates to all.
Peter Odili, a former aide, once said in an off the records session in late 2006, was only one of a few high flying political actors whose integrity could be vouched for by the lady in the other room.
This fidelity is one of the things that have perhaps kept Sir Peter going. All those who hailed him as Peter Dey Pay in the days of yore have moved on to other paymasters with the political attrition of the former grand-master. However, abiding by his side has been his virtuous and valiant wife.
It is the attempt to unnecessarily draw her into the political arena that has evoked memories of this former grand-master!