By Emmanuel Aziken
The viral picture of former Governor James Ibori praying for his namesake, Senator James Manager, was, at the weekend, generating reactions as interest groups in Delta State seek to use the image to score political points.
A fuller study of the video and audio may have also revealed deeper meanings into the image that may have been lost in the hoopla fanned by political interest groups ahead of the 2023 general elections.
The video would have also shown that besides Senator James Manager, a serving commissioner in the state was also prayed for by Ibori.
Praying for the commissioner in pidgin English, Ibori blessed him that he would not end up as a commissioner given the extent of loyalty he, the commissioner, gives to him.
Ibori is, by no mean’s an ordinary political figure in Delta State. He is the head of the political family that has produced all three governors of the Fourth Republic in Delta including himself.
As he blessed Manager, Ibori, in Pidgin English, said that if he opened up on the relationship between him and Manager, the day would not be enough to give an account of it. It was in that light that Manager insisted on coming to visit him in Oghara and not in Abuja or Asaba that would have been more convenient.
Manager was Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, at the time Ibori was elected governor for the first time in 1999. He eventually served as commissioner for one term in the first Ibori cabinet. Following that stint, Manager proceeded to the Senate and held the Senate seat for unprecedented five terms.
The senators has been a pivotal part of all the political games of the Ibori political family and was instrumental in forging the Ijaw leg that helped to push forward Governor Ifeanyi Okowa in 2015 against the desire of some in Ibori’s Delta Central.
It is remarkable that not even blood has separated Manager and Ibori. Manager in 2015 stopped Ibori’s cousin and former governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, from the Senate. The Ijaw lawmaker did the same in 2019 without spoiling the political knot between himself and the Urhobo former governor.
It is remarkable that even after he left the Ibori cabinet and was in Abuja as senator, Manager yearly honoured Ibori with birthday greetings in newspapers on August 4.
So, when Ibori said that he was blessing Manager from the heart, he really meant it.
Such blessing could only have come from a man who has unquestioned confidence in a worthy disciple.
In seeking Ibori’s blessings as he did in carrying drinks as is with the custom of the Urhobo, the senator has also shown his fidelity to his political leaders.
Such demonstration of loyalty has been Manager’s pattern. I remember when, sometime in the life of the 5th Senate, South-South senators decided to remove Senator Victor Oyofo as their Leader and, by same token, as Senate Chief Whip. All senators from the region resolved to sign the letter, but Senator Felix Ibru, a former governor of Delta State, being the eldest of the South-South senators, pulled back from signing.
It was believed that he also told Manager not to sign.
Even though Manager was among the arrowheads of the coup against Oyofo, he pulled back from signing the letter in deference to Ibru under whom he served as Commissioner for Sports in the Third Republic.
That culture of respect for leaders is what took Manager to visit Ibori with drinks to seek his blessing as he embarks on the decisive battle for the 2023 governorship in Delta State.
If Manager emerges as he desires as the candidate of the PDP, his likely major opponent would be Senator Ovie Omo-Agege on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC. If so, the issue of kneeling down would no longer be an issue. Political pundits would say that while Manager took drinks for blessing to Ibori, Omo-Agege knelt before President Muhammadu Buhari in recognition of his role in his emergence as Deputy Senate President.
Ibori, with political footprints across Delta State, would, as such, be in the dilemma of being faced with whom of his political disciples – Omo-Agege or Manager – to back in the forthcoming governorship contest.
The revelation by Ibori that the blessing he poured on Manager is from the heart underlines political suggestions that Manager is the bridge that would keep the unity between Okowa and Ibori.
Given the determination of the Ijaw in Delta State to pick the governorship after supporting all three PDP governors of the state, pundits would be looking beyond the ethnic divisions at one political figure that has been consistent in pushing the emergence of Urhobo, Itsekiri and Anioma born governors: That figure has been James Manager. It is on that basis that pundits say that Okowa and Ibori, who would play decisive roles in the emergence of the next governor, can only be united by James Manager.
*Aziken, a politcal analyst, is resident in Lagos
Vanguard News Nigeria