•As Oborevwori shows uncommon flickers; Otuaro radiates supernatural vigor; I’m the most accessible – Sen. Manager; Gbagi reinforces with visits to Ibori, Uduaghan; Edevbie in strategic campaign; Aguariavwodo plans on; Augoye re-invigorates campaign
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South
Look square in the eye
FOR those well-informed on the reported face-up (not face-off, quarrel, fight as the unschooled misread) between incumbent Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa and ex- governor, Chief James Ibori, in the build-up to 2023, in the last few months, what played out, last Saturday, at the Cenotaph, Asaba, the state capital, was a political magnum opus.
Unambiguously, both Okowa and Ibori came to grips with the reality that leaders and power brokers of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the state, circumnavigated for over two decades – the sequence of gubernatorial power in the state and who calls the shots.
Ibori, leader of the nascent political family in Delta PDP and Okowa, who is also part of the family, for reasons only key political strategists are familiar with, held what one of them styled as “extreme positions” on the concerns, until last Saturday.
Political scholars had thought that things would go off, 24 hours earlier, in the caucus meeting of PDP leaders at Government House, Asaba, which Ibori and his successor, former governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, attended, as the plots had rocketed with disguised partitions in the ranks of party faithful across the state
The conclave never ended in a standoff as re-counted, but there were fireworks on zoning of governorship. Really, if not for the adroit manner the governor overrode an apparently phenomenal preference and postponed further discussion for larger participation to a later date, it was palpable that something would have been triggered that day.
Before the up-to-the-minute Asaba encounter, Ibori and Okowa had actually sized up themselves and were correspondingly acquainted with the contemporary capacity and flaws of each other in the event of actual face- off on the contending issues.
A reliable source told Saturday Vanguard: “Both ex-governors, Ibori and Uduaghan were cautious with their words in the caucus meeting , but Uduaghan, who had other activities to attend to, in Warri, departed Asaba, last Saturday morning, missing the much advertised mega rally.
However, Ibori took not just Okowa, but the entire PDP leaders conversant with the conspiracies for power by surprise when he recognized and declared at the mega rally that the governor (Okowa) is not just the leader of the party in the state, but also his own (Ibori) leader and that he would support him to finish strong in 2023.
All Progressives Party, APC, leaders in the state, who had wished the face-up between Ibori and Okowa degenerated to a face-off, and had already predicted that Ibori would disgrace Okowa, after which he shall finally join forces with APC to overthrow Okowa and PDP in 2023 were disillusioned with the latest development.
How Ibori seized the moment
Ibori displayed why he is the Odidigborigbo of Urhobo Kingdom and political godfather with his gait and air, as he mounted the podium. To the delight of spectators, he danced with measured steps and swagger to the blaring music, greeted the gathering in the respective mother tongues of the major ethnic groups in the state, earning a thunderous ovation in return.
He knew his game plan and seized the moment, thereafter, in his speech: “I thank you (referring to Okowa) for the job you are doing in Delta and at the national level for the benefit of Nigerians.”
“I most especially thank you for what I am seeing here today because you have done very well in Delta State and I cannot be more proud that you are our governor today. You are leading us very well and it is our duty, and we are all committed to say that you will finish very strong and at the end of the day we will all gather to thank God for you.
”From what I can see here you have provided an atmosphere for a free and fair contest and you have provided an atmosphere for people’s aspirations to be heard without intimidation whatsoever.
”Of a truth, this was the philosophy behind the formation of this great party when I said in 1998 that democracy is about opening up the space and environment for everybody to aspire to whatever he or she believes in and I thank you for continuing with that vision.
”I want to thank you on behalf of teeming members of our party and pray that God will continue to guide you as you lead us in the years ahead. Personally, I do not believe that your leadership will terminate at the end of your tenure as governor; I do not believe that.
Okowa, our leader
“I have come to say that you have earned your strides and your strides will continue to carry you on by the grace of God.
”On behalf of my one vote, my unit in Ogharefe, Ethiope West Local Government Area, I want to commit and dedicate myself to the service of PDP Delta State and Nigeria at large”.
It will be an understatement to say that Okowa was humbled by Ibori’s party-political self-effacement. In fact, for anybody expecting a “big fight”, Ibori ingeniously deployed a tool that deactivated them.
No combat, we‘re one family – Okowa
In response, Senator Okowa, who assured PDP members of free, fair and transparent primary elections ahead of 2023 general elections, affirmed that the party remained one united family in the state.
He controverted nothing that Ibori uttered, adding: “All our achievements are the collective efforts of all Deltans because you gave us the peace to work and we cannot thank you enough.”
He advised aspirants to control their followers, noting that there was no need for any fight as the party remained one big united family.
”We are one family in PDP; we cannot fight and we will never fight; at the appropriate time, it will be well with us.
”But, one thing I have always promised and I still promise today is that there will always be free and fair primaries; so, there is no room to fight.
”There is no room to quarrel, let us work together as one family that we are and ensure that PDP stays continuously as a family,” he emphasized.
Positions on next gov unchanged
An informed party leader told Saturday Vanguard: “Ibori openly doused expanding maneuverings in the party over 2023 governor with his last Saturday outing, but neither Ibori nor Okowa has changed their “extreme positions” on who emerges governor in 2023. From available records, Ibori’s branded select is not Okowa’s first choice.”
But a Delta North PDP leader, hinted: “Against prevailing narrative that while in custody overseas, Ibori influenced Okowa’s victory in the 2014 governorship primaries, knowledgeable Anioma politicians discern the real story, which is that the godfather supported his loyalist and kinsman, Edevbie, not Okowa.
”The purported support for Okowa was a camouflage because Edevbie’s nomination by Uduaghan contrary to Okowa was cleared with Ibori. Edevbie is an Ibori devotee, not Uduaghan and Dr. Uduaghan chose Edevbie to please Ibori in 2014. Truth is that if Ibori had essentially objected to Edevbie’s endorsement, Uduaghan would not have gone ahead with him.
”Before the 2014 primaries, one of the governorship aspirants, who is in the race today, came with another party stalwart to tell Okowa that Ibori had instructed from abroad that he (Okowa) should step down for him as the favoured candidate. The governor knows the two persons that came and the question we keep asking is: what would have happened if their scheme worked out.
”Some people think the people of Delta North are political neophytes, therefore, do not know the true story when they make some pronouncements on zoning of governorship in the state,” the Delta North PDP leader asserted.
However, another source who claimed to be conversant with the matter, disclosed that Ibori actually mobilized and aided Okowa’s victory at the December 8, 2014 PDP primaries from London, using his key loyalists and dismissed all insinuations that he supported someone else.
Besides, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi representing Delta North, who was state chairman of PDP before moving to APC, last year, told this writer, years ago, that he called Ibori, who gave instructions on phone that the Ibori political family should vote for Okowa in the 2014 governorship primaries.
Former Minister of Information, Prof Sam Oyavbaire, who marshaled Okowa’s governorship campaign, also in an interview shortly after the governor won his first tenure in 2015, said he heard that Ibori gave such commands and it partly helped in swaying some votes to Okowa.
One settled dilemma
Reviewing recent development in the party, it is conspicuous that by Ibori’s open acknowledgment at the mega rally, the question of who calls the shots in respect of 2023 in the party has been answered by Ibori himself in favour of Okowa.
What, nevertheless, is still blurry is if Okowa will exploit his overriding power like Ibori and Uduaghan did in 2006 and 2014. On countless occasions, Senator Okowa had avowed that God would determine his successor and he would not play God.
But then again, will Okowa, in the new accord and spirit, abandon his preference, if any, to play the role of an unbiased umpire as he did in the National Convention that gave PDP a new lease of life at the national level? Or will he, as ordinary mortal, make a volte face and play God?
strength in mobilization
From what also became apparent at the assembly, where former APC state chairman, Chief Cyril Ogodo, and other APC defectors from various wards and local government areas in the state jumped ship, none of the governorship aspirants of PDP is a pushover.
Police Starting from the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Rt. Hon Sheriff Oborevwori, who, in truth, wrapped the day, the current number one lawmaker in the state mustered unexpected multitude of supporters to show his strength.
Oborevwori incontrovertibly stated at the mega convention that he is a force to be reckoned with in PDP 2023 governorship scramble and anybody who underestimates him does so at his/her own risk.
Otuaro dazzles with supernatural vigor
Deputy Governor, Deacon Kingsley Otuaro, who sprung with supernatural dynamism of a servant that God had anointed with fresh leadership mantle, regaled the mammoth gathering with a powerful speech: “We will not tell our people half-truth, we will tell you the whole truth, because from the onset of this government, God has been our guide and we will not take our eyes off him. We believe in God, we believe that Delta State is for God, we believe that God enthrones kings and we believe that going forward God will enthrone the best leader.”
I’m most accessible to govern – Sen. Manager
His Ijaw kinsman, Senator James Manager, told journalists after the rally that he was a detribalized Deltan and most accessible governorship aspirant to govern the state. He shares a strong political bond with Okowa.
Gbagi consolidates, visits Ibori, Uduaghan
Former Minister of State for Education, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, who has advantage of having started his campaign in 2019, much earlier than other aspirants, is reportedly consolidating on his early beginning and separately visited Ibori and Uduaghan, last Friday and last Saturday, to firm up their support for him.
Edevbie quietly working
Former Chief of Staff, Government House, Olorogun David Edevbie, is also quietly campaigning and sometimes, announces some of his strategic moves on his Facebook page.
Aguariavwodo in unobtrusive drive
Another PDP governorship aspirant, who has also grasped the act of discreet campaign is former Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Senator Emmanuel Aguariavwodo. He infrequently speaks on his movements, but he is in the field.
James Auguoye steps up campaign
Former Commissioner for Works, James Augoye, has also intensified his campaign to get the party’s ticket.