•Gov takes charge but counterattack looms

By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South

POLITICAL gladiators and power brokers in Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Delta State, especially those from Delta Central senatorial district under the control of an eminent party juggernaut, took too lightly the capacity and authority of incumbent Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, in their covert scheming for his successor in 2023, which has turned up to be a serious political miscalculation.  

By last year (2021), the assemblage had selected its choice of Okowa’s successor, a former Commissioner of Urhobo extraction his deputy, also an ex-Commissioner of Delta North origin, both members of the State Executive Council at the time.  Several meetings had also been held in Lagos and other places to the effect with the famous party leader, who is a godfather with the governor put in the dark.   

It was actually the effrontery that made Governor Okowa to dissolve his cabinet, May, last year, and he admitted that much when he told newsmen that there were distractions with two years to go then.

Dissolution of the state executive council which affected all the serving commissioners and officials scrambling for governor while still in office sent a very strong message to all the 2023 indigenous vestibule groups, including Delta Central 2023, DC-23, led by Deputy National Organizing Secretary, PDP, Chief Ighoyota Amori and Ijaw for 2023 Governor Lobby Group, steered by former Minister of Police Affairs, Alaowei Broderick Bozimo, on the governor’s unpreparedness to let power merchants dictate to him.

By now, it is apparent to the contending lobby groups and their promoters that they can make recommendations to the governor, but not foist their choice on him.  

Ijaw parade

Currently, Ijaw ethnic group in Delta South senatorial district is strutting Senator James Manager representing the district in the Senate; Deputy Governor of the state, Deacon Kingsley Otuaro and a former commissioner, Braduce Angozi. Otuaro, lawyer and conflict management expert believes that God has anointed him to take over from his boss, while Senator Manager, also a lawyer, is counting on on his old ties with the governor.

At the 90th Anniversary of the apex Urhobo socio-cultural group, Urhobo Progress Union, UPU, December, last year, Governor Okowa, charged the umbrella body to help prune down the number of governorship aspirants from Delta Central senatorial district.

Saturday Vanguard learned on good authority that the Bozimo –led group and others were working on the directive to reduce number of their aspirants, and even traditional rulers in the state are expected to submit their list of favored governorship aspirants to the governor.

DC-23 trims 12 to 5

Amori-led DC-23 had already cropped the list of Urhobo governorship aspirants from 12 to five and expected to submit names of top three aspirants to the governor in February.  Those who made the list of five are former Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Senator Emmanuel Aguarivwodo, former Commissioner for Works affected in the cabinet dissolution, Chief James Augoye, former Commissioner and Chief of Staff also affected in the cabinet dissolution, Olorogun David Edevbie, former Minister of State for Education Delta’s biggest private investor, Chief Kenneth Gbagi and Speaker, Delta State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon Sheriff Oborevwori.

Receiving the interim report of the group’s screening committee headed by Prof Nyerhovwo Tonukari, last month, Chief Amori gave up to the ending of this month (January) to further shrink the number of five aspirants to three and submit its final report.

Olorogun Gbagi, the oldest PDP member among all the governorship aspirants in the state was the first to indicate interest in 2019 for 2023 governorship and has covered a lot of grounds. On the other hand, Rt. Hon. Oborevwori, who finally succumbed to pressures from strong politicians and friends across the state, ruminates that Delta will be in safe hands under his leadership. Olorogun Edevbie also thinks he is good enough to take over from Okowa,  but Senator Aguariavwodo maintains that he knows exactly how to fix the state.   

However, Urhobo PDP governorship aspirants who did not pass DC-23 first screening were Chief Fred Majemite, Hon Ejaife Odebala, Hon Efe Ofobruku, Chief Kenneth Okpara, now late, Chief Bright Edejeghwro, Hon. Festus Ovie Agas, Chief Abel Esievo and Chief Sunday Oruarefe.

Some of the vetoed aspirants, including Majemite and Ofobruku, were quick to disclaim the DC-23 screening. Only Odebala, a former lawmaker and chairman of Sapele local government area, appears to have let go. Chief Okpara died last month or so. It is uncertain if Hon Agas, former Secretary to the State Government, SSG, now Chief of Staff to Governor Okowa, attended the DC-23 screening in the first instance. 

Either by omission or commission, DC-23 conveyed an impression that the group would most conceivably determine Urhobo consensus candidate, but then again, the governor soon shattered the illusions when he practically cut the cluster to size with the group currently subjecting itself to his instructions.  

Except for some uncommon disapproval here and there, the political class in Delta North PDP and Delta South leaders and stakeholders are waiting for the governor to give directives on 2023 for them to follow.

Maneuverings

But that is not to say that there is no resistance to the seeming move of the governor. A former commissioner in the state, Dr. Tony Nwaka, who made in-explicit allusion on the governor’s style faced opposition and was slammed with a suspension by his local PDP chapter although the suspension reportedly lacked due process.

Nevertheless, Bozimo, who leads the Ijaw lobby group and Amori, DC-23, had lately clarified that they were not opposed to the governor’s influence. Bozimo’s son, Isaiah Bozimo Esq is presently the Commissioner for Justice under Okowa, He was appointed after his predecessor, Peter Mrakpor, also eyeing the governorship seat was fired, last year.

 Amori from Mosogar, Ethiope West local government area, is warming up for Delta Central senatorial seat which he won at a time but later lost through the court to Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, of All Progressives Congress, APC, who defeated him in the court. At the moment, a former Commissioner and Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, DESOPADEC, Chief John Nani, from neighboring Idjerhe (Jesse), a sounding board of the governor, has also declared interest for the same position. 

To those who understand the intrigues, it is either Amori subsumes whatever arrangement he has with others regarding palming off a governorship candidate under the canopy DC-23 or forfeit his senatorial ambition all over again.

Okowa meets Ibori

Thought-provoking, however, is the information corroborated by multiple sources that Governor Okowa had met with former governor, Chief James Ibori, to discuss the issue of his successor in 2023.

Saturday Vanguard learned that Ibori pointed out his favorite candidate (names withheld) to Okowa, but the governor opposed his choice and voiced his first choice (names also withheld) based on competence.  Both men differed but mutually agreed that they would settle score at the primaries if there was no meeting point before then.

READ ALSO: Tension in Delta community as herdsmen invade farmlands, destroy crops, residents flee

 Governor Okowa has not made any public pronouncement on either his meeting with Ibori or choice for 2023, but discerning politicians already know. For now, he has continued his consolidation on power by inviting some PDP leaders in government to weigh up some developments ahead 2023.

“Before long, the governor, as he promised, last year, will convene a meeting of PDP leaders across the state to examine the issue of the party’s 2023 governorship ticket and possibility of getting a consensus candidate,” a PDP leader told this paper.

“He is already consulting with other party leaders on the way forward. You know he made it clear last time that only God can determine his successor. But as a human being and even as governor, you can only play your role, it is God that has the final say,” the party leader added.

But it is open secret that the governor has enormous power over the party’s delegates if indirect primaries method is to be used to determine his successor, and so Ibori, a political tactician is most probable to go back over his position.

Counter offensive

A group of politicians marveled at how the governor has ingeniously weaved his way and became very powerful were cautiously meeting on how to checkmate him, but the problem is that Okowa seems to be many steps ahead of them.

“As a grassroots politician with wide contacts, he not only knows and anticipates their plan, he foils their intentions before they execute it and they are befuddled,” a source hinted. 

With the power struggle still one, more people have come to realization there is a political proclivity in the party that the governor would not want to surrender power to because they will loot the state dry, and they are now willing to tackle the forces.   

 According to our source: “Some people want Okowa to leave the forces to have their way or close his eyes and allow whoever the system throws up to succeed him, but the governor thinking about the future of the state knows that the greatest disservice he will render to the state is to stay aloof and allow plunderers to take over the state.”

“Some claim that Okowa outsmarted them, the truth is that Okowa did not outsmart anybody, he is only being sincere and truthful on the realities on ground. And it is his sincerity that has endeared him to Deltans,” he added.

Gbagi dares Ibori

However, at a New Year get together with members of the Gbagi Solidarity Movement, GSM, Gbagi, who knew that Ibori had a different candidate, boasted that Ibori had endorsed him and challenged him say otherwise.

His words: “I visited the former governor, two of us had a discussion and he said, ‘Olorogun Gbagi, I came back to the country and everywhere I go in the state, I hear Gbagi. I do not know anybody who can be governor in the state and turn situation around positively than yourself, Gbagi.’

“After those things he had told me, I said to Chief James Ibori, look all these good things that you have told me, tell them to Governor Okowa and he said to me, ‘Take my word for it, I will tell the governor that you are the next governor or nothing else.’ Chief James Ibori will not deny himself, I say it the way it is.

“And when I met Chief Ibori recently in Abuja, he said to me that many people think we are enemies but they do not understand,” Gbagi asserted. More than a week after the Gbagi bolt from the blue went viral, Ibori was yet to react his claim.

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