By Emma Amaize

“Sheriffication” in Delta!

LAST Sunday, March 13, Executive Assistant on Communications to Delta State Governor, Fred Latimore Oghenesivbe Esq. reverberated the party-political atmosphere of the oil-rich state with his largely strewn social media post,  entitled “2023: Why Deltans Are Sheriffied.”

Not new to controversy, Oghenesivbe, in the write-up on the successor of the governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, which he practically took other governorship aspirants to the cleaners, audaciously stated that “Sheriffied” Deltans “are earnestly asking for Rt, Hon Sheriff Oborevwori, as the preferred governorship hopeful in 2023.”

Rt. Hon Sheriff Oborevwori is not just the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, he is one of the top Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governorship aspirants gunning for its 2023 gubernatorial ticket and hails from Okpe axis of Delta Central senatorial district in the state.

Coming at a time PDP leaders and faithful in the state, and Deltans at large were nervously waiting for the governor’s proclamation on his supposed candidate, many beheld Oghenesivbe’s declaration as testimony of an aide that most likely ear-wigged his boss or mined privileged information.

If Oghenesivbe is “Sheriffied” as he professed, the impudence of the publisher/editor-in-chief at Secret Reporters News, Fejiro Oliver, who, Monday, March 14, unambiguously stated that Governor Okowa had made a U-turn on Delta 2023 and picked the Speaker, Sheriff Oborovweri, as governor, was fearless as it was puzzling.

Oliver’s political thunderbolt

Call it a clap of political thunder, the more bolstered Oliver inscribing with magisterial authority in a social media post, indicated that Okowa had anointed “his Director of Protocol, Ifeanyi Eboigbe, as Deputy Governor, while the Deputy Governor, Barrister Kingsley Otuaro, was asked to stop campaigning and step-down.”

He noted that one of the strongest political pressure groups in the state, Delta Political Vanguard, DPV, would officially stand-up for Oborovweri’s in a little while.

Rumour mongers at work – Osuoza, PDP spokesperson

Retorting, Publicity Secretary of PDP in the state, Dr. Ifeanyi Osuoza, in statement, Tuesday, March 15, entitled: “Delta APC is already scared of facing a New Sheriff who may come to Town,” lashed out at contending All Progressives Congress, APC, over a notification, “Delta 2023: Okowa picked Sheriff Oborevwori to cover his tracks of thievery” by the Director of Publicity, Dr. Wilson Omene.

Describing the entire spectacle as rumor, Osuoza said: “First of all, we are very amused that the APC has chosen to believe a source who posted the information on Facebook. This is what ‘Dr.’ Omene wrote: ‘Information spread on Monday 14th March by popular and controversial journalist, Fejiro Oliver, publisher of Secret Reporters, that the Delta state governor has thrown his weight behind the incumbent Speaker of the House of Assembly’. 

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“Is this not even a clear indication, if ever Deltans were in doubt, that APC is not a serious political party and should not be taken seriously by any well-meaning and discerning Deltan? A party that always believes in rumour mongers and rabble-rousers as their source of information?

“This was the same source that almost caused an ethnic conflict in the state at the very dangerous height of the zoning debate, when they spread the wicked rumour from the pit of hell, that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa has concluded plans to abandon one ethnic group and senatorial zone in favour of another ethnic group and no force on earth or heaven can change it. We pity APC for believing this source which has been spreading volumes of baseless, unfounded rumours since this democracy started.

“The name of Sheriff Oborevwori has not even landed fully on the ground in Delta state and the camp of APC has been gripped with great fear, apprehension, and trepidation at the prospect of facing the powerful presence, the imposing leadership authority, and unquestionable might and popularity of Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori, especially in their own ‘safe heaven’ where they have always boasted that they are in control.

“In fact, assuming without conceding, since our dear leader Governor Ifeanyi Okowa has not spoken yet, that indeed Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori is the man we have agreed to give the ticket to fly our flag, in the 2023 Governorship election, amongst the very capable, qualified, tested, and trusted members of our great party, is he not also eminently qualified and has ample capacity to be our flag bearer? He asked.

Osuoza added: “Finally, let us inform the APC at this juncture and for the avoidance of doubt, that the PDP, as Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, (Ekwueme) has already declared, will conduct a free, fair and transparent primaries and what this means is that the level playing field is open and the coast is very clear for any anybody who is interested in contesting for the governorship ticket under the PDP umbrella, including Rt. Hon Sheriff Oborevwori, once they have been certified as qualified to contest, in accordance with INEC rules and regulations and the PDP constitution.”

MSD, DPV embrace Oborovweri

If PDP told off APC and Oliver for purportedly touting rumor, the Movement for Stronger Delta, MSD, an opinionated assemblage in the state that boasts of influential government officials in its ranks, in a statement, Monday, March 14, entitled: “DELTA 2023: Gov Okowa will always do the right thing in the interest of Delta and Deltans – MSD”, gave further credibility to the winged story. The powerful group evaluated the four leading governorship aspirants and singled out Oborevwori after ruling out three governorship aspirants.  

In the shadowy statement confirmed to have emanated from it, MSD  asserted: “He (Oborevwori)  has no personal baggage or controversy to weigh him down and indeed, with an eye on the bigger picture of the governorship election to come, Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori, embodies the perfect mix of popularity, political strength, leadership authority, administrative experience and acumen, and a personality that is charming, accommodating, courteous, accessible and a great team player, to do battle under the umbrella of the PDP, with whoever is imposed, or even imposes himself as we have been reliably informed, on the other political groups in the state. He is indeed the perfect epitome of a pan-Delta candidate.”

“Like we said earlier, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, the ‘Ekwueme gburugburu’ has never got it wrong and will never get it wrong in ensuring that only the best will be delivered, both in addressing the ‘zoning’ issue and in fulfilling the interest of Deltans and ensuring a #StrongerDelta for all Deltans,” the group said. The party did not react to MSD statement at the time of this report.  

With the bits and pieces of a clearly -knitted political machination, the DPV as prefigured, 24 hours earlier, endorsed,  on Tuesday, March 15, Oborevwori’s candidature at a ceremony overseen by its leader and Chairman, Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, DESOPADEC, Deacon Michael Diden, aka Ejele, at Asaba, the state capital, with top officials of Okowa’s government in attendance.

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Oborevwori was accompanied to the event by the Deputy Speaker, Rt. Hon Ochor Christopher Ochor, Majority Leader, Hon Ferugson Onwo and other lawmakers. Present were the Chief of Staff to Government House, Hon. Festus Agas, Commissioner for Information, Mr. Charles Aniagwu, Commissioner for Finance, Sir Fidelis Tilije, Managing Director of DESOPADEC, Askia Ogieh, Executive Assistant to the Governor, Bureau of Orientation, Mr. Eugene Uzum.  

Okowa hasn’t adopted any aspirant —Akpovwowo

As the drama over 2023 unfolds, Commissioner for Urban Renewal, Hon Arthur Akpovwowo, told journalists: “People can say what they want to say but it is not true. At least I am a member of the State Executive Council. If the governor is going to send people on errand, at least he should send his commissioners. It is not true, it remains in the realms of rumour.”

“His Excellency has not spoken to my ears. People are bound to associate. Associations and pressure groups are meant to adopt and very soon, you will see adoptions everywhere but that does not mean that the governor has said so. The governor said there will be free and fair primaries and this is what he is going to do,” Akpovwowo said.

Okowa‘ll handover to me —Gbagi

In the escalating affair, there was also hearsay that Okowa had picked former Minister of State for Education, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, as his successor. Gbagi himself revealed the information while addressing the 25 local government chairmen, executives and other party delegates.

“The governor has chosen me as the one to take over from him at the end of his tenure in May 29, 2023. Governor Okowa knows what he is doing, he will not handover Delta to people who will crumble it from where he has been able to raise it up to.

“If Delta was in the lowest ebb of the ladder, Okowa has lifted it up to 100 per cent. So, he will not allow what he has labored to be destroyed. No good father leaves his house more tattered than he met it. Look at the multipurpose secretariat, it has saved the state about N1 billion from rent.

“Do not be deceived and make no mistakes, Okowa will handover to me come 2023. The governor is wise, do not worry yourselves over people setting up campaign offices and erecting billboards, when you have sent me with your votes before we talk about campaign offices and billboards. You are the billboards now,” the lawyer and criminologist said.

Am ready to take over from Okowa —Otuaro

However, the deputy governor, Deacon Otuaro, an Ijaw from Delta South senatorial district, purported to have been asked to step down, debunked the claim at the inauguration of his campaign office in Asaba, Tuesday, saying: ”Recent rumour that His Excellency, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa asked me to step down from the governorship race remain in the realm of rumours that have no space in our drive”.

“I have a robust relationship with Governor Okowa who has been like an elder brother that he is. Indeed, what binds us together is fear of the Almighty God whose direction he seeks on the issue of succession. One sterling remark the governor made on the issue of succession is that if we do not do it God’s way, we will not succeed. Let me tell you that I am prepared to take over the mantle of leadership of Delta State in 2023. Going forward, we are going to see an industrialized Delta State with more jobs. The blueprint will be out soon,” he sounded.

Pointing out that he was not disqualified by the senatorial power rotation agreement in the state, he said Governor Okowa had long cleared the air when he said a formal senatorial zoning arrangement was not to his knowledge.
 ”I stand to identify with that. The governor has been a longer player in the polity. He has, therefore, assured that he is going to give level playing field to all aspirants. Besides, the enabling laws of Nigeria gives me franchise, gives me right to contest,” Otuaro stated.

Fake news, says GDP

Throwing its weight behind the deputy governor, a group, Greater Delta Project, GDP, in a statement, Wednesday, by its Spokesman, Lawson Awipi, said: “The story making the round in some online media forum that Governor Okowa has picked his successor and that the Deputy Governor, His Excellency, Deacon Kingsley Burutu Otuaro has been asked to stop campaigning for his gubernatorial ambition is a fake news manufactured by stomach hustlers in politics. The peddler of such fake news is a known glorified fake news courier.”

“This fake news courier is just a self-professed investigative journalist who is being used as a pawn in the political chessboard by some misfortune political hustlers. They have been hired by these misfortune politicians in the game to propagate false information in the state in order to score cheap political points. The race is too hot for them; thus, they have to resort to emotional blackmails in order to keep their social media governorship ambitions afloat.

“We are not surprised because not only Otuaro is the victim of these fake news binge. Nearly all the leading aspirants in the PDP gubernatorial primary in Delta state have become victims of media assault, stories cooked up by these pawns who are hired to do the hatchet job. Kingsley Burutu Otuaro is not only in the race but is the aspirant to beat. God willing, Deltans will give him the party ticket to contest the general elections in 2023,” the group said.

Damage control  

A group, Delta State Concerned PDP Leaders Forum in a statement by the spokesman, Engr. Aroture Efe, lambasted both the state chairman of the party, Chief Kingsley Esiso and publicity secretary, Dr. Osuoza, for the party’s Tuesday commentary.

Responding to the attack, Osuazo said: “Our attention has been drawn to a press release titled: Group cautions Delta PDP state Publicity Secretary, Dr. Ifeanyi Osuoza and state Party Chairman, Chief Kingsley Esiso” issued by Delta State Concerned PDP Leaders Forum and signed by its Spokesman, Engr. Aruoture M. Efe, which referred to our penultimate press release titled: ‘Delta APC already scared of facing a new Sheriff who may come to town – PDP’ in quite uncomplimentary, uncharitable and even hostile and combative terms.” 

“We want to assume, for the purpose of clarity, that both Engr. Aruoture M. Efe and members of the Delta State Concerned PDP Leaders Forum, whom we hold in high regards, as our brothers and sisters in the PDP, must have objectively noted, after they have ‘carefully studied’ our press release, that beyond the pun on the name “Sheriff”, which was even reflected within the context of probability, we were very clear in emphasizing the point that His Excellency, Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, has not made any categorical statement concerning any candidate or zone in relation to the 2023 Delta gubernatorial election.

“Our press release also stated without equivocation, that all our aspirants, who have so far indicated interest in the governorship ticket were very capable, qualified, tested, and trusted members of our great party, and that for the avoidance of doubt, the PDP, as Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, (Ekwueme) has already declared, will conduct a free, fair and transparent primaries. 

“What this means, therefore, as our said press release also stated, is that the level playing field is open and the coast is very clear for any anybody who is interested in contesting for the governorship ticket under the PDP umbrella, including Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori, once they have been certified as qualified to contest, in accordance with INEC rules and regulations and the PDP constitution,” he said.

Okowa yet to announce choice

Finding by Saturday Vanguard corroborated by some top sources indicate that Governor Okowa has not on the record announced his choice of successor to any person, group or groups purportedly acting on his behalf.

However, what is expected of him is to clear the air on the goings-on in the party,  in the last one week, and as the leader, fundamentally point the way forward for the party, which has been thrown into unnecessary confusion and debacle over its 2023 governorship standard-bearer.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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