•How Ibori, Uduaghan managed similar situation in 2006, 2014
By Emma Amaize, South-South
Misdirected permutations of analysts
The calculations of some political analysts and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, leaders in Delta State, in the last quarter of 2021, was that latest February, this year, Leader of the party, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa would reveal his preferred candidate for the May 21, 2022 governorship primaries of the party ahead 2023 governorship election.
Given the reverberating interests and feelings, the issue of his successor has generated, it was palpable that for the real politics of 2023 governorship to steam and take shape in the state, the governor has to declare which direction he is headed. Already, groups and politicians have sustained the mantra: “Where Okowa go, we go”.
It was, therefore, not surprising that when Senator Okowa’s colleague in Akwa Ibom, Governor Udom Emmanuel, January 30, disclosed to a select group of PDP chieftains at Government House, Uyo, that his chosen successor is his Commissioner for Lands and Water Resources, Umo Eno, these particular group of leaders and followers in Delta state chorused that “Ekwueme” should waste no more time.
However, on Tuesday, January 18, which was 12 days before Udom’s announcement of Eno as his successor in Akwa Ibom, Okowa had triggered the “February” forecasters when he declared he would seek the face of God on his successor. His words: Whatever positions we are contesting for, let us seek the face of God because if you genuinely pray, God will reveal
His will for you.” “As a man, I will also try to avoid people pushing me to a direction that God is not pleased with because if God has made a choice and we go in the wrong direction, it will not augur well for the state.”
“But one thing is sure, whoever will succeed me must be one who keeps the fire in this altar burning, and God must direct me on the choice of the person. I can never take the place of God in deciding who will succeed me; I will pray for God to direct me and not man, so that I do not go in the wrong direction”, he asserted.
Act of political bombing without backfiring
With May 21, date of the governorship primaries fast approaching and February over. Date today is 27 in the month of March, ending on 31, four days away with only one month (April) separating it from the decisive month of May that the party’s 2023 governorship candidate will be decided, there is still no word from Okowa on his successor.
Could it be that God has not spoken to him? Or people are pushing him to a direction that God is not pleased and he is rejecting it because it will not augur well for the state?
Tacticians familiar with Okowa’s style submitted that those who expected a political strategist like the governor to overtly proclaim his desired candidate in a complex state like Delta were party-political novices.
The truth, some said, was that Governor Okowa has a good idea of his choice successor, but since the partisan feathered friends have learned how to fly without alighting in the state, he has also learned how to bombard without misfiring.
Whatever has been surreptitiously contracted at the various cocoons on who takes over from Okowa, the choice will come to light at the May 21 governorship primaries of the party.
How Ibori determined successor
For former governor, Chief James Ibori, who governed the state from 1999-2007, it was stress-free for him as the supreme leader of the Ibori political family, which all the political actors at the time, including his successor, former governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan and incumbent governor, Senator Okowa, subscribe to, to obey his commands.
Current Deputy Senate President, Olorogun Ovie Omo-Agege, Chairman, Senate Committee on Niger-Delta and Senator representing Delta North senatorial district, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, governorship aspirant, Senator James Manager, leader of Delta-Central, DC- 2023, Senator Ighoyota Amori, governorship aspirant and former Commissioner, Olorogun David Edevbie and a host of others answer to Ibori’s bidding.
So, after the twist and turns that was the PDP governorship primaries at Ogwashi-Uku in 2006, there was to be a runoff between Uduaghan and Okowa to determine the eventual governorship standard-bearer, but Ibori prevailed on Okowa to overlook runoff and Okowa kowtowed to him. The Ibori mystique was still powerful then and he was their indisputable leader.
He also appealed to the sentiments of other leaders who gave him listening ears, but replay the same scenario today, 16 years after, none of the aspirants will succumb to such plea because times have changed.
Elder statesman, Senator Edwin Clark, former Minister of State for Education, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, Senator Omo-Agege and others rejected the Ibori primaries that saw the emergence of Uduaghan, an Itsekiri from Delta South senatorial district as his successor.
Uduaghan showed preference, shunned manipulation
Dr. Uduaghan presided over the affairs of the state from 2007 to 2015 and governorship primaries was conducted in 2014. The incumbent Okowa ran against Olorogun David Edevbie, the favorite candidate of Uduaghan, who is also the beloved of Ibori in the forthcoming May 21 governorship primaries.
Uduaghan carried out trials with other aspirants, among them the late Tony Obuh before he finally settled on Edevbie. He had his reasons for not giving preference to his friend, Okowa as his successor.
Different from Ibori that was able to hold the larger part of the Ibori political family to stay with him on his choice of successor, Uduaghan found it knotty to appropriate an overwhelming number, as there was in-house rebellion by leaders and followers.
The political revolt started with the choice of Obuh regarded as a political outsider and extended to Edevbie because he is from Delta Central senatorial district and many believed at the time that it should go to Delta North senatorial district.
However, besides supporting Edevbie with all his might, Uduaghan did not set out to manipulate the outcome of the primaries in 2014. Had he done that, the result would have been altered, but he left it in the hands of God. He remains a true democrat.
Okowa, who was quite strong on ground, campaigned extensively and had the support of party members across the three senatorial districts, won the day.
Party leaders and pressure groups were strong and were able to challenge Uduaghan in the field with Okowa as arrowhead for the primaries. Ibori was in jail abroad at the time, but he was also said to have played some role at the time.
What is Okowa’s scheme?
May 21, 2022 is Okowa’s time to superintend over the governorship primaries of the party for its 2023 governorship standard-bearer.
Under his watch as governor, the Ibori political family is not as interconnected and potent as it were back in the days, consequently, Ibori is not in the position to command his preferred successor to Okowa, if not, he would have painlessly got him to crown Edevbie.
For the avoidance of doubt, Senator Okowa has not officially endorsed any governorship aspirant in the state, but that is not to say that he does not have a preferred successor. He is one governor that has mystified many with his tactical muteness.
Okowa had vowed to the party and all the governorship aspirants that a free and fair governorship primaries would be conducted under his watch. At the party’s mega rally, January 22, in Asaba, he said: “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.”
If Okowa who has been called by PDP at the national level at critical times to oversee the National Convention of the party and hailed by many for his impartiality does otherwise in the May 21 governorship primaries in his state, he will noticeably put himself in a tight corner.
Irrespective of his undertakings with the respective governorship aspirants, the governor will run himself into trouble and against all that he publicly confesses if he proceeds to openly endorse a candidate and influence the process for his choice successor.
To save his integrity, Governor Okowa should stick to his public vow of free and fair primaries and allow the strongest candidate to win just as it happened in 2014 primaries, where he battled the incumbent governor’s candidate and triumphed.
Guber aspirants not ready to back down
Saturday Vanguard understood that the Deputy Governor of the state, Deacon Kingsley Otuaro, an Ijaw from Warri South-West local government area, Delta South senatorial district, who believes that he has the backing of his boss, Okowa, is not prepared to step down for anybody. Sources close to him said that nothing can stop him from contesting the May 21 governorship primaries.
In fact, the Ijaw ethnic nationality in the state had long taken a decision that all Ijaw governorship aspirants should participate in the PDP governorship primaries, no matter the decision of the party on zoning, which is nonexistent as far as the tribe is concerned.
Senator Manager, also of Ijaw ethnic attraction, has not given any signal that he will not contest the May 21 governorship primaries.
Notwithstanding the face-up (not face-off) between Ibori and Okowa on the latter’s successor, Ibori’s candidate, Olorogun David Edevbie, will also not back down on the primaries.
Former Minister of State for Education, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, who disclosed he was the first to pick nomination form for the party’s governorship primaries had made it clear in the past that nothing would stop him from contesting the party’s governorship primaries.
Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori, viewed as an underdog, but pulling powerful strings in the race is having a very fine moment and nobody can cajole him to abbreviate it.
What gov must circumvent at all cost
So, even if Okowa has interest in any of the aspirants, none is ready to back down for the other. If he blatantly works for an aspirant, a devastating internal implosion will hit the party, to manage this process and come out safe and sound, the governor has to be as wise as a serpent and gentle as dove because politics poses life-threatening trials to the leader at a time like this.