. From left; Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa; former Governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori and the Immediate Past Governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, during a day of Tribute, in Honour of Late High Chief William Ibori, in Oghara Delta State.

By Emma Amaize

The reality in Peoples Democratic  Party, PDP, Delta State now is that no one leader can produce the governorship standard-bearer of the party alone and declares from his bedroom that heaven will not fall.

Even the incumbent Governor and Leader of the party, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, cannot palm off his choice on other leaders and stakeholders and go to sleep,  not to talk of ex-governor and his political mentor, Chief James Ibori, imposing his celebrated choice, as things stand today in the state. 

Similarly, you may not accurately configure Ibori’s  stance on affairs of Delta PDP without examining the position of his successor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, who handed over power to Okowa in 2015. Uduaghan remains a very sturdy force in the party and there is fundamentally no move Ibori makes that he is not aware of or party to.

The opinions and compromise of the three powerful leaders, especially as they affect the governorship standard-bearer for 2023 governorship elections,  which battle has become hard-hitting, are of overriding importance, if the party is to remain united and prosecute  the 2023 elections without collateral damage.

Before and at the end of Tuesday, April 5, Leaders and Stakeholders’ meeting of the party in Asaba, the state capital, it was perceptible that the three leaders, who had previously broached the template for Okowa’s successor had not arrived at a middle ground in respect of the May 21 governorship primaries, which is not far away.

The hard truth, however, is that Okowa as a tactful politician  had never planned to do it alone and knows that he must consult the two former governors and other leaders to make a headway.

Lately, he had stated that the best option would not be to thrust a candidate on the party, but ensure free and fair primaries for the best or most popular to emerge, which he had sworn to accomplish.  In fact, if there is something, according to an informant that Okowa wants to guard jealously, knowing that his eight-year tenure will soon come to an end, “it is  to finish strong and not to be chronicled by history as rebelling against Ibori, his political mentor, who discovered his leadership traits, fostered them   and stood by him at his exasperating times.”

But again, he does not also want to ransom the larger interest of the state on the altar of egocentricity and hero-worship, characteristics that have made Ibori to hold him in awe.

Ayu’s intervention

National Chairman of the party, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, who is acquainted with developments in the party, following a report by Ibori, had reinforced the consultation position, lately, when he requested the governor to collaborate with Ibori on his (Okowa) preferred successor.   

A source emphasized to this paper: “The national chairman did not say the governor should go and take orders from Ibori, but should take Ibori’s observations into account in taking decisions to ensure a win-win for the party in 2023.”

Saturday Vanguard, however, learned that the threesome congregated for a mini session before the leaders and stakeholders’ meeting commenced, few days ago, in Asaba and had some useful discussions that were not made public.

Though Okowa, Ibori and Uduaghan are currently not in consonance on who succeeds the Owa-Oyibu- born incumbent, the three leaders do not see it as reason to be against themselves, but some followers, who do not know the frame of mind of their leaders, strangely act as if there is a war going on. 

The chief political strategist to Okowa, Dr. Festus Okubor  puts it in clearer perspective when he asserted: “There is nothing like leadership acrimony” ahead of Delta 2023, emphasizing that contrary to naysayers, PDP would scale through the  governorship polls victorious, stronger and more united under the watch of Okowa, a man he described as “a sure footed team player who consults and listens.”

What transpired at Tuesday meeting?

Speaking at the meeting, Okowa, who actually came clean on having not endorsed any aspirant, warned that henceforth, none of the aspirants should use his name, Ibori and Uduaghan to deceive delegates “As the state party leader and your governor, I want to reassure all aspirants that primaries shall be free, fair and transparent. There is no cause for alarm, get prepared and do the needful to win.“It is forbidden for any aspirant, leader or stakeholder to approach PDP in Abuja or principal officers of our party to hijack the process. 

“Our party is united for victory in 2023. I urge aspirants to focus on reaching out to delegates in the state, canvass for votes ahead of party primaries,” he said.

An informed party leader told this paper: “There is cheering development, the leaders and stakeholders’ meeting resolved that all aspirants who have procured expression of interest and nomination forms should test their individual popularity in free, fair and transparent primaries across board.”

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Senator Okowa warned aspirants and their supporters not to approach PDP headquarters in Abuja with the intention of hijacking the process, saying they should do the needful by approaching delegates to canvass for votes ahead of the primaries. ”

In the same token, the two past governors and the incumbent: Ibori, Uduaghan and Okowa, urged aspirants never to drop their names while on consultations to party leaders and delegates to lobby for votes.”No aspirant is permitted to say that he or she has been endorsed or anointed by the governor, Okowa, Chief Ibori or Dr. Uduaghan. It is fraudulent to drop their names,” he said.

It’s not true Ibori stormed out

One of the governorship aspirants told Saturday Vanguard: “Governor Okowa advised that leaders should meet to pick three ad-hoc delegates allocated to the various wards, but Ibori, who acknowledged his leadership,  stood up and counseled  that the rules of Congress were stated copiously in the party’s Constitution and should be complied with.”  ”You can say that Ibori was assertive in his comments and there was tenor of imports if the right thing is not done, but it is false that Ibori stormed out of the meeting. I think he was going to Abuja and  departed to catch his flight. If you say that he insinuated that the delegates’ list for the primaries should not be manipulated at the state level, you are not out of point. ”

The governor, who had spoken by this time, correspondingly, was also guarded that one of the leaders was already deploying his connection at the national level to influence certain things, but he, confidently counseled against such meddling,” he added. 

What happens in next 2 – 3 weeks?

 It was learned that within the next two  to three weeks, a much clearer decision on who the party ticket goes to will be determined if the three leaders follow up on their negotiations, but if they fail to reach a compromise, it is already settled that the standard-bearer will be determined at the May 21 governorship primaries. Authoritative sources confided in Saturday Vanguard that in the interest of the party and to avert a situation where people will be inflamed to decamp and join the rival All Progressives Congress, APC, the leaders had, behind closed doors,  indicated willingness to find a middle ground”.

For instance, one of the respected leaders, who had insisted all the while on a particular governorship aspirant or nobody else, had purportedly hinted he would personally shift grounds if that is what it will take to bring peace to the party,” he said .  In the intervening period that preceded what seems to be fresh consultations and  negotiations, the perceived underdog in the 2023 governorship race,  Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori, has clearly sprung into the lead as favorite candidate in the party, amassing unbelievable support across the different local government areas with stakeholders falling over themselves to associate with him.

That is the fact on ground at the time of this report, but the poser is what yardstick will the leaders employ to arrive at an acceptable aspirant? Okowa meets Obasanjo; IBB interested in devt.Several meetings have been held and are currently ongoing by aspirants, groups, leaders and power brokers across Asaba, Warri, Ughelli, Lagos and Abuja over the party’s 2023 governorship ticket. Besides Ibori and Uduaghan, the governor is also reportedly meeting with other leaders to sort out some grey areas and possibly agree on the way forward. Meanwhile, some former Nigerian leaders, including ex-military President, General Ibrahim Babaginda, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, traditional rulers and  elder statesman, concerned about the unity and growth of the state, already privy to the burgeoning intrigues,  have reportedly intervened and extended invitations for discussions with some of the high- profile actors, including Okowa.   

Saturday Vanguard gathered that the governor met with Obasanjo,  on the issues not unconnected to  security of the nation and politics of the state, while some select  royal fathers plan to invite the governor for heart to heart talks on a particular aspirant they were privy to their relationship, who they feel he should not abandon. 

Okowa has,  in the last one last year, repeatedly assured that fairness and equity strengthened by divine guidance would propel the determination of his successor. 

Key PDP leaders and other stakeholders, have remained upbeat on Delta 2023  as they share his optimism of fair play.

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