•Oborevwori, Omo-Agege may grab gubernatorial tickets
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South
AN experienced Peoples Democratic Party, PDP chieftain, ex- Commissioner and Obarisuwa of Warri Kingdom, Delta State, Chief Joseph Otumara, has proffered a way out of the prevailing stalemate between governor Ifeanyi Okowa and leader of the party and ex-governor, Chief James Ibori, on who picks the party’s 2023 gubernatorial ticket.
Chief Otumara, who spoke to Saturday Vanguard in an interview in Asaba, noted that in 2014, the party faced a similar situation under former governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, and also encountering the same scenario with Okowa in the saddle.
In his opinion, it is always difficult to arrive at a compromise under such circumstances, but since it was palpable that Ibori is bent on one of the aspirants, Olorogun David Edevbie, and Okowa noticeably disinclined, the next thing for both leaders is to ensure that all the contenders test their popularity in the field, which is the May 21 governorship primaries.
However, Edevbie made some trouble-shooting moves, during the week, going over to party delegates at Ika North East, Okowa’s local government area, to moralize that he had no axe to grind with their son, probably a follow-up to Urhobo Progress Union, the apex Urhobo social-cultural group, which pleaded with Okowa, lately, to forgive Edevbie for whatever infraction against him.
First, Chief Otumara interview:
There is unease in Delta PDP over who gets the party’s 2023 gubernatorial ticket and some leaders/stakeholders have taken position, where do you stand?
In times like this, it is usual considering the huge number of aspirants that have come out from Central and South senatorial districts of the state, but as we move in to the primaries, you must take a position as a good politician. You cannot fold your hands until that day, in that case, you have missed out of the primaries and other scheme of things. So, my stand is with Hon Sheriff Oborevwori and I am confident that he will win the party primaries.
We understand that some leaders and stakeholders across the state had before now narrowed their choice to Oborevwori and even met the governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, to intimate him of their preference, were you part of them?
Well, I might not have been at that meeting, but I know that there are a lot of pressure groups in the government, in the political party and all that. There is nothing wrong in anybody going to the governor to say this is where they stand, on my part, I have been patient on the issue but my choice is Sheriff Oborevwori. I was there before his declaration, during his declaration I was there, in fact, I am one of those who signed his governorship nomination form because I believe that he is qualified and has all the attributes of a good governor.
We are aware that one of your political leaders in Delta South prefers Olorogun David Edevbie, the candidate of another ex-governor, Chief James Ibori, for 2023 governorship ticket, why are you against your leader?
I am not a baby politician as far as politics is concerned in Delta state. I am not aware that he is supporting Edevbie because he did not tell me, but I know that he must have a candidate that he is projecting. We have not discussed it and if politicians that are junior to me have pitched tent with an aspirant of their choice, I will pitch tent with the one I have mentioned and I had never gotten the direction wrong once I took position after taking a critical look.
We hear Okowa is the one pushing Oborevwori on some PDP stakeholders, is this true and what did some of you (chieftains) that met the governor tell him about your choice of aspirant?
I think Oborevwori on his own is more than qualified, he is qualified to be governor. He has been leading the state House of Assembly as Speaker uninterruptedly for over five years. It has never happened in Delta state that any lawmaker was able to serve as speaker for that long, but this man has been able to hold on for more than five years, so it is very clear that he is capable of ruling the state. I say this because if he is able to rule the House, which constitutes the representatives of the people of Delta state, then he is capable of being the governor.
My question is what leaders and stakeholders told Okowa when they met him on their choice of aspirant?
I was not part of the delegation that went to meet Okowa because he is acting as a father to all the aspirants. He never really called me to ask what I am thinking of or that this is the way to go. He never did that, but it was from my own political calculation that I said if this could be this, then that could be that.
All these while, nobody from the state House of Assembly had actually come out this boldly to run for governor, never before now (he probably forgot Ochei) and I keep telling the lawmakers to look very well this time around on their choice because if somebody has a spread of all the 28 lawmakers or so in the state around him, he is already a governor. One thing people probably do not know is that Oborvwori is an honest man. It takes honesty and transparency to lead and handle a complex institution like the House of Assembly with diverse interest, background and orientation. In Sheriff, as governor, Deltans will witness, unity, peace and progress with accountability in governance.
As a PDP chieftain, we believe you know that one very crucial thing to your party is how Ibori and Okowa resolve the issue of who becomes the 2023 governorship candidate of the party; Ibori is for Edevbie while Okowa has not come out publicly on any aspirant, but some people already insinuate he has taken sides with Oborvwori. What compromise and understanding should both leaders reach and make for the party be united?
This is an important question but I believe in probity, it is give and take. I have discovered that close to this period, governors find themselves in a tough position, even during the period of ex-governor, Dr. Uduaghan, it was not an easy thing, and we are seeing a second one in this new political dispensation.
The truth is that you cannot arrive at a compromise, you must go to the field to test your popularity. And once that is done, any candidate that emerges will have the ears of every PDP member. I believe for instance that if one is supposedly carrying Sheriff and the other Edevbie, they would not fight. Politics is about number, voting, scheming, calculation, secret deal and all that and they can be arranged at the end of the day.
No animosity between Okowa and me – Edevbie
Meanwhile, Olorogun Edevbie, speaking during his consultation visit to delegates of Ika North East, during the week, said the bond of friendship between him and Senator is intact and cannot be broken, with or without politics.
”I was here in 2014 and some of you might remember what I said then. If you recall, I talked about us as a football team and I said your son is Number 9 and I am Number 10, that if your son scores, we will all support him, and your son scored and I supported him fully from day one. And that is why he appointed me his Commissioner of Finance for four years.
”You do not put someone you do not trust to be in charge of your money. Your son is sensible, so he picked somebody he trusted to manage the state funds for him. After I did four years on that, he picked me again to be his Chief of Staff for two years. And I have given him my full support since he became governor in 2015.
”This is an opportunity for me to ask you to thank him on my behalf. He appointed me even though I ran against him in 2014. Throughout the time I worked for him, he did not treat me like a subordinate. He treated me like a friend, like a colleague. That is unusual in Nigeria.
”Anything you hear today is politics. He is my personal friend and if you ask him, he will confirm it. We are friends. There is no enmity between us, none at all. You know, in the court of the king, the king does not have enemies. It is the courtiers, the people who do not really know the history, those who got into the court through talks and tricks, they are the ones who say ‘Oga and that man are quarreling.’
”But it is lie, there is no quarrel at all, there is nothing like that. You know, in the same court you have jesters and clowns. There are many. They are the ones that talk nonsense, those who do not know but claim to know. They are like somebody listening to a football commentary on radio but claims to be more conversant with the match than the players on the pitch. We have come together and we will always be together, forget anything to do with politics,” Edevbie explained.
Crux of the matter
Given current developments, Edevbie’s love sermon seemed to have come after the milk had been spilled, as a dependable party source maintained he knew the real truth about what happened in 2014.
According to the source: “Some people who are inventing crisis have already gone to town with the rumor that the national chairman of the party, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, and some governors are coming to settle the rift between Okowa and Ibori on 2023 governorship ticket. There is absolutely no crisis in Delta PDP. The governor has guaranteed free and fair primaries.”
”The national chairman and others are coming for Hon Ndudi Elumelu’s empowerment programme. They will, as protocol demands, be hosted by the governor, no truth in the stories making the rounds.
”Governor Okowa traveled at a time to Lagos to explicate to Ibori why Edevbie, based on previous antecedents, should not succeed him, but Ibori remained bent on palming off his candidate on the governor and other stakeholders, which everybody except some few have refused. That is where we stand today.
”The truth is that contrary to the fabrication of some Delta Central leaders against Okowa, the governor had not at any time acted against Urhobo producing the next governor; his declaration before now was that there was no official agreement by the party on zoning of governorship among the three senatorial districts in the state. And he was dead right.
”However, not many cheering Edevbie on grounds that it is the turn of Delta Central or that he is Ibori’s candidate, know that Edevbie himself is against zoning, which he wants to benefit from. Even UPU saying that it is Urhobo turn is against zoning. People should ask Edevbie if he remembered that there is zoning when he contested the governorship primaries in 2014 against a gentleman agreement he reached not to contest against Delta North.