•Powers behind guber aspirants

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By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South

FOR some months now, a group of top politicians and strategists scheming to outfox Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and Leader of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Delta State have employed practically every trick in the book to curry his support and let slip his favorite for the party’s 2023 governorship ticket.  

 Though the  imposing collection has its own preferred candidate, it fathoms the huge power of a sitting governor to determine his successor. Unfortunately and confusingly to the assemblage, Okowa did not buy into its idea and does not look likely, five days to the party’s May 25 governorship primaries.

Ibori style

 During his time as governor, 1999-2007, Chief James Ibori, from Delta Central senatorial district (Urhobo),  who is the leader of the ruling Ibori PDP political family in the state which Okowa and others belong, exploited his power to decide the party’s 2007 governorship ticket in favor of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan after the 2006 primary that deadlocked with no clear winner on first ballot.

 He directed that Uduaghan who polled 2,448 votes and Okowa that got 1,142 votes should by-pass run-off even as Delta Elders, Leaders and Stakeholders Forum, piloted by elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, at that time, screamed blue murder. But he was powerful enough to have his way. 

Uduaghan approach

 Dr. Uduaghan, who governed from 2007-2015 also deployed his authority to cherry-pick his chosen candidate for the party’s 2014 primaries, which finally fell on one of today’s contenders, Olorogun David Edevbie,  after the  late Tony Obuh was dropped at the 11th hour.

 However, Uduaghan’s earliest draft which he divulged to some privileged Delta northerners was to hand over power to Delta North. Okowa was supposed to be his ideal candidate,  but he changed his mind and equivocated to Obuh even after warranting a former Speaker, Rt. Hon Victor Ochei, now an APC chieftain. 

 What triggered Uduaghan’s U-turn on Okowa is a study in political choreography. Many reason that the soft-spoken leader meant well, but in all probability,  restrained by the explosive conspiracies and forces . All that jazz, he called the shots, he and nobody else decided his number one aspirant.     

Okowa modus operandi 

To make plain, the issue with Okowa is that even if he has his preferred choice he has not made anything public and he is not known to be campaigning publicly for any one.

 Okowa’s time is, however,  different from others. In his phase, there are two ex- governors on hand to be consulted dissimilar to Uduaghan era when Ibori was in confinement abroad and communication was on phone. For Ibori, he had nobody but himself to consult in his epoch.

 After assuring Deltans that only God would determine his successor; that he would provide level playing field for all the governorship aspirants; and had not endorsed any aspirant, those that have their own blueprint were confounded in the latter weeks by some stunning political moves in the field attributed to the governor.

 Like the hunter in the pace-setting literature book “Things Fall Apart” by scholarly author, the late Chinua Achebe, they strategized to shoot without missing. First in the design was to make the governor conceal his purported sponsorship of a preferred aspirant, Rt. Hon Sheriff Oborevwori, to vitiate his undertaking of providing a level playing field for all aspirants; and the other was rope him in a conspiracy  to destroy the Ibori political family.

 The scheme were fully activated, but again like Eneke the bird which detected the hunter has learned to shoot without missing, Okowa, a medical doctor, who long discerned the game plan,  had not only diagnostically evaluated plausible 2023 undercurrents ahead of time, but also boned-up the “48 Laws of Power” by Robert Greene.

Hopping over gambits

 And so, it has been a game of wits among the leaders and stakeholders on his successor until the governor’s May 5 quarterly briefing with journalists. As projected, the most critical point by his fault finders protruded. 

 Markedly prepared, the governor stated: “Majority of the people are using my name;  sometimes three persons running for same position in the same place will claim that I have endorsed them, it is part of the politics that people play.”

 ”The fact is that I have not endorsed any aspirant, by the grace of God we will work towards free and fair primary election. People should work hard and we will provide level playing ground. You will know the direction that God wants us to go when we are approaching the congress which has now be shifted to May 23.

 ”I hope and pray that whoever will succeed me will respect the will of the people; somebody who would have feeling for every Deltan; somebody who will unite Delta State; and somebody who will be humble enough.”

On the gossip that he intended to tear the Ibori political family apart,  a calculated Okowa who knew that every word he uttered would be scrutinized for gaffe,  vented: “The Ibori family as you call it is still intact, the PDP family in Delta state is still intact, whatever you are seeing at the moment is just politics”.

Political onlookers amazed

Political watchers, who concur that Okowa had indeed got to grips with Greene’s by-laws of power were particularly astonished by his resolve not to outstrip his political mentor with his avowed position that Ibori family was intact; spewing less than necessary; expert use of detractors to achieve set goals; political camouflage of purposes; and vigilant watch over his reputation, among others  in recent times.

Forces behind aspirants

 The most debated and popular aspirant by current rating for the 2023 governorship race in the state is the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Oborevwori. Many have not stopped speculating that Okowa is his pillar, but the governor had debunked the claim for the umpteenth time.

 Oborevwori , regarded as underdog in the beginning has the back-up of party leaders, lawmakers, serving and ex-commissioners, current and ex-local government chairmen, councilors and other stakeholders across the three senatorial districts of the state, including the powerful Delta Political Vanguard, DPV, Movement for Stronger Delta, MSD.

 Unknown to a lot of persons, the first person Oborevwori , a member of the Ibori political family, consulted on his 2023 ambition, last year, was his former boss,  Ibori. He was Ibori’s Special Assistant on Youth Development (2003-2006). It was after briefing Ibori at his Oghara country home that he updated Okowa on his intention.

 Olorogun Edevbie, the second most popular aspirant in the 2023 race contested against Okowa in the 2014 primaries, garnering 299 votes against the governor’s 406 votes. He has the unwavering sponsorship of Ibori.  The Urhobo Progress Union, UPU, the apex group of Urhobo people that adopted him in 2014/15 has also endorsed him for 2023. 

 Between Oborevwori and Edevbie, some citizens, lately, ruminate if Ibori and Okowa have not been playing on their intellect, as the two aspirants are members of the Ibori political family, implying that whoever emerges, power remains domiciled within the same governing political family.   

 Former Minister of State for Education, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, has the confidence of party delegates that trust his capacity to industrialize the state if elected. He is not trusting on godfathers but the Almighty and delegates to clinch the party’s ticket. 

 Deputy Governor, Deacon Kingsley Otuaro and Senator James Manager have the backing of Ijaw National Congress, INC, the umbrella Ijaw group in the state and delegates, who believe in their individual ambitions.

 One-time lawmaker, Hon Ejaife Odebala; former Commissioner, Olorogun Fred Majemite; ex-Commissioner, Peter Adogbejire Mrakpor, SAN; Deacon Chris Iyovwaye; ex-Commissioner, Mr. Onajefe-Gift Bright Edejewhro; Mr. Lucky Ohworode Idike and Chief Abel Oghenevo Esievo are all very resilient and optimistic about Wednesday primaries.

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