2023 elections

February 4, 2023

Godfathers’ Bitter Game In South-South: Will Ibori go for Omo-Agege?


Okowa, Uduaghan may face- up with him in Delta

•Gov Emmanuel, Akpabio, in a fierce  battle over Eno, Udofia  in A-Ibom

•Ogboru plans surprise; Ofehe, candidate to watch; Gbagi, Agbi, Pela fight on 

By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Festus Ahon, Egufe Yafugborhi, Emma Una,and Chioma Onuegbu

THE rough-and-tumble politics for the governorship seats in the four South-South states of Delta, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, and Cross-River, 34 days from today, specifically March 11, is essentially a clash of godfathers.

Four governors finishing their second tenures, who have grown up to become godfathers in their rights, want to install their favorites as successors in the four states. 

However, previously ascended godfathers in the aforementioned battle states would like to call off their plots, and the machinations are enthralling.

In Delta State, where the intrigues are high, two political godfathers, and the governor and vice presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, and his immediate-past predecessor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, have joined forces to crown the party’s candidate, Rt. Hon Sheriff Oborevwori, as the next governor.

Their proposition seems to be against the craving of another godfather and former governor, Chief James Ibori, who has been the leader of the political family ruling the state since 1999. However, he is progressively losing his famed authority, following recent developments, but he may want to prove his critics wrong by attempting to turn round the table on March 11. 

In Akwa Ibom state, the governor and a new-fangled godfather, Udom Emmanuel, is in a crossfire with another godfather and his precursor, Senator Godswill Akpabio, who had since crossed over to the All Progressives Congress, APC, in his bid to establish a political empire with the PDP governorship candidate in the state, Pastor Umo Eno.

Okowa, Uduaghan may crossfire with Ibori if…

The March 11 governorship contest in Delta state is supposed to be a fight between Okowa, Ibori, and Uduaghan, to deliver Oborevwori, versus others. However, as of today, it looks more like Okowa and Uduaghan,  who have formed a strong accord to make Oborevwori the next governor, and Ibori, who, many supposed was showboating after the Supreme Court finally aborted his dream of installing Olorogun David Edevbie,  has remained blurry since then.

A party leader said if Ibori continues with his vagueness, even though his daughter is also a House of Representatives candidate of the party,  Okowa and Uduaghan, who currently plays the headship role kept back for Ibori by the party, might go ahead to marshal the governorship polls for the party without Ibori in the picture.

Will Ibori go for Omo-Agege?

With the movement, last month, of the former Speaker, Chief Monday Igbuya, and other top members of Delta Unity Group, DUG, who fought Okowa and Oborevwori because of Edevbie into the All Progressives Congress, APC, some people assume that Ibori’s new candidate after the Edevbie gambit is the Deputy Senate President, DSP, Ovie Omo-Agege, who is the party’s governorship flag-bearer.

A party leader, who shed light on the reason Ibori has found it intricate to come to terms with Okowa on Oborevwori, told Saturday Vanguard: “As a godfather who played a pivotal role in the crowning of Uduaghan in 2007 and Okowa in 2015, Ibori wanted to continue the commanding role in 2023 with Edevbie. However, Okowa gave him one of the shocks of his political career by efficiently backing up Oborevwori until date.”

 ”Ibori feels hurt that Okowa rejected Edevbie, while his allies wooed him to throw his weight behind DSP Omo-Agege, but he has declined to make public comments on his position

“It is because Okowa rejected Ibori’s candidate that some people resolved to support Oborevwori, who enjoys massive support, today. Unless Ibori springs a last-minute surprise, PDP tacticians have given up hope in him, given his body language,” the source said.

Former Minister of Niger-Delta Affairs and Director General of Omo-Agege governorship campaign, ex-Speaker, Rt. Hon Victor Ochei, Igbuya, and others are part of top Delta leaders rooting for the deputy senate president. However, the former Executive Director of Projects, Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC,  and an APC leader, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, and a host of others appear to have distanced themselves from Omo-Agege.

Half-truths about Oborevwori

However, contrary to the stiff opposition of Ibori and others to the candidacy of Oborevwori, the acceptance of the Okpe-born politician has waxed stronger among party members, and currently, he is all the rage with the people, who have spotted with his “street credibility.”

The everywhere tales that he is illiterate and cannot converse in English are half-truths for it is erroneous to describe Oborevwori, a political scientist, who also holds a Master’s Degree as uneducated and unlettered by any stretch of logic.

Parties and candidates intensify campaign for votes 

Coming to the brass-tacks, the leading parties, PDP and APC are currently engrossed in intensive campaigns at the nooks and crannies of the state to woo the electorate for their candidates.

In the last few weeks, politicians have also crossed carpeted in what some described as political alignment and realignment. PDP and APC have lost and won major political stakeholders in the defections that have characterized the electioneering campaigns.

Other parties, markedly the Social Democratic Party, SDP, All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Young People’s Party, YPP, New Nigeria People’s Party, NNPP, and the Labour Party, LP, are also canvassing for votes.

PDP’s Oborevwori has campaigned around the 270 wards of the state, and 23 out of the 25 local government areas in the state, remaining Bomadi and Warri North local government areas with Okowa and Uduaghan leading the campaigns.

His APC counterpart, Omo-Agege, has also covered a majority of the wards in the state, and just flagged-off local government campaigns.

Party members said the gubernatorial candidate of APGA, Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru, would unleash a big surprise before long, while the young gubernatorial candidate of YPP, Chief Sunny Ofehe, is firing on full throttle.

The gubernatorial candidate of the SDP, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, who started his 2023 governorship campaign earlier in 2019 with the PDP, has kept his hope alive. The LP and NNPP, Chief Ken Pela and Chief Goodnews Agbi respectively are soldering on in the field.

Akpabio, Emmanuel in a fight-to-finish  

 For the avoidance of doubt, the battle for the number one seat of Akwa Ibom state is between the PDP and APC, with the governor, Udom Emmanuel, and Senator Godswill Akpabio, as political fathers controlling their corresponding political parties.

Governor Emmanuel produced and is backing the PDP’s governorship candidate, Pastor Umo Eno, while a former governor of the state and ex-Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Akpabio, is behind Akan Udofia’s emergence as APC’s party gubernatorial candidate.

Other demonstrable political parties are YPP, NNPP, LP, and the African Democratic Congress, ADC. Only the candidate of NNPP, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe;  Architect Ezekiel Nya-Etok of ADC; and Uko Okon of LP are not, currently,  facing any legal battle,  following the outcome of their parties primaries among the noticeable parties.

The Appeal Court at Abuja upheld the nominations of the duo of Mr. Akan Udofia of the APC and Pastor Umo Eno of the PDP as authentic party candidates and dismissed the cases against them.

Pastor Eno of PDP had been dragged to court by another PDP gubernatorial aspirant and immediate past Commissioner for Economic Development and Ibom Deep Seaport, Mr. Akan Okon, alleging that he forged his West African Examination Council, WAEC, certificate, and birth certificate.

Again, the PDP candidate, recently, survived another lawsuit at the Magistrate’s Court, Abuja bordering on cheating and dishonesty, filed against him by one  Edet Godwin Etim, as the court also dismissed the case, last week.

Similarly, governorship aspirant and former Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Ita Enang, had approached the court, challenging the electoral processes that nominated Akan Udofia, the gubernatorial candidate of the APC in the state.

Before the Appeal Court judgment that dismissed the suit filed against Udofia, many Akwa Ibom citizens, political leaders, and elders had feared that the APC would not field a governorship candidate for the 2023 election.

Hard-fighting Senator Enang has since filed an appeal at the Supreme Court. In addition, the Federal High Court struck out an appeal by Akan Udofia seeking INEC to publish his name.

The APC was not among the political parties invited during the interactive meeting with the Akwa Ibom Council of Elders,  chaired by a former governor, Obong Victor Atta,  due to the notion from the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC,  that APC has no governorship candidate in the state.

Similarly, the senator currently representing Akwa Ibom Northeast (Uyo) senatorial district and the gubernatorial candidate of the YPP, Senator Bassey Akpan,   was convicted for 42 years by the Uyo Federal High Court, for corruption on December 1, 2022

The Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers state, granted bail to Akpan, prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on health grounds, December 28, 2022.

The grilling by the EFCC and his subsequent travails had generated controversy in the state with Emmanuel and Akpabio exonerating themselves from the allegations of being behind Akpan’s legal contrivances.

Many observers think that the corruption case was well- orchestrated by the political forces in the state to sway voters against Akpan because of fear that he wields a lot of influence.

Senator Akpan,  a former PDP chieftain, and Senator John Akpanudoedehe,  a former APC grassroots mobilize,  were the two candidates who left their parties and moved to YPP and NNPP platforms to pursue their governorship ambitions.

NOTE: The fascinating report on the bitter game by political godfathers in the South-South, which started with Delta and Akwa-Ibom states ends with the intrigues in Rivers and Cross-River states, in the next edition.