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March 18, 2023

DELTA: What Oborevwori, Omo-Agege victory or defeat means to Ibori dynasty


•PDP, APC, LP in three-horse race

By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South

YOU can take it to the bank, today’s Governorship and House of Assembly elections will turn out the roughest and hardest-fought since the new political dispensation began in the  oil-rich Delta state whose people delight themselves as the “Big Heart of the Nation.”

For months and weeks wheeling to now, the political pulse in the state has been turbo-charged. The battle is over who takes up the Government House at Asaba, the state capital, on May 29.

For almost 24 years, the PDP found its cruise to the Government House, Asaba, to some extent unproblematic with a young politician at the time, Chief James Ibori, who became the governor in 1999, marshaling a political force that boasted in its ranks, dominant politicians from across the local government areas and senatorial districts of the state. The political machine took the elder politicians in the state by storm.

 Ibori, reportedly familiar with the powers –that- be in the late General Sani Abacha’s military regime, started his political sojourn with the defunct Grassroots Democratic Movement, GDM, one of the  Abacha political parties, from where he and others laid the foundation of PDP.

With his influence, he emerged as the party’s governorship standard-bearer at inception, overrunning other PDP governorship aspirants. One of them confided in Saturday Vanguard, years ago, that Ibori was so powerful at the time that while he was waiting to know the venue and arrangements for the governorship primaries,  he heard officials of the party announcing the results of the primaries won by him.

Chief Ibori was so commanding that he determined who got what politically in the state at the time. His immense authority led to the birth of the famous Ibori Political Dynasty, IPD, in the state. There is no politician worth his onions from 1999 to date in the Delta state that did not revere the IPD.

With the command of the IPD, two governors of the state emerged from the group since Ibori exited power. They are Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, and the incumbent, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa.

Ibori face-up  

Despite minor political misgivings by some leaders and party faithful, the PDP sustained its dominance, but the supremacy has come under challenge by the same Ibori, who put the structure in place.

He reasoned that the decision of Governor Okowa to support another candidate, instead of the candidate of his (Ibori) choice as his successor, is an affront to him (Ibori) and, therefore, is ready to bring to a halt the governance of PDP in the state.

Deltans are aware that for the PDP and APC, today’s governorship/House of Assembly elections, the contest is between those who believe in  Okowa’s leadership and those who moved from PDP to  APC to fight Okowa and PDP with Ibori as the arrowhead.

The likely beneficiaries in the Okowa/Ibori fight are either Sheriff Oborevwori, governorship candidate of the PDP, or the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress.

From available indications, Okowa is not alone in the combat to enthrone Oborevwori, Uduaghan, and other leaders, who strongly believe in the supremacy of the party over the interests of members, are with Okowa.

Okowa’s political fireworks in his bid to enthrone his preferred candidate at the PDP governorship primaries, last year, did not go down well with Ibori whose opposition to Okowa may dethrone PDP and extend his dynasty to other parties or may be a big blow to his dynasty if PDP wins especially without his support.

Tension over the attack on Oborevwori 

There has been tension in the last few days, especially after gunmen ambushed and attacked the PDP candidate, Oborevwori, on Sunday, March 12, between Elume Junction and Okuabude in Okpe local government area.

Oborevwori’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Dennis Otu, confirmed that the gunmen riddled many vehicles, including the one conveying the candidate with bullets.

Publicity Secretary, PDP, Delta state,  Dr. Ifeanyi Osuoza, in a statement, said: “We have repeatedly raised the alarm and highlighted the penchant of violence synonymous with some political parties in the state, especially at election time and this recent incident is one attack too many our governorship candidate, so close to election day.”

“We are thereby strongly calling on the security agencies to quickly swing into action and bring the suspected assassins to book immediately. Delta state PDP will neither be intimidated nor distracted by this cowardly act of known purveyors of violence…’ he added.

Alleged death threat/Police findings 

Before the March 12 incident, there was also a row between PDP and APC over a viral video that a town crier in Orogun, the hometown of Omo-Agege, allegedly threatened voters to either vote for the APC or risk death or the orders of a top police officer.

PDP expressed the alarm that the APC resorted to crude threats, blackmail, and blatant intimidation, calling on the Inspector General of Police to urgently investigate the matter and arrest the purveyors of the death threat.

Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Delta State Police Command, DSP Bright Edafe, said the viral video clip of the town crier speaking at nighttime in Urhobo dialect was doctored in the English transcription. He said the record claimed that an unnamed retired police officer directed him to announce that all residents of the community must vote for a particular candidate in the governorship election, or in default be “taken to the Police Area Command, beaten to death by the police, and buried by the government.” 

Edafe explained that police operatives swooped on the town crier and arrested him for interrogation, adding, “He admitted that he was merely acting on his own and that no serving or retired senior police officer gave him the directive. He, however, denied any knowledge or involvement in the making of the latest version of the clip with English transcription as not being in line with his earlier message.”

“Emerging facts revealed that some mischievous elements that were out to cause tension and discontent in the state, edited and magnified the message of the town crier, which he had since retracted, beyond the original intention, added English transcription and put same in the social media, to serve their selfish purpose.

“This is not just malicious but criminal. The command is gradually closing in on characters behind the said video clip, with a view to bringing them before the law,” the PPRO added.

 However, today’s battle for control of the Government House, Asaba, and the state House of Assembly, is not for the PDP and APC alone.

Return of Ogboru in APGA

Most high-flying of the contenders is Chief Great Ogboru, more known as the Peoples General, who had contested the governorship polls against all previous and current governors in the new political dispensation, beginning from Ibori, Uduaghan, and Okowa on the platforms of various parties, including the Democratic People’s Party, DPP, Labour Party, LP, and All Progressives Congress.

Ibori outran Ogboru in the challenge between both of them; Uduaghan also outdid him in 2015, but Ogboru caused a re-run between him and Uduaghan, which he also lost. With Okowa, it was a clean sweep against Ogboru.

Ogboru, the governorship candidate of LP in 2019, is the candidate of APGA in 2023. Many believe that were he to have remained as the governorship candidate of LP in the elections, where the Obidients are all the rage, the story would have been different for the PDP and APC. 

Ogboru provided the political platform, DPP, which the APC gubernatorial candidate, Senator Omo-Agege, used to ascend to the Senate in 2015 after he deserted the PDP. Without Ogboru’s assistance at this critical time, Omo-Agege might not have made it to the Senate. Both of them later defected from the DPP to the APC, but fell out later because of a governorship ticket, forcing Ogboru to join APGA. 

Gbagi, Ofehe, and Agbi think differently

The Social Democratic Party, SDP gubernatorial candidate and former Minister of State for Education, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, who also quit PDP, last year, does not believe that the governorship of the state is a matter for combatants of the PDP and APC.

He has maintained since 2019 that the most competent person to turn the state around is himself and pleaded that Deltans should not make a mistake, but the governorship candidate of the Young Progressive Party, YPP, Comrade Sunny Ofehe, is amused as the gang of old politicians wanting to continue their stranglehold in the state.

The youthful international activist turned politician has been all over the state and thinks Deltans will take their destinies in their hands, today.

Despite the estimations of others, the gubernatorial candidate of the New Nigerian Peoples Party, NNPP, Dr. Goodnews Agbi, and his party followers are hopeful that Deltans will give him their mandate.

LP, a prevalent threat in Delta

However, as it is today, the biggest threat to the forces claiming dominance of the state is the Labour Party, whose candidate is Ken Pela, who incidentally is from Oginibo, the same community in Ughelli South as Gbagi, the SDP candidate.

Until the Obidients came with their cyclone on February 25, nobody reckoned with the LP, and conversely, nobody can rule the party and its candidate, Pela, out of winning the crown.

In fact, top PDP and APC leaders had since the Obidients’ show of power in the presidential polls, where the LP presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, thumped the PDP in ballot count in the state, recognized that LP poses a survival threat in today’s polls.

Though all the parties, including PDP, APC, and SDP had in one way or the other, tried to woo the  LP,  the advances,  reportedly, fizzled out, but PDP tacticians say what happened on February 25 will be entirely different today. The Obi phenomenon that swept across many parts of Nigeria including Delta may not reoccur. Many were out to vote Obi then. They may not even file out today. 

Unless INEC declares

From what is on the ground in the state, no one can truly predict who, and which party will carry the day until Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, counts the ballots and declares the winner. It is tight to call in Delta.