The race for the governorship of Delta State come 2023 has assumed frighten proportion between former Governor James Ibori and incumbent Governor Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa
By Tony Enebeli
Once upon a time when Delta State former Governor, James Ibori sneezed, the rest of the citizens in the state caught cold but the politics of who governs Delta State come 2023 is gradually making Ibori to loose grip especially with the looming image of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa.
Political gladiator and power brokers who the magazine’s reporter spoke with said former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan understood Ifeanyi Okowa more when he initially insisted on someone else being his successor as the next governor but those who said they knew the incumbent governor well including James Ibori schemed for him and did everything to make him succeed Governor Uduaghan in 2015.
Those who were part of the successor arrangement for the Delta State Governorship from Ibori’s era till date say the arrangement to field Okowa as Uduaghan’s successor has turned out a serious political miscalculation.
First, after Governor Okowa became governor of oil rich Delta State, he began to build his political structure beginning with the local government chairmen, then the party officials and much later delegates for the party’s primaries. But not many knew that Okowa was up to anything. But that political structure which he created has grown so big that, it has become an albatross to the political godfathers of Delta politics especially former Governor James Ibori who until recently cut the shot.
By May last year, when it was two years to the end of this administration, some person’s had started scrambling for the governorship seat. It was believed that while the former Governor James Ibori had DC – 23 working for his candidate, the Delta Vanguard, another political group was working for Governor Okowa candidate, the Urhobo Progress Union, the apex Urhobo Cultural group and the Ijaw ethnic groups on their parts were working for different aspirants supported separately by James Ibori and Okowa. Though Okowa told the UPU leaders at the 90th anniversary of UPU to prune down the number of Urhobo governorship aspirants from Delta Central Senatorial District, it was believed in some quarters that the UPU ought not to join in the political juggernaut of Delta politics.
Curiously, when the DC-23 and the UPU came up with names of persons to be Governorship aspirants, one of those on the DC-23 list was David Edevbie. He was equally the only one endorsed by the UPU for the governorship amongst several Urhobo sons who contested the PDP Governorship primaries namely, Olorogun Fred Majemite, a barrister and grassroots politician, Hon Ejaile Odebala, Abel Esievo, Sheriff Oborevwori amongst others.
However, at the PDP primaries, the man believed to be backed by Okowa the present Speaker, Delta State House of Assembly, Rt Hon Sheriff Oborevwori received the highest numbers of votes from the delegates, while the man being backed by Governor James Ibori, Chief David Edevbie came second,
Meanwhile both Ibori and Okowa continue to differ on who should pick the governorship ticket of the ruling party in Delta State a development that made both men to go into the Delta State PDP primaries without a consensus candidate. Both men went into the primaries of the party believing that their candidate will win.
For Okowa however, he appeared many steps ahead owing to his incumbency power coupled with his control of state resources and grassroots politicians who were delegates at the primaries. But those with inside knowledge say Okowa had three people in mind two years before the party primaries, namely Sherriff Oborevwori, Fred Majemite and Peter Mrakpor all from Delta Central as against David Edevbie who according to sources contested against the Governor in 2015.
Inside sources say Okowa decided to settle for an Urhobo candidate when he discovered that his pact with the Ijaws to produce the Governor come 2023 will not scale through considering the formidable position of UPU and James Ibori . However, few days to the party primaries, it was speculated that Okowa told Senator James Manager to work hard to win second position in the primaries.
Those with inside knowledge say with so much speculations and revelations after the PDP screening exercise in Portharcout, Rivers state especially on the Speaker of Delta State House of Assembly, the Governor was advised to replace the Speaker or advise him to withdraw from the governorship race. But the Speaker according to an insider insisted on carry on. It was in order to avoid what happened in Bayelsa State during the last Governorship election that Okowa reached out to James Manager and asked him to work hard to clutch second position so that if any of the aspirants go to court over Sheriff’s certificates or age declaration, and he happens to be disqualified by the court of competent jurisdiction, the person who comes second would replace him.
Curiously, Senator James Manager came third, while former Governor James Ibori’s man, David Edevbie came second. Since the party’s primaries, the intrigue and struggle for the soul of Delta State come 2023 has been done with the last blood and enormous resources.
First, insider sources say when the Ibori’s camp saw that Okowa was not prepared to accept Edevbie as a consensus candidate of the party, they gathered some financial war horse loyal to former Governor Ibori to release money to fund the Edevbie campaign. Touched by the huge spending of Edevbie’s camp, Okowa called his loyalists to secretly work with Sheriff as well as fund the campaign of the Delta State House of Assembly Speaker. At a point, Okowa had to lend a helping hand to Sheriff when it was obvious that both the leading opposition party, APC and Ibori’s candidate were out to outsmart him. He equally released funds to support his man Friday.
It would be recalled that a court verdict had directed that David Edevbie should replace Sheriff following discrepancies in his documentation but that judgment of the federal court has been appealed by Sheriff Oborvwori. The July 7, 2022 Federal High court judgment which was appealed came up in August 19 but was later shifted to on or before September 5 for ruling.
As at when the publication was going to press, the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja has restored the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Sheriff Oborvwori as the governorship candidate of the PDP for the state in the 2023 general elections. The appallete court voided and set aside the judgment of Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court which had on July 7 nullified his nomination on grounds of certificate forgery and perjury. Justice Peter Ige who delivered the judgment held that claims against the Speaker are criminal in nature and must be proven beyond reasonable doubt.
With the affirmation of the Speaker as winner of the May 25 PDP primaries where he scored 590 votes to defeat Edevbie who scored 113 votes, inside source say the battle will likely move to the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, a keen watcher who works with the Delta State Governor told this reporter that the state has exposed itself further to another arrest galore with the documents put in the public domain by members of the Sheriff camp against Edevbie and Ibori’s camp on one hand and documents now in Ibori’s camp which they are yet to use against the people concerned
True to the source, a pastor was recently invited by the EFCC over the laundering of funds for one of the gladiators. Even then a source told the magazine that 150 petitions are already with the anti-graft agency against one of the camps’ leader. How all of these will guarantee success for PDP in Delta State with the opposition waiting in the wind to run away with success remain to be seen