Oborevwori vs Edevbie: Waiting on godfathers to calm frayed nerves
…Uduaghan’s intervention an elixir
In the build-up to the 2023 general elections, Delta and Enugu States show similarities in their political orientation and structure. Both states showcase the pre-eminence of two powerful class ’99 governors. They have also produced Deputy President of the Senate, which comes as a testimony to the states’ front row presence in national politics.
Also, the fact that the two states have, since 1999, been producing state chief executives of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stock, has made the run up to next year’s poll very critical and intriguing for them. Consequently, retaining PDP’s hold on both states presents as the biggest challenge to the party, particularly given the stout challenges of opposition parties.
While Delta PDP would confront the challenge posed by the gubernatorial interest of the incumbent Deputy Senate President, Ovie Augustine Omo-Agege, the growing Obidient Movement is threatening Enugu PDP.
Intriguingly, prior to the unfortunate travails of the immediate past DSP, Ike Ekweremadu, Enugu political calculations revolved around how the incumbent governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, would contain the governorship ambition of the fifth term Senator.
Apart from having a deep war chest, Senator Ekweremadu had been a constant feature in the intrigues and schemes that defined PDP’s hold on Enugu State all the while. His interest in the governorship after 20 years in the National Assembly, therefore, was seen as a huge challenge, not only to the power rotation arrangement in the state, but also to the succession plan of the outgoing Governor Ugwuanyi.
But, deploying a deft political strategy, Ugwuanyi, who has also been around in the political arena, both at the National Assembly and in the state, where he is expected to serve out as governor in 2023, exploited the power of loyalty. Former governor Chimaroke Nnamani, had his term in the Senate disrupted in 2015, when the former DSP, Ekweremadu, rallied round other PDP stalwarts both in the state and at the national level, and returned Senator Gilbert Nnaji in 2011.
Even during the 2015 election cycle, when Nnamani contested for the Enugu East Senatorial seat on the platform of the Peoples for Democratic Change (PDC), which he founded, the former governor was again denied access back to the Senate.
However, having won the 2015 gubernatorial poll in the state, Ugwuanyi, who had just served out his third term at the House of Representatives, saw through the schemes of Ekweremadu and co. Governor Ugwuanyi decided to woo Nnamani back to PDP. Not only that, the governor ensured that Nnamani sustained his interest to get back to the Senate.
In 2019, Ugwuanyi realised his ambition of getting Nnamani back to the Red Chamber, as well as securing his second term without much opposition. But, it was in the lead up to the 2023 poll that Uguwanyi’s masterstroke against internal opposition in PDP became apparent. Recognising Nnamani’s massive street credibility and following, particularly the ebeano political structure that remains relevant in Enugu politics, Ugwuanyi cooperated with the Senator to throw up Dr. Peter Mbah as the consensus gubernatorial choice of PDP. Sources disclosed that Ugwuanyi reflected on the reality of Nnamani being the political leader of Enugu East to seek his (Nnamani’s) input in the search for PDP’s candidate from the zone, whose turn it was to produce the next governor in line with the zoning understanding in the state.
By according Nnamani the due respect as the political godfather of Enugu PDP, Ugwuanyi seemed to have killed two birds with one pebble, namely, outwitting the Ekweremadu challenge and reducing frictions within the state structure of the party.
FOR Governor Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, it is partly this refusal to borrow the succession template from his Enugu State namesake that is behind the unremitting tension within the Delta State chapter of PDP.
At a time when his nomination as the presidential running mate opened the vent to recriminations, Okowa’s insistence on throwing up a preferred PDP governorship standard bearer threw a damp towel on his relationship with former Governor James Onanefe Ibori, the godfather of Delta PDP.
Unlike his fellow class of ’99 governor Nnamani, who had a Senatorial ambition, Ibori is programmed to remain in the background as the power behind the throne, ensuring his political godsons and daughters sustain the party’s dominance of the state. Not minding his daughter’s candidacy for the federal constituency, Ibori was said to have shown preference for David Edevbie to take over from the PDP Vice Presidential contender.
As a result, the 2023 Delta State gubernatorial election showcases the muscle flexing of political heavyweight champions in the state, particularly between the godfathers-Okowa and Ibori in PDP.
The incumbent Deputy President of Senate, Omo-Agege, seems to have collected the championship belt in the fight for the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) structure from Olorogun o’tega Emerhor and Chief Lucky Ogboru. The DSP, with the support of Emerhor, is throwing up a veritable challenge to PDP’s stranglehold on Delta. Omo-Agege, who is also under the penumbra of Ibori’s sphere of political influence, is doing all in his power to reap from the nomination brouhaha within the governing PDP.
Therefore, the supremacy political battle within the Delta PDP, to a great extent, represents the proxy contest of will and schemes by incumbent Governor Okowa and famed political godfather, Ibori. The apex court ruling that restored the Speaker of Delta State House of Assembly, Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori, did not extinguish Chief Edevbie’s contention.
It was based on that continued recrimination against Oborevwori’s emergence that observers think that Ibori’s coldness toward the PDP governorship ticket may put PDP’s chances into some tense moments. PDP stakeholders from Delta claim that the point of departure between Ibori and Okowa was based on the socio-political statures of Oborevwori and Edevbie.
While Edevbie is seen as a ‘clean’ young man with solid academic backgrounds and political exposure, Oborevworie, observers say, come around as a ‘rustic’ political enforcer, whose generosity endears him to the masses.
WADING into the faceoff, Uduaghan, during his visit to the Chairman of the Delta State Traditional Rulers Council and Orodje of OkpeKingdom, Orhue I, Maj.-Gen. Felix Mujakperuo (retd.) in Orerokpe, Okpe local government area, on Friday, urged Deltans to elect Oborevwori in 2023.
Commending the monarch for the emergence of one of his subjects, Oborevwori, as PDP governorship candidate, Uduaghan said, “If you follow the legal battle up to the Supreme Court, which eventually settled the matter for us, it is like the case of David in the Bible.”
” Everyone was busy shopping for the most qualified and fitting man to be king of Israel, but God was preparing a common Shepherd boy to lead the nation of Israel.
“If it were to be today’s world, David would have been written off as the least qualified. The story tells us that it is only God who gives power because all power belongs to him.
“These are good omen that God wants to use Sheriff’s governorship to make a bold statement in Delta state. After Okowa, it should be Sheriff.”
Orodje of Okpe, who thanked Uduaghan for visiting him, said his headship of the Delta State Traditional Rulers’ Council was prepared by Uduaghan when he appointed him Second Vice Chairman to Ogiame Atuwatse II, the Olu of Warri (ascended) during his time as governor.
He reminded Uduaghan that it was him who passed the five per cent allocation (accruable to traditional rulers) into law, a gesture that ensured funding for the traditional council till date.
The monarch said the former governor gave him the privilege of nominating worthy Okpesons, including Prof. Hope Eghagha as commissioner to serve during his administration.
Orhue I described Dr. Uduaghan as a man who truly exemplified a true leader with a big heart and prayed that God will repay him for all the good he did and sacrificed for Delta state.
The former governor again appealed to members of the PDP not to leave or vote against candidates of the party in next year’s elections.
He spoke when he hosted Delta South PDP leaders and stakeholders ahead of the flag-off of the ward-to-ward PDP campaign in Delta South senatorial district.
He declared that he was fully in PDP and charged Nigerians and Deltans to support and vote for all candidates of the party in the 2023 general elections.
Uduaghan said: “It’s better to deliver candidates of the party than to deliver those of other parties. I am very serious with what I am saying. Let’s deliver all our candidates in the elections.”
The former governor, who was publicly attending political activities for the first time after the gubernatorial primary of the PDP, called for reconciliation and unity among party members ahead of the elections.
He declared support for the presidential candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and his running mate, Governor Ifeanyi Okowaand the governorship candidate of the party in Delta State, Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori.
Between Edevbie and Okowa
IT could be recalled that after his stint as Director of Finance in the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s Presidential Campaign Organisation, Edevbie was made the Principal Secretary to President Yar’Adua.
When Edevbie was moved from the Delta State Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning to the office of Chief of Staff to Governor Okowa, many people concluded that he (Edevbie) was on his way to succeeding his principal, especially given that he hails from Delta Central Senatorial District, which was due to restart the zoning cycle by producing the governor. The governorship primary for 2023 proved that forecast to be incorrect.
After he lost, Edevbie’s attack on Oborevwori’s academic records was seen as a bold attempt by the Ibori political family to call Okowa’s attention to the contrasting features and qualifications of those contending to succeed him as Delta governor. Further, that the litigation had to climb all the way up to the Supreme Court showed that both sides were not prepared to relent, and particularly the governor, in his determination to make Speaker Oborevwori the governor.
While the legal tussle lasted, another Ibori acolyte, Omo-Agege’s camp, seemed to be praying quietly that the parties to the PDP governorship contention do not reach an amicable resolution. It was said that Omo-Agege, who served as Secretary to State Government (SSG) under Ibori in 2007, after he lost the PDP governorship ticket to Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, believes that instead of supporting Oborevworie, the godfather would be disposed to throwing his political weight in the Central and South zones in his favour.
Omo-Agege’s decision to take his political destiny into his own hands paid off in 2015, when he contested the Delta Central Senatorial seat on the platform of Labour Party (LP). Barely two years in the Red Chambers, Omo-Agege played himself into the centre of the APC versus PDP politics by siding with the ruling party in its supremacy battle with Dr. Bukola Saraki-led nPDP flank within APC.
In the ensuing pre-2019 political schemes, the Delta-born Senator defected to APC, where he was promised not only an automatic Senate ticket, but also the Deputy Presidency of the Senate.
Speaking to The Guardian shortly after he won his second term to the 9th Senate, Omo-Agege said he preferred to talk about electoral reforms as his legislative interest rather than preparations for his governorship ambition. Would the forces propelling him to become DSP also ensure he emerges Delta governor in 2023? “For now, let us talk about the 9th Senate and leave the future. My people know that whatever is given to me, I would not fail to deliver,” he stated.
If the powers that be ensured that Omo-Agege became the DSP, prevailing circumstances in Delta leave the impression that luck and infighting within PDP could play in his favour.
It could therefore be said that in the bid to ensure that PDP does not lose its grip on Delta through infighting and division that immediate past governor, Dr. Uduaghan, came out to declare a cessation of hostilities and support for Okowa’s governorship candidate, Hon. Oborevworie. Being the god-father’s cousin, it is believed that Uduaghan’s intervention could pave the way for Ibori’s much expected endorsement of the PDP governorship contestant.
Attending what was described as his first political meeting after rejoining PDP from APC, Uduaghan urged stakeholders against any anti-party plots, stressing that it was better to work for PDP candidates rather than being in PDP and supporting other party’s candidates.
But there is still suspense, as everyone is waiting for Ibori to declare his support.