Why Okowa, Ibori feud lingers

By Obah Sylva and Gabriel Elozino (Asaba)

  • Former’s reason for insisting on Sheriff as successor
  • How gov allegedly deceived godfather
  • Lawmaker tasks NWC on party’s survival

The battle for the soul of Delta State between incumbent Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and his political benefactor and former governor of the state, James Ibori has all the trappings and ingredients of self-deceit and betrayal.

Both men have their battle axe in Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori and Olorogun David Edevbie for Okowa and Ibori respectively and have vowed not to back down even if it means tearing the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in the state to shreds and allowing the major opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) take the day.

The Trumpet previously reported that the crisis began when Okowa moved against the preferred candidate of his supposed political leader, Ibori in the run-up to the party’s 2022 primary in the State. Ibori had anointed seasoned financial administrator, David Edevbie, who was his commissioner of finance in his first term as a potential successor of Okowa.

However, Okowa, who was bent on building a political structure of his own, vehemently resisted the much-taunted fearsome political force of Ibori by throwing his weight behind Oborevwori. The choices of the once political allies, who are now wrestling dirty to claim the soul of the party in the State, have caused a sharp division between members of the PDP with the loyalty of many being tested.

But there seems to be more at stake for the incumbent Governor Okowa, who is yet to settle the dust created by his controversial emergence as the Vice Presidential candidate of the party, than Ibori, who many believe still enjoys the loyalty of the Deputy President of the Nigerian Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, who is the governorship candidate of the APC.

Read Also: Anxiety as INEC suspends voters’ revalidation and card transfer in Delta

Already, there is growing anxiety amongst party faithful of both divides over who flies the PDP flag in the coming days as the battle has moved from political to legal. The matter, which is currently before the Appeal Court, after the Abuja Federal High Court disqualified the nomination of Sheriff Oborevwori and ordered the PDP and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to replace him with David Edevbie, has left many in limbo.

Many legal experts have questioned INEC’s complexity over the matter, following its decision to partially, rather than totally comply with the High Court ruling. Particulars of PDP and its governorship candidate were missing from the INEC’s register of governorship candidates in the state, published on the 22nd of July, 2022.

Although INEC has come out to clarify that it was only obeying court orders by omitting the name. The state’s Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC Mr Monday Udoh Tom, said that the PDP in Delta was yet to have a valid candidate for next year’s governorship election, adding that there were no details of any candidate for the party.

He stated, “We have no particulars of any candidate for the PDP as far as the governorship election is concerned because they (PDP members) are in court. When the matter is determined, we will have the particulars of one of them. “You will recall that there was a court judgement that disqualified one of them, and he filed for a stay of execution and also appealed the judgement.

As a result, we cannot act on the case of the PDP for now until the Appeal Court delivers judgment.” However, to Barrister Erastus Ukrakpor (Esq), a rights activist, INEC’s total removal of the party from the list was a complete misapplication of what was set out in the judgement.

He argued that, since the judgement was not elusive by giving a direct order, what INEC ought to have done was to replace the name of Sheriff Oborevwori with that of David Edevbie or simply ignore and allow Sheriff’s name to remain, and then wait for the Appeal Court’s decision, rather than engage in partial obedience.

It would be recalled that at the instance of the Abuja Court ruling, there was wide speculation amongst many party stakeholders and opinion leaders in the state, that Okowa had sacrificed Sheriff Oborevwori to get Ibori to support his emergence as Vice Presidential candidate of the party. This position was further heightened when it was alleged that the national body had directed Oborevwori and the State Executive of the party not to institute an appeal against the judgement but rather accept and work for Edevbie.

The Trumpet gathered that National Organizing Secretary of the PDP, Umar Bature, made the position of the National Working Committee(NWC) of the party known during a meeting with party leaders and stakeholders in the state, held at Asaba just a few days after the High Court ruling.

But with the last week’s re-endorsement of Sheriff Oborevwori by the Delta Political Vanguard (DPV), a body believed to only execute the directives of Okowa and the declaration of the state chairman of the party, Barrister Kingsley Esiso, during a recent mega rally of the party held in Ozoro, that the party will defend its gubernatorial primary that elected Sheriff Oborevwori till the end, the position of Okowa has been made very clear, “he is not going down without a fight.”

Speaking exclusively to The Trumpet, a notable chieftain of the PDP in the state, who craves anonymity, absolved Okowa of any wrongdoing by pushing ahead with Sheriff Oborevwori. According to him, contrary to what many have said, that Okowa betrayed Ibori or Okowa is trying to go against any agreement with Ibori, it was Ibori who is actually trying to betray Okowa by still pushing for Edevbie.

He said, “personally I feel bad about the way Okowa is being treated. The Edevbie in question, is it not somebody that is pushing him? If Ibori had to ask Edevbie to withdraw that case would it have gone on? The answer is no because Edevbie is counting on the support and structure of Ibori. “I was a strong supporter of Amori during the primaries, but I know what happened, Amori would not have won that election if not for Okowa’s intervention.

I know all that transpired, especially during the primaries. When Ibori’s daughter could not win the House of Reps ticket, and the elections was rescheduled, the same day, Amori’s election was to take place, Ibori called Okowa and bargained with him, that he should allow his daughter and Amori to go, then he can have the governorship, provided it’s an Urhobo.

“That was the deal, and that was why you saw Sheriff Oborevwori won overwhelmingly in that primary election. Okowa kept his own part of the bargain by delivering Amori and his (Ibori’s) daughter. Now you are fighting the man through the back, and you expect him to just give up. Let me tell you, I am a strong member of DC-23 that clamoured for the governorship to come to Urhobo, so whoever becomes governor between Edevbie and Oborevwori, it is DC-23 that wins.

We will still be recognized as people that worked for the governorship to come to Urhobo. Okowa has not done anything for me, but I am pained for him. Okowa is a very good person, but the way the Urhobos are trying to treat him, if he had known that he would be treated this way, he would have supported the Ijaws to have it.

I know he will be regretting it now.” Another anonymous source, who is a Special Adviser to the Governor of the state, said that Okowa deceived Ibori when the issue of producing a successor came up. According to the source, he said that “a meeting was called by the National Chairman of the party, Sen Iyorchia Ayu with Atiku, Ibori and Okowa in attendance. Okowa was asked to choose either producing his successor or taking the Vice presidential ticket.

Okowa went for producing his successor because he knew that based on the volume of money he had spent on Atiku’s campaign and Primaries and his agreement with him, the VP slot was sealed. “He then deceived Ibori that he was not interested in the VP slot and should be allowed to produce his successor.

Immediately after the emergence of Atiku as the standard bearer of the party, Ibori intensified efforts to ensure that he nominates a VP for Atiku, that was when the name of the former governor Emmanuel Uduaghan was on the lips of everyone. Because of this act of deception, Ibori is bent on ensuring that Sheriff does not see the light of the day.

I can assure you that if the upper court decides the case in favour of Sheriff, Ibori will pull his weight behind OmoAgege.” He added. He noted that Okowa, not too sure Atiku will win the presidency, has been advised by his close political alliance not to make the mistake to trade Sheriff away for a VP slot. The source stressed that this has made the Governor vow that he will do everything within his power to ensure that Sheriff succeeds.

In a related development, Barr. Leberos Osogun while commending the judgement of Justice Taiwo Taiwo which sacked Sheriff, described it as watertight. He stressed that he wondered why PDP will decide to go for a candidate with questionable certificates especially now that it is the turn of the Urhobos.

He noted that in an attempt to correct the issues of multiple names, Sheriff committed a greater blunder with his affidavit, He said “on one face of the documents, which was dated seventh of July. 2011 but was signed by a commissioner for oat in 1979, the same year he claimed he was born.

That’s not enough, the certificate of FIRS showing payment for stamp duty on the document was issued on the 29th of April 2002. How this is possible is better imagined, as it defies all logic. “With due respect, the court cannot give judicial notice to this.

That is one discrepancy in all of this document that he is trying to pull together since the Supreme Court has said that if you have various names just like it happened in the case of the former running mate to the APC Bayelsa governorship candidate David Lyon.

On the other hand, you don’t have a situation where the date of birth of the certificate purportedly obtained by the same Sheriff is his date of birth on that certificate is November 1979. That means the day he was born the same day the commissioner for stamp duty stamped an affidavit that he’s going to use to pull his names together and they run for an election. It can only take somebody who is uncoordinated to make all of these mistakes.

“You said you have a certificate and you procured the exam in 1999. And that you sat for the May /June exam 1999 And you were issued the certificate and the date of birth on that certificate is November 1979, but you now went to say no! I was born in June 1963 and your secondary certificate is showing 1979. If you say you were born in 1963. So that means in 1979 you were about 36 years old. We all know that a 36 years old is not allowed to write the May/June examination because it is meant for secondary schools.

It is the November /December exam which is called GCE that he can write. It is therefore very clear that in trying to cover up his initial error, he committed even greater errors. Osogun lamented that with all the intelligent men and women that Urhobo is blessed with, it is a man with questionable certificates that the party is insisting on fielding for governorship.

Meanwhile a former deputy majority leader, Bomadi Legislative Assembly, Hon. Dandy Mulade, has appealed to the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Delta State to save the party from total collapse ahead of the 2023 general elections.

Mulade made the appeal against the backdrop of the internal crisis rocking the party, which arose from the gubernatorial primaries with ensuing court cases and factions. He noted that with the current sequence of events, the party would face total collapse if the leadership failed to put aside personal interests for the overall wellbeing of the party in the state.

He said: “Today, I cry out with tears calling on the leadership of our dear party, PDP, in the state to put aside their grievances and personal interests for the sake of the big umbrella to avoid defeat and grace in 2023. “I also called on the national secretariat of the party to, without delay, intervene to save the party in the state because the situation is getting out of hand with every faction claiming that all is well and no shaking.

“There’s is indeed a big shaking in the party and I urge the national secretariat to see Delta State as the party’s stronghold in Niger Delta because if it fails in the Big Heart, then the danger is glare in the region. “I appeal to Gov. Okowa and Chief James Ibori to set aside their differences and interests and settle for a qualified, credible, competent and capable contestant in the governorship primaries for the interest of the party, yes, PDP must act fast before it’s too late”.

While leaders of the party are making efforts to bring both political blocs together, Okowa has sacked the Delta State Commissioner for Higher Education, Professor Patrick Muoboghare, and replaced him with a new commissioner, Dr Kingsley Ashibogwu.

Muoboghare who is a strong supporter of Edevbie was recently accused of not supporting Okowas’ choice candidate Sheriff. While commending Okowa for the opportunity to serve Muoboghare said: “I have worked with this government for seven years and I cannot complain that I have not been part of this government because I have been part of it for a whole 7 years.

“In the first tenure of Okowa, I was a Consultant on Educational Matters where I was placed actually above commissioner; that’s the truth of the matter and for the second tenure I was a commissioner for more than 3 years. “I cannot say that the man has not done well and I cannot hold a grudge against the governor for that. He kept me for good 7 years; very few persons can survive that. I cannot be angry with the government of Delta State too.

I have served 4years as a commissioner in Uduaghan’s tenure and in Okowa’s first tenure I was a consultant for educational matters and in his second tenure, I served as a commissioner for more than 3years.” It is yet to be seen how the crises rocking the Delta PDP will come to an end.

It is even more difficult to understand how the interests of both political blocs will be harnessed to resolve the unending power scuffle.

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