By Mideno Bayagbon
Recently l had a flying visit to Delta State and toured the state incognito. I even attended a few of the campaign rallies where I tried to make myself as inconspicuous as possible. From Asaba, Agbor, Abraka, Eku, Warri, Effurun, Sapele, Idjere and so on, I slept in villages without light and without telecommunication supply. I spoke to the ordinary people on the streets, and in the villages. In all, I tried to get a feel of the political vibrations on ground.
I wanted to get to know, first hand, what the people think about the Okowa government and where the political pendulum is swinging. I wanted an educated-eye-view of the politics of Delta. What I found was truly dumbfounding, confounding but elating. But I will come to that.
Toured Delta North, starting from Asaba, Okpanam, Igbuzor, Oshimili, Umunede all the way to the two Agbors; yes,two Agbors or more properly the two Ika local government areas of Delta State, split by the major road, now properly tarred and decorated by the Governor Okowa administration, with streetlights, which runs through them.
On one side is Agbor proper (local government headquarters of Ika South) and on the opposite side, Owa Oyibu, Ika North East). There seems to be no unasphalted road on either sides of the two Agbors.
Taking a detour and driving through the DDPA Estate where Jim Ovia, General Lucky Irabor, the Chief of Defence Staff and other notable sons of Agbor have their sprawling mansions, is a delightful sight of lush concrete wonders and unending tributaries of well asphalted roads. It could pass as one of the most luxurious estates in Nigeria. In Delta, it is second only to what has happened in Asaba where eye popping, state of the art, luxuriously humongous mansions make houses in Europe look so archaic. That is a story for another day.
At Ethiope East, I chanced on the unique, first ward-to-ward local government campaign of the Governorship candidate of the PDP. I was there, at the background, when Erhiatake Ibori and Olorogun Ighoyota Amori, publicly, for the first time, endorsed the candidature of the Right Honourable Sheriff Oborevwori as the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, to a few raised eyebrows and a tumult of joy rippling through the campaign grounds.
There is apparently a campaign to return all the House of Assembly, House of Representative, Senate, Governorship and Presidential candidates of the PDP, in the state, in what they describe as 5/5.
I left the rally, thereafter, and went on my mission to other towns and villages, ending up through Effurun to Ekpan, my Camp David of sorts for a few days.
It is while there that I became one of the first persons to notice a change in the tide of the political imbroglio bedevilling the PDP in the state. I was one of the first to know of the curious invitation by the former Governor of Delta State, the one I call “Bros”, Dr Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, to all the major political actors and leaders of Delta South senatorial district, to a meeting at his Warri home. From inside the meeting, messages came from my sources: “Uduaghan don change o. He don dey stand for Sheriff back o.”
Dr Uduaghan, who with the acclaimed leader of the party in the state, James Ibori were the pillar of David Edevbie’s claim to the gubernatorial candidacy of the PDP in Delta?
A digression. A few days earlier, the camp of David Edevbie who had lost all the way to the Supreme Court in trying to quash the eligibility of Sheriff Oborevwori as flag bearer of the party, had held a meeting of their group where they resolved that the fight for the recognition of Edevbie as the candidate of the party was still on.
This is despite the hand of amity which Edevbie had earlier extended to Oborevwori who the Supreme Court ruled was the candidate of the PDP. This, observers had noted, was ostensibly in continuation of the disagreement between Chief Ibori and Governor Okowa, on who should nominate the successor to the current governor. It has been a very major fight by two close friends; three, if you add Dr Uduaghan who sided with Chief Ibori, and political associates.
People had thought that the fight had become a do-or-die affair for both sides as they strategised to have the upper hand. For reasons, only a few, including myself know, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, is vehemently against the choice of David Edevbie as his successor.
This was seen as an affront on the leadership of Chief Ibori, who until then had the major say in PDP matters in Delta State. Okowa’s insistence was interpreted as an attempt to retire Chief Ibori from the politics of Delta State and ridicule someone who has been his major benefactor. That has been the basis of the war, in what turned out to be two factions of the party, in the state, going forward.
Journalistic instincts kicked in on hearing the news from the Dr Uduaghan Delta South PDP leaders meeting. A quick call to the PDP gubernatorial candidate, Sheriff Oborevwori and to his opponent in the PDP race, David Edevbie. “Bros, na wetin me sef dey hear o”, Oborevwori replied. But as usual, Edevbie, was his usual self, aloof, incommunicado. My next call, just after the meeting ended was to ex Governor Uduaghan. He not only confirmed the news but went further to give me reasons why he, as a major leader of the party in the state and Nigeria, had to take a step back and support the party and its candidates.
His reasons accord with those of mine and Chief Ibori’s mutual friend, a former governor of a neighbouring state. Hearing that I was around, he decided to invite me to visit him in his state. In our discussing the Delta State PDP, he proffered a way forward. Both Governor Okowa, an out-going Governor of the State and now the Vice Presidential candidate of the party in the 2023 elections and Chief Ibori, the undisputed leader of the party in the state, who happens to be a personal friend of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as well as being one of the national leaders of the party, knows that if they don’t resolve their disagreement, they both stand to lose massively.
The All Progressives Congress candidate, also an Ibori associate is standing in the wings to harvest the fall outs of the fight in the PDP. Ibori moving his support to Ovie Omo-Agege of the APC is a two edged sword which could come back to hunt him, badly. Okowa too, if unrelenting, and toeing the part of war could also pay a costly price, losing votes which should naturally accrue to the PDP in the state.
This is especially so, from my findings in the state, when it is realised that for the presidential elections, PDP needs all hands on deck to confront the new monster, called Peter Obi, who is gaining grounds among the young people of the state. For if the presidential elections were to hold today, APC will come a poor third, not hitting the 25 percent votes needed by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The same cannot be said of the Labour Party candidate. From my findings, he is likely to get more than the 25 percent of the votes if the Okowa and Ibori camps don’t resolve their quarrel quickly and join hands.
True, a counter to the Peter Obi phenomenon is on going in the state. The first phase, the ward-to-ward local government campaigns have just ended. It has been a major mobilisation tool as all the PDP leaders, political appointees, legislators, and aspiring candidates have all relocated to their villages and local government areas. A house to house vote canvassing is on. Which is good for them.
That is why the initiative by former Governor Uduaghan in spearheading a reconciliation and going all out to not just unite the camps but also in stomping the streets for Sheriff Oborevwori is most critical at this time. The governor and the candidate must reach out to Ibori with the necessary assurances. Both sides need each other. That, at least, is what I found on the ground as one, as Rt Hon Oborevwori is fond of saying, who also has a lot of local content in the political affairs of Delta State.