lot has been said in the media, especially on political platforms on television and in the social media, about the gubernatorial elections in Delta State, which the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, the Right Honourable Sheriff Francis Oborevwori, won convincingly, pulling over 360,060 votes to Ovie Omo-Agege, the APC’s candidate’s 240,000. The fire works have expectedly heightened and the intense battle which engulfed the state during the campaigns, and the elections proper, are set to shift to the courts. As has become the tradition with our politicians, especially in the South of Nigeria, no politician agrees he or she was fairly beaten, clean and square.
That is why, typically, the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege of the APC, who was the main opponent of the PDP in the contest, in refusing to accept defeat and congratulate his rival, has amply served notice that he is heading to the courts to “retrieve” what he claims is his mandate. Under Nigerian law, and as it has become the norm, the Courts have over the years become the final arbiter, whose vote decides who occupies which office and who does not. Sometimes, the Court rulings are so outlandish, so stupendously buried in legalese, most people have been left wondering how technicalities supervene and out-do the will of the people. In carrying out their duty, the courts, especially the Supreme Court, have unfortunately acquired an unsavoury reputation in the public eye.
For some of the politicians, it is a case of impunity. They do everything and anything possible to be declared winners. Then they tell their opponents: go to court. For some, it does not matter whether they are declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, or not. They tell whoever cares to listen that they know their ways around the courts. One of such persons is the current governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodinma, who is called, by his people, the Supreme Court Governor of Imo State. Like him, DSP Omo-Agege, and his followers boast, that no matter what, they can always get the courts to declare the APC candidate winner. They point to the two previous elections which he has won through the courts as evidence.
Nevertheless, even as both parties prepare to present their evidence in court, as an active participant, and as most Deltans will testify, there are some cogent reasons, both from what happened on election day and precursors to it, why the candidate of the APC, Omo-Agege, could not have won. Yet he had so many things going for him. The first of these is the implosion in the rival PDP, the factions which sprouted uncontrollably from the disagreements between the acclaimed leader of the party in the State, Chief James Ibori and Governor Ifeanyi Okowa over who should be the candidate of their party in the March 18th governorship elections. Their divided house became the hunting ground for the APC candidate. The unthinkable happened. An aggrieved Ibori, was said to have sworn that over his dead body would the Ifeanyi Okowa-supported Sheriff Oborevwori, who emerged the candidate of the party, become governor of the state.
Expectedly, because of his influence in the party and in the state, a lot of people kow-towed to him. Many who were sitting on the fence claimed they got personal calls or visits from the Odidigborigbo himself to not allow Sheriff Oborevwori become governor of Delta State. A lot of them obeyed and resigned from the party, even at the dying hours, to throw their weight, behind the candidate of the APC who most of them, before now, could not stand, and had no respect or regard for. The Ovuozorie Macauleys, the Omizu Odebalas and other known heavyweight chieftains of the PDP jumped over the fence and landed on the laps of Ovie Omo-Agege. An impotent feat, it turned out, as most of them lost in their units and wards during the elections. But Ovie had expected to reap much political capital from the problem in the PDP and from the high powered defections.
It is either he and Chief Ibori did not study well the political terrain and the impact of the deliberate Okowa political engineering, wrought over the last almost eight years, or they underestimated it and thought overwhelming it would be a walk in the park. I think they somehow failed to understand what Senator Okowa has done to the PDP, in the years of James Ibori’s absence. While the party structure on ground was built around the big party men in each ward and local government when Ibori and Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan held sway, Okowa turned the applecart and devolved power to the units and the wards, built several layers of leadership that are not dependent on any “big politician”. The structure of PDP in the state today is built in the image of Governor Okowa who has control of it. That’s why Ibori’s candidate and others were beaten silly during the primaries. That explains why those who defected to the APC could not move with the structures in their areas, and could not deliver the vote.
Ovie Omo-Agege, like Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, started this dream run for the governorship of the state early. He had ample strategies which he diligently implemented over the last four years. He appointed a lot of Special Assistants from all the eight local government areas of Delta Central, spreading his tentacles to other parts of the state in a bid to build a formidable groundswell for his ambition. This was further enhanced when he was able to convince the Buhari government to award the monthly N4.5 billion Pipeline Surveillance Contract to three entities: Tompolo; his own younger brother, Jimmy Omo-Agege; and a company linked to Friday Osanebi; who ended up as his deputy governorship candidate, in their failed bid to be the occupants of Osadebe House, the Delta State Government House.
With this, Ovie’s brother, Jimmy, had a lot of “boys” enrolled who got mostly a N60,000 monthly stipend, instead of between N200,000 to N250,000 which Tompolo pays his enrolees. He was seemingly able to build a formidable war chest from this and from the five federal projects he attracted to his Oromuru-Orogun village. He also had some constituency projects in some parts of Delta Central, in what his main opponent, Oborevwori, described as N35,000 solar powered streetlights which worked only for a time. He also had some low hanging fruits projects executed in some communities. But his senatorial zone, it seems, did not forgive him, that all the major projects which the federal government assigned to the state, he took all to his small Oromuru-Orogun village. We are talking about high ticket, hundreds of billion Naira projects. None was sited elsewhere else. All were warehoused by him.
DSP Omo-Agege, before now, was known as a revered member of IGBE group, a cult-like family religion of marine spirit worshippers. His grand father established it. His father, who at a time, was the Chief Judge of Bendel State, took over the mantle when his own father died and the DSP and his siblings, have a modern, grandiose shrine in their family house where hundreds and at times thousands of worshippers frequently congregate to fellowship.
In the heat of the elections, as public angst rose, members of the IGBE cult did videos promoting him and taunting his opponents, swearing that they were set to occupy the Christian Chapel in Government House, Asaba. The Christian community, in the state, rose in furious anger. It became a battle of altars: whose God would be supreme in the state. A mosquito campaign, mouth to mouth, strategy ensured that all Christians heard the boast of the IGBE cult group. It became expedient, while not dissociating him entirely from the IGBE group, to announce that Ovie Omo-Agege is a baptized and confirmed Catholic. But the IGBE group, his friends and associates inflicted wounds have irretrievably gone viral; damage done. It was too late for damage control.
The Deputy Senate President will agree that the churches helped to mobilise against him. So did the people of Delta North who from his antecedents, believe that he will never allow that zone of the state to ever produce a governor again, as he is against the zoning arrangement in the PDP. Added to this is the fact that there are no significant leaders of the party in Delta North who are not in one turf war or the other with him. Senator Peter Nwaobosi is in jail for corruption. Ex Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Victor Oche, is at daggers drawn with him, just like Cairo Ojuogbo, who has come out forcefully, openly in television interviews, to laugh at him and state why Omo-Agege lost woefully. Add to that the fact that the APC is virtually non-existent in the nine local government areas which make up Delta north.
His attempt to win over Government Ekpemupolo, the one they call Tompolo, with the Pipeline Surveillance contract did not yield the desired result too. Tompolo chose to be neutral while his two brothers worked assiduously for Sheriff Oborevwori, the candidate of the PDP. With Godsday Orubebe hardly a significant force in the Ijaw enclave and Ayiri Emami a spent force in Itsekiri-land, having been stripped of his title and consigned to the background, the likes of Ereyitomi, JFK Omatsone, Michael Diden, (Ejele) (who though could not actualise his senatorial dream), ensured, that along with the Itsekiris, Ijaws and Urhobos of the Warri, their local government areas remain strongholds of the PDP.
Even in Delta Central, his home constituency, none of the top leaders who helped establish the APC in the state were with him. He had earlier schemed most of them out of the party. Great Ogboru was pushed out. Festus Keyamo even as the only federal minister from the state could not get a leg room because of the manipulations which Omo-Agege entrenched to be the Lord of the Manor. His brash, ego and ambition fueled takeover of the party meant that he became a big fish in a very small pond. Aggrieved APC members saw the elections as pay back time.
Other reasons for the failure must include the fact that with the tsunami caused by the Obidients group in the state, and the failure of INEC’s BVAS and iREV, those who thought they could do election business as usual were shocked by INEC’s zeal to make the BVAS and iREV work in the Gubernatorial and House of Assembly elections.
Almost all the candidates fell for the new scam in town after the Obidients wreaked havoc in the Presidential Election. Remember the Obidients and the Christians propelled by the desire to stop Alhaji Bola Tinubu’s Moslem-Moslem ticket, easily swept aside the old guards to register their voice forcefully in the state. The scramble for the youth votes saw the APC candidate and others courting a plurality of newly emergent groups, who all claim to be the engine room of the Obidient group in the state. They were easily duped.
Even the Labour Party candidate fell for it. He attempted to rev up a nonexistent campaign, spurning offers from the APC candidate to step down for him and mobilise the Obidients in his favour. In his desperation, Omo-Agege fell for most of these groups of young men and women, evidently scammers, who all claim they will replicate the seeming magic of the Presidential Election in the state, for him. They were, however, nowhere to be found on election day. Instead, it was the old women and men, the Igbos and non-Deltans, and the Christian community who came out in their numbers.
There is no doubt that a swat of Deltans, beaten black and blue, pauperized and traumatized by the wicked and grossly incompetent General Muhammadu Buhari APC government, wanted nothing to do with Ovie, who as DSP was the number five citizen of Nigeria in the last four years. He did not hide his uncritical adoration of the President. Not once did he empathize with the common people who could not get their own money to take care of their needs. Secured in his huge retinue of security details, he seemed unconcerned about Deltans who lived a scarred live, induced by the runaway insecurity of unrestrained killer herdsmen, kidnappers and sundry terrorists. The APC candidate is the Delta Star face of this bad government. Rewarding him with their vote was out of the question.
In his quiet moments, when it is between him, his conscience and his God, Ovie Omo-Agege knows he could not have and did not win the gubernatorial elections of 18th March, 2023. The courts, when they eventually sit can only confirm the will of the people of Delta State who wanted the streetwise Sheriff Oborevwori, who collects his certificate from INEC today, to be their governor.