NOT many of his co-contestants saw the materialization of the Speaker, Delta State House of Assembly, Sheriff Francis Oborevwori, as the 2023 gubernatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the May 2022 governorship primary.
They gave him no chance of success the same way some of the contenders in the March 18 governorship polls calculated that they would overwhelm him, but he shocked them.
In the above two ballots, one, intra- party, and the other, a general election, conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the country’s electoral umpire, Oborevwori’s opponents underrated his capacity and huge support base.
The truth is that Oborevwori has a calm and amiable disposition, besides the perceived divine hands upon his emergence. He is also not desperate for power; he is tactful, not arrogant, and humble in his dealings with others.
Like David in the Bible, who did not seek the crown, but was divinely picked above others, as the king of Judah, Oborevwori was not initially the choice of the Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, and other party leaders for the governorship ticket. However, when the time came, they sought and anointed him.
All the plots by King Saul to stop the consecration of the humble shepherd boy, David, failed, just as the plots to stop Oborevwori from emerging as governor fell like a pack of cards.
Three things about Oborevwori, a Special Assistant on Youth Development to former governor, Chief James Ibori, between 2003 and 2006, which other politicians that contested against him took for granted are his street credibility, friendship, and acceptability across the three senatorial districts of the state.
Oborevwori knows how to make friends and retain the commitment of the good one, who he refers to as “my brother” among the retinue. He does not joke with this category of friends; he knows and does everything to call people by their names; and converses with all persons with respect, no matter the perceived status. This has endeared him to many, both politicians and non-politicians.
In building relationships with people, over the years, Oborevwori, who loves to relate with people well invited persons he newly met to his home and office simply to know them better and deepen the relationship. Usually, he parted with memorable gifts in the process, which is part of the reason he has trusted and committed friends that support him.
Not showy and strategic
The governor-elect is not an ostentatious personality. He is sociable and reserved. A Special Adviser on Land and Security (2007-2010) and Senior Special Assistant on Security to the Governor (2012-2014), Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, because of his knowledge, appointed him as an Adviser to the Delta State Waterways and Land Security Committee, DSWSC, an intelligence outfit he put together to keep militants at bay in the creeks.
As a member of the Committee, years back, in Warri, this writer observed that Oborevwori would attend meetings without showing off his personality. He listened most of the time to the deliberations without speaking, but whenever he raised his hands to speak; his suggestions were well- thought out and strategic to the committee’s operations. That probably informed his appointment by Uduaghan.
His politics hovered around the Urhobo axis of the state where he was the chair of the Osubi community, and Councilor/Supervisory Councilor for Works in 1996 under the old Okpe local government area, which included the present Udu and Uvwie local government areas before Ibori found him.
House of Assembly sojourn
With the exit of the Uduaghan government in 2015, he contested and won the election as the lawmaker, representing the Okpe constituency in the state House of Assembly.
In the House, he maintained his accustomed calm disposition, contributing to matters in discussion only when very important.
He did not know his colleagues observed his special leadership qualities until then Speaker, Rt. Hon. Monday Igbuya lost out in their estimation, and they fished him out from his hiding place in 2017 to become the Speaker of the 6th Assembly. He did not disappoint his colleagues, as he avoided greediness, the banana peel that caused many previous speakers to lose their positions in the past.
They re-elected him, Speaker, in the 7th Assembly in 2019, a position he occupies till date, making him the longest-serving Speaker of the House.
The workers of the House of Assembly also see him as the most -caring Speaker ever, and unlike the previous years when they (workers) locked the gates against the Speakers that did not bother about their welfare, they rejoice whenever Oborevwori scheduled a meeting with them.
He is one lawmaker and Speaker that visited his constituency weekly to enable his constituents to discuss and appraise him on matters that bother them, including some personal needs, which he attended to.
The run-up to the 2022 PDP primary
Oborevwori, not rated among the top five PDP governorship aspirants when the political tempo heightened in 2021 built his winning strategy with the way he conducted the affairs of the House of Assembly as Speaker from 2017.
He never demonstrated extreme anxiety for power like other candidates. In fact, on two to three occasions that Saturday Vanguard called him in 2021 to inquire about his whispered governorship ambition, he told this writer that he was satisfied with his speakership position and had not told anybody he was running for governor.
Some months after when the whispers persisted, he confided in this writer that some political leaders had approached him to run for the 2023 governorship, but he was praying to God about it, reiterating that he was contented as Speaker, and would not run for governor, except he was convinced that it was God’s plan for him
While some governorship aspirants bandied the names of Ibori and Okowa as their backers, and others proclaimed that God had anointed them to succeed Okowa, he kept a sealed lip on his staying power.
It was in late 2021 that he indicated interest, and threw the first bombshell at other aspirants, who undermined his strength at the PDP mega rally in Asaba, in January 2022, attended by Ibori, Okowa, and all the governorship aspirants of the party.
His followers in their thousands took over, not just the venue of the mega rally with his yellow attires; his posters adorned all the strategic positions in and around the Cenotaph venue, in Asaba, in a manner that made other aspirants look like non-starters in the race.
On that day, Oborevwori, a first-time contestant for the gubernatorial ticket, made it look as if the other governorship aspirants did not do their homework properly. Unmistakably he sent a powerful message that he was the candidate to beat with his preparation.
Saturday Vanguard learned that members of the state House of Assembly, local government chairmen, and his political allies that took it upon themselves to mobilize logistics, including vehicles, posters, vests, etc without his say-so.
The love for Oborevwori was so pervading that party members were ready to ditch Okowa if he had supported any other aspirant. Virtually all the lawmakers, party leaders, and youths mobilized their respective constituencies for him, and it was either Oborevwori or nobody else.
The next month, February 2022, the Delta Central- 23, an Urhobo political pressure group inaugurated to ensure that Delta Central senatorial district produced the 2023 governorship candidate of the PDP, adopted Olorogun David Edevbie, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, and Sheriff Oborevwori, as its three top aspirants.
The group led by Chief Ighoyota Amori presented the names of the trio to Okowa for his final choice ahead of the May 2022 governorship primary.
From that time to May 25, 2022, when the PDP finally held its governorship primary, the support for Oborevwori grew in roots and branches, and with Okowa behind him, he clinched the party’s ticket over Olorogun David Edevbie, a former Commissioner and preferred candidate of Ibori.
Almost a year later, the Urhobo Progress Union, UPU, the apex socio-cultural group of the Urhobo ethnic nationality, endorsed him as the Urhobo candidate for governor.
The president-general, Barrister Ese Gam, speaking on February 22, 2023, at UPU National Secretariat, Uvwiamuge Agbarho, said: “Our incoming Governor is a grassroots person. We must speak out and take a decision that is going to affect our people positively. We like the humility of the state PDP gubernatorial candidate and his readiness to work for the Urhobo nation and Delta State in general.”
March 18 polls
The March 18 governorship election was a different ball game from the PDP primaries, but the resolution of Uduaghan, who revealed, last year, that a voice (Spirit of God) instructed him to collaborate with Okowa to deliver Oborevwori as governor, was a game changer for the PDP.
The governor-elect’s street credibility, which the opposition mocked him for became a lifesaver, as the ordinary persons in the streets identified with him. The derision that the Master’s degree holder was uneducated, and a stooge of Okowa made no sense to a preponderance of the electorate, who heard him verbalize on several occasions during his campaigns.
Oborevwori is humble and respectful — Great Ogboru
Speaking during his 65th birthday celebration at his country home at Abraka, Ethiope East local government area, recently, the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, governorship candidate in Chief Great Ogboru, said he decided to congratulate and support the governor-elect because of his humility and respect for constituted authorities, and not because the PDP bought him.