New Telegraph

Delta: Day Political Gladiators Became United Under One Umbrella

Advent

Politics seemed like a dream in Delta State. It is joy like a river in the souls of the principal actors, especially those in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) fold. The major actors come in different toga. Between 1999 and 2007, former Governor James Onanefe Ibori was nicknamed Odidigboigbo of Africa. Between 2007 and 2015, his successor, Dr Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, was given Asamaigor.

The immediate past Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, who governed the state between 2015 and 2023, was fondly called Ekwueme. Now, the incumbent Governor Sheriff Oborevwori, also known as the New Sheriff in town, has been nicknamed Ukodo. Interestingly, they are all from the same political family (The Peoples Democratic Party). Although, all claiming to be working together for the common interest of the people of the state, but not without personal interest and internal wrangling. Indeed, no permanent friend, no permanent enemy in their poli- tics.

Succession crisis

Just as the sobriquet or aliases that each of them became known was a common factor that played out and defined their political career, so also the question of successors also played out in their different political history. Manner in their successors to their throne emerged was something akin to war as the different era was characterised by succession wrangling of different magnitude, with high wired politics playing out. For instance, the election that produced Uduaghan was not without rancour.

Ibori was seen as the only person that single-handedly produced Uduaghan, his cousin. He was never forgiven by the elder statesman in the state, the foremost Ijaw leader, who was the Republican Minister of Information, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark. Hence, the petition that dovetailed into litigations by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) when Nuhu Ribadu was the anti-graft lord. Many in the PDP family in the state were uncomfortable with Ibori’s choice but he won the governorship seat. The family thereafter reunited.

The choice of Okowa was also controversial. It was not without tears. The choice of Uduaghan was Sir Chuks Obuh, a Permanent Secretary in the state. Okowa struggled his way through, won the ticket of the party at the primary election and went ahead to win the governorship contest. They have since buried their differences and reunited. When Okowa was to leave office after eight years. The succession brouhaha resurfaced again. This time, it was fierce.

Pundits were of the opinion that it was going to tear the party apart. It was a titanic struggle between Ibori, whom many believed holds the life-wire of the party in the state. But he was humbled by the outcome of the tussle that pitched him against his political protégé, Okowa. Ibori had prepared a preferred successor for Okowa but Okowa had nurtured his own successor.

The battle dovetailed into legal fireworks within the PDP family that lasted till after the governorship election. It was a clear case of ‘a house divided against itself’. Other opposition parties soon capitalised on the substances of the litigations. But eventually, Okowa had his way. Oborevwori became the governor, having won 36 court cases levelled against him. Okowa and Ibori became distant friends over the political knavery that played out.

Home-away-from-home

It is no longer news that Gov- ernor Oborevwori took over the mantle of leadership in Delta State a year ago without the twotime Governor of the state, Ibori, attending his ceremonies. He has been missing out in action, having been displeased with the manner in which his popularity dwindled at the twilight of Okowa’s administration over the choice of a successor. Many maintained that the reason was best known to him, but in the realm of speculation, it was the fallout of last the gubernatorial election in the state that was responsible.

He came to his own but he was rejected. Prior to the election proper, the build-up, which started from that primary election of the ruling PDP, which finally threw up Oborevwori as the flag bearer, the system was stoked to a boiling point. There were all sorts of power play, intrigues, bitterness, acrimony, name-calling, mudslinging and outright decamping, to antiparty activities and disloyalty by some party bigwigs to other politi- cal parties. All for relevance and suitable vehicle to actualise their interested dreams, foisted on the ‘umbrella’ party.

Unifying force

Given the long ranged political fight among these gladiators that made up present day Delta politics and the outcome of its, with some of the actors licking their wounds secretly while the victors celebrated and bestrode the political landscape of the state, many though the reign of peace in these polarised camps, was inconceiv- able, at least not in the nearest foreseeable future. Lo and behold, that day came faster than expected and it took many who witnessed it by sur- prised.

Even more surprising was the place and occasion that this unplanned unity by these political gladiators that have over the years managed to keep a clean political distance, occurred. The much expected unity occurred on this fateful Friday, May 31, 2024. And the occasion was during the Memorial Mass at the Catholic Church in honour of the departed 13th Asagba of Asaba, HRM Obi Prof. Joseph Chike Edozien. The gathering attracted dignitaries from all walks of life, in cluding politicians of repute. The occasion provided an outlet for all estranged political bedfellows under PDP umbrella to unite.

Array of politicians?

Given the numbers and status of the political bigwigs that attended the event, the question that easily surfaced, is; ‘was the late monarch a politician? Certainly, no. But he wielded great influence during his lifetime. Hence politi- cians flocked his palace when he was alive for royal blessings, to get wisdom and leverage on his sagacity. The acclaimed ‘Delta political godfather’, Ibori, although partially dislodged by Okowa, as a result of the undercurrent disunity, made a dashing entrant.

In this case, Okowa went down in history as one who dethroned his political chess-master by using the power of incumbency and the philosophy of stomach infrastructure to break hold of Ibori. He thus, bruised the Sheik in the process. That shocking treatment to the ‘Ogidigboigbo’ forced some of his die-hard loyalists to dump PDP in anger, while some followed the bandwagon train of the ‘New Sheriff in town.’ These important political fig- ures, who were once a political allies under one umbrella party but became estranged bedfellows because of sharp political practices, met at the farewell burial.

The scene that played out on this day could be described as one of the best unscripted one ever in the political arena of the state. The event marked the first and historic public exchange of pleasantries between ex-Governor Ibori and Oborevwori since Oborevwori became the governor. Ibori put aside the political differences and raging war between them, and took the first tentative steps towards the high table where the governor was seated and stretched out his hand, and curtsied to greet the governor, who was obviously taken by surprised.

Also surprised were the avalanche of onlookers, such as the Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, who looked with surprised written all over their faces. The shocked that greeted the exchange of pleasantries between the two political gladiators was a clear indication of the deep-rooted animosities that has existed between the dramatic personae.

Scene at Dome Event Centre

At the Dome Event Centre venue of the reception, after the Church service, Okowa appeared to have taken the cue from Ibori’s action. He advanced forward to greet Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, a two-time former PDP state Chairman, who defected to APC but lost his third term bid to Senator Ned Nwoko of PDP.

Nwaoboshi is another political enigma of Ibori political dynasty. Ibori watched the scene with rapt attention. “The scene was natural, smiles were infectious and in his usual audacious manner, Nwaoboshi, the stormy Peter, popularly known as Oracle turned Miracle, in Delta political parlance, was receptive in ‘no permanent friend, no permanent enemy’ surrender.

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