Published On: Wed, Dec 5th, 2012

Who’II Break Ibori’s Hegemony in Delta State

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Ibori and Uduaghan

By Dominic Adewale
The conspiracy game of a former Governor of Delta State, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, which played out before, during and after the April 14, 2007 governorship election in the state has again gained centre stage in the quest for Governor Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan’s successor in 2015. The dramatis-personae behind the political masterstroke are no other persons than the mainstream politicians perceived to be ardent loyalists of the former helmsman who are scattered across the three senatorial districts of the state – Delta North, Central and South. DOMINIC ADEWOLE in Asaba, reports that it would be difficult to install a governor outside of the Ibori ring.
The calculation calls to mind what transpired five years ago when over 18 aspirants that picked the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) forms, expressed interest in succeeding the erstwhile governor but were later discovered to have been sponsored into the race in proxy for the Governor’s (Ibori) “anointed” candidate.
Hence, when news filtered into the streets of the Big Heart state that year that Ibori’s choice was his cousin – the incumbent Governor Uduaghan, a Medical Doctor turned politician, aspirants, interested individuals and groups who could not withstand the surprises that played out in the game fled the PDP and pitched tent with opposition parties.
The move by the Ibori group worked, but is also one of the many reasons the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) made a serious inroad in the state during the governorship rerun election of January 6, 2011 and April 26, 2011 general election in the state.

Aside being Ibori’s cousin, Governor Uduaghan was Ibori’s Commissioner for Health before he was appointed as the Secretary to State Government (SSG). The former Governor had built trust in him before he picked him. The resignation he tendered to contest the 2007 governorship election paved the way for the appointment of Obarisi Ovie Omo-Agege as SSG to complete Ibori’s second tenure.
The intrigues that greeted Uduaghan’s choice tore the party into shreds after the likes of Chief Godswill Obielum, an Ndowka born governorship aspirant that same year, who retired as an Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) in River State, when Governor Peter Odili was the helmsman, and enjoyed Abuja might, protested against what he described as “magic-votes” that emanated from the primary election that produced Uduaghan as the PDP’s flag-bearer at the Austin Jay-Jay Okocha Stadium in Ogwashi-Uku, Aniocha South Local Government Area of the state.

Besides, the crisis Uduaghan’s candidacy triggered, compelled the foremost Ijaw leader and former Minister of Information, Chief Edwin Clark, who has since reconciled with the Governor (Uduaghan), to say “If Ibori succeeds in imposing Uduaghan on us, then the window of hell has been opened unto us (the Delta State Forum of Elders, Leaders and Stakeholders)” when the group met in Akwukwu-Igbo, Aniocha-North council area of the state prior to the build up to the controversial governorship election of 2007 in the state. The elder statesman’s camp was operating from Warri axis of the state with a parallel state party executive.

Prior to the election also, the likes of the former Speaker of the state’s House of Assembly, Hon. Young Daniel Igbrude, who died three months ago, was booted out as Speaker on account of “disloyalty to those at the corridor of power in the state, alongside his deputy, Pius Ewherido, the incumbent Senator, representing Delta Central Senatorial District on the platform of the arch-rival DPP. The DPP is being financed and sponsored by Chief Great Ogboru, together with other prominent politicians in the state, including Chief Peter Eloka Okocha, who dumped PDP for DPP and the defunct Action Congress (AC), now Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).

The crisis soon ate deeply into the fulcrum of the party, such that, for four years after Uduaghan assumed the governorship seat of the state, the Governor never settled down. He was one leg in court and the other leg in Government House. While Uduaghan was been distracted with litigations, the forum of elders, led by Chief Clark, gripped his predecessor (Ibori) in the jugular in the Abuja office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), with floodgate of petitions, bordering on money laundering and corruption; the petition eventually nailed the ex-Governor and sent him to jail.

Little did the party know that it has lost its glory to its arch-rival DPP until the Court of Appeal in Benin, Edo State, on November 9, 2010, gave nod to Ogboru’s petition and ordered rerun election in the state within 90 days. The development threw up the then Speaker of the state, Prince Sam Obi, now a prominent contender for the governorship seat of the state in 2015. The January 6, 2011 rerun election, which served as litmus test for DPP’s in-road in the state, later afforded PDP to regain its political strength as the party crossed the hurdle posed by the rerun and April 26, governorship elections in the state. It was however clear that the PDP held Governor Uduaghan,who was seeking re-election, hostage politically. The Governor was forced to embark on what pundits described as “mosquito campaign” – House-to-House campaign, begging for forgiveness and votes.

The build up events to 2015 election in the state have shown that the state is tilting politically towards the logjam of 2007. No fewer than 10 aspirants from Delta North Senatorial Districts alone have indicated interest in succeeding Governor Uduaghan, and the Nigerian Compass has gathered that “the faces in the race are again for one anointed person.”
Is Ibori still in charge of politics in Delta State? Have the people of the state settled for a replica of what happened in 2007? Will the mainstream politicians, operating in Ibori’s style pick the said “anointed one” from among those who have shown interest in Delta North or the “messiah” will appear in his glorious regalia at the eleventh hour as Governor Uduaghan did in 2007? Is the favoured person being sponsored by Abuja-based politicians or home-based ones, said to be loyal to the former Governor? These and many others have become the one million naira question begging for answer in the state.

While some of aspirants are said to have indicated interest as “spoilers” (to block and scatter the votes of genuine contenders), others, according to Elder John Ehikwe, the National Coordinator of the Anioma Welfare Initiative (AWI), who was the state secretary of National Party of Nigeria (NPN), during Shagari administration of the old Bendel State are being sponsored to enslave the Anioma people of Delta North, whose turn it is to govern the state. He said, “As to being sponsored purposely to scuttle the chance of our people (Delta North). For instance, if an Ika man (Delta North) is being sponsored by an Urhobo man (Delta Central) to run for governorship in 2015 and he genuinely comes out to run for governorship, if he is aspiring for himself, it will be obvious. If he is not a material and we judge from every angle that is not a material, it will also be obvious that he is fronting for a godfather only to say I am stepping down at the end. And if somebody is being sponsored from outside Delta North (Anioma ethnic nationality) to say, yes! I want to be deputy governor to Mr. A or B in Delta Central or South, which we are not bargaining for, he is campaigning for himself. The whole of Delta North people will tell him, ‘look, you are a slave, go, move to the place where you were bought.’ Any Delta Northerner who settles to be deputy governor or run against his brother or the collective interest of the people of the district in 2015 is a slave to his or her desire and therefore has no voice among us. I am saying this because it is our turn.”

Elder Ehikwe, who acknowledged that godfatherism was the order of the day during the 1999 and 2007 general elections, however exonerated Governor Uduaghan from the alleged plot to drift into the messy situation Ibori plunged the state into in 2007 when he was said to have singlehandedly imposed Uduaghan on the people of the state. According to him, “Yes, godfatherism was the order of the day in the first two elections (1999 and 2007) in Nigeria, but in the last election (2011) all over the country, godfatherism had almost disappeared. I am sure by 2015, every person coming out to say, ‘I want you, or that was order from above, order from Asaba, order from Abuja, will be ashamed to come out openly to campaign.’ Having said that, I am not disputing the input of the incumbent or outgoing Governor in deciding who succeeds him. But it will not be his sole prerogative to say ‘this is my successor’. He will definitely be a member of the team that will shop around, team up with other stakeholders and unanimously agree that this is going to be the next Governor. I know our present Governor, His Excellency, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, is a man of honour; he will do what is good, things that other people do and get praise.”

Amidst the intrigues, the Anioma people of Delta North Senatorial district have vowed to resist any plot to trade with their chance of succeeding Governor Uduaghan in 2015. The ethnic nationality maintained that any attempt by any godfather to plant a stooge to deliberately tamper with their chance in 2015, by selling the slot off to a highest bidder or unpopular candidate, either from Delta Central or Delta South Senatorial District, would disrupt the noble vision of the state.
To the effect, the district has set up the Anioma Convention Centre (ACC) where its sons and daughters would deliberate on the way forward and speak with one voice. It was unveiled at Onicha-Ugbo, Aniocha North Local Government Area of the state to market the agenda.
The Director-General of the Convention Centre, Chief (Mrs.) Theodora Giwa-Amu, who is the current South-South Women Leader of the PDP is a die-hard loyalist of Ibori, who served as Commissioner for Women Affairs and Community Development and later became the council chairman of Oshimili South Local Government in Asaba. She corroborated the views being canvassed by Elder Ehikwe and the Anioma Agenda (AA), a socio-cultural and political pressure. She said the agenda for 2015 would be marketed from the Unity Hall to the roof tops of the two other senatorial districts of the state.

While she maintained that the unity of purpose in the crusade and the quest for an Anioma governor, come 2015, would cut across party divide and begged other senatorial districts of the state to let justice and fairness to prevail, she recalled that the people of Delta North have since 1999 played second fiddle in the governorship seat of the state but that 2015 would be an exception. “All along, we have played along with our brothers in Delta Central and South. This time, we don’t care which party the governor of Anioma in 2015 comes from, be it DPP, ACN, PDP or what have you. All we are saying is that the Governor must come from Delta North”, she stated.
Flanked by ACC’s Secretary-General, Chief C.O Biose, its Women Affairs’ Director, Mrs. Eva Nwanze, its Mobilization and Audit Directors, Comrade Simeon Nduka and Chief Uju Udeme, and the Director (Media and Publicity) of the Anioma Agenda, Chief Mike Oyinbosochukwu Nwaebueze, Chief Giwa-Amu who hinted that the clamour by the Anioma people for state creation has not been jettisoned as it was, according to her, being sought “side by side with the governorship seat in 2015”, said efforts would be deployed to “eliminate tension and rancour in the selection process of an Anioma born governor, come 2015, by reducing the number of contestants to one or two.”

The dust was yet settle when a leading governorship contender in the district, Chief Godswill Obielum, who cried foul during the 2007 PDP primary election that produced Governor Uduaghan received the leaders of Anioma Agenda, led by Barrister Alex Onwuadiame, in his country home in Ndokwa axis of the state, where he maintained that the oil rich state was not for sale to the highest bidder in 2015.
Although, he urged the group to concentrate its crusade on Delta Central and South senatorial districts where Ibori represented for eight years before handing over to Uduaghan, who is currently representing Delta South, he vowed to maintain peace and order, until otherwise proven and stated that the conspiracy has tilted towards the 2007 game when he was schemed out. “On my part, I will sustain the existing cordial relationship with Senator Ifeanyi Okowa (one of the 2007 governorship aspirants of PDP whose chance of engaging Uduaghan in a run-up was allegedly cut-short by the powers that be in the party in Abuja that year), the Speaker of the state’s House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Victor Ochei (who is warming up for the battle in 2015 and has now become a factor to reckon with in the district) and other governorship contenders in Delta North Senatorial district”, he opined, even as he acknowledged that the struggle to succeed Governor Uduaghan “is a collective family affair.”

While Anioma people were relying on the PDP zoning arrangement that produced Ibori and Uduaghan in 1999 and 2007 respectively, the people of Ethiope East and West, in Delta Central, where Ibori hails from, during the just concluded Town Hall meeting, a platform provided by the on-going constitutional review/amendment of the National Assembly, voted against zoning of governorship to any district in the state, maintaining that the next governor of the state should be selected and elected on merit. The development was said to have informed why Anioma Convention DG, Chief Giwa-Amu, sent a Save-Our-Soul (S.O.S) appeal to the people of Delta Central and South to allow justice and fairness to prevail in 2015.

Aside Ochei, the incumbent Senator, representing Delta North Senatorial district, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, has not lost interest in wearing Uduaghan’s shoes in 2015, even as Prof. Sylvester Monye, Presidential Adviser on Project Monitoring and Evaluation, who hails from Onicha-Ugbo of Delta North, and one of Ibori’s aides, now Governor Uduaghan’s Commissioner for Special Duties, Ide Tony Nwaka, are said to be girding their loins as well. Unperturbed that his kinsman (Ibori) did it for eight years, Senator Pius Ewheirdo, representing Delta Central Senatorial district on the platform of DPP is equally eyeing the position. Ewherido is today, being described as “the new face of Ogboru” across the state. Ewherido bounced back on the right footing in the politics of the state last year when he contested and won his senatorial seat, laying to rest the long years of reigns of the state former Deputy Chairman of the PDP, Chief Ighoyota Amori, now Governor Uduaghan’s Senior Special Political Adviser (SSPA) in his district. Efforts to woo him back to his original party (PDP) had remained inconclusive. Although, Ewherido has remained mute on matters regarding PDP and its leaders in Delta State, speculation is rife across the state that he may wear Ogboru’s shoes in 2015, under the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
Apart from Prof. Monye, who enjoys presidential flamboyance and Ewherido who has since fell out with the camp, all other aforementioned aspirants in the race, either from Delta North or elsewhere, were made and have their well-being in Ibori.

But since partisan politics in the state is not only full of surprises but skewed strictly in a game of conspiracy, the useful theoretical frameworks for installing the “anointed” one in 2015 is said to be already under serious permutation among the “ruling class” in the state.. “These, Ibori’s boys that are in government of the state today, believe in to largely undo their opponents and have been paying off for them in the past 12 years of unbroken democracy in Nigeria. Ibori’s full mastery of the conspiracy theory in Delta State has no doubt given credence to why his boys have held the state in hegemony. They are today deploying the strategy to wage political war against their opponents from within and outside the ruling PDP in the state. This they plotting ahead of 2015 election in the state”, a PDP source in the state told.
The question making round the state now is who will stop Ibori’s long years of hegemony?
Culled from Compass

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