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Published On: Wed, Nov 30th, 2022

Omo-Agege Did Not Betray Anybody

Ovie-Omo-Agege 2

By Francis Ewherido

LAGOS NOVEMBER 30TH (URHOBOTODAY)-The 17 governors of the Southern States of Nigeria met in Asaba, Delta State, on Tuesday, May 11, 2021, to discuss issues of common interest to the South, in particular, and the Nigeria, in general. They came up with a 12-point communique where they raised key issues about the future of Nigeria. Later the governors of the South met again in Lagos and clamoured for shift of the presidency to the South after President MuhammaduBuhari’s two terms. This is in line with the gentleman’s agreement of power rotation between the South and the North. These governors from across party lines were expected to influence their parties to bring the gentleman agreement and their resolution to fruition.

The Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, was at both meetings and in fact hosted the meeting in Asaba. Their photograph graced the front pages of many newspapers the day after the meeting. It was then a shock to many Nigerians, especially Southerners, when he emerged the vice presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party. This act was what prompted the Deputy President of the Senate,  Ovie Omo-Agege, to call him “Judas Iscariot” of the South. Constitutionally, Okowa has the freedom of choice to take his action, but it carries a huge moral burden.

Apparently what Omo-Agege said hurt the Okowa camp and they came fighting back. That is expected, but the watery reasons they used to call Omo-Agege a betrayer are responsible for this article. They said Omo-Agege is a serial betrayer. He betrayed Chief James Ibori. How? I never heard that before. He who alleges must prove his case. We are waiting. They also said he betrayed Chief Great Ogboru. For personal reasons, I made up my mind some time ago not discuss issues involving Ogboru, but since these PDP media people have thrown sh*t on the ceiling fan in a matter not concerning Ogboru and he has not issued a rebuttal, some of the sh*t will invariably fall on him. When Ogboru came back from exile, I was told within government circle that Ibori offered him the Delta Central Senatorial Districtticket for 2003 election. He rejected it and opted to contest the governorship. Will you call that betrayal? Capital NO; he only exercised his constitutional right. He attempted again in 2007, 2010 rerun and 2011 election. He did not realize his ambition. Fast forward to 2015. Omo-Agege teamed up with Ogboru in Labour Party, where Ogboru was the leader. He contested senate seat while Ogboru as usual contested the governorship seat. INEC declared PDP candidates winners of both elections. They were both dissatisfied and headed for the courts. Ogboru lost, while Omo-Agege retrieved his mandate from PDP. His accusers should come and explain where Omo-Agege betrayed Ogboru in this instance. I am not a lawyer, but doesn’t privity of contract doctrine applies in election cases or similar situation. What could Omo-Agege have done to remedy the situation?

On March 7, 2017, Ogboru, Omo-Agege defected from Labour Party to the All Progressive Congress (APC), where Omo-Agege contested the 2019 election to return to the senate. He won and ultimately became the Deputy President of the Senate. With this position, became the leader of APC in the South-South, not just Delta State. Some people went to town that Omo-Agege betrayed Ogboru. When these people were confronted with facts to the contrary, they withdrew into their shells. I am therefore surprised that PDP people are bringing up this baseless allegation that has been put to rest.

The last wild allegation of betrayal I want to discuss is the alleged betrayal of Olorogun Otega Emerhor by Omo-Agege. When one of the founding fathers of APC at the national level and the arrowhead in Delta State, Senator Akpor Pius Ewherido, suddenly died in 2015, a huge leadership vacuum was created. Chief AdelabuBodjor, a founding member of APC felt APC should not die prematurely in Delta State with the death of the arrowhead. He consulted other members of the APC and approached Emerhor to fill the leadership vacuum left by the death of Ewherido. He did just that and financed the party at the initial stages.

At some point, Ogboru, Omo-Agege joined APC. There were conflicts initially, but Emerhor did not shy away from the reality. Though he nurtured the party in its infancy, he knew the highest political officeholder should be the leader of the party in the state and he conceded the position to Omo-Agege. There were initial power tussle, but the issue of betrayal is not existent. Also that Omo-Agege betrayed Ogboru in APC does not even arise.

Omo-Agege emergence as APC leader in Delta State is the standard practice in most parts of Nigeria. In Delta State PDP, before the party primaries in Ogwashikwu in 2006, Chief Ibori invited the top PDP governorship aspirants to government house. Those at the meeting included Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, Dr. IfeanyiOkowa, Sen. Omo-Agege and the late Sen. Akpor Pius Ewherido. Chief Ighoyota and Sen. James Manager (I am not too sure if manager was there anymore) were also present. At the meeting, Ibori announced Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan as the new leader of PDP in Delta State and told the rest of the aspirants to go to the stadium, venue of the PDP Primaries, and tell their supporters they were stepping down for Uduaghan. None of them did, but it was clear where the pendulum was going to swing. Uduaghan became governor and PDP leader in the state. When Okowa took over as governor, he also became the leader of PDP in Delta State. So what are these guys talking about? What is good for the goose is not good for the gander, or if it is PDP, it is gold, but if it is Omo-Agege it is base metal?

One more thing, enough of this taunting of people with climbing on Ogboru’s back to victory. Nobody disputes Ogboru’s position as the symbol of opposition in Delta State since early 2000 to when APC became well established in Delta State, but as the Urhobos say, if you support a lazy man, they will not only beat him, if you are not lucky, they will beat you too. Ogboru’s party produced two senators (Ewherido and Omo-Agege), but these were political heavy weights in their own right and former governorship aspirants in PDP. Politics is collective game and itis the joining of forces that bring victory. In 2007 DPP produced a senator, two house of Representative members and eight house of assembly members. February and March are here. We eagerly wait for the performance of APGA in Delta State where Ogboru is now the governorship candidate.

Back to the issue, what PDP media team should have done is to explain to millions of disappointed Nigerians, especially Southerners, who were elated by the collective decision of the governorsof the South, why Okowa made a volte face. They can remind Deltans that the state has never produced a vice president and tell us the benefits state will get from the position. Rather some PDP theyignored addressing Omo-Agege’s message and focused on the messenger.

Moving forward, let campaigns be based on issues concerning Deltans. Still on the burner is how the Delta State Government spent the N142b derivation fund in concrete terms, not vague explanations.  In addition, for some time, the Delta Province of BendelState asked for creation of Delta State, while the Aniomas wanted Anioma State. In 1991, for reasons best known to Gen. Ibrahim Babaginda, he created only one state, named it Delta and put the capital in Asaba, a border. That is no longer an issue; the issue now is that almost 16 years after,two PDP governments have not been able to complete the road between Asaba and Ughelli in the old Delta Province. The long distance to Asaba was one of the major complaints of the people of Delta Province in 1991. These and many other issues are what we should be talking about; issues-based campaigns.

Francis Ewherido,  a foundation member of APC  writes from Lagos

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