Ibori, Uduaghan And Okowa: Three Of A Kind

By Willy Bee
Any chronicler’s delight lies in the fact he had seen it through in the past fifteen years since participatory democracy was born and Delta State had seen it all. This writer had been privileged to be at the front seats, chronicling the vagaries of power shift from one personality to another. I could talk authoritatively of the two personalities- Ibori, (whose journey started from May 29, 1999 – 2007) and Uduaghan who took over the baton of power from Ibori on May 29, 2007 and is gracefully handing over to another successor in another medical d octor, Dr. Senator Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, whose inauguaration is billed for today May 29, 2015, at the Cenotaph in Asaba.
The thematic links running through these threesome- pioneer members of the PDP had worked assiduously together in the executive chambers of former Governor Ibori, whom, I often described as the ‘Wonder Kid’ from Oghara, a dusty village in Ethiope West local government area.
The binding tie that has brought the triumvirate together, over the past 15 years is that they had worked together in Ibori’s cabinet as Commissioners from 1999 – 2007. And they had bonded so well that any attempt to separate them has virtually become an impossible proposition.
When Chief James Onanefe Ibori was at the height of power as governor, he depended more on the experience of some dedicated commissioners as Dr. Uduaghan, Dr Okowa, Chief James Manager and now Senator-elect, Ighoyoto Amori, referred to, in those golden years, as the Quartet of James Ibori’s cabinet. They behaved like super commissioners and whatever they did was sanctioned by the Governor because of the camaraderie that bonded them for better or for worse. Each commissioner had a free hand to run his ministry and they worked with such dedication to duty that Delta laid the first tentative pillars for the growth and development of vital infrastructures across the state-roads, bridges, polytechnics, hospitals.
Ibori, an Urhobo with an Itsekiri mother, behaved like he was often described-as-detribalised. He had his friends from across the three senatorial districts of Delta State. Chief James Manager, of Izon cum Isoko backgrounds, was the Commissioner for Works, Housing and etc and the first PDP chairman who midwifed Ibori into the governorship primaries which he won. For Dr Uduaghan, he served Ibori/ as C ommissioner for Health and, later, as Secretary to the Delta State Government before ascending the gubernatorial seat in 2007. Talking about Dr. Okowa, he, too, was one of the leading super commissioners in Ibori’s cabinet for Agriculture and Natural Resources, before becoming Commissioner for Health under Governor Uduaghan, later he became Secretary to the State Government. We have seen these symbiotic ties among the three-some over the years in such a manner that one could always predict what each of them was capable of doing at any given time in the political chess game of the oil-rich state.
In 2007, when Chief Ibori had finished his two clear terms in power, making him the second politician from the Central Senatorial District to occupy the post of Governor after Chief Felix Olorogun Ibru from 1990- 1992, many had thought that when the time comes for power to change from the central to the north senatorial district, the man to watch would be Dr.Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, regarded in many circles as the man who could wrestle power from the central senatorial district. The power shift sing song had hit the air and in 2007, it became obvious that many would vie for the post of the governor at the PDP primaries in Ogwashuku. In June 2007, the Ogwashi-uku primaries came into being and some 15 contenders signified their interest in the primaries.
The primaries of June, 2007 in Ogwashi-uku seemed the turning point for both Uduaghan and Okowa, two-some who one could then describe as rivals for the governorship of Delta came to the fore.
In the past years, when the central district had captured the governorship, the Delta North had always played a second fiddle to the Central by supplying the deputy governors to the Urhobo contenders.
Sir Simeon Ebonka from Ika was deputy to Felix Ibru, while Chief BSC Elue from Obior, Aniocha North, was deputy to Governor Ibori from 1999- 2007.
The epoch- making primary in Ogwashi-uku witnessed the test of political will by all the three senatorial districts. The outcome of the primary showed that, in the first ballot, no candidate scored the required 50 per cent of votes.
Dr Uduaghan scored 2,448 v otes and came first and he was quickly and closely followed by Dr Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa with 1,142 votes, while the third place was taken by Chief Ovie Omo Agege with 951 votes. The late Pius Ewherido came fourth with 807 votes; Dr. Cairo Ojougboh came fifth with 280, Chief Charles Ofuoma Obule from central scored 176 votes and Godswill Obielum scored 82 votes, and Olorogun Ortega Emerhor 76 votes, Albert Okumagba 50 votes, late Young Daniel Igbrude scored 39 votes; Napoleon Gbinije 20 votes; Prof Andrew Odita, 19 votes, Chief Mrs. Ngozi Olejeme seven votes, Chief Kenneth Gbagi four votes and Olorogun Oscar Ibru led from the rest with three votes.
Witrh these kind of scores, there was no clear winner of the primaries but they ought to have gone to a second ballot but news came from Abuja that both Dr. Okowa and Cairo Ojougboh had been disqualified from the primaries and Dr Uduaghan had a clear victory to contest the polls.
With this kind of scores, many contenders were forced to engage in petition writing but luckily for Dr. Okowa, being an insider of the Ibori government, he found it difficult to press charges or take to petition writing . He felt and, perhaps, rightly so, he was not prepared to rock the PDP boat with his eyes fixed on the futuristic oppotunities ahead of him.
Dr. Okowa, after the primaries had been lost and won, earned for himself the post of Secretary to the Delta State Government (SSG) working harmoniuously with Dr Uduaghan from 2007- till when he opted to move over to the Red Senate Chambers in Abuja to prepare himself solidly for another productive shot at the gubernatorial elections and primaries for 2015.
For a contender who routinely won his senatorial elections and went to the Senate representing Delta North, he knew he had no opposition from his kith and kin in Delta North.
Throughout his years as commissioner, many times over in Delta, he had cultivated viable friendship across the ethnic lines , so much so that when the time came for the governorship primaries, it was like a walk over his many contenders from North, Central and South.
Along the route to the Cenotaph primaries in Asaba, there were some little bubbles that almost; his ambition would be truncated by what had come to be known as unintended ‘systemic sommersaults’ on the way which were quickly nipped in the bud for a safe and seamless primary.
Dr Okowa scored 406 votes, and his runner-up, David Edevbie, scored 299 votes and the third place went to the former Speaker of Delta State House of Assembly (DTHA), Rt. Hon. Victor Ochei who scored 187 votes.
Dr Okowa’s choice and eventual victory at the gubernatorial polls did not come as a surprise.
With the inauguration coming up today (May 29, 2015), he will take over the baton and burden of office from Dr Uduaghan as governor. One has no doubt in one’s mind that the indelible binding tie that had bonded the three- some- IBORI, UDUAGHAN AND OKOWA would make him perform. In Delta State expect a brave new world to come into fruition and bring about a ‘Doing Government’ beyond what any sloganeers can fathom, when we chant ‘PROSPERITY FOR ALL DELTANS’ under the Okowa mantra. It is indeed an enduring tie that works for the good of Delta State.