PERSPECTIVE: Ahead 2023: Delta at crossroads

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Ifeanyi Okowa

By ANSY UGBEDE

Crossroads simply means “a point at which a crucial decision must be made which will have far-reaching consequences.”

 

That, aptly, is what Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and the chieftains and delegates of the PDP shall be doing come May 21 at which they will nominate the PDP flag bearer for the Delta 2023 Gubernatorial election.

 

The aspirants represent different directions and implications for the state and its future.

 

One issue at stake is the manner of power rotation. The Ijaws contend that it should be done on the basis of ethnicity and they feel they should take the next turn. They are presenting Dr. Braduce Amakazi Angozi, Senator James Manager and Deacon Kingsley Otuaro, the Deputy Governor.

 

The other side of the argument is rotation by senatorial districts, in which, notwithstanding entries by various aspirants from the three districts in all past primaries, the PDP leadership and elders have insisted on and have successfully managed the first circle of rotation across the three districts.

 

For many, rotation by districts seems easier and more manageable. They argue that a disruption of the process by descent to ethnicity would create an intractable confusion of claims by the multiplicity of ethnic, tribal and dialect groups across the state, with potentially negative consequences on ethnic relations and harmony both now and in the future. Still, the decision has to be made, albeit, carefully weighed.

 

Insisting on rotation by districts, Delta Central, through its DC-23 front, has pruned down it’s number of candidates, as advised by Governor Okowa and the Urhobo Progress Union, to three, for the party to choose from.

 

The three – David Edevbie, Kenneth Gbagi and Sheriff Oborevwori – also represent different directions and tendencies for the state.

 

It has been quite difficult to understand what Gbagi’s campaign is about besides staccato bursts of invectives and threats.

 

The contention has however been made clearer by Oborevwori whose campaign dwells on his being a local person with “street credibility” as his “main asset.”

 

Political observers say his allusions are pointed at David Edevbie, seen as cosmopolitan with his impressive educational and professional credentials in development economics and track records of achievements in both the private sector, having worked with top corporations overseas, and in the public sector where he served as three times Delta State Commissioner of Finance, and at the Presidency as Principal Secretary to President Umaru Yar’adua.

 

Edevbie and Oborevwori’s political personalities and sense of mission are at variance. One represents modernity, the other represents chieftainism.

 

True to type, Oborevwori was presented at his consultation with the state party executives by Chief Iduh Amadhe, a compendium of oratory and rhetorics. He was former President of Isoko Development Union whose end of tenure witnessed a resurgence of communal crises with brutal bloodbath across the land.

 

He was also a prominent player when his community experienced devastating power tussles with unrestrained arson over kingship and control of payouts from replete oil installations, which divided his people in sharp enmity and drove many out of town for a long period.

 

Oborevwori’s campaign is visibly being championed, possibly bankrolled, by the DESOPADEC gang of Michael Diden (Ejele), Chairman; Askia Ogieh, Managing Director; and John Nani, Executive Director Finance and Administration.

 

All three men are also racing away from DESOPADEC to the National Assembly, with Diden vying for Delta South Senate, Askia for Isoko Federal Constituency House of Representatives seat, and Nani for Delta Central Senate. They possibly have joint reasons for wanting to head off to Abuja.

 

Only recently, a story made the rounds on Social Media alleging that Diden had been siphoning about N100m monthly from DESOPADEC through companies whose office addresses are traced to him. There have been denials and further insistence on the validity of the story.

 

It was also reported, in November 2021, that he moved to seize the whole premises of St Malachy Primary School, Sapele, and had his agents to disrupt learning activities over claims that he has bought the land. He reportedly told the police that while he bought the school land from one Ogodo family, he was however not responsible for the removal of the roofs of the buildings.

 

Askia on the other hand is adjudged, possibly wrongly, by political opponents in his native Isoko land as a guzzling stickler for power and prize. From same community as Chief Amadhe, he was also a prominent player in the crises that devastated his hometown for which he and others kept in exile for a period.

 

Nani’s mission in the race for the Senate is suspected as calculated to deploy his huge resources from DESOPADEC to counter and bury Senator Ighoyota Amori and Chief James Ibori’s influence in Delta Central to create a new force with Oborevwori.

 

These are the Generals behind Oborevwori while they have Ifeanyi Eboigbe, Chief Protocol Officer to Governor Okowa, suspected to be their Deputy Governorship designate, as their anchorman to influence the endorsement of Governor Okowa.

 

They stand against Edevbie for his disposition to modernisation which they fear will raise the mode of governance and disrupt the flow of influence and privileges they enjoy.

 

Inadvertantly, Iduh Amadhe put it succinctly at Oborevwori’s declaration, that they “want a Governor who when he sees elders will give them kola.”

 

Deltans know what that means and how it affects the flow of dividends of governance to the real grassroots.

 

But, to sustain the culture, they are asking Deltans to disregard Edevbie’s superior credentials, huge private and public service experiences and track records, and settle for less quality with “street credibility.”

 

Truly, Edevbie may jettison some old ways to engender modernisation. On his first arrival as Commissioner of Finance, directly from the Commonwealth Development Corporation where he served as Development Officer for Asia and the Pacific, he disrupted the choatic contract payment system by automating the process such as gave no room for influence peddling.

 

His insistence on Cash Budgeting to avoid unplanned contract awards and unnecessary state indebtedness, and also on not personally seeing or knowing contractors, except by computerised tracking and verification of their performance, angered old contractors who usually influenced and compromised the system to generate contracts and get paid in spite of the financial shocks on the state but in the process he grew the state finance from N6b in 1999 to N60b in 2003 which enabled the Ibori administration to undertake various capital projects for the then young Delta State.

 

Also reputed for conceptualising the Presidential Amnesty Programme under President Yar’adua, which has ensured relative peace in the Niger Delta, restored the nation’s oil production capacity and supported hitherto militant youths to acquire employability skills, Edevbie comes with the managerial depth of the likes of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, now DG of the World Trade Organisation, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina now of the Africa Development Bank and Peter Obi, an astute financial investment and management expert who modelled skilled governance with Anambra State.

 

While Nigeria suffered serious external debt burden that hampered development for years, it took Okonjo-Iweala’s brilliance and expertise to achieve full debt clearance and freed Nigeria from the albatross and her template helped the nation to maintain very low debt profile under Presidents Yar’adua and Jonathan.

 

Having no such calibre of expertise in its team, the present administration has gone on to accumulate even more debts, some secured with the exposure of our national sovereignty.

 

Had the nation heeded Okonjo-Iweala’s advise on establishing a Sovereign National Fund, perhaps, Nigeria’s present story would have been different, but she was frontally opposed by the “street credible” likes of Adams Oshiomole and Rotimi Amaechi. See where our nation is today: with depleted foreign reserve, more accumulation of debts from China and Europe with a debt servicing strain of over 90% of national revenue and having no fall back position, all with frightening implications for the future.

 

While Peter Obi left about N75 billion for his successor, Willie Obiano, the new Governor, Prof Charles Soludo, has said Obiano left him a debt of N100 billion and a paltry N300 million cash.

 

Okonjo-Iweala’s ability to clear Nigeria’s $30 billion external debts and Peter Obi’s ability to leave N75 billion in the treasury for his successor could not have been without superior knowledge, experience and skills in financial management and global economic development networks.

 

Interestingly, Edevbie shares the same professional background and management capacity with them. On this, Okowa himself had testified to his contributions to the financial development of the state when both of them served under Ibori, between 1999 and 2007, and when Edevbie served him as Commissioner of Finance and Chief of Staff from 2015 to 2021.

 

Indeed, the differences in the mode, capacity and directions the different aspirants may lead are clear.

 

Laughable though is when people resist modernity but are regularly on the plane to enjoy modern life overseas. Every society and it’s citizens aim for modernity and one would have expected our “street chieftains” to seek and encourage the modernisation of their home state to achieve the efficiency of governance and quality of life which they often chase overseas, rather than deceiving Deltans to remain in old ways simply for the preservation of their personal privileges.

 

This is the crux of the matter. Suffice to remind us all, as stated in the beginning: In this eminent transition, our state is at crossroads and whatever decision will have far-reaching consequences in the direction of our state. God help us.

*Ugbede, a Deltan wrote from Benin City*