Ambushed, Ibori knocks out Urhobo
By Jon Egie
James Ibori the fugitive ex-governor who sent the Urhobo nation into the woods for the past eight years running has once again ambushed the Urhobo as they attempted to get out of the woods and sent them back to the political woods, with a below the belt punch.
In the year 2007, James Ibori had against the desire of the Urhobo people, his kinsmen, manipulated the outcome of the governorship primary held in Ogwashi-uku in favour of his cousin, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, to succeed him as governor.
This action coupled with the slam on the Urhobo people who he labelled as ingrates (Edemirukaye), pitched the Urhobo against Ibori and they joined forces with Ibori’s political foes to land him in jail.
But even in the London prison, Ibori operated as the Lord of the Manor, acting as the consultant in-chief in political issues of Delta State and determining who should and who should not occupy a particular political office, elected or appointed.
To be fair during his eight years as governor of Delta State, Ibori made millionaires out of paupers and this generosity endeared a large number of the Urhobo political class to the apron string of Ibori such that members of the Ibori political family became subservient to the political will and direction of Ibori and anything the ex-governor said was a law, even from the London prison where, like an oracle shine, they trooped to consult him.
Thus it was that as 2015 inches close, the political activities in Delta, preparatory to the general election had the voice of Jacob and the hands of Essau in it.
In 2007 during the Ogwashi-uku guber primary of the PDP, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa was said to have defeated Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan hands down and should have emerged as governor of Delta State way back in 2007. Rather than allow him, Ibori manipulated the primary results in favour of Udaughan with an accord to make Okowa succeed Uduaghan, eight years after.
Like a man known for keeping his words, Ibori appointed Okowa as the SSG and subsequently saw that he became a Senator to be exposed and feel the pulse of national politics before returning back to become the governor of Delta State in 2015.
But as 2015 approached, various interest groups arose to confront and threatened to dismantle the Ibori plan for Okowa to succeed Uduaghan.
First among the agitators were the Urhobo who opposed the claim of the Anoima nation that it was their turn to produce the governor of Delta State. The Anioma people argued that Urhobo of Delta Central having produced a governor for eight years in the person of James Ibori (1999 – 2007), the Itsekiri of Delta South having Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan as governor (2007 – 2015), it was only reasonable, morally justified and proper that the Anioma nation be allowed to take a piece of the pie.
But the Urhobo rejected the Anioma claim arguing that there was no time the PDP had any agreement to zone the governorship of Delta among the three senatorial districts. They pointed out that since the state capital is located at Asaba in Anioma nation, it was irrational for the Anioma people to own the state capital and at the same time produce a governor. They also lamented that the Anioma nation had over 90 percent of federal appointments due to Delta State and therefore needed the governorship seat as compensation.
The argument encouraged many Urhobo sons to see the possibility of Urhobo succeeding Uduaghan and joined the race to aspire to become governor. Undaunted, the Anioma politicians held fast to their claim and a tout political tension was created.
At one end of the tug was the leadership of the Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) who were convinced that the Urhobo could succeed Uduaghan and boasting of its demographic strength, roared like a lion. From the UPU stable Ovie Omo Agege, Kenneth Gbagi, Paulinus Akpeki, Amos Utuama, Omene Ogene, David Edevbie and Vincent Oyibode were sported for the game.
At the Anioma end 14 aspirants indicated interest notably among who were: Ifeanyi Okowa, Victor Ochei, Tony Obuh, Godswill Obielum, Ndudi Elumelu, Clement Ofuani, Ngozi Olejeme, Sylvester Monye, Sam Obi, Peter Okocha, Festus Okubor, Charles Emetulu, Mike Uwaka and they all held the tug.
Earlier, the erstwhile Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe from the Ijaw axis also bounced into the field.
All actors began to play their tunes, consultations among the PDP stakeholders went on and as characteristic of Deltans, and no one saw the other as superior.
The UPU maintained its roaring tempo of reclaiming power and the Anioma led by the erstwhile Delta State PDP chairman, Chief Peter Nwaoboshi drew the UPU’s attention to the futility of its action.
At the plateau of the tug of war, Tony Obuh, a close ally to Governor Uduaghan was visibly drafted into the race and obviously enjoyed all paraphernalia of government support. His appearance intimidated all the other aspirants who ganged up to protest the glaring support Tony Obuh enjoyed from the state governor.
The UPU was pissed off to discover that Uduaghan, just like Ibori, was poised to subvert their desire to produce the next governor. They protested to the governor and to the hierarchy of the PDP at the national level, threatening that should Uduaghan be allowed to go ahead with his choice aspirant to clinch the PDP ticket, Urhobo nation would not vote for President Jonathan in 2015. Pressures came from all corners on Uduaghan to drop Obuh, at least for the sake of the political fortune of the PDP in 2015.
To consolidate and hold a firmer grip on the bid to produce the next governor, the UPU organised a mini-primary for its sons in the race during which, Olorogun David Edevbie emerged as the sole candidate of the Urhobo nation for the guber primary election.
Consequent upon this decision, the UPU asked all other Urhobo aspirants to step down for Edevbie; Chief Paulinus Akpeki and Prof. Utuama, the deputy governor complied with the UPU directive. Once this was done, Edevbie whose political campaign organisation was described as rag-tag was dismantled and all of a sudden the Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan took over the campaign structure to help the UPU dream come true, just 24 hours before the D-day.
It is not clear how the UPU were able to persuade Uduagha to it’s side but earlier when Uduaghan hoisted the Obuh flag as orchestrated by Chief Fred Majemite, Chief Ighoyota Amori, Monday Igbuya and a host of other Urhobo sons who claimed to be loyal to the governor, the UPU had placed a sanction on the Urhobo-born Obuh activists with a threat of the Urhobo ancestral curse hovering. Amori and others quickly retraced their steps, went back to the UPU to apologise, denounced Obuh and pledged loyalty to the UPU. They were pardoned. But Monday Igbuya never regretted his action and never complied with the UPU call for repentance.
It would be recalled that fortnight to the eve of the guber primary, the Itsekiri and Ijaws locked horns over the EPZ project and at the end of the day, the ground breaking ceremony for the project was aborted. The sad development, we learnt pitched Governor Uduaghan, represented by Chief Ayiri Emami against the Ijaw nation, represented by Chief Government Ekpemupolo alias Tompolo.
So, when Uduaghan made a dramatic shift in favour of the UPU choice, put in state, machinery to support Edevbie and with the likes of Ayiri Emani visibly taking up positions side by side with the UPU dream, all hell was let loose in the Ijaw camp. It was said that should Uduaghan be allowed to succeed with his new alliance to produce the next governor, the economic fortune of the Ijaws, as far as the Itsekiri expansionist threat subsisted, would be endangered.
At this point hopes were high that Edevbie who the media coincidentally described as the ‘dark horse’ was going to fly the flag of the party. But silently and aggressively, the Delta Political Vanguard, which is the political machine of Sen. Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa were working and ready to puncture and deflate the UPU cum Uduaghan combined force to seeing Edevbie emerge as the PDP flag bearer.
A week before the guber primary, Governor Uduaghan who had indicated interest to dislodge Senator James Manager from the seat of the Delta South senatorial district at the National Assembly stepped down and James Manager was re-elected. According to Prof. S.W. Ibodje, the decision of the governor to step down was in realisation of the reality of his incapacity to win. But the threat to take the seat of James Manager and the carry over of issues arising from the EPZ brouhaha had angered the Ijaw nation and they waited for pay back day.
It was also learnt that Chief Ighoyota Amori had not really been a friend of Olorogun David Edevbie right from the days when they both served in the Ibori administration. Again pay back time came on Monday, December 8, at the events centre, Asaba where the guber primary held.
Monday Igbuya who remained resolute against the UPU directive and saw the popular Uvwiamuge Declaration as hopeless, and coupled with the UPU threats, also poised for a show down with the UPU.
In Uvwie, Evelyn Oboro Ojakovo was also not well disposed to the UPU declaration and so lurked at the corner waiting for the kill order.
All these politicians were described as core Ibori loyalists. As we learnt, by this time, Uduaghan was already measuring his political strength with the Ibori political might, even though in prison, and when the gong was sounded, the last order was passed by Ibori to destroy the Uduaghan plot that tended to truncate his pledge to Okowa.
So, Ighoyota Amori, leading Ethiope West delegates, Monday Igbuya leading Sapele delegates and Evelyn Ojakovo leading Uvwie delegates all voted for Sen. Ifeanyi Okowa to emerge as the winner of the PDP guber primary election.
Ibori’s daughter, Erhiateke, was also said to be vehement at ensuring that her father’s order was carried out to the last letter and thus, Oghara delegates queued behind Okowa.
For reasons earlier explained, Chief Government Ekpemupolo gave the order to all Ijaw delegates to vote for Okowa and by the end of the day, with the votes of Urhobo divided and a huge support coming from the Ijaw nation, the Urhobo nation was ambushed and dealt a fatal punch below the belt. Okowa came out with 406 votes to beat Edevbie who garnered 299 votes.
Apart from the Ibori/Ijaw ambush, other reasons have been adduced to the dismal performance of the ‘dark horse’ in the race. Inside sources said the close confidants of David Edevbie were not faithful and helped to sabotage the endeavour. Some of them were said to be people of questionable character and for their presence, political weights that would have supported Edevbie stayed away and pitched tent with Okowa. Spies and agents of the Ibori political machine were also said to hold very sensitive positions in the Edevbie camp and finally, it was alleged that those trusted with money meant for the delegates never delivered, and so the UPU was disgraced with a knock out punch.
However, with the emergence of Gen. Muhammdu Buhari as the flag bearer of the APC, fears are in the corner that the threat of the UPU to vote against President Goodluck Jonathan should the PDP fail to produce an Urhobo man as its flag bearer may come to pass. The consequence is that the one million votes of the Urhobo people may be given to the opposition, APC, where an Urhobo son in the person of Olorogun Emerhor’Otega is the flag bearer. When that happens, the ambush of Ibori against the Urhobo may come to naught.