- Ibori, Jonathan, Sherrif, Markafi Factor
- Kachikwu, Utomi, Ochei, Others Battle Delta PDP
By John Oghojafor
Barely two months afterwards the House of Assembly By-election in Warri South Constituency II which was won by the candidate of the Accord Party, Hon. Mrs. Daibo who is believed to have been sponsored by the Delta State PDP, indications are that the governor, Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa may have, for the same reason, set in motion machinery to reach out to the All Progressive Congress (APC) national body, the presidency and the National Assembly, possibly to switch camp and secure the party’s governorship ticket for 2019.
It would be recalled that the split in the national body of the PDP which has become a subject of a pending litigation at the Supreme Court has pitched the Delta State PDP, which is loyal to the Makarfi faction, against the Modu Sheriff de jure national chairmanship faction of the party. And in order to beat the trap of estrangement by the Sheriff faction, Governor Okowa and the State PDP was believed to have sponsored its choice candidate in the Warri South Constituency I by-election through the platform of the Accord Party.
However, if the report reaching The New Diplomat is anything to go by, it shows that the Governor, apparently becoming somewhat desperate, is reaching out to the APC at the national ostensibly to strike a deal for him to cross carpet on condition that he should be allowed to pick the party’s governorship ticket for 2019 election to do his second tenure.
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Several sources who confirmed the latest moves of the governor on condition of anonymity, point to the fact that he has positioned some key APC officials and chieftains both at the presidency and at the National Assembly who are working round the clock to perfect a strategy on how the plan would work out without losing his PDP stronghold at the state level.
The New Diplomat investigation reveals that there are three basic reasons why Governor Okowa may have opted for an alternative platform for a second term in office even when 2019 election is still some time away. First is the uncertainty that is still beclouding the true position of the Ibori political family godfather, Chief James Onanefe Ibori. Barely two months after his return from London, Chief Ibori made a public statement in Oghara, urging Urhobos in PDP to rally round Governor Okowa for 2019. The statement sparked wild jubilations among supporters of Governor Okowa across the state. However, some very thoughtful members of the party were worried that although the former Governor has publicly endorsed Governor Okowa for a second term, he stopped short of specifying the political party under which Governor Okowa could draw his support.
The above school of thought has also not lose sight of the fact that, although it has been said that politicians have no permanent friends nor permanent enemies, it is doubtful if Chief Ibori could remain in the PDP with the likes of the former president, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, who was believed to have been responsible for rail-roading him into prisons in London. In fact, a very close ally of the former governor told The New Diplomat that “I doubt if James would remain in the PDP as long as the former president, Goodluck Jonathan is still calling the shot in the party.”
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Chief Ibori may have “forgotten and forgiven” his adversaries as he put it during a church thanksgiving service on Sunday June 25, 2017 in Warri, but another dimension to the uncertainty of his position could be traced to his insistence that he is yet to make public some strategic issues concerning his political disposition. “The time is coming, I shall tell my own story”, he insisted. Whether the “story” Chief Ibori is referring to is going to be a bombshell of his possible defection to the APC or any of the emerging new political parties remains largely unknown. But political analysts in the state believe that the former governor’s body language is tilting towards a change that may not be in favour of the PDP and ultimately, the state governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa. Some are however of the opinion that the governor, Okowa must have read the handwriting on the wall and is poised to “running for his dear political future”.
The second school of thought which attempts to give credence to the alleged move by Governor Okowa to reach out to the APC national for a possible adoption, might not be unconnected with the lingering crack in the national leadership of the PDP in which the Delta State chapter of the party has irrevocably aligned with the Makarfi faction. For now, the Supreme Court is yet to make a judicial pronouncement on who is the actual national chairman of the PDP. However, relying on the subsisting ruling of the Court of Appeal, Modu Sheriff remains the de jure national chairman of the party and he is the one calling the shot in all matters concerning the party, including who becomes its candidate in any election. So, for as long as the matter remains with the Supreme Court and, for as long as Sheriff is recognized as the national chairman, and also for as long as the Delta State chapter of the party maintains its stand with the Makarfi faction, it is believed that the governor may have to work out a plan B should the who drama turns backfires on him.
The third reason why Okowa may be exploiting an APC option to promote and project his second term plan has been linked to the fact that many powerful politicians from Delta North are warming up to contest the 2019 governorship election on the platform of the APC. Prominent among the alleged political juggernauts are the incumbent Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu who, though was not a known politician before 2015, has been assigned the co-leadership of the APC in the state and his body language points to the fact that he is favourably disposed towards an opportunity where he would exhibits his wealth of experience as a technocrat to rescue the state from its present economic predicament. The New Diplomat tried unsuccessfully to reach him for his comment on this. But more visible in the governorship race in recent times is one of the founding members of the APC at the national level, Prof. Pat Utomi who is also from Delta North. He has been criss-crossing the entire length and breadth of the state, making consultations with prominent politicians and traditional rulers. Although many whom he had visited have not confirmed the open declaration of his governorship ambition, it is believed that the consultation visits which he embarks on under the auspices of the Prof. Pat Utomi’s Foundation, carries the message of someone who is seeking for a strategic political leadership in the state.
Another threat to Okowa’s 2019 ambition is the position of the former speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Victor Ochei. Ochei, a former PDP chieftain from Aniocha North Local Government Area of the State, had contested the 2015 PDP primary with Governor Okowa where he placed second position. Dissatisfied with the result and the party, he defected to the APC after the 2015 election. Although somewhat very mute of recent, analysts believe he still mulls the ambition of unseating Okowa on the platform of the APC. All effort to get Ochei speak up on his current stand politically, has been unsuccessful.
The New Diplomat investigation further reveals that Okowa’s fear of the unknown path towards the 2019 may not be unfounded. According to a source, “the governor’s worry is deeply rooted. At the moment, those who have tacitly indicated interest for the governorship race are from his senatorial district. Besides, the people are no pushovers financially and otherwise. They also have strong backing of the national ruling party and its might. Another sensitive calculation which Okowa is doing has to do with the mindset of the people of Delta North who may not see any difference between Okowa and any of the governorship hopefuls from the area. “We will cast our votes for anyone whom we know can deliver provided he is from Delta North, a top PDP chieftain from Kwale in Ndokwa West told The New Diplomat. For now, Okowa may not be in any state of apprehension as far as Delta Central and Delta South are concerned. As for Delta Central, for instance, he believes the Ogboru factor which has always posed a nightmare to him has dwindled down. He said this much while addressing the Urhobos in Sapele recently during a mega rally organized by the party. According to him, with the information available to him, “one of your sons who was always contesting every time may not contest this time around.” Besides, it is also believed that there is a general agreement among the Urhobos in PDP allowing Okowa to do his second tenure and hand over to an Urhobo candidate in 2023. Okowa also believed that, give and take, the PDP policy of zoning which has been entrenched in politicians across the divide in the state has also been imbibed by the APC. Delta South seems settled with the position of the Deputy Governor and with the likes of Senator James Manager whom may be allowed to have his way to the Senate for the umpteenth time, the political equation may not change from that axis in PDP. This leaves Okowa with Kachiukwu, Ochei, Utomi and possibly any other aspirants that may come up between now and 2018, to contend with.
Okowa’s alleged overtures to the APC in Abuja is therefore hinged on the factor that he be allowed access to the ruling party with a guarantee for his 2019 governorship ticket in his pocket. How successful this could be is yet to be fathom out but sources close to the presidency confirmed that Governor Okowa has links to a top aide of the President who is a journalist whom he is using as a strong contact.
The governor is also alleged to be relating with a serving senator of the Northern extraction who is a principal officer to see how he could be adopted along with his 2019 ambition. He is also believed to hobnobbing with a popular APC chieftain in the Southwest who, some say, has been a stakeholder in the economy of Delta state for some time now.
An insider who spoke with The New Diplomat on condition of anonymity, revealed that Okowa has set up a very strong contact team who are based in Abuja to coordinate the contacts and negotiate on behalf of the governor.
The success of Okowa’s maneuvering to bulldoze his way into the APC seems to depend on the complacency of the APC chieftains who have indicated their interest in the governorship race from Delta North. However, the newspaper also gathered that failure to get into the APC boat with his cargoes, Okowa may consider the option of any of the emerging new political parties on the ground that Supreme court decide in favour of Sheriff.
Although Okowa has so far acknowledged the leadership of Chief James Ibori as the political father of the PDP, it is not very clear if he would accept that his 2019 governorship ambition be traded off per adventure the former governor choose to pitch tent with the APC. For now, Okowa’s move remains discreet while his followers sing his praises to the high heavens.
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