Chief James Onanefe Ibori, former governor of Delta state, is at present fighting his last political battles. His political survival and relevance in Delta and in fact the Nigerian political space lies on his success in the ongoing political warfare. Although the war being fought does not require guns nor does it require the exchange of hot words with his opponent, it is fiercer than can ever be imagined.
His political relevance from 2023 lies on winning this war. If he fails and his political foes take over the space, he will be losing more than can be imagined in Delta. His political dynasty, very likely, will collapse. His respect as the father of Delta state politics will crash like pack of cards. His hold to political power and participation in decision making or at times dictating what, where and who in the political space will no longer carry the dignity it has exuded over the years.
From 1999 till 2019, Ibori had played significant role in the building of modern Delta state. He has been the king maker and dictator of who becomes what in the governorship of the state. He decided the emergence of former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan in 2007. And when he was in London prison over fraud issues, he was regularly consulted before the emergence of any guber candidate.
During the 2015 governorship election, many of the aspirants paid regular visits to London where he was serving the jail term. Their visit was to consult him and hear his decision. And whatever he said, whoever he chose emerged in the desired office. He played a critical role in the emergence of the incumbent governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa. He has been a lord and every Deltan is aware of that. His decisions are rarely pushed aside.
Many of the politicians in the state, the big boys in the likes of Chief Ighoyota Amori, the David Edevbie, Ovie Omo-Agege, James Manager, Peter Nwaoboshi, and a host of others were made by him. That is why he is respected and given the regard due to him. Though people outside Delta see him as a criminal, the people of Delta, though agreed that he stole, they see him as the man who developed Delta more than any of the governors after him. He opened opportunities for many and brought many to political limelight.
He has been enjoying the glory over the years as the Odidigborigbo of Africa. The mention of his name and his presence elicits high ovation, even among youths and women. But the glorious days appear to be fading away in the build up to the 2023 governorship primaries. His decision in who emerges as governor seems not to be yielding the required results as the years gone by.
The incumbent Governor Ifeanyi Okowa seems to be unyielding to his wishes. Ibori is said to be pressing for David Edevbie to emerge as the 2023 PDP governorship candidate but Okowa is not ready to give listening ears to the call of his political godfather. He is reportedly bent on producing his own candidate away from the dictate and wish of Ibori, the acclaimed godfather of Delta politics.
The battle has been ongoing for long. It is getting to a teething point as the primaries are getting nearer by the day. Even now that Okowa’s candidate is seen as unfit for the race due to scandal surrounding his academic credentials, Okowa is not looking at Ibori’s direction in the choice of a possible replacement. Here lies the battle of Ibori. As at present, Ibori is in a political dilemma. The battle is for the control of the soul, the spirit and the body of Delta state. This is his last battle. If he loses, he has lost out of Delta politics.
The facts are clear. The writing is visibly on the wall. As soon as he loses and Okowa wins the race, his political dynasty crashes along with him. Governor Okowa will then begin a new lineage of political leadership having brushed his former boss out of the way. This is why Ibori is moving and assembling his entire political arsenal to ensure he does not lose out in the 2023 elections. He is reported to have met some power brokers in the nation to prevail on Okowa to back his aspirant but it has not yielded the result.
The leadership of Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) had appealed to the governor to forgive every perceived wrong done by Edevbie, that appeal has not yielded the necessary reaction from the governor. Ibori seems lost at the moment on what next line of action to employ. There is one tactic left for him. That is mobilizing the delegates for the governorship primaries. That is the hope Ibori has at the moment. And he must employ it if his authority must remain intact in the politics of the state.
The delegates could be sympathetic to him if they are well mobilized. But Okowa is also not letting the delegates take their own decisions. He has reportedly invited councilors to government house for discussion. Other aspirants are also mounting pressure on them to woo them to their sides and secure their votes. Even the delegates themselves are in a state of sixes and sevens. However, being the governor and leader of the party, Okowa has more authority over the delegates than any other individual or aspirant in the state.
For now, one cannot actually tell who goes home with the political trophy between Okowa and Ibori. One thing certain is that one person will smile home, feeling fulfilled while the other will go home with bowed head and lost hope. If Ibori wins, the lineage will continue to flourish, but if Okowa wins a new political history will beckon on Delta. The choice is in the hands of the delegates, the wooing and pressure notwithstanding.
But as a Deltan and keen follower of Delta politics since the emergence of true democracy in 1999, who do you think should decide the direction of Delta state? Is it Ibori, Okowa or the Delta people? Do you think the grip of Ibori on Delta can be broken? Do you think Okowa can win over Ibori in the coming primaries? Or do you think any other aspirant can win the primaries outside Ibori and Okowa’s choice?
There are other aspirants who are pulling weight outside Ibori and Okowa’s candidates. Olorogun Barrister Kenneth Gbagi does not seem to be a push over. No, not at all! Surprises are bound to come. Gbagi could be the winner as the battle between Ibori and Okowa seems to have divided the two kingmakers. The day is not too far. Let’s wait. May 25 will tell.