– By David Diai
The journey of Delta State Governor-Elect Senator (Dr.) Ifeanyi Okowa to Government House (Osadebey House), Asaba, literally and definitively started on Monday, October 20, 2014 at the famous Oshimili South Arcade, Asaba.
That was the day when Senator Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, representing Delta North Senatorial zone at the National Assembly, formally declared his intention to contest the 2015 Governorship election in Delta state on the platform of the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, uttered a prophecy and told the world in very clear and unequivocally terms that out going Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, will hand over to him in 2015.
Making his declaration on that famous day, Okowa said’ “I have decided to take up the mantle of leadership of Delta State, to be your governor as from 2015. As you all know, I have dedicated myself to the service of my people all my life hence I have served in various capacities under successive administrations. My vision is to consolidate on a progressive government of peace and security that will add value to the transformation agenda in Delta State”.
Okowa, who described Governor Uduaghan as, “my Oga, my boss, my mentor”, said that Uduaghan had no other option than to hand over to him because, when he served as the first Campaign Director-General for Senator Patrick Osakwe, the distinguished Senator handed over to him in 2011. Having therefore served as Uduaghan’s first Director General of Campaign, the incumbent governor, it was therefore logical and categorical that, “in 2015, Governor Uduaghan will hand over to me.
“Uduaghan is my governor, my friend and leader. No matter what you hear, our friendship can’t be washed away. I will develop and improve on the good work he has started. We have always worked together as friends. I was the first Director General of his campaign and the relationship has been there. So when it is time, he will hand over to me,” Okowa prophesied.
The first part of that prophetic declaration came to pass on December 8, 2014, when Senator Ifeanyi Okowa once again confounded the huge political machinery arrayed against him and clinched the Governorship ticket of the party in a contest that left no one in doubt of his immense political structure and goodwill in the State and by so doing captured the biggest and most coveted political prize of all in the Delta state PDP.
It was indeed another defining moment in the mercurial and illustrious political career of Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, as he frontally took on the massive political structure that massed behind a near formidable opponent and triumphed in grand style, in a victory simply been described as phenomenal and achieved against the backdrop of almost the same manipulative political calculations in the 2011Delta North Senatorial contest, but this time with more definitive political implications and entrenched zonal dimensions.
For the avoidance of doubt, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa scored 406 votes and won the Delta state PDP Primaries with an impressive margin for a delegates election and in a transparent, free, fair and credible process, conducted in the full view of the world.
His closest challenger Olorogun David Edevbie scored 299 votes, while Engr. Victor Ochei polled 185 votes. The two other significant tallies were Hon. Ndudi Elumelu who got 50 votes and Elder Godsday Orubebe who got 49 votes, respectively.
Not less than 20 aspirants contested the 2014 Delta Governorship PDP Primaries, out of which 17 were from Delta North, Okowa’s Senatorila zone. However only 18 aspirants were on the ballot as the Deputy Gov. Professor Amos Utuama and Ogbuefi Ndidi Ujomor-Abanum both stepped down before the primaries commenced.
The second part of the prophesy came to pass on Monday April 13, 2015, when the final results of the Delta State governorship election, held on April 11, 2015, was announced.
In an authoritative manner that can best be described as a total demolition of the opposition political parties in the state by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Senator Okowa of the PDP scored won the Delta State Governorship election, in a pan Delta voting landslide, with 724, 680 votes to defeat the Labour Party, LP, Candidate Chief Great Ogboru who scored 130, 028 votes in second place, while the All Progressive Congress, APC, candidate Olorogun O’tega Emerhor was thrashed into a very distant third with 67, 825 votes.
Also, results collated from the 25 Local Government Areas released by the Delta State INEC and supervised by the state returning officer Prof. Bio Nyananyo, showed that the PDP and Senator Ifeanyi Okowa equally won a pan Delta landslide 21 Local Government Areas, namely: Ethiope West, Sapele, Oshimili South, Oshimili North, Bomadi, Isoko North, Isoko South, Okpe, Ika North East, Patani, Ika South, Ndokwa West, Burutu, Warri North, Ughelli South, Aniocha South, Ukwuani, Warri South West, Ndokwa East, and Aniocha North.
The Labour Party, LP, and Chief Great Ogboru captured Four (4) LGA’s namely: Udu, Uvwie, Ughelli North and Ethiope East respectively. The All Progressive Congress, APC and its Candidate Olorogun O’tega Emerhor did not win any LGA.
The voting margin of victory in itself and the spread of LGA’s were Senator Okowa won have more than any other considerations, completely underscored the pan-Delta nature of Okowa’s mandate as the next Governor of Delta State.
Announcing the final results, the Delta State Governorship election returning officer, Prof. Bio Nyananyo, affirmed that the election was duly contested, the political parties fielded candidates and the candidates received valid votes. He then declared that Senator Ifeanyi Okowa had received the highest number of votes and satisfied the requirements as contained in the constitution and the electoral law and has therefore been declared the winner of the election.
The third part of the prophesy came to pass on Wednesday April 15, 2015, when Senator Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, the Delta State PDP Governorship candidate and Delta State Governor-Elect, collected his certificate of return from the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, after being declared winner of the April 11, 2015 Governorship election in the State.
At a brief but precise ceremony held at the INEC office, Asaba and presided over by INEC National Commissioner, S/South, Dr Ishmael Igbani and Delta State Resident Electoral Commissioner Elder Aniedi Ikoiwak, the ceremony also witnessed the presentation of Certificates of return to the Deputy Governor-Elect, Barr. Kingsley Otuaro.
Responding on behalf of the successfully elected candidates, the Delta State Governor-Elect Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, noted that the success of the 2015 elections, Nigeria was gradually growing into the committee of elected democrats globally.
He then assured Deltans of his commitment and dedication to deliver on his mandate and pledged on behalf of all the elected members that they would do the right thing by providing the dividends of democracy to their respective constituencies and to Nigerians.
Others who collected their certificates were two Senators-Elect, Senator James Manager and Chief Peter Nwaoboshi, as well as 10 House of Representatives members, including Hon. Leo Ogor, Hon Ossai Ossai, Hon Daniel Reyenieju, Hon. Victor Nwokolo and Hon. Evelyn Obaro and first time Honorable members elect, Hon. Onyemaechi Mrakpor and Julius Pondi, who were present at the ceremony, amongst others.
The historic significance of this seamless and flawless presentation of the governorship Certificate of return to Senator Ifeanyi Okowa by Dr. Ishmael Igbani, was not lost on both men, especially when a minor administrative oversight at the presentation proper, caused an insignificant delay, and in that timeless moment, invoked sentimental memories of another Certificate of Presentation for the Delta North Senatorial seat, in June 2011, which also involved both men and another delay at that time, following the institution and summary vacation of a Court injunction by the then DPP Senatorial Candidate, Hon. Ned Nowko against Okowa.
Delta watchers will recall at that time that Dr. Okowa had not been presented with his certificate of return by INEC, during the official presentation to victorious candidates held at Grand Hotel, Asaba, for the reason that an Abuja Federal High Court had issued an injunction to stop INEC from doing so.
Witnesses at that presentation ceremony will recall that Dr. Okowa had lined up with other elected members to collect his INEC Certificate, but was denied by the INEC National Commissioner, who said that a Federal High Court injunction restrained them from doing that in response to a prayer by the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) Candidate, Prince Ned Nwoko who claimed that the elections had been flawed.
A remarkably calm Okowa had later told newsmen after the ceremony that although the decision not to present him with the certificate had come as a kind of shock, he will however instruct his legal team to look into the matter, which from the prayers contained in the injunction, was constitutionally a post-election issue meant for the election tribunal and not the civil Court.
The matter was subsequently resolved and Dr. Ishmael Igbani himself had returned to Delta State and Grand Hotel, to formally present the Certificate of return to Senator Okowa, who then proudly took his place in the Senate, as the Senator representing Delta North Senatorial zone, when the National Assembly was convened on June 6th 2011, for the 7th Session of the Senate.
The irreversibility of this particular 2015 presentation ceremony was however further underscored, when the candidates-elect in that room, some of whom were also present at the June 2011 ceremony, unanimously agreed to wait in solidarity, until the oversight was addressed and this singular action, by itself defined the unity of purpose and resolute affirmation of the elected representatives from Delta State to bond together with the unifying symbol of Delta’s political future in the new dispensation.
Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan was the first person to visit and congratulate Senator Okowa on his well deserved certificate of return and endorsement as the governor of Delta State and the same outpourings of goodwill were further established when Governor-elect Senator Ifeanyi Okowa paid a formal thank you Visit to Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan at Government House, Asaba.
Encapsulating the collective and developmental essence of the emergence of Senator Okowa as the next Governor of Delta State, Governor Uduaghan said, “Every segment of the state was involved in this victory. It is a pan-Deltan victory and we need to maintain this accord of being one state without division. Today is the crowning of so many years of hardwork and dedication; it is the will of God.”
Speaking further, Uduaghan noted that: “The victory is made possible by the credible candidate the party presented for the position. Our selection process as a party will be such that we will always get a credible and strong candidate for any position. Within the next few weeks, l will call a meeting of selected leaders in the party to review what has happened in the general elections in the state and use it to rebuild the party from the state level and this can also be useful at the national level.”
In his response, the Governor- Elect Senator Ifeanyi Okowa said he had come to say thank you to the Governor for all he did in ensuring the victory of the PDP in the State.
Okowa said: “We are particularly impressed that you debunked the ‘unholy rumor’ that was spreading like wild fire concerning your Excellency’s commitment to PDP victory. You were a General in the field and all you did motivated us. May God bless you and your family and keep us together as we move forward. I thank the Campaign organization. I thank the people of Delta State, and our party as well as our agents. You all did well.
“We will be loyal to you and to our leaders including Chief James Onanefe Ibori. Chief Ibori and Dr. Uduaghan remain the real leaders of the PDP in Delta State. We will remain as a family. No matter the issues leading up to the elections. But it is time to put those issues behind and chart a way forward. A lot of sacrifices need to be made by all so that as more people as possible can be accommodated in my administration,” the Governor-elect said.
Suffice it to say therefore, that the ultimate relevance of presenting the political trajectory and prophetic journey of Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, thus far, as he marches to occupy Delta State government House from May 29, 2015, not only re-affirms the centrality of his mandate in the collective ethos of an evolving post-equity Delta State, but equally establishes the critical balancing of the developmental and political challenges ahead both in governance and brinkmanship, in the next four years.
Okowa’s mercurial political career accomplishments have been chronicled expansively and extensively on virtually all media and other documented platforms.
A distinguished alumnus of the Great University of Ibadan (Great Uite), which on its own and without any prejudice, is an outstanding credential sufficient to qualify him for the governorship of Delta State, Senator Okowa has over the years, become council chairman, multiple serving commissioner, Secretary to the state government, Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, dogged political fighter, cerebral, humble, humane, philanthropist, strategic visionary leader, detribalized Nigerian; all of which have positioned and prepared him excellently to be the next governor of Delta State.
But placing Okowa’s mandate within the contextual and conceptual nexus of its polemic interpretation requires a deeper understanding of the indices that govern the governance and political temper of the power equation in Delta State.
Aniomas and Delta North will now heave a huge sigh of relief and feel a mighty sense of accomplishment and bragging rights, in the wake of Senator Okowa’s victory and rightly they should too. The old scab of the alleged 2007 Ogwashi-uku manipulation still itches periodically, but that old wound pales into insignificance when placed against the backdrop of the fact that the two main opposition parties in the state, All Progressives Congress, APC and Labour Party had already picked their governorship candidates; O’rtega Emerho and Great Ogboru, from Delta Central.
The political embarrassment and irrelevance of the Anioma people of Delta North would have been cemented forever, if David Edevwie, also from Delta Central, had won the PDP governorship primaries, which would have given the Urhobos the automatic ticket to produce the next governor at their own whim and by that singular act, dislocate the entire Delta North axis from the power structure of Delta State.
However, most discerning Delta political watchers will be quick to opine that the seeming homogeneity within the individual Senatorial zones is arguably more communal in Delta Central than in the other two zones. Senator Okowa himself had to contend with at least 15 other aspirants from across his own zone, all of whom felt equally capable of leading the state. Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan even had to make the ultimate political sacrifice in his own Senatorial zone, when the quest for the Senatorial ticket became unduly contentious.
Okowa’s pan-Delta mandate therefore, by ensuring the ultimate desire to complete the power rotation circle in Delta State, has also fulfilled the fundamental argument of equity and ensured that political stability and balancing has now been achieved in the state.
Again, the emergence of Senator Ifeanyi Okowa as Governor of Delta State must also be seen as a mandate fulfilled, when placed within the context of the proper political perspective in the evolving Peoples Democratic Party, PDP nomenclature in Delta State of the next administration.
Many PDP political watchers will agree that what has been the bane of the party over the years has been likened to a continuously brazen effort by the leadership of the party abandon the equity and ethics of internal and proceed in every election congress to allegedly impose unpopular candidates who do not enjoy the support or goodwill of the people.
It has been argued by certain key stakeholders, that the resounding electoral humiliation which the PDP suffered in the 2015 general elections was orchestrated mainly by disconsolate and discontent party leaders, who were embarrassed into political irrelevance in constituencies where the held sway, during the congresses and thus decided to retaliate with anti-party allegiances during the elections proper.
Delta State has not been an exception in this trend and in the wake of his victory after the bruising and acrimonious primaries for the 2011 Delta North Senatorial seat election, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa himself, after thanking the God and the people of Delta North for the victory, had called on the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to respect the choice of the Anioma people in deciding who represents them at the Senate.
Recalling what had transpired in the 2007 Delta North senatorial election, Senator Okowa had noted that despite the fact that a candidate had been foisted on the people by the national leadership of the party thus compelling the popular candidate of the party to join another party, the people still voted against the imposed candidate and the PDP scored less than 10 percent of the votes in that 2007 Delta North Senatorial election in the state.
Senator Okowa then uttered the following prophetic words after his victory at the PDP primaries in 2011: “We have put the PDP on notice; we have put the leadership of the party on notice, we have put Mr. President on notice that the people of Delta North love PDP but they must be allowed freely to make their choice on who stands for them.”
The uncanny coincidence of the same manipulative intrigues almost playing itself out in the run-up to the PDP 2015 governorship primaries remains a critical talking point for political analysts, but the redemption of the PDP, achieved with the resounding victory of Dr. Okowa both in the primaries and the elections proper has now provided a much desired post election deconstruction and re-invention of the political platform on which the party will now be structured with Okowa as the new party leader in the state, in a national political space where the PDP is now in the opposition for the first time.
But one thing is sure and that is the fact that the victory of Senator Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, especially during the PDP primaries in the state, is a clear testimony of his huge popularity with the membership of the party, who see him not only as a vibrant and dynamic symbol of the radical new reforms which the PDP dearly yearns but also a staunch advocate for the entrenchment of internal democracy and the ‘One Man, One Vote’ revolution, which will surely put Nigeria amongst the committee of democratic nations globally.
In the final perspective, Senator Okowa’s pan-Delta mandate has of course addressed the desire for equity in the power sharing rotational relay structure of Delta State, but intriguingly in it has also in that resolution, invoked a major governance challenge which will unravel in the next four years.
Okowa’s emergence as the next governor of Delta State is thus a mandate fulfilled in the sense that, as the man saddled with the last lap of the rotational governorship relay, he has received the baton under circumstances which compels him, as the anchor leg, to ensure that the administration and development race in Delta is not only sustained but indeed taken to record breaking heights; a condition already challenged by the unfavorable windy conditions of being Governor in a time of political opposition.
The conventional wisdom in every relay race is to always save the best man for the last leg and while Governors James Ibori and Emmanuel Uduaghan can be said to have run the governance race to set individual marks, Okowa is now saddled with the huge task of running the race not just to maintain that mark but to run for the whole team Delta and raise the mark to a height where it is possible to even break existing records, as the best man on the last lap of the power rotation relay race in Delta State.
Everything up to this time; the campaigns, the primaries and the elections proper, were just ‘Heats’ leading up to the final, which begins on May 29, 2015. The mandate for Senator Ifeanyi Okowa and Delta North has already been defined. His emergence as the next governor of Delta State is a prophecy come to pass. It is a mandate fulfilled in the political, social and existential annals and chronicles of Delta State.
History beckons for the man of destiny, as Delta awaits the promise of ‘Prosperity for all Deltans’. After all, as the slogan aptly puts it, for Senator Arthur Ifeanyi Okowa, “Our mata na him mata”… To God be the Glory.