National Leader of the Niger Delta People, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, a first republican minister of Nigeria and a leading nationalist has charged His Excellency, Sen. Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, Governor of Delta State to give free hands to all aspirants from the Ijaw and Urhobo ethnic nationalities in Delta to contest the 2023 Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) primaries in the state. The Liberator Newspapers Worldwide can report.
The Elder Statesman made the assertion in an exclusive interview with The Vanguard Newspaper recently while speaking on the issue of Delta 2023 Governorship and its alleged zoning.
Chief Clark had in the interview asserted that despite the fact that he is more concerned and involved in national politics owing to his commitments, he will not seat down and watch any form of oppression meted out on any section of the state by anyone, stressing that he is the oldest and most experienced politician in Delta State.
Pa E. K Clark maintained that the only thing expected from His Excellency, Sen. Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, Governor of Delta State is to ensure that he provides a level playing ground for all aspirants during the party primaries in the state, warning that on no account should any section of people be deprived during the process.
He continued that on Okowa becoming the Governor of Delta State, he contributed largerly more than anyone for Okowa to become the Governor of the Delta State.
The interview reads in full below:
DELTA 2023 – THE TRUTH MUST BE TOLD
The fact that I have kept quiet on Delta State affairs since 2015 is not due to laying idle or being afraid of anyone in the State whether in government or outside government.
I categorically claim, to the glory of God and with all humility, that I am among the oldest politicians, if not the oldest politician in Delta State. It may be necessary at this juncture. to go through memory lane, to talk about my political life. After the reorganization of the Local Government system in Western Nigeria, between 1952 to 1955, several Local Governments were created in Western Nigeria. I contested election in my Local Government and won in 1955.
I later became a member of the National Council for Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) which Honorable Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe founded. During that period, I was elected Secretary of Zikist Vanguard in London in 1962, and Chief Vincent Egbaren, the Orikeze of Agbor, Chief Moses Obiekwe and Chief Ginikanwa, were amongst the other members. I was involved in student politics throughout my stay as Law student in the United Kingdom.
I returned to Nigeria as a qualified lawyer as an honorable member of the Inner Temple, London in 1965. After my return to Nigeria, I practiced as a Lawyer in Warri and I was later elected the first Secretary of the Warri Bar Association with Barr. Rufus Ogbobine as the first Chairman, the same year the Association was founded in Warri. When Barr. Ogbobine was appointed Judge, Dr Mudiaga Odje (SAN) became the Chairman. Some other prominent members of the Warri Bar Association at the time were Chief Ayo Irikefe, who later became Chief Justice of Nigeria, Chief Akpofure (SAN), the father of Efe Akpofure; Barr. Unurhoro who later became Justice Unurhoro, Chief J.A.P Oki, who later became the Chief Judge of Bendel State, Chief O.P. Edodo, Chief Isaac Jemide, Chief B.B. Idigbe, Barr. Igodo, Barr Esi, Justice Ajuyah, Barr. Olokor, Barr. Frank Mowoe, Justice F.O Awogu, High Chief Mike Usige, JP, etc.
When the coup took place in Nigeria in July 1966, Gen Johnson Aguiyi Ironsi became the Head of State, between January to July 29th, 1966. Gen Aguiyi Ironsi appointed Gen. David Ejoor as Military Governor of Midwest Region, Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu as Military Governor of Eastern Region, Col Mobolaji Johnson, as Military Gov of Lagos, Major Hassan Katsina as Military Governor of Northern Region.Col. David Ejoor appointed a few us into his Advisory Council, in addition to the senior military officers of Delta State of Midwest origin, who relocated because of the coup, to Benin City. The change of government created explosive tension in the country, almost leading to the break-up of the country. As a result, Gen. Yakubu Gowon appointed an Ad-hoc Committee to advise him in 1966. Recently, a famous old journalist, Eric Teniola, recounted the story in various daily newspapers in the country. This is what he said about me “In 1966 the then Military Governor of the Midwest Region, Col. David Akpode Ejoor, appointed him as Special Adviser, along with Anthony Eromosele Enahoro, Chief J.I.G Onya and Dr. Mudiaga Odje. He represented the Midwestern Region in the Ad-Hoc Committee set-up by Gen Yakubu Gowon, GCFR, that sat between Sept 12, 1966 and November 1st, 1966. The Midwest delegation was assisted by Chief T.E.A Salubi, Dr. Christopher Okojie, Dr. D.P Lawan, etc.
The proposal for the Midwestern Region at that time was a federation of the existing region and Lagos continuing as federal territory or becoming a region.The Midwest Memorandum considered the re-drawing of a Constituent Unit desirable and set-out the following criteria:Ethnic, Linguistic, Cultural affinity, Homogeneity, Historical Association (e.g., Hausa/Fulani, Efik/Ibibio), Viability (both absolutely and relatively, geographical, contiguity), Compatibility in size and Reciprocal Self-determination, etc. I am proud to say that our contribution to the Conference still keep Nigeria together today.
Col. S.O Ogbemudia invited me to join his government in January1968, where I served as Commissioner of Education, and later of Finance and Establishment. I contributed largely in the building of the University of Benin, and the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH), between 1970-1975, when I was appointed as One-man Council by Law, and later appointed as Chairman of Council and Pro-Chancellor.
In recognition of my services, I was honored with an Honorary Degree of L.L.D, Honoris Causa. The Faculty of Management Sciences was recently named after me. In Gen. Yakubu Gowon’s words, because of my good service in the Midwest State, he decided to “poach” me into his government as Federal Commissioner (Minister) for Information, to replace Chief Anthony Enahoro.
I was a founding member of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) When politics returned to the country in 1979, and I was a member of the National Executive Council of the Party, with A.M.A. Akinloye as National Chairman and Barr. Wakama Okoro as the National Secretary, Alhaji Shehu Shagari was elected President of Nigeria. NPN was the ruling party.
Dr. Alex Ekwueme was the Vice-President, Chief Joseph Wayas was the President of the Senate. I was also a Senator representing Bendel South.
When Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, the Military President of Nigeria became the President, he decided to create two States, out of the old Bendel State namely Edo State and Delta State in 1991. Edo State was to comprise the old Benin Province, which included old Benin Division, old Asaba Division, Ishan Division and Afemai Division. While the old Warri Province, now Delta Province comprising East and Western Urhobo Divisions, Western Ijaw Division, Warri Division, Aboh Division. Later, Isoko Division was created out of Eastern Urhobo Division. The two States were created based on the two old Provinces. Edo State was to have Benin as its capital, while Delta State was to have Warri Township as his capital.
This was an official decision taken at a meeting held at the residence of the Vice Military President, Admiral Augustus Aikhomu. In attendance, where His Royal Majesty, the Oba of Benin, Oba Erediauwa I; His Majesty, the Olu of Warri, Atuwatse II, Gen. David Ejoor, former Military Governor of Mid-West Region; Gen S. O. Ogbemudia, former Military Governor of Midwest State, Senator D.O. Dafinone, Chief O. P. Edodo, Chief Rita Lori-Ogbebor, Chief Sylvester Muomeke, Dr Oniawa, Chief Tayo Akpata, Chief James Otobo, Prof Sam Oyovbaire, who was the Minister of Information, was the Secretary of the meeting, and the notes of that meeting is still available.
Sadly, and regrettably, His Royal Majesty, the Olu of Warri, Atuwatse II and Mr. Allison Ayida, the former Secretary to the Federal Government with other Itsekiri leaders, protested to the Federal Military Government, that they did not want Warri Township to be capital of Delta State because the Urhobos and the Ijaws will dominate the State. Hence Asaba, which was the Headquarter of the old Asaba Division in Benin Province, eventually became the capital of Delta State Thus, Asaba Division which was originally part of the old Benin Province, was transferred to the new Delta State to form part of it, thereby increasing the population of Delta State over and above its counterpart, Edo State. Delta State has 25 LGAs while Edo State has 18 LGAs.
The old Aboh Division was the only Division that was part of Warri and later Delta Province. This sudden change created serious crisis and agitation in the original Delta people against the transfer of Asaba Division from Edo State to Delta State. Asaba town being the capital of Delta State, which has common affinity with Anambra State.
The original people of Delta Province swore not to go to Asaba. But later, peace prevailed, and on the condition that the Governorship position will not come from the former Asaba Division.
The fear the old Warri Province had with the none execution of the plan of making Warri the State capital, was that Warri will eventually become a desolate and abandoned Township, with no development, employment etc. because the oil companies will move out of Warri, in addition to the fact that no tertiary institution will remain in the city. The situation in Warri today, has born out the fears expressed in 1991, the city is abandoned.
However, with time we decided to live together in peace as citizens of a united Delta State, with equal rights to aspire to any position in the State. Hence some of us championed the cause of Delta North producing the Governor of Delta State in 2015 for inclusiveness and unity of the State.
For record purposes, I would like to mention how in 2014, His Majesty, Prof Edozien, the Asagba of Asaba, accompanied by eleven Traditional Rulers of Anioma extraction with Chief Benjamin Elue, former Deputy Governor of Delta State, as Anioma Congress Secretary, came to pay me a visit, requesting that an Anioma indigene be considered for the Governorship of Delta State in 2015, and to support them in their demand for Anioma State. His Royal Majesty, after our discussions, invited me to Asaba, to attend a mega rally organised at the Cenotaph. I was the Guest of Honour. In order to identify with the Aniomas, I dressed in Anioma attire. And when it was my turn to speak in reply to their address, I assured them that I will support their request, and I will see that it is realized.
At a subsequent meeting, with the Governor of Delta State, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, I discussed the matter with him and we agreed that the Delta North should produce the Gubernatorial candidate of PDP in 2015, for proper integration in the State.That was the reason why we recommended Dr Steve Oru to replace Godsday Orubebe as a Minister representing Delta State in Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s government, instead of Dr Cairo Ojougboh who is also from Anioma. Dr. Cairo Ojougboh then took Dr. Oru’s position as the Vice Chairman of the PDP in South-South.
I will like to state with the greatest respect that the main beneficiaries of these series of interactions, is our competent and intelligent Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, the incumbent Governor of Delta state.
This is just a prelude. I humbly submit, that without being immodest, and by the grace of God, I am the oldest and most experienced politician and statesman in Delta State today. I now wish to answer your questions:
1. Unlike the Edwin Clark we know, you have been unusually quiet on Delta 2023. What is happening Sir, is the lion exhausted or bidding its time?
Thank you, Mr. Emma Amaize. I have been unusually quiet on Delta State matters generally, and it is not because I am afraid of anybody. As I told Arise Television and Channels Television in Abuja some time ago, I am more involved in national politics as the leader of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and also the Chairman of Southern and Middlebelt Leaders Forum (SMBLF). We stood, and still stand, for our main objective, which is the restructuring of Nigeria, whereby each federating unit controls its resources, whereby each State contributes or pay taxes to the Federal Government. We are demanding that we should return to the 1963 Republican Constitution, which has been rightfully described as a “citizens-produced Constitution”, where it was spelt out, clearly, under Section 140 (1) that “There shall be paid to each region a sum equal to fifty percent of the proceeds of any royalty received by the Federation in respect of any minerals extracted in that Region, and any mining rents derived by the Federation from that region”.
With this provision, 50% of the sum gotten from the proceeds from a region where resources are found or originated, goes to that region; 20% goes to the federal government and the remaining 30% goes to the distributable pool, which is again shared amongst the regions and the federal government including the region that produced the resources. But now the Federal Government retains over 52% of the Federation Account and controls over 70 items on the Exclusive List. Hence, our request for a devolution of power to the States. Today, the Nigerian President is the most powerful president in the world including the United States of America, from where we derived our Constitution. Secondly, the un-acceptable encroachment of our lands by criminal herdsmen with AK-47 rifles on our farms and territories.
Thirdly, the continual lopsided appointment of the Federal Government where only people of the Hausa-Fulani origin is predominantly accepted into the federal service, a situation whereby fourteen out of seventeen security heads and service chiefs are appointed from the North against the three from the South. An action that is against the Federal Character Principle of the 1999 Constitution. This is unacceptable. These have been my preoccupation and hence, my belief that the Delta State issues are local and should be dealt with by our competent Governor and the people in Delta State. This does not, however, mean that I will be insensitive to any attempt or issue that is unjust and oppressive to certain sections of the State. You know Amaize, I am brutally frank in such matters.
2. Your ethnic nationality, Ijaw, is agitating for 2023 Governorship in Delta State. Some people contend they should wait till 2031 in a zoning arrangement by Senatorial District, which PDP plans to make official, this year, and allow Delta Central Senatorial District take the slot in 2023. What do you think?
It is unfair and unjust to classify me as a tribalist. It is true that I am an Ijaw man but I also have Urhobo, Itsekiri and Isoko blood flowing in my veins and I fully identify with them. But I hate injustice at all times and at all levels. Hence, I have decided to tackle national issues and Delta State issues at appropriate times. I wish to say categorically that nobody can control the destiny of another person except God. Therefore, nobody has the power and authority, even in government, to dictate who should or should not contest in 2023 or 2031.
3. Many think Senatorial arrangement is a better option for Governorship power sharing in Delta to the tribal option Ijaw is propagating. Do you share this view?
Yes, I agree with you, if adhered to. But unfortunately, in Delta State this has not been the case with previous experience. For instance, the Urhobo ethnic nationality politically known as Delta Central, has on various occasions violated the national principle stipulated by the PDP convention, by participating in every Gubernatorial election in the State since 1999, including Chief Edevbie, who contested with Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa in 2015. He was sponsored by UPU and the then Governor of Delta State, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan.
In 1999, it was an all-commers primary contest including Prof Sam Oyovbiare, Joshua Elueme, etc. I remember in 1999, Chief D.O Dafinone who was my respected friend, was said to have sponsored Professor Sam Oyovbiare against Chief James Ibori. Chief Ibori won with our support. Because of the role I played, I was appointed the Chairman of Chief Ibori’s flag-off campaign in Oghara in 1999. I still have the invitation card with me. Thereafter, I continued my support for him, when he won the gubernatorial election against Engr. Moses Kragha. I also remember in 2006, the Delta Southern Senatorial zone made up of the Itsekiris, Isokos and Ijaws formed an organization known as the 3 ‘I’s to produce a successor to Ibori.
The leaders of the three ethnic groups then were the Isokos headed by Chief James Otobo, the Itsekiris headed by Chief O. P. Edodo, and myself who headed the Ijaws. Prominent leaders of the three ethnic groups met at the PK Guest House in Government Reserved Area (GRA), Warri, where it was decided that the candidate will be declared in our next meeting and it will be followed by a mega rally to be held in Oleh, where I was the Principal Guest of Honour. But we were shocked when Governor James Ibori in abuse of his power, later organized a kangaroo primary election of the PDP at Ugwashi-uku and imposed his first-cousin, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, whom he had earlier appointed Commissioner for Health and later Secretary to Delta State Government, on the people of Delta State. Almost all the contestants were treated shabbily. They included Chief Ovie Omo-Agege, Olorogun Emerhor O’tega, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, Chief Ejaife Odebala, the late Chief Pius Ewerhido, Chief Charles Obule, Olorogun Oscar Ibru, Mr Sunny Onuesoke and Hon Napoleon Gbinije. Contestants from Delta North that year included Dr Cairo Ojougboh, Chief Godswill Obielum, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, Prof Fidelis Oditah, Chief Simon Ebonka etc.
In the 2015 gubernatorial election in Delta State, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan again wanted to impose his permanent secretary, Mr. Tony Obuh from the Ika-North-East on the people as his gubernatorial candidate against candidates like Chief Victor Ochei, Olorogun David Edevbie, Mrs Esther Uduehi, Dr Ngozi Olejeme, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, Hon Clement Ufuani, Hon Ndudi Elumelu, Chief Paulinus Akpeki, Prof. Sylvester Monye, Chief Ovie Omo-Agege and Hon Godsday Orubebe, from Delta South
4. Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and ex-Governor, Chief James Ibori, found themselves in a face-up and it is not over yet, on matters related to power sharing in 2023. What are your thoughts on this?
I am indeed very surprised to hear about any face-up between Chief James Ibori and Dr Ifeanyi Okowa as to who would be the Governor of Delta State in 2023. But if this information is true, I regard it as a futile exercise, as both have no power or authority to impose a candidate on the PDP members of Delta State. I humbly submit that my good son Chief James Onanefe Ibori has no moral justification as to choose who will become the next Governor of Delta State. As for Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, he has no right to impose a candidate on us because he was not imposed on us by his predecessor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan.
5. You were contacted and consulted in 2014 before Okowa finally emerged. Have you been contacted ahead of 2023?
No, no one contacted me before I decided to support Okowa in 2014. I did not know him before Mrs. Ifeoma Agbomah, a former member of the PDP National Executive, brought him to me in my house in Abuja. Since then, he has been very close to me and I find him very intelligent and sufficiently experienced to be the Governor of Delta State. However, despite the fact that I chose him as my gubernatorial candidate, he has never contacted me in all the appointments he has made in Delta State, particularly, when I learnt he appointed 29 State Commissioners to his government with recommendation from other leaders in Delta State. I am sure he has his own reasons for not consulting me and seeking my advice. But to be fair, his predecessor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, after our reconciliation in 2012, consulted me in most of his appointments. But I do not consider it an issue to worry about.
6. By the way, is there any understanding that Okowa would support Ijaw in 2023 to produce Governor. What was the nature of the working accord?
It is not to my knowledge and I was never a party to an arrangement that Dr. Okowa should hand over to an Ijaw person at the end of his term and there was no working accord known to me, it was not a part of the arrangement when I decided to support Dr Ifeanyi Okowa in 2015. It was not a matter between the Aniomas and the Ijaws. It was not based on any condition other than competence, equity and, fair-play. Having said that, I wish to emphasise that I do not think that the Ijaws are asking for a special favour, but that a level playing field should be provided for all.
7. Are you satisfied with Ijaw advocacy for 2023 Governor as led so far by Alaowei Brodenick Bozimo?
This is not a question of being satisfied with Ijaw advocacy for 2023 as led so far by my most respected younger brother, Alaowei Broderick Bozimo. As stated earlier, I have refrained myself from being involved in the affairs of Delta State in all ramifications because of my commitment to national issues. I believe, as free citizens of Nigeria and Delta State, the Ijaws and the Urhobos, like every other ethnic group in the country, are free to aspire to any position in Delta State including the Governorship of the State, in 2023 and beyond. However, I have watched with admiration and satisfaction that both ethnic groups are campaigning, and peacefully advocating their interest all over the State without rancour and bitterness, as it should be in any democracy. People who are interested, should, therefore, be allowed to contest the party primaries. The duty of our amiable Governor is to provide a level playing ground for all of them to contest and the best will emerge by God’s grace. His Excellency, who is a master in the art of conducting primaries, should allow them to do so. He is the acclaimed best returning officer so far, because of the free and fair PDP primary election he conducted at the 2018 historic PDP Presidential Election Primaries, which he conducted creditably in Port-Harcourt, where Alhaji Atiku Abubakar defeated about twelve other presidential aspirants from the North and none of the aspirants there after complained.
8. Okowa said he wants God to determine his successor. Do you believe that as a politician, he is saying the truth or he is playing on the intelligence of Deltans?
I do not think the Governor is playing on the intelligence of Deltans but he is merely finding a way out of becoming independent of the Ibori political family, which is presently promoting a gubernatorial candidate not favourable to him. Hence, he is saying that he is praying to God to determine his successor.
9. From the history of the State, since the new political dispensation in 1999, did ex-Governor Ibori and Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan allow God to choose their successors?
No. God is indeed Omniscient and the Creator of all living things, the power to make and un-make resides in Him, and He gives power and indeed all things, to whom He decides to give, and His actions are not restricted to one person who wants God to choose his successor for him.
I recall that some time ago, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, accompanied by two of his commissioners including Hon. Solomon Funkekeme, Commissioner for Works, called on me few days to the PDP primary election, and pleaded with me to support Tony Obuh. But I refused. I told him that Tony Obuh, who had been a Permanent Secretary under him, will definitely be his frontman. Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan later adopted Chief David Edevbie in conjunction with Urhobo Progress Union (UPU). This brings me to the issue of what has generally come to be known as the “Uvwiamuge Declaration”, which was a declaration made by the Urhobos on 4th November, 2014. I reproduce an excerpt of that document:
“PRESS CONFERENCE BY THE URHOBO PROGRESS UNION OF URHOBO NATION TOWARDS 2015 GENERAL ELECTIONS HELD ON 4TH NOVEMBER, 2014.
Gentlemen of the Press, Distinguished Ladies and gentlemen, I welcome you all with great pleasure to this all important press conference in respect of the position of the Urhobo Nation as it affects the 2015 general elections in relation to the Delta State Governorship seat as well as the presidential election…. It would be recalled, that in March 2014, the entire Urhobo Nation, under the auspices of the Urhobo progess Union (UPU) took a position, and emphatically stated that all registered political parties including the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the ruling party in Delta State should pick their Governorship flag bearers/candidates from the Urhobo nation. This was duly condensed into the “UVWIAMUGE DECLARATION”. The Urhobo people have accordingly remained resolute on this and we remain so….
HOW URHOBO INTENDS TO VOTE IN THE 2015 GENERAL ELECTION
Consequent upon the above undisputed facts, the Urhobo people, resident within the shores of Delta State and beyond still insist on the Uvwiamuge Declaration that “we will vote for any political party that gives its governorship ticket to an Urhobo person”. This, we will do in the various elections, including the Presidential.
NO ZONING EVER DONE FOR THE GOVERNORSHIP SEAT IN DELTA STATE
Let it be stated here without equivocation, that the assertion being made in some quarters that governorship seat in Delta State is zoned to Delta North Senatorial District is not true. Indeed, records abound to show that in all gubernatorial contests since the creation of Delta State and the current political dispensation which started in 1999, politicians from the three senatorial districts of the state, had always contested for the governorship position…. Repeat, the assertion being made by some persons in the Peoples democratic Party (PDP) that the governorship seat of Delta State is zoned to the Northern Senatorial District is a mere wish and at best a general conjecture by the propagators.
…. The present Exco of UPU met with the Governor to discuss its decision…, or gives, all parties a level playing group (sic).
It is at this juncture that Government Ekpemupolo alias Tompolo, came to me in Abuja, where we decided to adopt the candidature of Dr Ifeanyi Okowa.The arrangement for Dr Ifeanyi Okowa to become PDP gubernatorial candidate in Delta State with Barr. Kingsley Utuaro as his Deputy, was finally sealed in my house at a meeting attended by Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, Barr. Kingsley Utuaro, Senator James Manager, Government Ekpemupolo and myself.
The same Urhobos, are today, talking about zoning.
Let us accept, for the purposes of argument, that the eight years of Chief James Ibori (1999-2007), the eight years of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan (2007-2015), were regarded by the Urhobos of Delta Central Senatorial from Senatorial zone to Senatorial zone. But it was very clear in March 2014, that the same Urhobo leaders declared the Uvwiamuge Declaration, that there has been no Senatorial zoning in Delta State, that Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa’s candidature was not based on Senatorial zoning. Therefore, every Urhobo candidate was free to contest in 2015, because there was no zoning in Delta State. The UPU, went as far as mentioning my name in the last paragraph of the Declaration, that of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, that of the national leadership of the PDP and President Goodluck Jonathan, to provide a level playing ground for all contestants in the PDP primaries in 2014. Hence, they sponsored David Edevbie in 2015.
I repeat, no Governor in Delta State has succeeded peacefully in choosing his successor.
10. Do you think Okowa is under pressure to be saying he is waiting on God to direct him on his successor. Many think their Governor has also turned to a prophet?
Yes, I am very sure that Dr Ifeanyi Okowa is, like almost all of his colleague Governors of other States, under pressure. He is a member of the Ibori’s political family. He will find it very difficult to oppose his master’s nominee. I understand that Chief James Onanefe Ibori is the driver of the vehicle of the Urhobo DC-23 crusade. And I learnt that his anointed candidate is Chief David Edevbie, who has been his friend and close ally since they were students in London. Chief Ibori appointed David Edevbie Commissioner for Finance in 1999. He also recommended him to be appointed Principal Secretary to the President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s government in 2007.
After David Edvbie keenly contested the PDP gubernatorial primaries with Dr Ifeanyi Okowa in 2015, and Dr Okowa eventually won, I understand Chief James Ibori also recommended him for Commissioner of Finance in Okowa’s government, and Dr Ifeanyi Okowa accepted.
But in spite of the closeness between them, I do not think Dr Ifeanyi Okowa would like Chief David Edevbie to succeed him as Governor of Delta State, for obvious reasons. And no one would force him, very few will fault him.
11. It is the understanding of many that Ibori actually helped Okowa to power, but there is a school of thought that he supported David Edevbie in the 2014 primaries. Do you have reasons to think otherwise?
Thank you. But these are mere unhealthy speculations. I am surprised that our people do not sometimes follow the trends of events in our society, and can, therefore, conclude that Chief Ibori supported both David Edevbie and Dr Ifeanyi Okowa at the same time. How is that possible? The assertion is primitive, uncivilized, and incorrect and it is only unenlightened people who would believe such stories. I do not think that our intelligent Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa will believe such a rumour.
I am very confident and proud to repeat again that I contributed largely to Dr. Okowa becoming the Governor of Delta State.
12. Where were you and other leaders that frowned at Ibori for Uduaghan’s emergence at the time, he emerged through the party’s primaries to be PDP Governorship standard-bearers in the State?
We were all in Delta State at the time. And the aggrieved leaders immediately held a meeting at Dr. Cairo Ojougboh’s Royal Hotel in Agbor on January 21st 2007, to counter Ibori’s unreasonable and unacceptable imposition of his first-cousin, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan on the generality of the PDP members in Delta State. The meeting was attended by nearly all prominent leaders in Delta State under my chairmanship with members like Senator Chief F. S Okpozo, Senator Fred Brume, Senator Francis Nwajei, Chief Johnson E. Ukueku, Chief Godwin Ogbetuo, Hon (Wing Commander) P. Y. Biakpara rtd, Prof B. I. C. Ijomah, Col Mike Okwechime rtd, Chief D. E. A. Etaluku, Evang. Williams Ukpebitere, Chief P. O. Bolokor, Chief Mallam Obi, Chief G. O. Oghen, Chief Dickson Amagada, etc. We took a very serious decision at the meeting and moved to Abuja to pursue our case. We lodged at the Transcorp Hilton where the other aspirants included Chief Ovie Omo-Agege, Olorogun Emerhor O’tega, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, Chief Ejaife Odebala, the late Chief Pius Ewerhido, Chief Charles Obule, Olorogun Oscar Ibru, Mr Sunny Onuesoke and Hon Napoleon Gbinije. Contestants from Delta North that year included Dr Cairo Ojougboh, Chief Godswill Obielum, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, Prof Fidelis Oditah, Chief Simon Ebonka and Dr Ngozi Olejeme, etc. and had a series of meeting with President Olusegun Obasanjo at the Villa and presented some documents to him. The President called Nuhu Ribadu, the then head of the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and handed over the documents to him for investigation, after which Chief Ibori paid dearly for it. But all that is now history. I hope this answers your question.
13. Had Okowa ever discussed who he would not want to handover to with you and why?
No, Dr. Okowa never discussed who he would not want to handover to with me and in fact, it is unnecessary.
14. Finally, the choice before Okowa appear to be discuss and agree with Ibori on your successor or go your own way and face the consequences. What is your suggestion to him?
I repeat here again that Chief James Onanefe Ibori, former Governor of Delta State has no moral justification to interfere with whatever arrangement Dr Ifeanyi Okowa may wish to make as regards his successor and the threat to go your own way and face the consequences does not arise because Dr Ifeanyi Okowa is the elected Governor of Delta State and he is only responsible to the electorate and not to an individual.