On December 8, 2014, Senator, Dr. Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, emerged victorious in the Delta State Peoples Democratic Party, PDP primary election, when he was elected to fly the Party’s flag, by a resounding majority of the delegates that participated in the primaries, which was held at the Cenotaph, in Asaba, the capital of Delta State.
Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, who at that time, was the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, defeated 17 other contestants who physically took part in the contest, out of about 25 aspirants who had indicated interest to contest the primary election, to clinch the party ticket.
He won with 406 votes to trounce his closest rival, Olorogun David Edevbie, who received 299 votes. Victor Ochei, former Speaker of Delta State House of Assembly received 185 votes, Ndudi Elumelu, a House of Representatives member, got 50 votes, Godsday Orubebe, a former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, garnered 49 votes. Godswill Obielum, a retired Police Commissioner, received 22 votes.
Other top PDP aspirants in the contest, included; Prof. Sylvester Monye, Obarisi Ovie Omo-Agege, Dr. Ngozi Olejeme, and the late Sam Obi, who all received 10 votes each. Peter Okocha, a business mogul, received 6 votes. Festus Okubor received 5 votes. the late Tony Obuh, earlier presented as the favoured candidate of the Incumbent Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, received 5 votes. Charles Emetulu received 4 votes. Gabriel Oyibode and Johnson Opone both received 3 votes each.
Serial contestant Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi received 2 votes, while the relatively unknown Mike Uwaka received 1 vote. The Deputy Governor of the State at that time, Prof. Amos Utuama had earlier withdrawn from the primary, which had 1,121 accredited delegates, drawn from the 25 Local Government Areas in the State.
The primary election itself had been free, fair, credible, and peaceful, but it was the drama which preceded it, laced with high-tension intrigues, alignments, disagreements and the hovering uncertainty that the rotational power arrangement that had already seen two major Senatorial zones out of the three in the State, take their turns at governance, was going to be truncated, that eventually paved the way for the reshaping, refocussing, and repositioning of the PDP, in the next Eight years.
Senator Okowa’s convincing victory at the primaries was overwhelmingly applauded by the party as it had laid to rest, any doubts that the power rotation agenda was going to be scuttled and most importantly, it restored the credibility and integrity of the PDP as a Party that always stood for the principles of equity, fairness, and justice in its operations.
Prior to the December 2014 primaries, Delta PDP had been enmeshed in what was shaping up to explode into a sort of leadership conflict, when erstwhile State party Chairman, Peter Nwaoboshi, had relinquished the position, to contest for the Delta North Senatorial zone ticket.
In line with the Party’s constitution, the highest ranking member of the Party’s State Executive Council, SEC, from Nwaobishi’s Federal Constituency, would be elected to replace him, after an acting Chairman had been nominated to fill the vacuum for a specified period, before the election.
Chief Edwin Chukwunweike Uzor, the State Auditor of the party and a seasoned, loyal, and very committed long-standing party man, who was also the highest-ranking EXCO member from the Aniocha/Oshimili Federal Constituency at the time, was appointed as Acting Chairman for the 14 days period, which then prompted some high-level political maneuvers by very critical and concerned interests, to shop for their preferred candidate(s) for the position.
However, the Party, in its wisdom and by the consensus of a majority of the stakeholders and members, decided to settle and stabilize the leadership conundrum, especially ahead of the coming party primaries, with the official election of Chief Edwin Uzor, who had already satisfied all the requisite criteria required for the position.
Uzor’s election was in line with the party’s constitution that stipulates that should the party Chairman resign before the expiration of his term, the replacement should come from the same Federal Constituency that produced the former Chairman. It was also conducted democratically at an expanded stakeholders meeting of the party, following a motion of nomination moved by Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai, a member of the House of Representatives, and was seconded by the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Peter Onwusanya. The motion was put to a voice vote and the house unanimously endorsed and elected Chief Uzor as the new Delta State PDP Chairman.
It was only natural therefore that the party, following the successful election of its substantive State Chairman, would unanimously and resolutely rally round the rotation agenda and ensure that the unanimously accepted, favoured and preferred aspirant from Delta North, would eventually pick the party’s gubernatorial ticket, despite the obvious shenanigans that threatened to derail the Anioma Agenda and power-sharing arrangement.
There was no doubt whatsoever, that Senator Ifeanyi Okowa was the matrix on which all the pro-power rotation advocates congregated. He was the beacon of light which gave illumination and direction not only to the party, against the backdrop of the intrigues that were frantically being executed by certain interests which were even potentially damaging to the Party’s chances of victory in the coming general election, but indeed to the actualization of the Anioma Agenda, which was the desired aspiration in the power-sharing convention, amongst the three Senatorial zones in the State.
With the primaries thus settled and the party now speaking with one resounding voice, the campaigns for the general elections commenced in earnest and the overwhelming support and acceptance of Senator Ifeanyi Okowa as the next Governor of Delta State, was incredible and amazing to behold.
Okowa had already endeared himself to the PDP faithful across the three Senatorial zones in the State, after his staggering performance in the PDP Guber primaries preceding the 2007 elections, as well as his fearless, unshakable resolve against manipulation in the Delta North Senatorial primary election, that heralded his victory to the Senate in 2011. He was a well-known and beloved champion of the party going into the 2015 Gubernatorial election and Deltans loved and trusted him unconditionally.
The PDP won the Delta State Governorship election with a landslide victory and a margin that had never been recorded in the electoral history of the State before. The 2015 Delta State Gubernatorial election, which was the 7th in the State, was held on April 11, 2015, and Senator Ifeanyi Okowa scored a whooping 724,680 votes to defeat Great Ogboru of the Labour Party who got a measly 130,028 votes into a distant second position.
Much has been written and said about the outstanding achievements of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s administration in the last Eight years, especially in the creation of over 100,000 Jobs through STEP, YAGEP, PPSP, and other entrepreneurial initiatives; the prompt and regular attention to payment of workers salaries, increments, the pension scheme and other welfare packages like the life-saving contributory health scheme, the monumental infrastructural development and the delivery of legacy projects including over 2,000 kilometres of roads, across all the three Senatorial zones in the State.
There were the storm drainages to mitigate the incessant flooding in the two capital and commercial cities, the bridges of unity connecting hitherto inaccessible communities, the audacious transformation of the Education sector with three new Universities amongst others, the major interventions in sports, healthcare delivery, the aesthetically breathtaking urban renewal transformation of Asaba the capital city with the massive upgrading of the Airport and reconstruction of the Stephen Keshi Stadium to real international standards, the recalibration of interventionist agencies, like DESOPADEC and the Micro, Medium and Small Enterprises Agency to fully deliver on their proper mandates, and most importantly in the sustainable peace which has been established across the State, all encapsulated in the brilliant and cerebral SMART AGENDA blueprint.
Suffice it to say however, that one of the more accomplished successes of the Eight years of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s administration is the masterful, strategic, and all-inclusive approach with which he handled the affairs of the party in Delta State.
As Governor of the State and leader of the Party, he consolidated on and ensured that Party was Supreme in all decisions that involved maintaining and sustaining the internal democracy of the party. His clarion admonition to all party faithful was very simple: Power must return to the people at the grassroots and the people must be allowed to elect their leaders. No more imposition.
He also charged them to elect only popular candidates who were the choice of the people and had the capacity to deliver on the mandate of the party.
Governor Okowa equally embarked on a robust effort to unite and harmonize the party across the three Senatorial zones and typical of his leadership style, he encouraged and consistently supported consensus building which has always been the strength of the party, and ensured the regularity of zonal stakeholders meetings, which brought party faithful together in a convivial atmosphere where hatchets were buried and members wined, dined and made merry like one big happy family. These meetings were always greatly anticipated and well attended by members even at short notice.
Another major initiative of the Okowa leadership master plan was that the Vice Chairmanship position in all Local Government Councils must be given to women and this has become the norm across all the LGAs in Delta State.
On May 10, 2016, Okowa undertook one of his major tasks since he assumed office as Governor of Delta State and the undisputed leader of the party, which was to midwife the emergence of a new Party Executive.
Following his emergence as Governor from Delta North Senatorial zone and in line with the Party’s constitution, the Chairmanship would subsequently rotate to another Senatorial zone, this time to Delta Central, after the expiration of Chief Uzor’s completion tenure, for Delta North.
At the congress which was conducted by an 11-man team from the PDP Secretariat in Abuja, led by Dame (Mrs) Uzo Nwandu and supervised by a team of officials from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Barr. Kingsley Esiso emerged as the Chairman of the party while Barr. Val Arenyeka was elected as Deputy Chairman.
Others who emerged victorious in the congress which was free, fair, transparent, and devoid of any form of rancour were, Mr. Moses Iduh, Vice Chairman – Delta North Senatorial District; Chief, Dr. A.P Fovie, Vice Chairman – Delta Central Senatorial District; Hon. Emmanuel Amgbaduba, Vice Chairman – Delta South Senatorial District; Chief Godday Nzete – Secretary; Mr. John Okoroloko, Assistant Secretary; Hon. Deighan Macaulay, Treasurer; Hon. Tony Anuku, Assistant Treasurer; Mr. Ralph Azeh, Financial Secretary; Dr. Ifeanyi Michael Osuoza, Publicity Secretary; Mr. London Owofasa, Assistant Publicity Secretary; Mr. Sunday Onoriode, Organizing Secretary; Barr. Odior Bernard, Legal Adviser; Barr. Hessington Okolo, Assistant Legal Adviser; Chief J. J. Scott, Auditor; among others.
The harmonious understanding and symbiotic working relationship that existed between Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and the party equally resulted in the seamless conduct of Local Government elections where popular candidates were elected as Chairmen and Vice-Chairpersons and Councillors across all the LGAs. This smooth relationship also ensured that all party Chairmen and executives at Local Governments, Wards, and Units were chosen by party members at the grassroots and not imposed.
It was therefore little wonder that on September 30th, 2018, in the PDP Governorship primary for the 2019 general elections, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa was adopted and endorsed as the sole candidate of the party, but in his typical style of making sure that things were done according to due process, he insisted that a proper primary election process be conducted.
The exercise was supervised by the PDP election panel, headed by Mrs. Uzo Nwandu, who announced that Dr. Okowa polled 3,252 votes after delegates from the 25 Local Government Areas, including former Governor, Chief James Ibori, who was among the party’s delegates, voted during the primary, which held in Asaba, the State capital, to see Governor Okowa emerge the re-elected winner. Okowa also retained his Deputy, Deacon Kingsley Otuaro, as his running mate for the 2019 election.
The Governorship election which took place on March 9, 2019 also ended in a landslide for Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and the PDP. Governor Okowa won in 23 of the 25 Local Government Areas in the State while his closest rival, Chief Great Ogboru, this time flying the flag of the All Progressives Congress, APC, won only two Local Government Areas.
Official results from all 25 LGAs released by INEC showed that Okowa and PDP polled 925,274 votes while Ogboru scored 215,938 votes.
On Saturday, August 8, 2020, Olorogun Kingsley Esiso and the entire State Executive Committee of the party were returned unopposed for a second term at the helm of affairs in the party and PDP, despite not being in control at the centre, maintained its dominant supremacy in the State, even winning virtually all the bye-elections conducted in the period under Governor Okowa’s astute, strategic leadership.
The 2023 general election was however, not only going to provide a major watershed in the political and electoral trajectory of both Delta State and Nigeria, it would also test and task the resoluteness of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa in his unwavering resolve to stand firmly on the path of equity, fairness and due process, in the determination of who would eventually pick the PDP Governorship ticket as his successor, in 2023.
The two major principles which have guided him unerringly since he assumed office in 2015, were to serve him well again in the run-up to the 2023 electioneering season. The first was his unflinching belief that power comes from God alone and his implicit trust and confidence in the divine guidance of God in the selection of who would succeed him as the PDP flag-bearer. The second was his long-standing belief that power belongs to the people; _vox populi, vox Dei_ , and they must be allowed to determine who they will choose as their candidate, either by consensus or by the majority in a proper, free, fair, transparent, and credible primary election, conducted on a level playing field for all the aspirants.
This was the exact scenario that played out on May 25, 2022, when the PDP conducted its Governorship primaries and Rt. Hon. Sheriff Francis Oborevwori, Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, who was the choice of the majority of the delegates, which also automatically made him Okowa’s choice as well, emerged victorious with a landslide that was even greater than when Governor Okowa himself contested the remarkable similar acrimonious December 2014 primaries.
Declaring Oborevwori as the winner of the primary election, with 597 votes, the Chairman of the panel, Mr. Ndubuisi Nwobu said the closest challenger, David Edevbie scored 113 votes, Senator James Manager got 83 votes, Chief Fred Majemite had 6 votes, Barr Peter Mrakpor, 9 votes, Deacon Kingsley Otuaro, 9 votes, and both Mr. Abel Esievo and Chief Ejaife Odebala, had 2 votes each.
Nwobu who described the election as a family affair, adding that the primary election was free and fair, confirmed that the election committee accredited a total of 824 delegates for the primary elections, out of which 821 votes were cast, with three voided votes.
It is also important to note that following his declaration as the winner of the Delta PDP Governorship primary, an avalanche of intrigues, threats, litigations, misleading propaganda, and other sponsored attacks, particularly from within the party and by opposition elements, were unleashed on the person and candidacy of Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori, with the primary intent to disqualify him from contesting the Governorship election as the PDP Flag-bearer and even the more sinister agenda of completely removing the PDP from the ballot.
But, one by one, all the plans failed, all the plots were botched, and even the litigations which were decided before the election were all in Sheriff Oborevwori’s favour. With the colossal failure of all the adversarial attacks, the plotters had no other choice than to show their true colours by defecting to the opposition in the hope that this would be the joker and game changer that would weaken and possibly sink Governor Okowa and PDP in the Guber election. But, the inspirational saying goes in Delta, “God Pass them”
Indeed, while the high voltage power play was going on in Delta PDP, Governor Okowa, who was also the Chairman of the PDP South-South Governors Forum, had quite fortuitously, been picked by the PDP Presidential candidate, His Excellency, Atiku Abubakar, to be his running mate on the joint ticket of the party for the February 25, 2023 Presidential Election, despite another extremely acrimonious power end game which had played out at the National level and was embellished with some bitter, misleading and deliberately pedalled falsehoods. The rest, as they say, is history, which is still unfolding.
The March 18, 2023 Governorship election was indeed much closer in margin than previous elections, but Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori and the PDP coasted home to victory with a substantial votes difference which still underscored and consolidated the supremacy of the PDP as the number one party in Delta State, inspite of the best efforts of the detractors.
Declaring the result at the INEC Collation Centre in Asaba, the INEC State Returning Officer Prof. Georgewill Owunari, Vice Chancellor, University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, said Sheriff Oborevwori of PDP polled 360,234 votes to defeat the All Progressives Congress, APC Candidate Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, who scored 240,229, while the Labour Party candidate, Kennedy Pela came a distant third with 48,047.
Oborevwori and PDP also won in 21 out of the 25 Local Government Areas of the State leaving the APC with four Local Government Areas, to make him Governor-elect of Delta State for which he has already been presented with his Certificate of Return.
It must be placed on record categorically that the last Eight years of the party under Governor Okowa’s leadership, has been the longest period in the history of Delta PDP, without any mutiny, insurrection, or restiveness by angry and disgruntled members to topple or sack the leadership of the party; a scenario which was quite synonymous with the party in the past, and there was no major upheaval or angry protestations to disrupt, scuttle or truncate the timetable of the transition congresses and Local Government Elections.
The last Eight years was the first time that elected PDP lawmakers did not rebel against the leadership of the State Assembly where they were in the majority and the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori not only completed the tenure of his predecessor but commenced and is now poised to complete his own full tenure as the number one legislator in the State, with the unalloyed support of his party members.
The last Eight years of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as the leader of the PDP witnessed the most peaceful era in the history of the party where issues were resolved with tact, discipline was established by due process and the party defended and acquitted itself with cerebral decorum, matured responsibility, tolerant and understanding accommodation, and admirable equanimity.
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa in the last Eight years, has reshaped, refocussed, and repositioned the party to do MORE exploits and achieve MORE successes in the years ahead.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Osuoza, Ph.D., is the state publicity secretary, Peoples Democratic Party, Delta State.