As the 2023 general elections gather momentum, stakeholders are aligning their forces to get cracking.
In Delta State, the battle line seems to have been drawn between the godfather, Chief James Onanefe Ibori and governor Ifeanyi Okowa.
Ibori was the governor of the state between 1999 and 2007.
Over the years, beginning from 1999, Ifeanyi Okowa has been enjoying the grace of James Ibori for his political ascendancy.
The Agbor born medical doctor was at various times commissioner at different ministries.
In addition, Ibori influenced his appointment as Secretary to the State Government, SSG, under the administration of former governor Emmanuel Uduaghan.
He thereafter became a Senator before assuming executive position as governor of the State since 2015.
However, for the first time in the political history of Peoples Democratically Party, PDP, tight grip on the governorship seat, owing essentially to Ibori dictates, a quake of massive proportions is about to call out the big wigs in the ruling PDP, and make them declare their stand, ahead of the forthcoming general elections in 2023.
The sudden turn of events, which was certain to happen following covert political manoeuvres in the state since Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s re-election in 2019, took place on May 18, 2021 when the governor unexpectedly dissolved his cabinet in one fell swoop without hinting or consulting Chief James Ibori, his main backer and political leader.
Insiders averred that it was the surest signs of Okowa consolidating his grip on power and expanded his influence in the political party.
Okowa wielded the big stick and eased out all political appointees mostly made up of aides, protégés and associates of key party members.
He has so far filled 10 of the positions with people believed to be his core loyalists. According to the immediate past Commissioner for Information, Charles Aniagwu, who briefed journalists shortly after the state executive council meeting presided over by the governor, all the 25 Commissioners and the Secretary to the State Government, Chiedu Ebie; Chief of Staff, David Edevbie; Senior Political Adviser, Funkekeme Solomon; Chief Strategist, Festus Agas and Special Advisers were removed.
“The governor thanked and commended members of the dissolved cabinet for their contributions to the success of his administration in the past six years. The governor also directed that all the affected former appointees hand over to the permanent secretaries in their respective Ministries,” Aniagwu said.
Curiously, on Monday, May 31, Okowa appointed nine persons as his advisers.
All were his loyalists. They include the pioneer Executive Secretary of the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC), Chief Andi Osawota, whom he appointed as his special adviser. Mr Omimi Esquire and Chief Isaac Anwuzia were approved for appointment as political advisers to the governor, while Hon Kelly Penawuo, Chief Mary Iyasere, Chief Edwin Uzor and Chief Godwin Ogadi, were listed for appointment as special advisers.
The appointment was contained in a statement issued by the State Head of Service, who doubled as Secretary to the State Government, Reginald Bayoko.
On Friday, June 4, 2021, Governor Okowa appointed Mr. Patrick Ukah as Secretary to the State Government, SSG, a post previously held by Ebie, a very close ally of Ibori.
Following the shocking sacking of the appointees and the tension it generated in the state’s political circles, multiple sources told this medium that it appears that the governor is being his own man because it is absolutely clear that himself and Ibori are not on the same page on who succeeds him, come May 29, 2023.
Meanwhile, the gulf in the relationship between the two leaders is daily widened as a result of fuelling from their associates.
Insiders told this medium that former governor Uduaghan who is barley managing his relationship with Okowa is solidly behind Ibori for a fight to finish against Okowa’s 2023 antics.