By Andy Chwukuma
Magnus Onyibe’s article, “Rising And Falling Of Delta State Political Family And Consequences,” is a classic example of political red herring. The article was riddled with fallacies, contradictions, distortions, prejudices, misrepresentations, and utter falsehood. Posturing as an intellectual, Onyibe ended up sounding like a neophyte with his convoluted arguments and jejune conclusions. His pain and frustration were palpable in his desperate attempt to discredit the Delta State PDP gubernatorial primaries, in which his friend, David Edevbie lost. And so, for him that means that Delta State is headed in the wrong direction.
It is safe to say that Onyibe was still in stupor occasioned by his friend’s clobbering at the primary when he wrote that jaundiced piece. That is the only plausible explanation for his declaration in the opening sentence of the article that “an internecine war of anarchic proportions has ensued in Delta state…. That is because the incumbent state Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa’s preferred candidate, Sherriff Oborevwori who is currently the speaker of the house of assembly has literarily mauled his opponents in the gubernatorial primaries contest held on Wednesday, May 25, 2022. He clinched the victory by polling a whopping 590 votes of the 825 delegates.”
It is ironic that a self-styled “democracy advocate” like Onyibe would be bellyaching about the victory of an aspirant in a free, fair, credible, transparent, and rancour-free primary that was broadcast live on television and conducted in a peaceful and orderly atmosphere. Onyibe must have been so surprised, or should I say disappointed, that a week after the successful primary, Delta state is enjoying peace and stability, without the contentions and violence associated with party primaries in the past. Throughout the period leading to and during the recent primaries, there were no reports of contention about delegates’ list, shooting, violence, or death. Yet Onyibe wants us to believe that Delta State is on the path to anarchy. Just because his friend lost an election!
Governor Okowa deserves kudos for providing a level playing field for all aspirants at the various levels of the primaries, a far cry from what it was in the past. It is on record that he set the precedent in 2018 and I dare say that he has left a rich legacy of proper democracy in Delta State PDP. Some of us remember quite well how under Governors James Ibori and Emmanuel Uduaghan, party primaries were a sham because results were written in the bedrooms of the powers that be. For those who may not be aware, Onyibe was a commissioner in Ibori’s administration, and he was part of the impunity and undemocratic practices that characterized that era.
It is very disingenuous, in fact dishonest, for Onyibe to accuse Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of unilaterally drawing up the list of delegates for the election. I was at the meeting at the Government House, Asaba, in which his benefactor, Ibori, was present where it was unanimously agreed that the delegates election would be conducted in line with the party’s constitution and INEC’s guidelines. This was exactly what happened. Elections to produce the three delegates from the wards were conducted during the local government congresses across the state under strict INEC supervision. Politics is local and those who want to play the game must roll up their sleeves and put their hands to the plough. You cannot sit in the comfort of your home in Lagos and expect the people to hand over the reins of leadership to you.
Onyibe’s assertion that the state “is on the verge of tipping over and into the grasp of the opposition party, All Progressive Congress, APC, if the war persists.” is not only laughable but also unfounded. This is the problem with these out-of-touch elitist politicians whose political base is on television talk shows and the pages of newspapers. Onyibe speaks of a “war” that only exists in the figment of his imagination. If only he knew that since Oborevwori’s emergence, a gale of defection has hit the APC in Delta State.
In his bid to execute a sinister agenda, Onyibe claimed that “it took a considerable amount of bickering and arm twisting before the incumbent government decided to honor the agreement to allow the governorship pendulum to swing back to Delta Central which is the base from where the rotation started in 1999.” Haba Magnus! It is tragic when supposedly enlightened persons use beer parlour gossip and social media rumours as material for their thesis. As someone with access to the inner circles of the Okowa administration, it was never in doubt that power was going back to Delta Central. Every rumour to the contrary was just that – a rumour. Governor Okowa kept his card to his chest but allowed every interested person to contest as has been the practice since 2007. To insinuate that he was opposed to the principle of rotation because he did not publicly announce that power was going back to Delta Central – and thereby incur the wrath of other zones – is not only puerile, but also the height of mischief and political chicanery.
If Onyibe did not see anything wrong with Ibori preferring a particular aspirant as his successor, why does Onyibe have some grouse with Okowa for doing same? It is obvious that Onyibe’s beef is that Okowa dared to go outside the so-called political class of 1999. His sense of entitlement is evident in his bogus claim that the outcome of the primary “is doubtless a disruption of the governorship succession model in Delta State which had more or less become entrenched since 1999….As governor Okowa has leveraged the power of incumbency to supplant the so-called Ibori political family after over 21 years run with his own surrogate, Oborevwori, (which suggests the birth of his own political family) can it be said that things have fallen apart in Delta political family? And can the PDP that has led the state since 1999 be able to sustain its hold by producing the next governor in 2023 with a divided house?”
You can discern from the foregoing that Onyibe’s idea of power rotation is that it should circulate among members of his political class of 1999. What an insult! Imagine Obasanjo insisting that future Presidents of the country should always come from among his coterie of ministers, advisers, and political associates. The message must be made clear to Onyibe and his deluded companions that Delta State is our common patrimony; it does not belong to them. When it comes time to elect our leaders at all levels, we will choose whoever we deem fit even if he or she does not appeal to them.
Prejudice is a bad thing. Otherwise, how can Onyibe mention Urhobo Peoples Union (UPU) and power rotation in one sentence? It is on record that the UPU has vehemently stood against power rotation in the State. In 2015, the organisation backed Edevbie against Okowa, and when Edevbie lost at the PDP primary, it publicly endorsed Ortega Emerhor of the APC for the governorship. The UPU does not and cannot speak for Deltans. Not even for all Urhobos. It is just another socio-cultural association among many others in the state.
In the final analysis, Onyibe’s article was nothing but a calculated attempt to deify his paymaster but malign Okowa through sophistry, blatant mischief, and vile propaganda. But those of us who live in Delta know better. My advice to Onyibe and his desperate power mongers is to quietly lick the wounds of defeat and hope for a better outing next time. Losing an election is not the end of the world and they should take it in the spirit of sportsmanship. Afterall, even some close allies of the governor lost in some of the primaries and the heavens did not fall.
* Chwukuma sent in this article from Asaba.