By Onyeka Ibe
I have never met Chief David Edevbie but have been hearing about him, and observing his words and actions in Delta State government circle for a long time. One of the legends I heard (later confirmed) was hoW he resisted attempts by a high ranking member of their government and political clique to expropriate Delta State money through frivolous and wasteful spending when he was commissioner of finance in Chief James Ibori’s government nearly 20 years ago. For this effrontry, the legend went, the senior politician slapped David Edevbie in the face and Edevbie resigned from the government. It was said that it took many weeks of intercession by the governor and guarantees of financial restraint by the whole administration before he agreed to return to his position. There is another instance when Chief Edevbie proved that he was different from most Nigerian politicians or public servants. This time the events played out publicly.
After the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua the EFCC under President Jonathan began a comprehensive and vengeful criminal investigation of Chief Edevbie’s tenures, both as the defacto chief of staff to President Yar’Adua and as a two-term commissioner of finance in Delta State. Desperate to nail Chief Edevbie because of political considerations, this investigation continued for nearly five years, yet they couldn’t find any evidence with which to charge him for corruption. But they did not exonerate him either. He was left in limbo. But as a man whose whole relevance depended on his reputation of competence and integrity, Chief Edevbie publicly went to court and sued the EFCC, challenging them to charge him or openly pronounce him guiltless.
As far I know he was the first and only Nigerian politician or public servant under investigation to do this. The EFCC eventually quietly stopped bothering him. Typically, Nigerian politicians under investigation would bribe and negotiate their way out of pending charges. From observations and a firsthand account of someone who has worked closely with him, Chief Edevbie’s life in public service has been a reflection of British understated competence, prudence, ramrod integrity and clockwork efficiency.
He studied Economics at the University of Lagos, and obtained an MBA at the Cardiff Business School, UK, specialising in Corporate Finance. He also completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School. He is a Fellow of the Nigeria Chartered Institute of Bankers(FCIB), Associate of the UK Chartered Institute of Bankers (ACIB) and Member, UK Chartered Institute of Marketing (MCIM). He held senior management positions at Barclays Bank UK, Hill Samuel Bank Limited UK, and the Commonwealth Development Corporation where he rose to the position of Deputy Country Head (Philippines), before returning to Delta State in 1999, where he was appointed Commissioner of Finance and Economic Planning. Because of his expertise in financial management he was to be reappointed into this position (now only the ministry of finance) by two governors, first by Governor Ibori and most recently by Governor Okowa whom he also served as Chief of Staff till June 2021. As referred to earlier, he also served as Principal Private Secretary (defacto chief of staff) to President Yar’Adua.
Chief Edevbie (I have a feeling he would prefer to be addressed as Mister Edevbie) is not a typical Nigerian politician. He has not the obsession for power or desperation to retain it, nor the cunning to flatter the king. What drives him is an unshakable confidence in his ability as a development economist and manager of resources, in addition to a bottomless passion for public service in the midst of so much underutilized potential in our country, especially in Delta State. When he contested for governor with Senator Okowa and others in 2014 it was obvious that he was testing the political waters for a future contest until the mercurial Governor Uduaghan suddenly adopted him and altered the dynamics of the power calculations rather than by any desperation or inordinateness in ambition and when he lost he had no hesitation in humbling himself and working under the winner for six years.
Here, the argument can even be advanced that it is a tradition to contest and reconcile in Delta State, and the current governor would not have survived politically if then Governor Ibori had set out to destroy him for daring to contest against Uduahhan who was his preferred candidate in 2007. Honorable and big-hearted men like President Obama appointed his great primary election rival, Mrs Clinton to the highest cabinet position in the US and later campaigned strongly for her in her ultimately failed bid for the White House, and the former British Prime Minister David Cameron encouraged his peer and Conservative Party leadership rival Boris Johnson into the London Mayorship from where he grew to reach the leadership of the party and ultimately become prime minister after Cameron and Theresa May. In Africa we are currently seeing in Kenya how President Uhuru Kenyatta is backing his once bitter rival Raila Odinga for the presidency in Kenya’s August’ presidential election. Great men see the potential in rivals and use it for the good of the society rather than sit and seethe in quiet pretentious animosity towards a party member who once challenged them.
Moreover, it must be pointed out that single-handedly anointing a succeeding governor does not guarantee loyalty to an ex-governor. Nigeria’s recent political history is replete with betrayals, disappointments, and humiliations for outgoing governors who thought that they had installed amenable stooges. In Abia State, former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu spectacularly suffered humiliations in the hands of his anointed successor Theodore Orji. In Akwa Ibom, former governor Akpabio was ruthlessly dismantled by his chosen successor, governor Udom Emmanuel, and in Kano State governor Ganduje had no consideration for ex governor Musa Kwakwanso who positioned him into the government house. Perhaps, the most spectacular of all the betrayals and humiliations was meted out to former governor Adams Oshiomhole by his handpicked successor, Governor Godwin Obaseki. A great mind should think about the greater good of the society rather than the narrow interest of two to three thousand politicians only in a community of millions of citizens. The most important questions to be asked about a political aspirant is, what is his history and what are his plans and programmes for the future of Delta State?
I have comprehensively read through his 2023 Election Manifesto and what I gleaned left me with mighty hope that given the chance, Chief Edevbie would begin the transformation of the economic and social life of Delta State. He elucidated comprehensive and crystal clear policies and paths to the modernization and economic development of Delta State. He enunciated policies on energy or production and distribution of electricity as catalyst for economic growth and industrialization; as well as pragmatic policies on security, job and wealth creation, agriculture, education, health, the creative and entertainment industry, information technology, urban development, sports and recreation, and housing and transportation.
Reading through Chief Edevbie’s manifesto it was difficult to see any aspect of the life of citizens that he had not systematically thought about. But the most beautiful aspect of the proposed policies is that Chief Edevbie has a first class training and ocean-deep experience in the field of innovative transformational development which he gained as a development economist with the Commonwealth Development Corporation, working in nearly all continents of the world. In public policy we can only judge government or potential government leaders by their training and prospective public policy pronouncements. Chief Edevbie’s outstanding status in this regard is so clear that it almost feels like an insult or an impending tragedy for Delta State to compare him with one or two of the other characters parading themselves as anointed governorship aspirants in Delta State with glaring intellectual deficiency and questionable certificates.
To this end, all well-meaning people of Delta State, influencial citizens and opinion leaders like traditional rulers, business leaders and political leaders must defy any power that stands against this once in a generation opportunity for Delta State to join lucky states around the country such as Edo, Anambra, Lagos, Borno, Cross River etc, in electing a committed technocrat with the capacity for critical thoughts and innovative policies, and for once, set aside their neutrality or personal interest to intervene and prevail on PDP delegates and their sponsors to clear the path for Chief Edevbie to win the PDP ticket. Anybody denying Deltans the opportunity to elect such a man will be doing a great disservice to the long-suffering citizens of Delta State and the future generations.
Meanwhile, a lot has been said about his connection to Chief James Ibori, but from my investigation and all the available public records, including the comprehensive and fruitless five-year-long EFCC investigation of this man, it is clear that wherever he served in Nigeria, Chief Edevbie was a restraining hand to the excesses of professional politicians rather than a participant in the Augean stables, and if ex-governor Ibori is able to help David Edevbie become the new governor, then the people of Delta State would owe Chief Ibori a massive dose of gratitude for suddenly our future will become bright.
Onyeka Ibe, A Delta State-born Author writes from