By Mideno Bayagbon
In three days time, Deltans, like in most states in Nigeria, will be flooding voting centres to decide who should be their next Governor. It will be a straight fight between the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Sheriff Francis Oborevwori and Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege. While Oborevwori is of the Peoples Democratic Party, Omo-Agege is of the All Progressives Congress. Nevertheless, put on a scale, the much maligned, abused and denigrated Sheriff Oborevwori stands a better chance of emerging Governor of the state than Omo-Agege. I will explain.
Of course there are other contestants in the race. Buoyed by the massive votes which the Obidient tsunami wreaked on Delta State, the little known candidate of the Labour Party in the state, Ken Pela, has suddenly revved his formerly nonexistent campaign, is holding court and now believes that the Obidient group will invade the polling centres once again and he will be the beneficiary of their votes. Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, the habitual contestant for the office of Governor of Delta State, who was the first to hit the road, is also courting the Obidient group and hoping too that they will look his way.
For the first time in his political career, he was able, during the presidential election, to win the voting units in his Oginibo village. Wealthy and a six month minister in Jonathan’s government, Gbagi has combed the state severally but most Deltans do not see him as a serious candidate or one they should invest their future in. By now too, Olorogun Great Ovedje Ogboru, who was dislodged by Ovie Omo-Agege from the APC where he ran for governor the last time, knows that he stands no chance of winning the race. But they are all in the race with little or no outsider chance of wearing the crown.
Let me make my position clear and state clearly that I support Sheriff Francis Oborevwori despite the fact that the candidates of the PDP and APC are my friends. And here is why I am lending my support to Oborevwori: I am intrigued by the story of his life, how through thick and thin, he has managed to move from one level of development to a higher one. At every stage of his life, hard work and seemingly divine hands have tended to propel him to higher realms. I am talking about the lived reality of the Delta State Speaker. I m touched by his unparalleled humility, his unquenchable desire to learn, his unabashed association with the common people of the state, what his supporters and himself, have described as his street credibility. It’s amazing that he has lived all his life in Effurun and his village Osubi. So he is a homeboy through and through. He is what Gordons, the comedian, has aptly described as the lion and the lamb: fearless but very compassionate. He is a strong believer in God and an elder of Bishop Oyedepo’s church, Winners Chapel, (Living Faith).
His zest to learn, to constantly improve on his level of knowledge is commendable. For example, he rewrote his WASC as an upcoming businessman, as former supervising councillor of the then Okpe-Uvwie-Udu local government area, community chairman and as a married father of children in 1998. His classmates and lecturers at the department of Political Science, Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, speak of him in admirable tones. Even his professors at Delta State University, DELSU, Abraka, in written testimonials to the many security authorities which were spurred into investigating the certificates of the Delta State Speaker, because his opponents sold the lie that he is an “uncertificated illiterate”, assert that he indeed was their student who not only attended classes, passed his exams but indeed defended his thesis creditably and was awarded an MSc degreee.
The Deputy Senate President, on the other hand, has had, and lived, a cushioned life from infancy till date. Son of a former Chief Judge of Delta State who happened to also head the Igbe Society (devotees of a marine spirit religious sect), he went to private schools and graduated with a law degree from the University of Benin where he was a boy about town. His sojourn in America was nearly truncated when he ran into troubled waters with the authorities and was disbarred from practicing law in the United States.
His return to Nigeria and entrance into politics have seen him progress from one level of political relevance to the other. In the last four years he has served as the Deputy Senate President, a seeming reward for his alleged mastermind of the stealing of the mace of the Senate in a gangster, bravado style; a feat which seemingly saved President Muhammadu Buhari from the threat of impeachment during his first term. Omo-Agege loves and wields power and brooks no foes. A student of power, when he defected to the APC, he easily dislodged the one they call the peoples general, Great Ogboru and all the leaders of the APC in Delta State, seizing the structure and remodelling it in his own image.
Not known to have established or run any major business in the last 22 years, he is today a very wealthy politician. Indeed, his two years or so engagement in Delta state government saw him developing and acquiring eye-popping mansions in Effurun and Orogun his village, a home in the US where his family resides till date. He owns one of the biggest mansions in the billionaire enclave of Asokoro which he acquired when he was SSG of Delta State.
A leader of men, Ovie knows how to court and use men to his given ends. Ruthless in the pursuit of power, his rumoured romance with the Odidigborigbo, James Ibori, who nurses a personal grudge against Governor Ifeanyi Okowa for sidelining him in choosing his successor, has so far led to some defections from the ruling PDP in Delta State to Omo-Agege’s APC. Chief James Ibori, who many see as the leader of the PDP in Delta State, and who is still highly respected, has not raised any objection to some of his supporters defecting to the APC.
However, his cousin and successor in office, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, who is a strong pillar of the Ibori political family is one of the notable exceptions. He has chosen to take a stand for Sheriff Oborevwori who he believes will do a better job of governing Delta State than Ovie Omo-Agege. He and others are not comfortable with Omo-Agege’s style of politics. They level many allegations against him. One of these is that Ovie Omo-Agege stands accused of being clannish in warehousing projects to himself and his brother Jimmy; and in siting all of the federal government projects, his office as Deputy Senate President attracted to the state, to his village. There are six major ones.
The first of this, which was warehoused and is now a major cash cow, is the Pipeline Surveillance contract. Unknown to many, there are three companies involved. But the general public know of only Tompolo’s. A company owned by Omo-Agege’s brother, Jimmy, has a huge chunk while the running mate to Omo-Agege, Osanebi, supplied a company name which has the third tranche of the contracts. Evidently, we now know why the youths whose names were used to obtain the surveillance contracts were not paid their stipends all these months until shortly before the presidential elections.
That apart, every single federal government project approved for Delta State was not just warehoused, the five of them were all sited in the Orhomoru-Orogun, the village of the Deputy Senate President. The rest of Delta Central which he represents at the Senate, was left empty and not considered fit to have any of these projects.
Recall too that not once in the last eight years that his party, APC, has wrecked the economy and thrown majority of Nigerians into abysmal poverty, did Ovie speak out in the interest of the people. Not even when terrorists, killer herdsmen, kidnappers and sundry other merchants of death took over the country. Also in our sensitive religious climate, Omo-Agege was the first politician to publicly endorse Tinubu’s Moslem-Moslem ticket. Which is not surprising since he is not known to be a Christian. I find his “self above others” kind of politics unacceptable and Deltans do not deserve his kind of leadership at this critical time.
Among political pundits, the thinking is that the biggest threat to Oborevwori’s aspiration, currently are not the Obidient gang but the boast among supporters of the APC candidate that Omo-Agege is more adept at handling elections, given his history in the state, than the one they call Street-Wise. Already, using federal might, he has had the Divisional Police Officers in Ughelli North and South, as well as the ones in Agbarho, redeployed and replaced. The Army too, his supporters boast will be available to ensure the methods the APC used in enthroning Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu during the presidential election, are brought to bear on Delta State.
One can only appeal that the will of the people should be allowed to decide who govern Delta State from May 29th.
Mideno Bayagbon can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org
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