By Starrys Obazei
The Independent National Electoral Commission’s list of candidates for 2023 general elections has a disturbing omission as neither the winner of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) primary for governorship nor his first runner-up was included.
A primary that was celebrated as the freest and fairest in the history of democracy since 1999 in Delta State is now jinxed with litigation that pitched the present governor, Ifeanyi Okowa against his erstwhile god-father James Ibori, who ruled DELTA State from 1999 till 2007. Ibori had been the one anointing all the PDP governors after him.
The battle took an ugly twist when last Friday, July 22, 2022, INEC published the particulars of the candidates nominated by political parties for the 2023 governorship and state Assembly elections in all the constituencies nationwide, and no democratically elected candidate from Delta was included.
Sheriff Oborevwori, the current Speaker of Delta State House of Assembly, who won the party governorship primary on May 25, 2022, and his name was submitted to the INEC, could not make the list. Now, the PDP members are worried that the party may not participate in the 2023 governorship election in the state.
Genesis of the problem
Commenting on the crisis in Delta, the state’s INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr. Monday Udoh-Tom, stated: “We have no particulars of any candidate for the PDP as far as the governorship election is concerned because they (PDP members) are in court. When the matter is determined, we will have the particulars of one of them.
“You will recall that there was a court judgment that disqualified one of them, and he filed for a stay of execution and also appealed the judgment.
“As a result, we cannot act on the case of the PDP for now until the Appeal Court delivers judgment,” Udoh-Tom said.
The closest rival to Oborevwori in the primary was the former Chief of Staff to Okowa, David Edevbie, who approached an Abuja High Court seeking Oborevwori’s disqualification on grounds of discrepancies in the certificates he presented.
The High Court subsequently granted Edevbie’s prayers by disqualifying Oborevwori and declaring the plaintiff as the party’s candidate.
Although Oborevwori filed an appeal against the judgment, Edevbie got INEC recognition by being issued form E13B.
Edevbie was the Commissioner for Finance in Okowa’s first tenure, Chief of Staff in his second tenure, and now Ibori’s anointed candidate.
The battle-line has been drawn as Ibori has his anointed candidate, Edevbie and Okowa supports the democratically elected candidate – Oborevwori.
Watchers of events in Delta are convinced that there’s no love lost between Ibori and his god-son, whom he single-handedly anointed from London prison seven years ago.
In Nigeria, god-sons are either rebelling or are troubled unbearably by their god-fathers. Some public commentators have singled out Shakim Shettima as the only ex-governor who still supports his successor in Borno State – Babagana Zulum.
Though, Ifeanyi Okowa had lost all hopes of being PDP governorship candidate in 2015, until Ibori powerfully intervened and made it possible for him, today Okowa’s camp is claiming that Ibori was never Okowa’s god-father.
Unperturbed by the development, Mr. Kingsley Esiso said: “As the state chairman of this great party, it is my responsibility to educate our people on the developments in the party”, as reported in The PUNCH.
“Some weeks ago, our party conducted one of the freest and fairest governorship primaries in Delta State, and a candidate emerged, and our party has dutifully submitted the name of that candidate.
“It is our responsibility to stand and defend the outcome of that primary. The issue before the court has nothing to do with the integrity and credibility of that primary.
“By the action of INEC on Friday, we have been told in the PDP to wait patiently for the outcome of the court judgment,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the Director of Operations of the David Edevbie Campaign Organization, Mr. Julius Akpovoka, blamed the party for taking sides in the suit challenging the eligibility of Oborevwori.
Akpovoka, who said this during a chat with journalists in Asaba last week, said Edevbie was very happy when he came out second at the primary.
He said: “It is a case of a second to be the first. We are happy that Edevbie came out second after the primary because we know that Edevbie’s name must be on the ballot list. I am the principal agent for Edevbie. The primary was transparent. We know that the second position is close to the first position based on the facts of the case.
“All of us are members of the PDP, so Edevbie is now the candidate of the party. This is what everyone should embrace. In no time, our principal will embark on reconciliation to bring everybody together.
“Oborevwori’s case is not new. It is also clear that there are discrepancies in his certificates. We are not shocked by the judgment of the High Court.”
“I don’t see the Supreme Court dismissing the judgment of the High Court because the matter was very clear. It is a case of age and discrepancies in certificates. The party should do its best if it wants to win the election. In football, you cannot leave your best player on the bench and play second best. You will lose the game. That’s what we are facing.”
However, INEC has promised to include Delta State governorship candidate in the list for 2023 general elections once the Supreme passes judgment on the matter.