On paper, the political combat of who becomes the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governorship candidate in Delta State for the 2023 governorship election is between the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Rt. Hon Sheriff Francis Orohwedor Oborevwori, and former Commissioner, Olorogun David Edevbie, but, in actuality, it is not.
The real battle is between the governor and vice presidential candidate of the party, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, and a former governor, Chief James Ibori, who is the head of an influential political family that Okowa belongs to.
Ibori, a native of Oghara in the Ethiope West local government area, Delta Central, wants Edevbie from Afiesere, Ughelli North local government area, also in Delta Central, to succeed Okowa.
However, for some reason, Okowa’s preference is for Oborevwori, who hails from Osubi, Okpe local government area, also in Delta Central.
Edevbie is loved but not accepted by some persons because of certain characteristics, and was a close companion of Okowa before the present debacle.
Some persons revile Oborevwori, who enjoys an incredible “street credibility,” not because of his persona, but because the governor favors him, a supposed political underdog.
Many had thought that Okowa, Ibori, and another ex-governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, would sort out the matter before the May 25 governorship primary, but their negotiations failed.
Oborevwori, self-effacing and reachable, whose support base cuts across the 25 local government areas of the state, kept a tally of 590 votes against Edevbie’s 113 votes to emerge as governorship standard-bearer for the 2023 elections.
If Ibori and Edevbie chose to fault the primary within the party structure, the chances of overturning the victory could have been slim because Okowa was not only in-charge but surely footed at the national level to avert any serious threat.
Edevbie opted for the Federal High Court, Abuja, not based on the governorship primary, but on the grounds that there were inconsistencies in the certificates filed by Oborevwori.
Okowa faced the battle for the vice presidential candidate soon after the governorship primary. Edevbie rattled him and Oborevwori with a striking judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on July 7, which nullified Oborevwori’s nomination and ordered that Edevbie should replace him.
The decision triggered a realignment of forces as some politicians that sat on the fence in the Okowa, Ibori face-up, adjusted to the Edevbie camp.
Clearly, there was palpable tension in the party in the state over the verdict but the Okowa camp still held the power lever tightly. It took almost two months before Justice Olabisi Ige, leading a three-man panel of the Court of Appeal, Abuja, on August 29, vacated the judgment that nullified Oborevwori’s nomination, putting the Okowa camp ahead once again.
On the other hand, Edevbie rejected the Court of Appeal verdict and headed to the Supreme Court, asking it to veto the Court of Appeal on Oborevwori.
Despite the restoration of Oborevwori, the Edevbie group acted as if its candidate is a bona fide governorship candidate, and it was only a matter of time for the Supreme Court to indicate so.
Sunday Vanguard observed that in the spirit of party supremacy and unity, a top member of the Ibori political family, Chairman, Delta Central for 2023 Governor (DC-23), and Delta Central senatorial candidate of the party for the 2023 elections, Chief Ighoyota Amori, accepted the emergence of Oborevwori.
The DC-23, under Amori’s leadership, actually recommended three governorship aspirants – Oborevwori, Edevbie, and Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, who dumped the party before the governorship primary – to Okowa, as Delta Central’s top three, for him to make the final pick.
It is not clear if Ibori’s daughter, Hon Erhiatake Ibori-Suenu, who is the party’s House of Representatives candidate for Ethiope federal constituency, is against Oborevwori’s emergence, but a source said she has no problem with Oborevwori as governorship candidate, and would gladly collaborate with Edevbie if he emerges.
Ibori showed his dissatisfaction after the primary by moving against Okowa emergence as a vice presidential candidate, but he later succumbed to pressures to back the governor. In fact, Okowa returned from Abuja prepared to mend the fence with Ibori who he still calls his leader when Edevbie struck in July.
Though sad that Okowa did not throw his weight behind his candidate, sources said Ibori would have been disposed to accepting Oborevwori after Okowa emerged as a vice presidential candidate, but Edevbie’s July 7 Federal High Court victory altered the political calculations.
Ibori’s camp met and resolved to stick to the judiciary, even when the Court of Appeal later invalidated the Federal High Court judgment. They agreed that Edevbie should head to the Supreme Court.
However, the Okowa group further consolidated its position, on October 4, when the Independent National Electoral Commission, published Oborevwori’s name as the party’s governorship standard-bearer, which is the current status quo.
Nevertheless, on Wednesday, last week, Justice Amina Augie, who heads a five-man panel of the Supreme Court, slated October 21 (next Friday) for judgment in the appeal filed by Edevbie seeking nullification of Oborevwori’s candidacy.
Edevbie maintained that Oborevwori submitted false and forged documents to the party, in aid of qualification to contest the March 11, 2023 governorship election.
While adopting his brief of argument, the appellant, Edevbie, through his lawyer, Mr. Tayo Oyetibo, SAN, told the apex court that whereas Oborevwori had, in an affidavit he deposed to, claimed that he was born in 1963, he, however, tendered a West African Examination Council, WAEC, a certificate that was issued to someone that was born in 1979.
Oborevwori, through his lawyer, Damian Dodo, SAN, urged the apex court to dismiss the appeal for want of merit.
He argued that the extant provision of the law is that the appellant must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the sort of allegations he leveled against the respondent.
Similarly, PDP, through its lawyer, A. L. Aliyu, SAN, also sought the dismissal of the appeal.
PDP argued that sections 177 and 182 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, made exhaustive provisions regarding the issue of qualification of candidates for an election.
Though INEC is a respondent in the matter, no lawyer represented it in the proceedings.
The Ibori camp exudes confidence that the Supreme Court will rule in Edevbie’s favor, ditto the Okowa group, and state PDP led by Chief Kingsley Esiso, who said Oborevwori was eminently qualified to be the party’s governorship standard-bearer.
Edevbie had, in 2015, attempted to succeed Uduaghan, but lost the party’s governorship ticket to Okowa. He had an arrangement with Okowa that bubbled.
Oborevwori made his first attempt in 2022 and seized the governorship ticket, even as an underdog, and so far, he has withstood the arsenals of the Ibori camp.
Regarding the Supreme Court case, he predicted, “It will end in praise to God Almighty.”
Will the warfare end in praise as Oborevwori foretells? On the other hand, will Edevbie knock over the apple cart? This is a matter only the Supreme Court has the correct answer to.