By Annabel Ogheneganre
Two weeks ago we did an introductory evaluation of the two major contenders or candidates for the 2023 gubernatorial election in Delta State, Rt Hon Sheriff Oborevwori, Speaker, Delta State House of Assembly and Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, Deputy President of the Nigerian Senate. The two men as remarked earlier are eminently qualified to be governor in their own right. Their attainments and pedigree prepared them for the exalted office of governor. Sheriff had held several positions in the state while Ovie Omo-Agege had been Secretary to the State Government. The two men had spent equal number of years in the legislature, rising to their respective positions with speed to the dismay of the bookmakers. There is something awesome about the two men.
Judging from the strength of the two major political parties in the race, one could easily give it to Rt Hon Sheriff Oborevwori as the mostly likely candidate to win. Though the party has shed some weight lately ahead of the coming polls due to disaffection within its ranks and file, PDP is still the party to beat in Delta State. The extent to which party faithful betray or stay with the party would determine the outcome of the 2023 polls. If Ovie Omo-Agege will win in 2023, that would depend to a reasonable extent on PDP members who may work with him either from within or outside PDP.
The hands are already on the plow. There are discordant tones in the field of play. PDP has not managed the party primaries well. While there was a seeming or overt display of non-intervention in the processes, the politicians being whom they are knew the mind of the governor and he actually called the shots to ensure some candidates emerged. Many of those not favoured and their supporters are aggrieved triggering the defections that have eroded the PDP’s worth in some areas. The most dangerous aspect of the saga is when the aggrieved pretend to be working for the party only to bare their fangs on Election Day. This is why the outcome of the coming poll is unpredictable.
Aside the strength of the political parties, one is at a loss what yardstick any voter could use to vote for Sheriff Oborevwori against Senator Ovie Omo-Agege in next year’s poll in terms of worth, competence and charisma. Too many factors are in favour of the Deputy Senate President. First is the question of the Eastern and Western Urhobo divisions. The people of Okpe have reduced the Sheriff project to an OSU Project not the entire Urhobo project anymore. When Ibori was governor, his campaign was not managed as Oghara project, it was an Urhobo project. The one of Sheriff is loud and clear, it is an Okpe project and they are not pretending about it. Governor Okowa is doing everything possible to spite the rest of Urhobo.
Okowa knew the arguments before now and he still went ahead to hurt the people of Eastern Urhobo because to him, the people of Ughelli North, Ughelli South and Udu Local Government Areas, which constitute Eastern Urhobo, do not really matter because perhaps they have not given his government enough support. Otherwise how can one explain the fact that the State Chairman of the party is from Sapele or Ethiope East as the case may be, the Senatorial Candidate is from Ethiope West and the gubernatorial candidate is from Okpe Local government areas all in Western Urhobo, leaving the Eastern Urhobo with nothing. This is the argument that is troubling the soul of the PDP at the National level. There is no Wike in the whole of Eastern Urhobo because most men have been reduced to women and there is none to stand out to demand equity in the scheme of things. But in my own right as a daughter of Ughievwen/Udu, I ask, what is the lot of Eastern Urhobo in the coming dispensation? Or must the ‘Ukodo’ be ready before Eastern Urhobo could get their due?
The picture is clear. If Sheriff Oborevwori wins in 2023, the rest of Urhobo should know that the coming government will not be for them. Okowa will do everything within his powers to ensure Sheriff wins not because he loves Sheriff or the Okpe people but because he understands the Okpe agitation for autonomy over the years and how Sheriff Oborevwori emergence will further lend credence to that movement to rubbish the rest of Urhobo. Okowa’s love for Urhobo had always been that of a fly and the open wound. When he held on to Sheriff Oborevwori like the leech throughout the period of the primaries, Okowa knew the game he was playing.
As I hinted earlier, judging by the personal standing of the candidates, one is at a loss what criteria one could use to rate Sheriff Oborevwori higher than Omo-Agege. As Governor, Sheriff Oborevwori would be difficult to manage in his public appearances and utterances. The PDP is already facing some difficult times preparing the man for his public speeches in rallies or campaigns. Sheriff is not the outspoken type. He is deficient in public oral presentation. His academic proficiency is also shrouded in controversy. While Senator Ovie Omo-Agege is an orator with the confidence and clout of the likes of Martin Luther King, Sheriff is like a kindergarten pupil learning to walk through the minefield of nursery rhymes.
Sheriff Oborevwori can win and will in fact most likely win the coming polls. But the point being made here is an attempt at drawing a distinction between the two men in terms of charisma and capacity to deliver. Peter Obi is making waves today because of his ability to deliver his messages in clear and convincing manner. 2023 is not going to be business as usual. If the two men were to appear before Deltans for a debate, I am pretty sure aside PDP members, nobody will cast his or her vote for Sheriff. His campaign slogan is ‘Who Sabi?’. The question is, what does he know, or in what area is he better than Omo-Agege that one can conclude that he actually ‘Sabi’. Sabi what?
The two products are now before Deltans: Sheriff Oborevwori and Senator Ovie Omo-Agege. Without resort to written text, Omo-Agege can marshal out his points to the admiration of his hearers. But Sheriff does not possess that quality. He possesses no distinctive quality that could place him on a higher pedestal than Omo-Agege. Other than the strength of the party and Okowa’s desperation to plant him in government house for reasons best known to him, Sheriff does not have what it takes to make a difference as a governor. If he wins, the dichotomy between Okpe and the rest of Urhobo would be given global attention because it had been brewing in ‘Parapo movements’ in Higher Institutions, where the Okpe always dare the rest of Urhobo by organizing the Okpe day usually on Urhobo day.
Senator Ovie Omo-Agege has a clear idea of what he wants to achieve for Delta State if elected. He will drive the system to achieve results. He has a clear picture of his agenda and policy direction and how to achieve them. Like a master architect, he has the mental design of how to fix Delta State and cause things to happen. He is a master of the game and Okowa knows this fact. Okowa does not want anybody to break his records or someone who would be self assertive like him. The choices are now before Deltans. The choice we make today will determine the kind of result we get tomorrow. Owhofasa! That is the name of my younger brother!
Annabel Ogheneganre writes from Garki, Abuja. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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