BY SUNNY A. DAVID
Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, the immediate Governor of Delta State, has addressed his fallout with Chief James Ibori, former Governor of the State.
Senators Okowa and Chief Ibori have been at loggerheads since the Delta Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Governorship primary election in 2022.
Chief Ibori had supported Chief David Edevbie, a Commissioner of Finance in his administration, while Dr. Okowa threw his weight behind Sheriff Oborevwori, former Speaker of the State House of Assembly.
Rt. Hon. Oborevwori eventually won the primary and subsequently triumphed in the Governorship election. He was sworn in to office on Monday.
Senator Okowa said Chief Ibori’s insistence on backing Edevbie resulted in a disagreement between them.
Speaking with journalists on Sunday, Okowa opened up on why he opposed Ibori’s choice and resolved to pitch his tent with Oborevwori.
Okowa said Edevbie had tricked him into believing he would respect the Delta PDP Zoning provision ahead of the Governorship election in 2015.
The immediate past Delta Governor said he shared his reservation about Edevbie with Ibori — but the latter was unmoved.
Okowa and Edevbie were commissioners in the Ibori administration.
“I don’t like to talk about it but obviously there’s no doubt that we didn’t work together,” Okowa said.
“We went into the primaries not agreeing on the same candidate, we talked about it but he (Ibori) did not want to shift ground on his candidate. That’s the truth and I did not agree with that candidate for basic reasons which I made clear enough to him and also to his own candidate.
“I did not hide it. Till tomorrow, I speak about it in truth not because I thought I was a god that needed to install somebody. David Edevbie is my friend. We were with the former Governor in his tenure together as Commissioners, but in 2014, when it became obvious that it was the turn of the Delta North — Delta Central and Delta South had had their turns — I heard that David was going to run and he was indicating interest.
“I went from Abuja with three of my friends to visit him in Lagos — and I said ‘David, please, it’s only fair, I know that there are so many people competing but I’m coming to you as a friend. It will not be fair if you run. Governor James Ibori has been there, Governor Uduaghan has been there, it’s obviously the turn of the Delta North; why don’t you allow us to have our space so that we can all be said to be part of the State? Thereafter, we can all work for you to become Governor.
“And at the end, he said ‘I will not run anymore, I will support you’. I thanked him and left back to Abuja.”
Okowa, who was a Senator at the time, said Edevbie went against his word and was holding secret meetings with stakeholders, strategising on how to become governor.
“And then suddenly, next thing we heard was that they had endorsed David but this same David had committed himself to me,” he added.
“So we went into the race, a very tough race but God enabled me to win.”
Although Okowa appointed Edevbie as a commissioner in his cabinet, he said the latter still proceeded with his plans on how to become the next Governor.
“In the second year, I started hearing that he was holding meetings in Lagos and other places where they were already prepping him to be governor without anybody discussing with me,” Okowa said.
The PDP Vice Presidential candidate noted that although the zoning rules meant the Governorship seat, in 2023, would go to Delta Central — Edevbie’s Zone — he was adamant that the former Commissioner would not be a beneficiary.
“In the first instance, he did not want the zoning to Delta North, so if the zoning was going to continue, he’s my friend but he shouldn’t be the one to benefit from the zoning he did not want,” Okowa said.
“I’m careful in what I do so it will be difficult for me to support someone outside Delta Central but my only mindset is that somebody who did not believe in the zoning cannot be the one to benefit from it and I made it clear to the former governor.”
Okowa said Ibori met with him a few days before the primary election to reach a compromise on a fresh candidate — but he noted that it was too little, too late.
“I told him it would be difficult to withdraw support from my candidate. I don’t do things like that,” Okowa said.
Oborevwori defeated Ovie Omo-Agege, the APC candidate and former deputy speaker of the house of representatives, to clinch the governorship seat.