The Oasis Reporters
February 1, 2019
By Ena Ofugara
If there is a man you should always bet on, it is Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa. In most races, many bet on the shiny stallion. In PDP, the noise is of a Ayo Fayose, Nyesom Wike etc. But a certain Anioma medical doctor turned politician and governor of one of the most financially buoyant states in the federation continues to make the most strategic moves that all go under the radar.
And a look at how he conducted the presidential primaries that promised to become the earthquake that will destroy PDP, the smoothness of it all, you begin to wonder what else is there about Dr Ifeanyi Okowa and why it had to be him.
Why it had to be Ifeanyi Okowa? When James Ibori returned to Delta state from his sojourn in London and after his said friendship with Abacha’s late son, to build his political empire, a very smart Ifeanyi Okowa aligned with him. Ibori had the finances. Okowa had the intellect and strategy. Unlike before when it was Delta Central/Urhobo vs Delta North/Igbo, Okowa it was who took Ibori round to the then Anioma icons wherein they agreed that the politics of GDM which was later subsumed under People’s Democratic Party, PDP was not going to be “us versus them” but instead based on a “turn by turn and fair representation” by all tribes.
It was an uphill battle for these tripartite young men viz James Ibori, James Manager and Ifeanyi Okowa with Ighoyota Amori as the hatchet man. These young men successfully took over control of Delta State from the older and more experienced Engr. Kragha, Prof Oyovbaire, Felix Ibru, Okitiakpe etc.
And so like any prized horse rising in the race track, Okowa ran his races and ran them well. From commissioner of Agriculture and Natural Resources to Water Resources Development to Health, he served. 2007, based on agreement with Ibori for it to be Okowa’s turn at governorship, Ibori chose his cousin, Uduaghan who was not part of the initial tripartite force that was GDM and early PDP. But Uduaghan was Ibori’s cousin and so Okowa went to the Senate where he defeated Dr. (Mrs) Ali, the wife of then PDP topshot and multi billionaire, Col. (Dr.) Ahmadu Ali It was a race Okowa was not favoured to win and a race that had to be done twice. The Dark Horse rose and won.
And again , when Okowa was to take his turn at governorship, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan who had usurped Okowa’s opportunity, reneged on the agreement and fronted another candidate as his successor. But Okowa the strategist had anticipated that move. He Okowa began early. He had the friendship of Tompolo and Michael “Ejele” Diden that easily rubbished the animosity from the shiny Ayiri Emami. Okowa knew getting these two moneyed emm… em…. getting Ejele and Tompolo on his side was huge. How he was able to break Michael Ejele Diden from his benefactor Uduaghan is one of the surprises of that election.
And when the important call to James Ibori, then in a prison in the UK was made as to who should be governor after Dr. Uduaghan, James Ibori knew this time there was no stopping Okowa. His legacy built on fairness and inclusion was on the guillotine. Ibori chose Okowa and a sitting Governor Uduaghan could not choose his successor in PDP. He had been outclassed and outmaneuvered in a battle between the medical doctors.
With the presidency falling to APC, many assumed this is the year perennial contestant Ogboru finally becomes governor. The calculations are that Urhobos are more in population, PDP has been pretty poor in leadership of the state etc. It was assumed also that Ibori would go to APC and take the rug right off the feet of Okowa. Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan leaving PDP for APC had made the move of Ibori just a matter of time… or so, many thought. However, the same skill with which Okowa separated Ejele from Uduaghan, perhaps same skill has been used and Uduaghan is in the All Progressive Congress, APC alone as Ibori has stayed with Okowa and a political establishment of PDP Delta state which is very much arguably his baby.
Also, many assumed APC would pick up members after the PDP primaries that used to be filled with rancor. But not under Okowa’s watch. Like the National primaries, Okowa organized a free and fair primaries wherein the people chose who they wanted to represent them, a situation that got an almighty Amori losing to Barr Evelyn Omavowan Oboro.
And so, with so little departures of PDP greats to APC, and with how Omo-Agege and Ogboru have failed to respect those in the APC before them and to come up with a compromise, and with constant “accusation’ of Okowa as being the strategist behind much of the failure to find peace in APC, one can only see the results going one way…OKOWA’s.
Okowa has been smart. He has continued to woo the Urhobos and many wonder if Ogboru can even beat Okowa in Delta Central. That is how much Okowa has the state in his corner. Now, it is not just that Okowa will beat Ogboru.
That is almost a given.
It is if Omo-Agege can keep his senate seat, with how scattered APC has been and how well-oiled and juggernaut-like Okowa has made PDP.
And so this February, if you are a betting man, bet on Ifeanyi Okowa. It is the rise and rise of the dark horse.
An inside analysis with insight by Ena Ofugara.
He’s a Public Affairs commentator, based in the United States.