Ibori established political family that runs Delta State – Okowa

Ifeanyi Okowa
Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, in a rare interview said that the former governor of the state, Chief James Ibori, was not just the rallying point for politicians in the state, he established the political family that continues to call the shots in the state.
Excerpt from the Interview
Tell us how you met ex- governor, James Ibori, whose image still looms large in the politics of the state? 

That was quite a long time. There was Grassroots Democratic Movement, GDM, though a small party then during the Abacha time; then UNCP where we had the moneybags and big politicians, but somehow, some of us, the younger ones felt that we needed to create a new politics, that was in 1996 and we found ourselves joining the Grassroots Democratic Movement.

Why, because the national chair then was also very young, so he was able to recruit some of us, who were young into the place and nobody actually believed in us. Therefore, it was in the Grassroots Democratic Movement,  what we called the GDM that I actually met Chief James Ibori in 1996.

Good politics 
We struggled hard, we were able to win five local governments out of the 25 in Delta state and people put us off, but we played good politics then even when we were quite young. I have been council chair before, so I understood what politics was.

He (Ibori) also had made an attempt to run before, people like Senators James Manager, Ighoyota Amori; it was a young crop of persons; all of us below 40 then that actually populated the place.

However, when the new political era was to start after the Abacha time, immediately we realised then that UNCP was going to be a major problem to us, we quickly teamed up with DPN, the Democratic Party of Nigeria and that gave us strength because they also had four local government areas and we had five, which made it nine.

So we had improved on our strength, the combination actually gave us a very good strength, we formed what we called the Delta National Congress in Warri and that was the tool with which we went to link up with the G34 and then eventually joined the PDP. The rest is now history because we surprisingly took Delta State at that time.

Ibori had a special attraction for you; can you tell us what you think endeared you to him? I think he found in me, somebody that is ready to work very hard at every point in time. Everything I want to do, without trying to praise myself, I think I am always very committed to it, right from my youth. I know I was very committed in the campaigns through the GDM. When we came to the PDP, I was very committed.

However, one thing too, he also saw in me somebody who will fight injustice at every point in time. The thing was showing at the beginning of PDP when he had already promised that he would make me Deputy Governor then. However, I just found that some people were oppressing others in my constituency, they could not speak their minds and people could not rise up to contest.

Gov Ifeanyi Okowa They wanted to anoint people and I rose up against that and when the party did its manoeuvring, I turned my back and said no, you cannot do this, and that was what led to the emergence of people like Nduka Irabor. Because they did not give him a chance to come in and I felt he was a strong character and someone that could represent us, in that process of fighting the authorities then, it became an issue.

Therefore, he (Ibori) saw in me someone with a very strong character and when we came into government, this issue I was talking about, being detribalised and looking at Delta State holistically, I think he saw all those traits in me because people use to talk and preferences of the people was obviously made in most occasions. So I think that warmed us up because at every point in time, I always offered him the truth and told him what I thought was right and when things went wrong, others may speak politically, but I will speak base on the fact that what is right will always be right and what is wrong will always be wrong. I think that is what endeared me to him. Senator Ighoyota Amori talked about a political family in the state of which Ibori is the head, and that you are a member of that political family, is it correct? Of course, Ibori built the political family in Delta State in this current dispensation starting 1999. He was the first governor; he was a rallying point for everybody even some of them that have broken out now and trying to make waves in other party actually grew under him. I do not want to mention names, I am sure that you know them. Whosoever and wherever they are, he built the political family that came up so strong in Delta State.

Whatever thing you say about him, one good thing about him is that he is somebody who is very liberal; he likes to bring people together. Every man will have his own bad past but I think he did many good, no matter what anybody says today. Political family Beyond the political family, even the foundation built in Delta as you crisscross the state, he built most of the roads you see and nobody can take it away from him.

Was there any understanding in the Ibori political family that you would succeed Governor Uduaghan or the race was open?

I think the race was open. When you say there is understanding, probably there was a formal meeting where we agreed that it must be me, no no.

We did not have such a meeting. You know for a long time, he has not been within the state. I think that some people just assumed that having done the 2006 primaries in which I came out a strong second and decided to work in the best interest of the party, that I should be the next successor. However, talk about sitting down in a meeting to decide that this is the way it should be; we never had such a meeting.

Source: Vanguard