By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
The political, social, cultural and perhaps spiritual forces which have produced Hon Sheriff Oborevwori as 2023 governorship candidate for the PDP are a watershed in the political history of Delta State. For as a humble, friendly, and perhaps unlikely candidate different from past candidates, his emergence took some in the party by surprise and indeed shock. It has brought joy to the Okpe people, the largest of the Urhobo clans who have rightly argued that the governorship of the state ought to come to their zone.
To be sure, it has led to a falling out, a disagreement among erstwhile comrades sworn to the preservation of PDP hegemony in the state. But the party machinery which was controlled by incumbent governor Senator Ifeanyi Okowa was able to pull through his candidacy even though he was pitched against some other candidates who had powerful forces behind them and who also paraded academic certificates that could intimidate the fainthearted. And so Oborevwori’s paper qualifications, his antecedent as a ‘street boy’, and his association with the incumbent governor have become campaign issues meant to denigrate the authenticity of his candidacy! But the courts, even the highest courts in the land, have validated his paper qualifications. David, the shepherd boy has emerged as the anointed of the Lord; so be it! It is also important to state that a man who was a street boy, gained admission into a university, took a first degree and a subsequently a second degree must be given credit. How many ex-street boys have lifted themselves to the level which Oborevwori has done?
A close interaction with Sheriff Oborevwori would reveal the deep stuff that has made it ensured his successful tenure as Speaker of the State’s House of Assembly for seven odd years. He is calm, patient, a great listener and a team player. Those who cry foul about his antecedents should also give him credit for staying a steady course as Speaker. He may not be Harvard educated but he definitely has matured on the job. Interacting with him shows how much he has learnt in the last seven years. It is sad that he is being castigated for the loans which the House passed after requests from the executive arm of government. The truth is that hardly any House of Assembly refuses requests from the state governors. This applies to the National Assembly and the President of the Federal Republic. When accounts are rendered, it should be for the Executive arm to account for how the funds were expended.
Sheriff has assured all those who have listened during interactions that he will shock the state in two years when he implements the infrastructure development programme which has been conceived and put into a blueprint. Sapele, Warri, Ughelli, Patani, Obiaruku, Orerokpe, Aboh, Ozoro, Ogwashi Uku will receive profound attention in terms of urban renewal. The youths will receive attention in terms of employment and empowerment. Our own Silicon Valley will help to redirect the minds of our youths to the positive aspects of the internet. There should be an end to Yahoo yahoo because they would focus on development of different apps. Delta will be transformed to a construction site.
That is a powerful thing to say. The team of highly-educated political gurus and technocrats around Sheriff will drive the development agenda. It is not going to be business as usual in development strides. The people must see the worth of their money. As a man who is widely in consultation with the grassroots, his agenda will be people=friendly, driven by inputs from the user’s end. In other words, he is not going to sit in Asaba and dictate what the people of Isoko need in the budget.
Those who criticize Sheriff’s association with the incumbent administration should remember that it is the executive arms that drives development programmes. Policy initiatives come from the governor. No matter the brilliant ideas which a legislator has, they won’t come to fruition without the blessing of the governor. As governor, Sheriff will introduce programmes that are close to his heart. To be sure, he has seen the weaknesses in all the administrations in the state and will plug loopholes to ensure service delivery.
As a beneficiary of the incumbent governor’s benevolence, he will not turn against him. But areas that need better attention will be dealt with. For example, payment of pensions and gratuities will be vigorously pursued. Ditto for DESOPADEC. That organization will be better positioned to deliver on its mandate especially for oil producing communities. The goose which lays the golden egg must benefit from the wealth of the egg. Indeed, the MORE slogan of the Sheriff campaign means that he plans to do more and build deeply on the achievements of the outgoing administration.
The performance of LP in the February 25th presidential election showed a strong outing for Peter Obi, closely followed by PDP. This is comforting to the PDP. This is a clear sign that things are not as they used to be. Once Sheriff wins the ballot, he must ensure that development-focus is people-oriented. The mass disenchantment with the two establishment parties – PDP and APC- will need to be addressed radically through policy initiatives and implementation. Those who erroneously believe that APC will be different in Delta State should look at the abysmal performance of the party at the national level and forget the idea of an APC government in Delta State. Sheriff is a man on the ground who will not disappoint the people of Delt State.
Sheriff Oborevwori has matured with time and exposure. He served as Chair Conference of Speakers of Nigeria and the presence of some of these speakers at his campaign outings show his ability to build and sustain bridges. He has the good health, composure, and humility to widely consult stakeholders in order to keep the state together after victory come March 18. He also will keep intellectuals very close to the corridors of government. In other words, his government will not suffer intellectual deficit. He has the capacity to listen to profound ideas and distil same into policy framework.
Finally, we should allow the ballot box speak for the people in the governorship elections and with the spirit of God’s favour with him, in counter disposition to mammy water spirit, Sheriff Oborevwori should be the next governor of Delta State. Grace speaks, principalities take a bow!
Prof Hope Eghagha teaches Literature at the University of Lagos
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