One may wonder how the former governor of Delta State, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, incarcerated in the United Kingdom for economic and financial crimes is spending his 2014 Christmas Week. From a purely political and career perspective, it apparently cannot be a good or merry week for him. It might even actually be a week great gloom and bitter regret.
It appears that the political landscape and dynamics of gubernatorial politics has changed remarkably and without Ibori. Has his long reach and control of Delta State from his cell in Diaspora finally come to an end? So indicates the results of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial primaries in Delta State that saw Ifeanyi Okowa emerge victorious over other hopefuls Tony Obuh and David Edevbie.
The current governor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, very loyal to his mentor and predecessor, ex-Governor Ibori, had hitherto the PDP gubernatorial primaries presented Tony Obuh, a former permanent secretary in Delta State, as his chosen successor. However, at the last minute, Governor Uduaghan tried to impose David Edevbie, a former commissioner in the Ibori cabinet and former Principal Secretary to President Umar Yar’Adua, as his last minute chosen successor. It appears this unwitting decision backfired in favour of Ifeanyi Okowa.
What is most interesting is how the outcome of the PDP gubernatorial primaries has affected Ibori’s Christmas Week. There were a number of prominent Delta State (and other) PDP dignitaries in London, England entering just before the primaries with the primary intention to pledge allegiance and seek patronage from Ibori in the prison he is being held immediately after his favourite had emerged winner. The wait was necessary for them to present their “cases” very well to Ibori and with reasonable certainty in their calculations.
Unfortunately, Ifeanyi Okowa’s victory in the primaries sent shock waves among the PDP faithful and created a new intuition; the victory must have been orchestrated from the highest levels of the national PDP hierarchy. Those who had flown into London just to see Ibori, simply decided based on this new intuition that there is no longer any need for them to see Ibori after all. That is a mind-numbing rejection of Ibori from men who he had personally made. It is a plausible signal that Ibori has expired as Delta State “Kingmaker” and “Patron”.
All this said, there are those among the PDP faithful who in some sense liken James Ibori to James Bond. Their take on the issue is that it was Ibori who orchestrated the victory of Ifeanyi Okowa for two reasons. Firstly, Okowa’s victory enabled Ibori implement a loyalty test. If this is true many have failed the Ibori Loyalty Test already and they should go look for other career paths or reinvent themselves.
Secondly, it is also said by a couple of high-up PDP politicians that Ibori wanted a fresh candidate who after the primaries would not be burdened by prebendal and patronage pressures thus keeping Ibori’s interests in Delta State politics intact and safe. The loyalty to a politician in jail is not comparable to the loyalty to a mafia don in jail though, in the former case disloyalty can be expedient while in the latter it spells death. These two reasons would suggest Ibori is actually having a wonderful Christmas Week at the moment.
Whatever the reality of Ibori’s Christmas Week is Delta State politics, for good or for bad, will never be the same again. This will be the December and Christmas Week (in 2014) the change began. Let us wait and see for ourselves.
Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!