Paul Osuyi, Asaba
Disenchantment is growing among members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Delta State following recent appointments made by the governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa as he sets up his cabinet.
A cross section of members of the party are nursing grievances for not being part of what they describe as first class appointments in the shape of commissioners, special advisers and members of lucrative agencies like the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC).
The cry of marginalisation started in 2015 when Okowa took oath of office for his first tenure. There was a complete demarcation between those perceived to be loyal to his cause of becoming governor and those opposed to it within the party. The immediate past governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, had in the build-up to the December 2014 governorship primaries, attempted to dislodge the Ibori political dynasty by single handedly trying to determine his successor.
He opted for a serving permanent secretary, Tony Obuh who was not a member of the political class as successor, against the widely believed position that there was an agreement within the political family in 2007 that Okowa should succeed Uduaghan after eight years. Uduaghan activated the machinery of government to push through his motive, with majority of his cabinet members and core loyalists buying into the project. But the Obuh project failed and Okowa won the December 8, 2014 primaries and went on to win the general election.
Although, there was reconciliation as the party went into the 2015 election as a united house but mutual suspicion had already been created among the political class. As a result, Okowa’s appointments in 2015 were deliberately made to sideline perceived enemies.
As the administration progressed, a few of Uduaghan’s loyalists got appointments into fringe positions as board chairmen or members where they were only entitled to sitting allowance, and completed shielded off from the juicy areas of government, an indication that the wounds created were not completely healed.
In the build up to the 2019 elections, the party consolidated on its unity following a plethora of endorsements of the governor for a second term. Okowa was unopposed in the party primary.
Except Uduaghan who left the party to pursue his senatorial ambition in the All Progressive Congress (APC), the PDP was a fortress of some sorts in the recently concluded elections when Okowa was re-elected as governor. The few steps Okowa has taken thus far in his second term with regard to appointments, have been applauded in some quarters but the cries of marginalisation of a section of members of the party is still loud and clear.
In his first appointments, Chiedu Ebie, David Edevwie and Solomon Funkekeme were appointed Secretary to State Government, Chief of Staff and Senior Political Adviser, respectively. Although, the appointments spread across the three senatorial districts, that of Ebie who is the immediate past Commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education, came as a shocker to the political class particularly lobbyists. Ebie is the governor’s Ika kinsman and a protégé of former governor, James Ibori.
Edevwie on the other hand, is the immediate past Commissioner for Finance, a position he occupied during the eight-year tenure of former Governor Ibori. He is considered as core Ibori loyalist. But Funkekeme who was being touted as the next SSG, having served as the Director General of the PDP campaign council for the 2019 election, might have been disappointed with the position of political adviser.
It has being the tradition of the party that whoever served as DG is automatically appointed as SSG. Okowa served as DG in 2007 and was appointed SSG by Uduaghan. Ovuozourie Macauley served as DG in 2011, he too emerge SSG. Festus Agas was DG in 2015 and was subsequently appointed as SSG.
Funkekeme’s case has become as exception, probably for the role he played in the 2014/2015 election when he stood with his then boss, Dr. Uduaghan to champion the Obuh project with an eye on the deputy governorship seat, at the time. As Commissioner for Works between 2011 and 2015, Funkekeme was one of those who called the shots in Uduaghan’s second term. Now, he may be reaping from his past mistakes despite making uncomplimentary remarks against Uduaghan during the 2019 campaigns.
On the other hand, Macaulay, another kitchen cabinet member of the Uduaghan years, could only be rewarded with the nomination as DG of the recently established Warri, Uvwie and Environs Development Agency for his steadfastness to the party, even in the face pressures from highly placed chieftains of the APC. Macaulay’s loyalists had eyes for the lucrative DESOPADEC but the governor had other plans with the nomination of his closest allies, Michael Diden and Bashorun Askia as chairman and DG respectively of the oil commission.
Diden is the immediate past member representing Warri North constituency at the state House of Assembly while Askia was a director in the DESOPADEC board in the last four years. Both men stood with Okowa in the political intrigues of 2014 when Macaulay was on the Obuh train as a sitting SSG.
Reacting to the development, an aggrieved member of the party who also played a role in the failed Obuh project lamented that the memories of the 2014/2015 election year were yet to be completely erased. The aggrieved politician who does not want to be named in print, insisted that ever since the December 8, 2014 governorship primaries, those who stood against Okowa based on the directive of the then governor, have continued to receive second class treatment.
“The sin of most of us is because we followed the instructions of our then principal to work for Obuh in the 2014 primaries. But when that project failed few hours to the election, we all came back to work for the party and the governorship candidate. We never betrayed the party.
“But what do we get? Second class treatment in our own party since 2015; they have be given us crumbs since then. The few of us in that category who got appointments were merely board members and nothing more.
“Now, four years have gone and another tenure has begun, yet we are still being treated as outsiders despite our contributions to the success of the party in the 2019 election. Like in 2015, we did not betray the party; we made sure Delta remained a PDP state despite the pressures to sell out.
“One would ask, is four years not enough for wounds to heal? They are looking at us with suspicion. You want us to celebrate for appointing Macaulay as DG of an agency that might not be funded. How much funding did the state capital territory development agency enjoy in the last four years? There was nothing much, hence that agency could not do something worthwhile with the over bearing influence of some ‘super commissioners’.
“What is wrong in making a former SSG commissioner if you feel your core loyalists should take over DESOPADEC? What is wrong in re-appointing Funkekeme commissioner if you feel he can’t be trusted as SSG? These are the issues; lack of trust, mutual suspicion from the leader of the party. This is not good for us as PDP members because between now and 2023, a lot is going to happen that will shape the next general election,” he stated.
Besides, a recent outburst by the former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godsday Orubebe also pointed out the marginalisation of a section of PDP members in the state.
Orubebe in a caustic comment took a swipe at recent happenings in the state, describing the PDP as a party dominated by ingrates and sadists who kill the spirit of loyalty, love and commitment.
“The PDP is a party of so many ungrateful and sadistic people, and sometimes it sounds funny when I see and hear some of them talk on the television, radio and in the newspaper. One day we shall come out to call names with facts and history. It is a party that kills the spirit of loyalty, love and commitment,” Orubebe fumed.
Reacting to the perceived marginalisation of party members, Okowa at a recent swearing in ceremony of some special advisers said there was enough space in his government to accommodate those who worked for his successful re-election, and urged party faithful to be patient.
The governor’s Chief Press Secretary and commissioner-designate, Charles Aniagwu amplified his boss’s position when he reacted to Orubebe’s outburst.
“Let me make it very clear that the PDP in Delta State is one strong family under the leadership of the state governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa and of course, the party leadership. The party remains committed to the development and empowerment of not only the members, but the entire electorate of Delta state.
“Our brother, our leader, a very good friend to the governor, Elder Godsday Orubebe, is also a key member of that PDP family, he has contributed to the development of the party in the state and is always given his due respect and we will continue to give him his due respect.
“We do not emphasise ethnic groups in Delta because we have grown together as one Delta; we try as much as possible not to emphasise those fault lines of ethnicity because it does not and will not take us anywhere.
“So I do not want to believe that what is ascribed to him that a particular ethnic group is marginalised is true because all the ethnic groups in the state are seen as key stakeholders and are respected as Deltans, more so, the governor has same regards for anybody, irrespective of tribe,” Aniagwu stated.