By Umukoro Oghenekaro
The fallout from the South South PDP Governorship Screening held in Port Harcourt on Thursday has raised a red flag on the possibility of the PDP offering the Delta State Governorship to the opposition All Progressives Alliance on a platter of gold with Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s insistence on Sheriff Oborevwori as his preferred candidate.
It emerged that at the panel that Oborevwori was confronted with series of serious petitions against him, one of which was discrepancies in his names and certificates.
According to the facts in a petition submitted by some concerned members of Delta PDP, while Oborevwori’s First School Leaving Certificate bears Oborevwori Francis, his WAEC Certificate bears Oborevwori O. Francis, his BSC Certificate bears Oborevwori Sheriff Francis, his NYSC Certificate bears Oborevwori Sheriff while his MSC Certificate bears Oborevwori Sheriff Francis Orohwedor.
The petition also showed that he swore to an affidavit in 2003 that his name is Oborevwori Orohwedor Francis while an age declaration deposed to on his behalf by one Benson Ogolo who claimed to be his cousin, gave his name as Francis Oborguwori.
The petitioners pointed out that the series of name changes are similar in fact with the case of Degi Eremienyo, David Lyon’s running mate in the Bayelsa State Governorship election, which led the Supreme Court to upturn the APC victory in favour of Governor Duoye Diri of the PDP.
Confronted with these and other discrepancies in his documents Oborevwori was said to have be visibly shaken and unable to put up any reasonable explanations to defend his multiple names.
Members of the panel were also said to have been shocked at his incoherent statements and incorrect use of language, especially for a Governorship aspirant.
While they viewed the discrepancies as weighty and pointed at the danger of exposing the Delta PDP to the Bayelsa-like situation, Governor Okowa is said to have mounted heavy pressure on the Chairman of the Committee, HE Duoye Diri, and may have compromised him as a fellow Governor to sweep the petition under the carpet.
However, various other members of the panel expressed deep worries and have sworn to take their views to the National Working Committee of the PDP should the observations and report of the panel on these issues be doctored in any way.
They insisted that Governor Diri who is very conversant with the nature of the case, the decided Supreme Court position on such matters and for which he was a beneficiary is clearly working against the interest of the PDP for compromising on such serious inconsistencies.
It is more so as it has been discovered that the Legal Committee of the APC has already investigated and noted same discrepancies and are already prepared to challenge the eligibility of Oborevwori in court before and after the general elections should he emerge as the candidate of Delta PDP.
The APC interim report on Delta PDP frontline Governorship aspirants said: “We have discovered discrepancies in the certificates submitted with his form CF001 to the Independent National Electoral Commission in 2018 and those submitted with the PDP Party Brief Form in 2022. The above discrepancies in the name of the candidate makes his case exactly the same with that of Degi Eremienyo which led to the disqualification of David Lyon by the Supreme Court.”
The report also highlighted discrepancies in Oborevwori’s age declarations, pointing out that whereas his WAEC Certificate obtained in 1999 put his date of birth as 12th November, 1979, he swore to an affidavit in 2003 stating he was born in 1963.
“This connotes that he supposedly wrote his WAEC examination at the of 36 in 1999.”
Also casting doubts about the authenticity of Oborevwori’s certificate, the report pointed out that whereas his WAEC Certificate indicated that he finished from Oghareki Grammar School in 1999, investigations revealed that the school was founded in 2014 and that prior to 2014, the school was named Baptist Mission School, Oghareki, before the State Government returned it to the mission in 2011.”
Both the petition to the PDP screening committee and the APC interim report showed also that there were glitches of ineligible dates in a number of the documents tendered by Oborevwori.
It is suspected that it was towards providing a cover for Oborevwori that Okowa smuggled Chief Mrs Okwuofu, a known campaigner for Oborevwori, into the Screening Committee but the party later discovered and substituted her.
However, Okowa is putting pressure on Diri to carve a way out for Oborevwori and the Bayelsa Governor, with the benefit of hindsight from his case against Lyon and with his position as the chairman of the screening committee, is already offering help.
Diri and Okowa are said to have engaged throughout Thursday night to map a way out and, over night on Friday morning with the use of instruments of government, Oborevwori has mysteriously produced another document to harmonise his many different different names.
The question however is if it would be right for the screening committee to accept the new document after he had filled and submitted his form and appeared before the panel only to be allowed to repackage documents in afterthought. It is also being asked if it would be fair to other aspirants for the PDP to allow Governor Diri and Okowa to glaringly manipulate the process, especially when the facts are already public.
Since these issues came to the fore, top Delta and national PDP stakeholders have been expressing worries that Okowa and Diri might just be putting Delta PDP on cliff hanger should Okowa be allowed to have his way on Oborevwori into the 2023 elections.
“After receiving our support to emerge as Governor and after enjoying his tenure, Okowa wants to put our party in jeopardy. He has eaten belly full but he wants to keep a stooge to enable him keep eating otherwise he will destroy the pot, the plate and the table with which he was served, but God will not allow him,” one of the chieftains who pleaded anonymity said.
The APC Legal Committee who also investigated other Delta Governorship aspirants reported that while they found Olorogun David Edevbie has no issues, they are yet to conclude investigations on Barrister Kingsley Otuaro, Senator James Manager and Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi.
However, at the PDP Governorship screening, Otuaro was said to have stated in his CF001 form that he had a maiden name, a statement which left the committee wondering if he was once a married woman or a transgender.