By Fred Edoreh
For any patriotic Deltan, the deciding factor for who succeeds Dr Ifeanyi Okowa as Governor of Delta State should be about the comparative capacity of the aspirants to provide greater socio-infrastructural development and engineer a robust economy to better the lives of the people.
On this there is no argument that Olorogun David Edevbie best fits the bill. This is because of his well known professional background, the knowledge he brings from the private sector, local and international, and the huge experience he has garnered working with the past three and present Governors of the state as well as in the Presidency.
Really, if Delta PDP truly prioritises the development of the state above mere acquisition and control of power by some individuals for vain self ego and gain, the choice before them is actually a no brainer.
Deltans can see that, of all the PDP aspirants, Edevbie is the only one with articulate and visionary development plan for the state while others are mostly relying on endorsements, the favour of the Governor and the intimidation of delegates with the instruments of the state and the party executive.
Deltans across all divides are troubled seeing the glaring intent on discounting Edevbie’s huge and proven capacity, which Okowa has severally attested to, for various low virtue reasons being suggested.
Some say it is because Okowa still nurses grudge against Edevbie for contesting against him in the 2014 primaries. Others say he wants to disgrace the UPU and the Urhobos over the same 2014 grudge. Some others say he wants to have a pliable successor he can control to enjoy a third term by proxy. Some say he wants to prove that he can do what Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan couldn’t do. Yet others say he wants to bring down Chief James Ibori to enthrone himself as grand commander of Delta politics.
The later suggestion is given fillip by the sponsored propaganda of tying Edevbie’s aspiration to Chief Ibori person and the wild media attacks on Ibori by even the Okowa’s aides, while he turns blind eye or justifies the insults as politics.
If truth be told, Okowa is as much, possibly even more an Ibori man than Edevbie. Many others like Senator James Manager, DSP Ovie Omo-Agege, Hon Ndudi Elumelu, to mention but a few, also ascended their various political heights through their association with Ibori. The list includes Delta Speaker, Rt Hon Francis Oborevwori whom he first appointed Special Assistant on Youth Development in 2003 before Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, also Ibori associate, appointed him Special Adviser on Land Security between 2007 and 2010.
Ibori saw value in all of them, brought them into his administration and supported them to grow politically.
It therefore baggers logic and good faith, especially for persons in Dr Okowa’s service, to be abusing Ibori on account of him expressing or suggesting a preference for a member of the political family to emerge Governor of the state.
It must be said that, unlike some of the associates who were prompted from the nursery, Edevbie, from youth, had made his mark in the international scene as a development expert managing multi-million pounds investments of the Commonwealth Development Corporation in India, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Malaysia and various other Asian and Pacific countries, from where Ibori saw his capacity and value and invited him home to serve his state.
The first computer ever used in Delta State Government was brought by Edevbie and his insistence on modernisation for greater efficiency led to the computerisation of the state public service under Project E-Delta.
As in developed countries where things are organised, when he arrived in 1999, he asked for the state development plan, but there was none. His insistence led the administration of Chief Ibori to commission a 20-year Development Masterplan for the state which has however been abandoned, while Lagos which borrowed a leaf from Delta maintained theirs through successive administrations to achieve their reputation as Centre of Excellence we all admire.
As a Development Economist, Edevbie took the challenge to raise the state revenue from N6b in that 1999 to over N60b within four years which enabled the funding of capital projects at the beginning of the current democratic dispensation.
That revenue even not being enough, he provided the technical and intellectual content for the actualisation of 13% oil derivation which before then was just 3%.
He returned under Dr Okowa to again fight for increment in the accrual by insisting on deduction of the 13% before the Federal Government makes transfers to the Excess Crude Account.
The 13% fund informed the creation of DESOPADEC and it is interesting to see that those who control the fund today are not only using it to flaunt self affluence, but even currently seeming to be deploying it to sponsor opposition against Edevbie and attacks on Ibori, rather than using it for the oil communities it is meant for.
Their only reason for fighting Edevbie may be because he is well known to be strict about compliance to financial regulations and against profligacy. As Commissioner of Finance he insisted on computerised processing of contracts as against “paddy paddy” system and also introduced the Cash Budget System which ensured that contracts are awarded subject to foreseeable means of payment in order to control state indebtedness.
Some of our chieftains do not enjoy these international best practices in financial management, but they are the norm which informs the advancement of the developed nations and are imperative for any nation or state that wishes to grow.
It was for this professional discipline and resourcefulness that President Umaru Yar’adua first appointed Edevbie Director of Finance and Strategy of his campaign and later his Principal Secretary to double-function as Chief of Staff at the Nigerian Presidency.
It was from there that Edevbie provided answer to the Niger Delta crises through his conceptualisation of the Presidential Amnesty Programme which helped to douse militancy by creating accommodation in government for the militant camp commanders and redirecting the energy of the militant youths towards education and acquisition of professional skills, thus achieving peace in the region to restore Nigeria’s oil production output.
Interestingly, it was by Edevbie’s proposition of the Presidential Amnesty that Francis Oborevwori, his rival today, benefitted as the State Coordinator of the Programme between 2009 and 2010.
Edevbie also pushed the Presidency to establish the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs to provide additional vehicle for the development of the Niger Delta region.
Edevbie’s contributions to the infrastructural, economic and social development of Delta State and the entire Niger Delta region, especially in resolving the challenges of militancy through youth empowerment and capacity building remain invaluable.
It was certainly in acknowledgment of the knowledge, professionalism, capacity and value Edevbie carries with his person, especially having worked with him under Ibori and seeing his performances at the Presidency, that Okowa brought him back to serve as his Commissioner of Finance in 2015, ten years after his first stint from 1999 to 2005.
The appointment, including as his Chief of Staff in his second tenure until 2019, attests to Edevbie’s worth and trustworthiness.
These facts about Edevbie’s contributions not only justifies his invitation by Ibori into the service of the state but also justifies Ibori’s support for him for the governorship of Delta State.
Inherently, Edevbie is showing the way to a glorious Delta, with a great vision, articulate plan, capacity and preparedness to perform through his Modernisation Agenda which has gained wide approval and acceptance across all districts and tribes, and Deltans are enthusiastically expectant of a bright future for the state with him.
Therefore Okowa’s apparent opposition to Edevbie cannot be for any doubt about his capacity to deliver far above any of the other aspirants, and even to surpass his legacies, but obviously for reasons beneath the overall best interest of the development of Delta State.
The question for Delta PDP leaders, elders and delegates as they prepare to decide at the Gubernatorial Primary is whether to follow the path of development which Edevbie leads or to slide the ditch of percuniary sentiments suggestively informed by grudge and unfounded fears.
Their answer is theirs to defend in posterity.