By Edafe Steve
The Delta Central -23, DC-23, a political lobby group of the people of Delta Central Senatorial District (Urhobo) for 2023 Governor has run into severe crisis of confidence, which could lead to its collapse if not properly managed.
The group initiated by stakeholders of Delta Central is led by Senator Ighoyota Amori.
It assumed the powers to prune down the number of governorship aspirants from the senatorial district, which seems to be its undoing.
The group, late last year, pruned 12 aspirants of Delta Central to five (5). Among Delta Central (Urhobo) PDP aspirants who made the list of the earlier five, during the screening of DC-23, last year, were former Minister of State for Education, Delta State Industrialist, Chief Kenneth Gbagi, former Chief of Staff, Olorogun David Edevbie, Speaker, Delta State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon Sheriff Oborevwori, former Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Senator Emmanuel Aguarivwodo and immediate past Commissioner for Works, Chief James Augoye.
Screened out by DC-23 committee were Chief Fred Majemite, Hon Ejaife Odebala, Hon Efe Ofobruku, Chief Kenneth Okpara, now late, Chief Bright Edejeghwro, Hon. Festus Ovie Agas, Chief Abel Esievo and Chief Sunday Oruarefe.
Again, there was fresh tension in January 2022 when the committee met to further cut down the earlier pruned five aspirants to three consensus aspirants to strategically pursue the Urhobo agenda in the forthcoming PDP primaries.
However, DC-23 lobby group had received several attacks since its last sitting on January 16 over distrust.
Some of the earlier screened out governorship aspirants in Delta Central questioned the effectiveness of DC-23 screening committee, saying the committee did not have powers to stop any aspirant from participating in the governorship primaries in the platform of PDP.
Nevertheless, one or two of the affected governorship aspirants had agreed to step down for the collective interest of the Urhobo nation.
Among those who earlier expressed distrust was a former Minister of State for Education and Delta state industrialist, Chief Kenneth Gbagi. Though Gbagi later made the final three, he said there was rumour that the Delta Central 2023 (DC-23) lobby group was making moves to dump him in the second phase of the selection.
The former minister, Gbagi narrated this during his consultative visit to PDP Elders and Leaders Forum in Udu Local government area of the state on January.
“As a criminologist, I am aware of the clandestine moves by certain persons in the party and Delta Central senatorial district plotting to stop my emergence as the standard-bearer of the party in the forthcoming PDP party primary election,” he asserted.
But, he expressed confidence that nobody would dump him in the guber race.
A youth leader, who pleaded anonymity, said the former minister was actually screened out but the fear of the unknown stopped them from announcing the outcome of the successful three aspirants in the second phase of the screening.
But after a long waiting and delay, the DC-23 announced the former Minister of State for Education, Chief Kenneth Gbagi; Speaker of Delta State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori; and former Chief of Staff to Delta State Government, Olorogun David Edevbie, to have passed the second phase of the selection process.
However, a lot of stakeholders in Delta Central had expressed disappointment on the outcome of the DC-23 report.
In a statement published on the 13 Feb. 2022 by the URHOBOTODAY, stakeholders alleged huge financial inducement on DC-23.
The allegation came a few days after the screening committee released its final report in which cleared three out of the five aspirants for the race namely: former Minister of State for Education, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, Olorogun David Edevbie, immediate past Chief of Staff to Delta State Government and current Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Sheriff Oborevwori.
It left out former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Emmanuel Aguariavwodo and immediate past Commissioner for Works, James Augoye.
Following this development, a group under the umbrella of Delta Central Political Elders and Leaders of Thought (DCPELT) had expressed distrust on the selection process, noting that the lobby group left out credible alternatives and cleared questionable characters for the race.
The leaders of thought, in a confidential letter written to His Excellency, Senator Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, the governor of Delta, urged the governor to reject and investigate the DC-23 report, narrating that the group bowed to huge cash inducement to arrive at its decision.
The letter which was signed by Dr Adogbeji Ideh, Chief P.O. Akaighe and Chief Eddie Ono-Sorhue, dissociated itself from the subject matter.
This has been generating needless controversies, capable of creating further disaffection within the party due to the manipulative selection process eventually deployed by the Screening Committee of the DC-23 lobby group.
It is believed that it is “deliberately designed to exclude the ‘best of the lot’ and foist persons of questionable character on the Party in a political ambush to serve selfish interests.”
The letter reads: ‘We write to you under confidential cover as DELTA CENTRAL POLITICAL ELDERS AND LEADERS OF THOUGHT mutually desirous of a smooth transition that will usher in your successor of Urhobo extraction, in line with what is commonly referred to as the Zoning Formula of the Ruling PDP in Delta state.”
‘We firmly believe that it is quite expedient that such a person should possess remarkable integrity, reasonable competence, requisite experience and general acceptance of the electorate that can consolidate on your laudable achievements of the SMART Agenda and unite the State.
‘We wish to therefore dissociate ourselves from the subject, which has expectedly generated needless controversy, capable of creating further disaffection within the Party due to the manipulative selection process eventually deployed by the Screening Committee of the lobby group DC-23, deliberately designed to exclude the ‘best of the lot’ and foist persons of questionable character on the Party in a political ambush to serve selfish interests.
‘We have indeed received several reports of mouthwatering monetary inducements of the Screening Committee members by the beneficiaries of this charade and wish to crave your indulgence to carry out an independent investigation to substantiate the veracity of this weighty allegations, in order to properly guide your anticipated action on this issue.
‘We are strongly canvassing for further assessment of intending governorship aspirants on the basis of competence, experience, loyalty and vision of purpose, using recognised organs of the Party, which we also believe that the Final List would not ordinarily exclude the likes of Sen. Emmanuel Aguariavwodo, Chief James Augoye and Omizu Ejaife Odebala, going by their known antecedents, expressed intentions and ongoing consultation efforts.
‘We are therefore soliciting your kind cooperation to disregard the outcome of the exercise conducted by the DC-23 lobby group in the true spirit of fairness by deploying available instruments of your office as the State Party Leader, towards ensuring the emergence of a flag bearer that meets the yearnings and aspirations of most political stakeholders in the current dispensation, all in a bid to guarantee victory for the Party at the general elections next year.
“We remain committed to your patriotic quest of finishing strong and bequeathing a lasting legacy to all Deltans,” the leaders said.
The Urbobo lobby group, DC -2023, on Friday 18, debunked the allegation, accusing the group of involving in a huge financial inducement in the course of performing its legitimate duty.
The group strongly denied that at no time did it collect bribe from any aspirant as its assignment was carried out with self-sacrifices for the benefit of Deltans.
The 13-member committee in a statement, said the allegations levelled against the group lacked any iota of truth and described it as a deliberate attempt to rubbish its good intentions.
The statement which was signed by all the members posited: “We hereby, unequivocally, state that members of the screening committee never received any bribe in the course of the assignment. We carried out the exercise in good faith for the sake of Delta state.”
“We challenge the trio to name the giver(s) of the bribe(s), the amount paid as well as those who received and provide evidence. A few others have also made similar claims. The persons alleging should show proof.
“If these unwarranted attacks and campaign of calumny continue, members of the Screening Committee will be constrained to seek legal redress by way of an action in defamation against the authors of such falsehoods.
“We call on the general public and all Deltans to disregard the antics of those whose preferred aspirants didn’t make the shortlist of three.
“As for the aspirants who couldn’t make the list of the last three, we appeal to them to take the outcome in good faith. They willingly submitted themselves to the exercise and went through the mill. They also issued a memorandum of understanding unequivocally stating that they will accept the outcome of the pruning exercise and in the end support whoever emerges.
The statement captioned: “DC-23 COMMITTEE MEMBERS WERE NEVER BRIBED” stated: “We, members of the DC-23 Screening Committee, have observed with dismay a smear campaign that is being orchestrated to tarnish our image, impugn our character and call to question the integrity and validity of the report that we recently submitted to the leadership of the DC-23.”
“One of such ill-conceived attempts is the spurious and subversive letter written to His Excellency, Senator Arthur Ifeanyi Okowa, the Governor of Delta State, and signed by the trio of Dr. Adogbeji Ideh, Chief P. A, Akaighe and Chief Eddie Ono-Sorhue, wherein they not only called to question the integrity of the report, but also alleged that the committee members were bribed to skew the report in favour of the three aspirants that were recommended,” they added.