Events unfolding in Delta State have revealed a thorny path for Kenneth Gbagi, the state governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the March 18 governorship election, in his quest to get the victory of Sheriff Oborevwori of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) quashed at the election tribunal.
This followed the declaration of the Oke Idawene-led executive council of the state chapter of the SDP that Gbagi was on his own in his legal battle against the governor-elect.
Gbagi, like Ovie Omo-Agege of the All Progressives Congress (APC), is currently before the state’s governorship election petition tribunal to reclaim his alleged stolen mandate from Oborevwori and the PDP.
But the internal wrangling in the party has led to the dissolution of the Idawene-led exco which on Wednesday, threw its weight of support behind Oborevwori.
The group’s declaration came a day after the party’s national leadership appointed a state caretaker committee led by Esther Ikule, on the grounds that Idawene was unable to put under control the protracted crisis in the state chapter of the party but had engaged in anti-party activities.
A letter from the National Working Committee (NWC) dated May 2, and signed by Olu Agunloye, the national secretary, gave Ikule 90 days to reorganise and streamline the party’s activities amongst other things.
Idawene, speaking on Wednesday when he led his exco members on a courtesy visit to Oborevwori in his office in Asaba, declared that they had nothing to do with Gbagi, saying the guber candidate was on his own.
Idawene said they were not part of any litigation brought against Oborevwori by the SDP governorship candidate even as he accused Gbagi of imposing himself on members of the party in the state.
He said that the dream of making Oborevwori governor has been realised collectively.
Idawene told the governor-elect: “We want to let you know that we are not part of any litigation against your emergence as Governor-Elect of Delta State.
“This visit is calculated to tell the world that we did not do it in hiding; we did it to say that before SDP, there was a Delta State and that you are the Governor-elect and in few days, you will be sworn in as the Governor of Delta State and not PDP.
“The entire exco here is saying that everything we will do to ensure that Rt. Hon Sheriff Oborevwori succeeds in Delta, we will do it.
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“We are Deltans, we are doing what Delta State stands for and not party affairs; our members will be in the tribunal as agents of the party to say that Chief Kenneth Gbagi was never ready for elections; he did not pay one single agent and that we have rejected his body, soul and spirit.
“During the elections, nobody here voted for SDP, we all voted PDP; we also voted for our Governor, Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa for Presidency. Having said so, we can testify from Olomoro there was zero vote in SDP in my unit. We are identifying with this incoming administration in Delta State.”
He further said: “You are leading us for eight years and not four years. All litigations will go away, we are not going to say you are for someone else tomorrow whether PDP, SDP, or APGA, there is a Delta State and that is what we stand for. From now on, we stand with you by the grace of God and we will not defer; as I told you earlier, we will never leave you. Delta State must move forward.”
Oborevwori, in his response, expressed gratitude to his visitors and reminded them of his promise to be Governor for all Deltans.
“I want to use this opportunity to thank all Deltans for the organic love because, in all, we were able to win 21 local governments out of the 25 local governments in the state by the special grace of God with a margin of 119,880. I believe Deltans have spoken and the victory is for all of us,” he said.
Oborevwori, who is also the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly and National Deputy Chairman of the Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures of Nigeria, added: “I have told Deltans that I am a Pan-Deltan; I want to serve Deltans. You can see that the transition committee is all about inclusiveness, comprising of the youth, Christian community, and public and private sectors which shows that the government that is coming is for all of us. I want to serve, I want to be a servant leader.”
While thanking them for the visit he said, “We will continue to work together to see how we can take Delta State to an enviable height and I know by the time we are done with our first tenure by the special grace of God, Deltans will be very happy and Nigerians will be very happy as well.”
He prayed to God to bless SDP, PDP and other political parties in the country.
Gbagi however, was later quoted to have addressed newsmen where he alleged that Idawene was a PDP member.
He said Idawene having been validly sacked becomes history and urged the public to “disregard him in totality as we set up machinery for SDP to reclaim the “stolen mandate” and build the membership of the party.
Notwithstanding Gbagi’s claims, political pundits see a very thorny and rough road for him in his journey to counter Oborevwori’s victory.
They see the internal wrangling in the state SDP as a major obstacle coupled with the fact that the party is not well-rooted in Delta State unlike the PDP, a development they believe may have contributed to Gbagi polling just a little over 4,000 votes in the guber poll.
Recall that Gbagi, a former minister of education (state), had been one of the PDP chieftains since 1999 but left the party to SDP last year, following the outcome of the PDP guber primary election that favoured Oborevwori.