Delta Assembly Crisis: A Test of Ibori's Leadership


The recent impeachment of the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Chief Monday Igbuya, is a direct challenge to the godfather of Delta politics and former governor of the state, Chief James Ibori. Segun James looks at the intrigues and how the crisis will playout

The adage that one man’s hero is another man’s scoundrel can not be more true than in the case of Chief James Onanefe Ibori the former Governor of Delta state who not too long ago returned to the country after serving time in a British prison for corruption.

Ibori, no doubts, is considered the political godfather of Delta state after having established his reputation during his time as governor from 1999 to 2007. During this period, he crowned and anointed loyalists and determined the fate of many people.

That was many years ago. Now, his leadership is being contested and challenged by his some of his former loyalists who believe that Ibori has lost touched with political reality in the state and should not have plunged into issues he did not have full grasp of in the bid to assert his leadership.

But in the midst of this, a game of cat and mouse appears to be taking place in the Delta political stage. The felines are both Ibori, the former godfather and Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, the emerging political force in the state while the rodents are the members of the state’s House of Assembly where the winner will determine the political fortunes of the state in 2019. The question now is who will blink first as the two lock horns in the battle to control the soul of the state.

The recent impeachment of the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly (DTHA), Chief Monday Igbuya by 22 out of the 29 members of the state’s assembly is now testing the continued leadership of the former governor, who, since coming back from serving time in prison, wants to determine the political fortune of the state.

Following Igbuya’s impeachment, Ibori who is now nicknamed ‘Big Brother Delta’ since he came back reportedly ordered that he be returned as speaker and that the status quo should be maintained. But he got a rude shock when the lawmakers insisted that the former speaker representing Sapele constituency remained impeached and suspended for three months.

The road to face-off between the lawmakers and Ibori began during the assembly’s plenary sitting last Thursday when 22 out of the 29 members of the house voted to impeach the speaker and immediately replaced him with the member representing Okpe constituency, Sheriff Oborevwori.

The house also elected the member representing Isoko South constituency 2, Johnson Erijo, as the new majority leader having suspended indefinitely the former majority leader, Mr. Tim Owhofere who was said to have leaked the move to impeach the speaker.

Moving the motion for the impeachment of the speaker, Ejiro, who was armed with a list of the 22 members who signed the impeachment notice, said the impeachment became necessary following what he called the former speaker’s deception, highhandedness, and incompetence, adding that Igbuya’s leadership style was unacceptable to the house.

Erijo stated that for the house to move forward, a new speaker was needed, as the state legislature was key to the growth of democracy and development of the state.

The motion was seconded by the member representing Oshimili South constituency and former speaker of the house, Peter Onwusanya was unanimously adopted following which the deputy speaker who presided called for nomination to replace the impeached speaker.

In his acceptance speech, Oborevwori, who immediately took the relevant oaths of office and allegiance administered by the Clerk of the House, Lyna Ocholor, promised to adhere strictly to the rules of the house.

Oborevwori immediately announced the dissolution of all standing committees and adjourned to Tuesday, May 23 for the next sitting, a move which immediately sealed the fate of the embattled former speaker.

The action of the house members was said to have infuriated Ibori who was instrumental to the emergence of Igbuya as speaker while he (Ibori) was in prison in the United Kingdom. He was even more irked when he found that the action of the legislator was at the behest of the state governor, who in his bid to assert his political leadership in the state was determined to confront Ibori.

A member of the house who spoke with our correspondent but pleaded that his name should not be disclosed said Ibori had lost touched with reality.

He said: “Ibori has refused to read the political barometer of the state since he came back. He has forgotten that since he was in prison there have been two governors after him and the political dynamics of the state have changed since then. How can he think he will determine who takes what and how when there is a sitting governor in place? The governor ‘na mugu’? His actions since coming back has been confrontational and aimed at undermining Okowa.

“He has ordered us to reinstate Igbuya, let’s see if his word is law any more in the state. The man thinks he is a god. We have elected a new speaker; let’s see how he would remove him. The joke in his move to bring back Igbuya by ordering all Urhobo legislators in the house to withdraw from the impeachment process is at best laughable. He forgot that the new speaker the ultimate beneficiary is not just Urhobo but also from Okpe like Igbuya. We are waiting for Big-Brother-Delta to come and compel us to do his bidding.”

The Delta legislator insisted that the myth around Ibori would disappear when the lawmakers refuse his orders, adding that the political reality would soon dawn on him.

Most surprisingly, the man who is heading the defiance against Ibori is Mr. Michael Diden aka Ejele who was a political son of the former governor.

It was Ibori in 2003 that made Diden who is the member representing Warri North constituency in the DTHA the chairman of Warri North Local Government Area. However, the relationship was never one way. Diden was a grassroots politician who was instrumental to the victories recorded by both Ibori and his successor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan and also in the last general election, the victory of Okowa in the Itsekiri and Ijaw riverine and heartland of Warri.

He has since been the backbone of Okowa in the Warri, Itsekiri and Ijaw areas where he wields considerable influence.

The decision to impeach Igbuya was said to have been taken by Okowa and Diden. The governor asked him to mobilise his colleagues and he did. But the move which was planned for Thursday 18th of May, was immediately executed when it became known that the Majority Leader of the house had leaked the move to the impeached speaker who started mobilising against his impeachment.

In the midst of the impeachment saga, unknown to Ibori, Okowa played along with him and other Urhobo leaders mobilized by the sacked speaker to mount pressure on the lawmakers to reverse their decision and reinstate Igbuya. But the die has been cast. There was no turning back.

A meeting held to discuss the matter immediately after the impeachment ended in deadlock and was rescheduled. Another meeting with the lawmakers and the governor with representatives of Ibori in attendance at the Government House was also deadlocked.

Rising from the meeting with the governor, one of the principal officers of the house confided in newsmen that they would never reinstate Igbuya.

“Ibori and Okowa are only wasting their time because the house will never bring a curse upon itself. The impeachment of Igbuya stands and there is nothing Okowa or Ibori can do about it. Okowa was in full support of the impeachment and all of a sudden he is turning around to ask us to reverse what we have done constitutionally.

“Deltans are with us on this. Even as we talk, Sapele, his constituency, is agog following his impeachment. We are advising Okowa and Ibori to stay clear of this issue or have their fingers burnt,” he insisted.

The former speaker had only Mrs. Orezi Esievo, who represents Isoko South constituency 1, and James Ibori’s daughter, Erhiatake Ibori, who represents Ethiope West constituency, Evans Ochuko Iwurie, a member representing Ethiope East constituency remaining with him after the meeting ended in deadlock.

According to Ms. Ibori who spoke in pidgin english: “Nothing dey happen. The impeachment cannot stand. My father has said it already so no cause for alarm. Igbuya remains the speaker whether they like it or not,” Ms. Ibori assured the embattled Igbuya.

Meanwhile, the list of lawmakers who have signed the impeachment notice is said to have risen to 26 excluding Igbuya himself, and the new member who took over from the late Mrs. Omawumi Udoh, Princess Diabo and Ibori daughter, Erhiatake, a situation which has diametrically dented the political powers and image of the former governor.

Efforts by former governor Uduaghan to speak to the lawmakers were rebuffed as he was accused of being the principal architect of the political crisis in the state.

He was told to his face that only a few weeks earlier, he sponsored the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Bye-Election to the Warri South constituency against the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a move which suggests that he has left the party for the APC, hence he is no longer in a position to mediate in the crisis that is essentially that of the PDP.

According to them, Uduaghan lacks the credibility to intervene in the impeachment saga as he lacks the respect of the lawmakers, most of whom he worked against during the 2015 general election.

They said that since leaving office in 2015, Uduaghan had lost control in his primary constituency, Warri and the state in general and as such they would give no heed to home as the crisis spirals on.