James Ibori

 Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba

Former Delta State governor, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, wednesday called on the people of the state to continue to support the government of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and pray that God would “sharpen his vision” to govern the state towards greater glory”, saying he and numerous political leaders across the state were solidly behind him to continue as governor beyond 2019.

Ibori made the remarks during the maiden products exhibition and business fair of the state’s Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP) and Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP) held at the Cenotaph, Asaba, the Delta State capital.

The governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, who also attended the exhibition to show solidarity with the Okowa administration, said that the job of growing the Nigerian economy to globally acceptable and sustainable levels should know no political boundaries.

Ibori said he would not mince words about his endorsement of Okowa for a second term in office as Delta State governor.

Prior to his endorsement wednesday, political observers had been curious as to where exactly Ibori, considered the godfather of Delta politics, stood regarding the gubernatorial race in 2019.

Ibori was said to have made a veiled rebuff of Okowa’s advances to obtain his endorsement for a second term during a recent reception held in Isoko South Local Government Area for the ex-governor by a former secretary to the state government, Ovuozorie Macaulay.

The former Ibori was reported to have criticised the Okowa administration and explained that his (Ibori’s) elder statesman’s status meant that his followership transcended Delta politics.

Nonetheless, Ibori wednesday erased all doubts when he ascended the podium to a thunderous ovation and shouts of “Ibori! The Odidigborigbo (Big Masquerade) of Africa”, and promptly said he was not only praying for but also supporting Okowa for eight years in office.

Speaking directly to Okowa, Ibori said: “I am pleased that you have invited me and my duty is to pray for you. The day Deltans voted for you, they did so with the confidence that you will deliver, and you are delivering.”

Describing himself as one of Okowa’s subjects, Ibori added: “I am a Deltan and I do have a voice on matters that border on the peace and progress of Delta State.

“I may be watching from the sidelines, but I want to say again that you (Okowa) are doing well. At the end of your eight-year tenure, Delta State will be better for it. Your Excellency, we are solidly behind you.”

He appealed to the people of the state to continue to maintain the peace and support the PDP-led government of Okowa, saying that continuous progress would be made as a state.

Ibori also commended the Okowa administration for empowering youths in the state.

“I thank you for remembering the youths because they will take over when you and I are gone.”

Recalling his last presence at the Cenotaph when he handed over the reins of power to Okowa’s predecessor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan on May 29, 2007, Ibori said: “I have come into this arena in Asaba with a great sense of nostalgia. It was at this venue on May 29, 2007 that I transferred power to Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan. Since then, this is my first outing here.”

Alongside Tambuwal, Ibori, the Deputy Governor Kingley Otuaro, Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Hon Sheriff Oborevwori, and other top government officials as well as traditional and religious leaders, Okowa inspected the various exhibition stands.

Speaking earlier, Okowa said a total of 2,324 previously unemployed youths were trained under the programme cycles of the STEP and YAGEP.

According to him, 450 of the beneficiaries were at the exhibition to show Nigeria and the world what they had been able to do with their hands since their training under the schemes.