Yesterday Wednesday, May 3, 2023, the visit of President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, to Rivers State dominated discussions, especially in political circles across Nigeria and beyond.
The people of Rivers State had what some political observers and analysts alike have termed a ‘forced public holiday’ on them by the State Governor, Nyesom Wike, just to honour Tinubu as he inaugurated some projects executed by his administration that would exit power in less than a month.
Although the Rivers State Chapter of the All Progressives Congress, APC, disassociated itself from Tinubu’s visit, it turned out to be a very colourful event particularly as it is the first state in the country he has visited after a rigorous 2023 presidential campaign. The outcome, it is believed, will in the coming weeks face an unprecedented legal battle before a 6-man Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.
Among eminent political heavyweights in Nigeria that made Tinubu’s visit to Rivers State a political football and simultaneously left tongues wagging in the PDP in Delta State, was former Governor James Ibori, who is widely believed to be the architect of modern-day Delta State.
In his usual domineering leadership appearance which beams very brightly anywhere he goes, Ibori was a delight to behold at the ceremony.
Significantly, Ibori’s close tie with Bola Tinubu despite their different political affiliations dates back to when both were governors from 1999 to 2007.
Expectedly, during his speech, Tinubu who in the coming days will assume the full title of President and Commander-in-chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, reminded all present of the prominence of Ibori among the pioneering governors of Nigeria’s Fourth Republic when he referred to the famous ‘Resource Control’ governor as their Chancellor.
Hopefully, with the respect and recognition accorded him by his long-standing friend, Tinubu, Chief Ibori will look forward to relaunching himself into the national politics of Nigeria and beyond. This is considering the fact that even in the inner circle of political gladiators in the country, it is strongly believed that Ibori’s incarceration in the United Kingdom was politically motivated and calculated to dwarf his intimidating political stature and profile at that time.
But while striving to reinvent himself in the national political hemisphere of Nigeria, Ibori fondly called the ‘Odidigborigbo,’ may have to contend with his dented political dominance of Delta State on account of happenings during, and the outcome of, the 2023 governorship election in the state which saw Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori emerge as the winner and now awaiting swearing-in on May 29, 2023, as the 5th democratically elected governor of the state since its creation on August 27, 1991.
In spite of his silence on developments leading to the 2023 general elections, Chief Ibori has continued to maintain a very sharp distance from the PDP in Delta State which he co-founded. His body language and hobnobbing with the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege before and after the gubernatorial election have left many with the insinuation that he had had his stay in the PDP.
With the eventual swearing-in of Tinubu as President, ardent political commentators on the developments in Delta State have predicted Ibori dumping the PDP for the ruling APC at the federal level. They view his return to national politics as one that will be a smooth sail bearing in mind that he will not only have the ears of President Bola Tinubu but will be interfacing with most of his colleagues from 1999 who currently call the shots on the national political space.
How Ibori’s soon-to-be-resuscitated political prominence at the national level of Nigeria’s politics will be affected by a Delta State-controlled PDP is one puzzle begging for an answer.
Then, with Senator Ovie Omo-Agege desperately seeking to reclaim what he has described as his stolen governorship mandate, there are growing concerns that the ‘Ibori-Tinubu realignment’ is something to be taken seriously to make the PDP family in Delta State lose sleep on the eventual outcome.
Lo and behold, Deltans are keenly watching the unfolding political drama in the state as Chief James Ibori launches himself into the innermost caucus of the Asiwaju Bola Tinubu-led federal government of Nigeria. Again, just a little time will tell.
• Felix Ekwu, a Journalist, Media Consultant, Public Commentator and Human Rights activist, writes from Warri, Delta State, South-South Nigeria