Delta 2023 and Otuaro’s quest to replace Okowa

Okowa congratulates deputy, Otuaro, at 53
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By Ehichioya Ezomon
Like most Nigerian politicians are wont to do, Delta State Deputy Governor Kingsley Burutu Otuaro was ambivalent mid 2021 when asked about his interest in taking over the mantle of leadership of the state from Governor Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa in 2023.
Fielding questions in a Television programme, Otuaro was also quizzed on the controversial zoning of the governorship, which Delta Central literally claims as its sole prerogative to field candidates for from all political parties at the polls.
To the first question, the Lawyer-deacon-turned politician says if it’s within the context of the law, as a Deltan and a Nigerian, he will aspire to be governor, but has nothing yet to say on the issue.
“The point is I am a Deltan, I am a Nigerian like any other person, and so, we all have the right to aspire to elective positions,” Otuaro tells his interviewers, adding, “So, I wouldn’t say anything. If I have the right to aspire within the context of the law, then I can aspire. But it is not in my case to tell you if I want to.”
Otuaro says zoning of the governorship seat to Delta South, Delta North or Delta Central is a matter of politics that the system should look critically into and take a decision on it.
Recalling Governor Okowa’s words in an interactive session with journalists that, “it is God Almighty that enthrones leaders,” Otuaro notes that the leadership of the state, particularly the PDP, will “look into what is fair and what is just for our people.”
“We will look into the records, as they were. We are going to engage ourselves, and come out with what is tenable, what is fair, what is just, and that is what our people want and that is what I believe in.
“So, all of these (issue of zoning) are matters of politics, and we are getting close to them. I know that in no distant time, we are going to resolve all of those rough edges, and move ahead as people that we have over time been,” Otuaro says.
While zoning rages on, especially in Delta Central, where the Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) has embarked on screening of Urhobo governorship aspirants on behalf of the Urhobo Nation; aspirants from Delta South, which also claims the spot without fanfare, are digging in ahead of the party primaries.
Accordingly, Deputy Governor Otuaro, after committing his aspiration into God’s hands, and having a direction from Him, has shelved his “time-will-tell stance, and declared his bid for the governorship seat to be vacated by Dr Okowa in May 2023.
Declaring for the post on February 27, Otuaro promises to “consolidate the progress and achievements” of the Okowa administration and “make the state an industrialised one.”
Saying he’s “well-qualified, equipped and ready to lead Delta State,” Otuaro states that his intention to succeed his boss is to build a stronger and better Delta.
His words: “For the last 18 months, I have been working behind closed doors incubating a vision God gave to me and mandated by Himself to consolidate progress and Build Better for Delta.
“Today, I reconvene before the ‘majority of one’ who gave the marching order and thanked Him profusely for the overwhelming support the people’s mandate has received so far, especially for the gift of faithful men and His awesome providence.
“As it was told me…, I have received the blessings of the fathers, and the youths have entrusted me with the mandate to lead them to the Delta of our dreams, an industrialised Delta.” Even as he acknowledges the overwhelming supports for his aspiration, Otuaro calls on all stakeholders to “let’s join hands together and decide forward and Build Better for Delta.”
His initial consultations with leaders and members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on which pedestal he’s running, has yielded a significant backing for him via the PDP chairmen in Delta Central, the likely arena of stiff challenge to Otuaro’s bid.
On February 12 at Uvwie, to formally inform the party chairmen of his intention, Otuaro commended them for their “loyalty, cooperation and contributions towards the development of the state, and successive victories of the party in previous elections.”
Stressing the need for a “detribalised Deltan” to succeed the governor, Otuaro noted his wealth of knowledge, political will and character,” and said that his agenda, “designed to benefit every indigene and resident of the state,” would consolidate on the good works and foundation laid by the Okowa administration.
On behalf of his colleagues, the Sapele PDP chapter chairman, Hon. Perkins, described Otuaro as “a man of character, who believes in integrity, equity, and fairness, and acknowledgement of the importance of the party at the grassroots.”
Perkins noted that the relationship between Okowa and Otuaro “has brought stability to governance,” attributing most of the successes to Otuaro’s “expansive and in-depth knowledge in peace-building and community development projects beyond ethnic and political sentiments.”
Pledging their support for his aspiration, Perkins said: “You are the first person that has formally called us to inform us about his intentions for the 2023 governorship race. You have done the right thing first. Your approach has endeared you to our hearts and we are grateful for the honour.”
Having obtained the Expression of Interest and Nomination Forms, Otuaro had presented himself before the PDP Screening Committee on April 28 in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, and subsequently cleared to stand for the party primaries.
Otuaro is no less optimistic about his chances of clinching the PDP ticket that, willy-nilly, guarantees being elected governor, as the PDP has consistently secured landslide victories at polls in Delta.
If the ticket is securely in the bag, Otuaro plans to embark on an aggressive campaign, to sell his agenda of “building a better Delta, by consolidating the phenomenal achievements” of the Okowa administration that he’s been part of in the past seven years.
No doubt, the battle ahead is daunting, particularly as the Urhobo, on the platform of the UPU Worldwide, has laid serious claims to the governorship on grounds of rotating the position among the three senatorial districts of Delta North, Delta South and Delta Central.
The Urhobo, who dominate Delta Central, argue that going by rotation of the governorship position among the three districts, it’s the turn of Delta Central to occupy the seat from 2023.
The Urhobo take their bearing from 1999 when an Urhobo, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, became governor, re-elected in 2007, and was succeeded by his cousin, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, of the Itsekiri ethnic stock of Delta South, who governed for eight years, between 2007 and 2015.
Dr Okowa of the Ika ethnic group of Delta North currently occupies the governor’s seat from 2015, and will round off his eight-year tenure of four years each in 2023. Hence the Urhobo of Delta Central insist it’s their turn to restart the rotation of the governorship they took the first shot at in 1999.
But the people of especially Delta South advocate that the governorship should rotate among the ethnic groups – major or minor – with the Ijaw in a good stead to produce the next governor if that analogy were upheld.
However, the back-and-forth over zoning of the seat has reportedly put Governor Okowa in a fix, prompting him to publicly proclaim neutrality in the process of jostling for the PDP ticket.
So, who gets the PDP ticket, to take over from Okowa, dominates the Delta polity barely a week and few days to the primaries. Ordinarily, Deputy Governor Otuaro ranks high among the 12 governorship aspirants that the PDP has cleared for the primaries.
Born in Oporoza, Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State on April 16, 1968, Otuaro is eminently qualified if education, competence, experience, exposure, steadfastness and loyalty to superiors and to the party are the main determinants for governor.
Besides his educational qualifications, with an LLB in Law from the Ambrose Alli University (AAU), Ekpoma, Edo State (1999/2000), attendance at the Nigerian Law School, and Call to the Nigerian Bar, and a Masters Degree in Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of Ibadan (2014); Otuaro, after graduating from secondary and tertiary institutions, worked in oil companies, and held strategic positions in community, council and state assignments before landing the post of deputy governor in 2015.
He worked as a Technical Support Staff with NISCO Nigeria Ltd in Jones Creek Flow Station in SPDC Northern Swamp Operations, and as a Deck-hand in the Marine Department of the Nigerian Dredging and Marine, Warri, Delta State.
From 2000 to 2006, Otuaro was elected, and served as Chairman of Okerenkoko Federated Communities in Gbaramatu Kingdom. Besides, in 2004, he became Managing Director of Bruz-Otus Nigeria Ltd, while from 2005 to 2007, he served as Special Assistant on Community Affairs to Delta State Governor, Chief James Ibori.
Between 2003 and 2009, Otuaro was Secretary of the Federated Niger Delta Ijaw Communities (FNDIC), a non-governmental organization committed to resource control; and in 2008, was appointed by Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan as Member of the Delta State Technical Support Committee of the Delta State Contingent to the Ledum Mittee Committee on the Niger Delta.
In 2009, he was Chairman, Delta State Rehabilitation Committee for Internally Displaced Persons; and from 2011 to 2014, Commissioner representing the Ijaw Ethnic Nationality in the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC).
Elected as Deputy Governor in 2015, Otuaro has served for over seven years, under-studying the administrative and managerial skills of Governor Okowa, who, over the years, has graciously assigned to Otuaro varied and tasking duties, such as in security, peace-building and community development, and given opportunities to represent the governor and state at different fora.
In mid April 2022, at a visit to the PDP State Working Committee in Asaba, Otuaro said he’s the “worthy successor” to Governor Okowa, whom he’s worked closely with since 2015, and would be able to continue from where the governor stops.
“If you’re looking for a worthy successor, God has said it is me. I have the capacity, the know-how, all that are needed to steer the ship of the State to the next level,” Otuaro told the party leaders.
He craved for free, fair and credible primaries, saying: “I appeal to your sense of judgement. This is the time for us to stand strong, to exercise our God-given sense of judgement and conscience, to do that which is right for ourselves and for the future of our dear state.”
 The PDP chapter Chairman, Olorogun Kingsley Esiso, gave the assurance that his leadership would not play to sentiments but would provide a level-playing field for all aspirants.
Noting that Otuaro must have acquired the needed experience to govern Delta, Olorogun Esiso stated that the party leaders “have a singular job in this process, well-laid down for us, (and) that is to ensure that we provide a level-playing field for all aspirants.”
So, based on his qualifications, steadfast loyalty to Governor Okowa and the leadership of the PDP, and involvement with and knowledge of the grassroots, and their social and economic problems, Otuaro is in a pole position to secure the PDP ticket.
Those chances are bolstered by the reported weight of Okowa behind him, even as the governor says only God crowns leaders, and declares that he’s no favourite candidate, and will allow a level-playing ground for all aspirants at the PDP primaries.
Actually, Otuaro says he’s unfazed, as he punctuates every of his thoughts and ideas with élan, in the knowledge that he walks in the path that the Almighty has charted for him in the journey to the Government House in Asaba, the Delta capital city.
According to him: “Though many may be the foes on the path to the promised Delta, I have great hope; the resilient and overcoming spirit of Delta (the Big Heart), our ingenuity, gift of resourcefulness, courage, and collective willpower as a people will override the storm and hoist the flag in a safe and prosperous land.”
Thus, ahead of the PDP governorship primaries, Deputy Governor Kingsley Burutu Otuaro keeps his eye on the ball, and no amount of distractions, save God’s appointing, will deter him from picking the ticket for the ultimate prize of Governor of Delta State come 2023.
  •  Mr. Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.

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