On Sunday 7th June, 2020, while waiting for a friend at a location in Lagos, I sat very close to three friends. They were at that moment involved in a very deep political conversation. I later discovered that the one I considered brightest among them was a Deltan on a visit to Lagos and has to remain in the state for some time because of the ordered inter-state lockdown. I could not resist his political knowledge because he has a way of penetrating the fog of accounts and expressing with unique clarity the issues of our time and ways to tackle them.
On that day, at that time, and in that place, the first comment that got me glued to this young man who for the purpose of this writing is referred to Clement, was his claim that ‘the reason so many misunderstood issues is not that these issues are so complex, but that people do not want a factual or analytical explanation that leaves them emotionally unsatisfied’. Though, in the beginning, I pretended not to be listening to the conversation. I, however, took a keen interest in his analysis of the political similarities between Lagos and Delta state. Indeed, he was open, honest and factual in his presentations.
While noting that Lagos state is controlled by the All Progressive Congress (APC), and Delta state led by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), he, however, stated that despite their being located in different geopolitical zones and led by different political parties; there exist also more instances of resemblance between the two states.
Since 1999, when democracy re-emerged on the nation’s political sphere, the two states have variously demonstrated a unique attribute. There exist in both states two political families (in each of the states) that emerged right from May 1999, wherein tribe and tongue may differ but united in fighting a common course to protect the political and economic interests of its members within the large enclave and have remained relevant in the last 21years. Most importantly, Lagos and Delta are controlled by two unshakeable personalities who created and regulate zoning and sharing political booties in such a way that promotes the rancour-free and seamless transition of power from one senatorial zone to another.
Take Delta state as an example, James Onanefe Ibori of Delta central spent 8 years (May 1999 to May 2007), Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, South, (2007 to May 2015). The current governor, Dr. (Senator) Ifeanyi Ekwueme Arthur Okowa is the first Anioma son (Delta North Senatorial zone) to assume the governorship of the state. That was on the 29th of May, 2015. And upon completion of his second term come May 2023, power will travel back to Delta central where Olorogun David Edevbie, a former Commissioner for Finance and Economic Planning, Delta State, and, the current Chief of Staff to the Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, is positioned to take over as the next governor of the state.
Alas! With this last declaration, I could not pretend for too long that I was not flowing with the conversation as this particular guy soon observed the utter interest raging in my mind. And to douse the nagging ‘helplessness’ enveloping me as regards what he was dishing out, I quickly pulled close. To understand more fully his position, I got bold and found my voice, and with some courtesy, I rained out a torrent of questions.
Sir, who is this much talked Mr. David Edevbie? How intimidating are his credentials to dwarf, and secure him automatic governorship ticket in the face of other political bigwigs from the same political party, and within the same Senatorial district? And in the face of other notable politicians from the opposition party’s currently holding influential positions at the Federal Levels has been able to build bridges of relationship and support across other senatorial zones? What is Edevbies financial capacity?
Can he execute such a project knowing very well that seeking a political position in Nigeria is capital intensive? How did you know that he will be next when party primaries are years ahead? And when Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, had recently barred members of People Democratic Party (PDP), especially political appointees, from constituting consultation groups ahead 2023 general elections, describing their early politicking as hasty and premature? What is and who is rented the air as I was eager to know everything at the same time.
Just immediately, he responded furiously to the barrage of questions- and his response was particularly loaded with disdain. From his response, it is obvious that he was offended not only by the cacophony of questions but my claim of ignorance of a personality he described as a ‘major-man’ from Afiesere in Ughelli North local government area of Delta state. A man that is according to him a ‘leader-manager’ and among the few in the state capped with political and managerial sagacity needed to help get the answers and deploy the resources the state needs to move into the future.
To prove to me that he came prepared and full of conviction, he narrated to me how Edevbie joined Barclays Bank Plc, UK as a trainee and 1988 and 1992, rose to the position of Manager’s Assistant, Corporate Lending while in late 1992, joined Hill Samuel, a U.K. Merchant Bank, as an Investment Banking Executive.
He called my attention to the fact that in 1995, David, joined the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC), UK (CDC Group) as an Investment Officer responsible for Asia & Pacific Regions. And was in 1996, promoted to Deputy Country Head, and was responsible for establishing the CDC Philippines Office. Again, in March 1998, the Edevbie returned to the London Office and was promoted to Investment Manager. This time around capped with significant project finance expertise having participated in several high profile project-financing transactions.
Continuing, he noted that in June 1999, he was appointed Commissioner for Finance and Economic Planning, Delta State. Where he transformed work attitudes and computerized the operations of the Ministry. And at the end of Chief James Ibori’s first tenure in office in 2003, took a break to attend the prestigious Harvard Business School Advanced Management Programme to prepare himself for higher responsibilities.
At this point, I recovered myself from the stimulation of reality accomplished in me by his narrative prowess. And I asked; is that all Deltans need to move the state to the ‘next level’?
He responded; not at all!
To buttress this position, he again gave a vivid account of how Edevbie was invited in late 2006, by one of the PDP Presidential Aspirants, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to join his small campaign team as Director of Finance and Strategy and Yar’Adua was elected President in April 2007.
In recognition of the significant role played in the Presidential Campaign Organization, President Yar’Adua, in 2008, appointed him as Principal Secretary to the President (PSP) to take over the responsibilities of the out-going Chief of Staff. And performed prominently well in the Presidency until shortly after President Yar’Adua’s death in April 2010.
Remember! As the Chief of Staff to Mr. President, Edevbie, going by the reported responsibilities of the Chief of staff; coordinated the activities of all Principal Staff Officers, managed the flow of information; protected the interests of the president; negotiated with other members of the executive branch, and extra-governmental political groups to implement the president’s agenda; and advised the president on various issues, including telling the president what he did not want to hear.
At this point, Mr. Clement posed but rhetorically the following question; Tell me, who among the bunch/gladiators in the state have functioned at this level? Or have you forgotten that leadership is both ‘nature and nurture’? Just reflect and point at one deltan that can equal such experience/talent/profile?
Utomi Jerome-Mario,(email@example.com), is a Lagos-Based Media Consultant