The news came like a thunderbolt on January 28, 2021 – the passing of Hon Tim Owhefere, the iconic late Majority Leader of the Delta State House of Assembly and member representing Isoko North Constituency.
‘Tim’, as he was fondly called, arguably died a fulfilled man having been pivotal to milestone legislative laws enacted in the state for about 14 years. But the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) cut short the mourning of the passage of the Majority Leader by announcing the date for the conduct of a byelection as stipulated by law.
And so the stage was set for an epic contest to replace the fallen Iroko from Isoko nation INEC, after deliberations, on Tuesday March 9, 2021 fixed April 10, 2021 for the byelection and directed the political parties to align with the timetable released for determining their candidates for the poll.
The announcement by electoral umpire meant that political parties were expected to conduct party primaries and schedule campaigns within the stipulated time.
As the clock ticked, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Isoko North commenced the process of picking a candidate from the list of aspirants mainly from the Owhe Kingdom where the late Hon. Tim Owhefere hailed from. At the end of the exercise which was not without some deft political maneuvering and horse-trading, the PDP on March 18, 2021 voted for Mr Jude Ogbimi, an American-based Forensic Accountant as its candidate for the by-election. Ogbimi incidentally contested the election in 2019 with the late Tim Owhefere. So, his emergence was not completely strange.
In his acceptance speech, after the vote by party faithful, he pledged to unify the party ahead of the by-election. But the greater surprise came when the PDP unveiled a 13-man Campaign Council headed by the State Commissioner for Transport, Engr. Oviemuno Oghoore, to campaign in all the 13 federal wards in the local government and Governor Ifeanyi Okowa indicated interest to lead the party throughout the campaigns in all the wards.
Not many believed Okowa until he attended the campaign flag-off at Owhelogbo, the home town of former Secretary to the State Government, Comrade Ovuozourie Macaulay.
Speaking at the rally, Governor Okowa, said the PDP was being repositioned from the grassroots to the national level to enable the party provide the needed leadership that Nigerians earnestly seek. He noted that Nigerians have gone through untold hardship since the PDP left the government at the centre in 2015, stressing that all issues confronting the nation would be a thing of the past by the time the party reclaims political power in 2023.
The governor told the people of Isoko North to vote massively for the PDP candidate in the forthcoming by-election, Mr. Jude Ogbimi to enable him occupy the gap created by the demise of Hon. Tim Owhefere. “I am truly excited with the turn out of members and supporters of the PDP to this ward to ward campaign rally. Isoko North people surprised me with their impressive participation at the flag-off of this campaign rally.
They should translate this into massive vote for the PDP candidate in the April 10 by-election. “We are building the party ( PDP), from the grassroots to enable us take over the government at the centre (Abuja) in 2023,” Okowa said, even as he thanked leaders of the party in Isoko North for the unity of purpose among them.
He disclosed that the massive road construction, appointment of Isoko North people into key positions and the upgrade of the Ozoro Polytechnic to a full fledged University of Science and Technology was a clear attestation of his love for the Isoko people. At Emevor Ward 7, the governor expressed the readiness of his administration to take over the construction of the Section A of the abandoned Emevor-Orogun road, Emevor.
Okowa, who said he was embarrassed by the state of the road leading to the town, added that he had already given approval to the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC) to construct the Emevor bypass Road and also assured that his administration would construct a section of the abandoned Emevor-Orogun road. The governor said he was pained that the community had suffered untold hardship due to the poor state of the roads but assured that his administration would commence construction of the road before the end of the year. “I have listened to the leaders of the community and I also saw it for myself on our way coming that the road leading to the community is totally bad. I have been told that NDDC has awarded the road for construction, but have also been abandoned and we cannot continue to allow our people to suffer.
“I’ve also been told that the road is a long road leading to Orogun. What I want to assure you is that we may not be able to take the full construction to Orogun now, but we will make sure the stretch covering the Emevor town is done as soon as possible.
The NDDC can continue from where we will stop. Let me also let you know that only a few days ago, I gave approval for the construction of the bypass road through DESOPADEC,” Okowa stated. Earlier in his address, Leader of the Ward and Commissioner Representing Isoko Ethnic Nationality in the Board of DESOPADEC, Dr Paul Oweh, said Emevor people lacked several amenities despite their support for the ruling party since 1999.
He appealed to the governor to use his good office to approve the construction of the Emevor Bypass Road, the Emevor-Orogun Road and the fencing of Emevor Mixed Secondary School.
Also speaking, Executive Assistant to the Governor on Health Monitoring, Dr Nelson Ejakpovi thanked the governor for the visit, adding that the PDP had never lost in the community in all elections since 1998.
He stressed that the Emevor people had always demonstrated their support for the PDP by voting massively for the party, adding that April 10 won’t be any different.
The campaign train also visited Oghara- Iyede Ward 2 and Otor-Iyede Ward 1 where the governor approved the immediate construction of a secondary school at Otor-Iyede.
Presenting the party’s flag to the candidate, the PDP state Chairman, Olorogun Kingsley Esiso charged members of the party to work as a team to ensure that the party emerged victorious in the by-election.
• Egware is Senior Special Assistant (Media) to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa