…Sharply disagree over candidates for Information and Justice
By Nosa Akenzua
Barely five months into his tenure, there is palpable cold war between Delta State Governor, Sheriff Oborevwori, and his political godfather and immediate past Governor of the State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa.
The Daily Times gathered from competent sources within the camps of both political gladiators that the frosty relationship stemmed from their sharply conflicting choices for the highly sensitive portfolios of Commissioner for Information and Attorney General/Commissioner for Justice.
It is possible that Delta is the only state in the country which lacks occupants of both positions.
The Daily Times was told that ”Oborevwori has given in to many positions advanced by Okowa on many matters, but was determined not to budge on the issue of these two critical Commissionerships.”
All the other Commissioners appointed by the Governor and sworn in have long ago been working.
It was gathered that the Governor had nominated two persons for Justice and Information, choices that were at variance with those handpicked by his godfather – a situation that led to a chess-like stalemate.
It was not clear why Okowa allegedly wants his candidates to occupy both positions, but sources said: ”You know, he still has EFCC question marks and the Justice Commissioner will come in handy, if it’s someone he trusts, while the Information Commissioner, as his pick, will know how to angle his perspectives that will be disseminated to the press and thence to the public. The man is very particular about his image in the public eye.”
The Daily Times learnt that Gov. Oborevwori is not shifting ground on being the one to select and appoint candidates to fill both portfolios, insisting that he is in charge now and so should be left alone to pick his team.
It was further gathered that, worried that the State government has no official spokesman, Gov. Oborevwori at a point decided to toe a middle course by moving to reappoint Okowa’s Commissioner for Information, Mr. Charles Ehiedu Aniagwu, a renowned journalist, but the move hit a brickwall as working journalists in the state, who got wind of it, sent word to the authorities on their total rejection of Aniagwu.
The journalists, especially members of the powerful Correspondents Chapel of the State Council of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), who are reporters of national media based outside the state and whose profiling of government in their daily reports can positively or negatively affect it, fingered Aniagwu for allegedly ”not treating them well in his tenure under Okowa.”
On this basis, sources said, Gov. Oborevwori appointed Aniagwu, a journalist, as Commissioner for Works (Highways). He is there presently.
When The Daily Times visited the State Ministry of Information, located within the beautiful Obi (Prof.) Chike Edozien State Secretariat on Maryam Babangida Way, Asaba, staff of the Ministry were seen idling away on their desks.
Many lamented that the absence of a Commissioner was frustrating and had denied them approval for certain logistics to enable them carry out the Ministry’s mandate as the Permanent Secretary and Directors only have limited approval powers.
The lack of such Commissioner is also affecting the news gathering responsibilities of journalists and other critical stakeholders as there is nobody to answer questions on posers on government’s activities or lack of same.
Speaking on the importance of Commissioners to governance, a legal practitioner, Barrister Friday Osakpamwan Ogieriakhi told The Daily Times that such appointees are the bridge between the government and the people who have all sorts of businesses to transact with government.
He added: ”Their appointments, and promptly, so reflects the government’s commitment to its mandate, responsibilities and demonstrate government’s readiness to fulfil its electoral promises towards advancing the welfare of the populace.
”It also sends a strong signal to stakeholders, both home and abroad, indicating stability, readiness, and a strong intent to govern effectively. A delay in the appointment of these Ministers and Commissioners has the high potential to create uncertainty, erode public confidence, and hinder effective communication between the government and its citizens.”
Residents of Delta State are bemused that despite the plethora of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) and a battery of famous and not so famous journalists who are indigenes of the state and working within and outside the state, the government still has not filled both portfolios.
Although, the media aides to Gov. Oborevwori were reluctant to speak on the alleged cold war, merely saying that there was ”nothing destroying their father and son relationship”, but our dependable sources insisted that the lack of both vital Commissioners in the state’s governance architecture is due to the creeping crisis of confidence between both leaders.
It would be recalled that Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Dr Kingsley Emu, had few weeks ago dispelled talk of rift between Gov. Oborevwori and Dr. Okowa, but failed to speak on the lack of both Commissioners in the state even as other Commissioners have since ploughed deep into their own tasks.