OPINION: David Edevbie: Simply The Best To Succeed Okowa.
By Uzoalu Odili
Things are getting in place towards determining who succeeds Dr Ifeanyi Okowa as Governor of Delta State come 2023. First, with the rotation gone full circle, the pendulum is swinging steadier to Delta Central.
Secondly, in line with Governor Okowa’s advice, the DC-23 has pruned down aspirants from the zone from 12 to five and hoping to further scale down to three.
The job has however been made easier by the statewide acclaim of David Edevbie within the PDP, outside the PDP, among youths, women folks, public servants, students and local folks, as simply the best. The excitement over Edevbie ranges from his sound education, experience, proven capacity with track records, candour and charisma as a politician cum technocrat.
A graduate of economics from University of Lagos with MBA from Cardiff School of Business, University of Wales, and further learning in Investment and Development Finance at the world renowned Harvard Business School, he cut his teeth at the globally reputed Barclays Bank, London, and grew to top Investment Executive at Hill Samuel Bank from where he was snatched by the Commonwealth Development Corporation as Investment Officer for Asia and the Pacific, a position by which he contributed to the economic and social development of such nations as Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong and the rest of the Asian Tiger countries.
It was in recognition of these qualities that Governor James Ibori appointed him Commissioner of Finance in 1999 through 2007, to help establish the foundations of Delta State’s development journey.
It was in same recognition of capacity, professionalism and invaluable contributions that Okowa chose him as Commissioner for Finance in his first term and Chief of Staff in his second term.
While he has contributed immensely in managing the development of the state and the agenda of the various administrations, the assignments accorded him the opportunity to better understand the development potentials, prospects and challenges of the State.
More than any of the aspirants, he knows best where Delta is coming from, where Delta presently is and where Delta is aspiring to in economic and infrastructural development, social services, the yearnings of various communities across the state, funding requirements and the means to achieve them.
His experience in public service is not limited to Delta State. He was the Director of Finance and Strategy for Late President Umaru Yar’adua’s election and as a result of the excellent discharge of his duties, the President chose him as his Principal Secretary to replace his Chief of Staff and thus, to supervise and co-ordinate the policies, projects and programmes of his administration.
Edevbie worked assiduously at the Presidency to achieve the creation of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, the activation of the Amnesty Programme which has ushered relative peace in the Niger Delta, and the invigoration of the Niger Delta Development Commission. He was also the frontrunner for the actualisation of the 13% derivation, a commitment for which all Niger Delta States remain grateful to him.
Okowa’s words, “He is one of the most hardworking, charismatic and disciplined political office holders in the country.
“David Edevbie has continued to offer genuine leadership at various levels of governance…By dint of hard work and discipline, you have continued to carve a niche for yourself by maintaining a charismatic and untainted leadership style that has endeared you to many Deltans and Nigerians.
“Your commitment to doing things differently as it is done in developed climes are some of the worthy and commendable traits that have exemplified your service over the years,” Governor Okowa said of him.
No other aspirant matches that description nor the educational credentials, professional experience and national and international experience and contacts in corporate and public service which Edevbie brings.
It is unimaginable, indeed impossible, that Okowa with his passion for the development of the state and the leadership of the PDP for the pride and glory of the party, would ever contemplate substituting such hybrid to offer Deltans less.
The people are already in agreement that, at this point, Edevbie is best positioned to carry on with the development agenda of the state as set out by Governor Ibori, accentuated by Governor Uduaghan with his Delta Beyond Oil initiatives and deepened by Governor Okowa through his SMART agenda.
He has left no one in doubt about his preparedness to usher in the modernisation of the state into the realities of the 21st century and the expectations of the millennials.
In politics however, there must be naysayers who feel they can only benefit by mortgaging the overall interest of the people for their selfish ends, notwithstanding their insignificance.
Among such is those who accuse Edevbie for contesting against Okowa in the 2014 primaries for a tenure seen as the turn of Delta North.
Suffice to say that Okowa has pointed out that rotation was at best an unwritten agreement. This underpinned his entry into the contest as did others from the three Senatorial Districts in the 2006 primaries.
For Edevbie, people contest for different reasons including to announce their name, test their popularity or to negotiate for appointments but, no matter the contestants, the PDP leadership has always resolved in favour of rotation to the deserving zone, to maintain equity, justice and peace.
It all remains friendly and sportsmanlike in Delta PDP as would be seen in Okowa’s choice of Edevbie, after same 2014 primaries, to serve as his Commissioner of Finance and Chief of Staff which are perhaps the most sensitive and critical positions in any administration.
It is yet to be seen if Okowa who is well known as a strong Christian, lives with any unforgiving grudge against anyone, not to talk of Edevbie whom he openly calls his “dear friend.”
The worst crime however in the politics of rotation would be the one committed by Sen. Emmanuel Aguariavwodo, a fringe aspirant in the current race, who flagrantly disregarded the understanding on power sharing to contest in the 2006 primaries with the mind of taking over from Governor Ibori, inordinately for an Urhobo to succeed an Urhobo.
Worst still, he dropped the sensitive position of Chief Executive of NDDC which was zoned to Delta State, to go into the contest, thereby short-changing Deltans in the affairs of the NDDC.
So far, no one has held that act against Senator Aguariavwodo as evidence of disdain for other zones and ethnic groups. Whilst Okowa insists that any who will succeed him must come with a rich sense of equity, justice and fairness, the parameters for determining these should most assuredly be found in the outlook of each aspirant as demonstrated in their public service records in the service of Deltans.
Fairness is better achieved through the efficiency of public service institutions. It is when efficiency is constrained by undue human interference that the system is exposed to inappropriate acts of discrimination, corruption, nepotism, parochialism.
As things stand in our state and our country today, the way forward lies in reforms and modernisation of public service institutions by which government can reach the people and the people can access government without influence peddling.
Edevbie represents this ideal and demonstrated it under Governor James Ibori with the reform of the government treasury management system and the introduction of cash budgeting.
Pulling away from the old order, the reform enabled transactions to be systematically processed with constituents and contractors able to track the status of their approvals without having to have personal contact with the Finance Commissioner.
Understandably, especially for a society that had been used to pushing and shoving at one another and benefiting from the chaos, it is because of the reforms that some of the contractors started the propaganda of snobbery against Edevbie – for not opening up himself and the treasury office for lobbyists to compromise.
Still, Edevbie’s modernisation agenda is the only right way to go. It is the global best practice in governance and financial management for any society that wants to advance.
The opposite is the recipe for favouritism, bribery and nepotism, the scourges that have left Nigeria in prostrate and sorry state.
Deltans want to advance above such primordial pedestal and …here comes David.
•Odili, Aboh born entrepreneur, is resident in Ogwashi-Uku