By Toni Kan Onwordi
Delta State’s newly elected governor turned 60 on June 19, 2023, less than one month after his inauguration as the governor of Delta State.
His birthday has been celebrated across the country. The first salvo came from none other than Bishop David Oyedepo, whom Rt. Hon. Sheriff Francis Orohwedor Oborevwori acknowledges as his spiritual father. In his message, the cleric did not stint on praise and prayers. “May your leadership era in Delta State be a most impactful and transforming one, in the name of Jesus Christ. Once again, congratulations!”
A thanksgiving session at the Living Faith Church aka Winners Chapel, Asaba was followed by a reception at the Event Center in Asaba. The birthday party which was attended by former governors, brother governors, and political bigwigs of various stripes was marked by an outpouring of goodwill and prayers.
The celebration of his 60th birthday and ascension to the pinnacle of Delta’s political leadership provides us with a unique opportunity to interrogate the emergence of Rt. Hon. Sheriff Francis Orohwedor Oborevwori as Governor of Delta state.
To provide context for that interrogation, we must reference a paragraph from Bishop Oyedepo’s birthday message: “As we all know, not everyone growing is aging; while some are growing into new realms of impact, others are simply aging away by the day.”
Oborevweri was born on the 9th of June 1963 to the family of Chief Samuel Oborevwori of Osubi in Okpe Local Government Area of Delta State. Becoming governor on the cusp of his 60th birthday makes him the oldest elected person to ascend to that office in Delta state.
While the perceived wisdom is that age is usually an indication of wisdom, many by their actions and inactions have proven that aphorism to be false. And so the question must be asked; is Oborevwori growing into new realms of impact?
The answer should not be a difficult one going by his experience in government and governance, his political footprints, and enviable antecedents.
Very few governors produced in Nigeria since the beginning of our democratic dispensation can boast the extensive political experience of Sheriff Oborevwori and that experience, as will become shortly evident, extends far beyond Delta state.
Armed with BA and MA degrees in Political Science, Sheriff Oborevwori appears to, as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote many years ago, hitched his wagon to a star. He knew he wanted to be a politician. He studied for it to arm himself with the intellectual credentials but was not content to play the armchair political pundit, he rolled up his sleeves and got in the trenches not just as a political appointee but one who will run for office and win on several occasions.
His sojourn in politics reads like a master class for “preparation meeting opportunity” having been learning the political ropes and honing his skills since 1996 when he was elected Councilor/Supervisory Councilor for Works in 1996 under the old Okpe Local Government Area, which included the present Udu and Uvwie Local Government Areas.
Between 2003-2006, he served out his first political appointment as Special Assistant to Governor James Ibori on Youth Development. His portfolio was changed in 2007 – 2010 when he was named Special Adviser to Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan on Land Security before transiting to State Coordinator of the Amnesty Programme between 2009 – 2010.
He would go on to serve as Senior Special Assistant on Security to the Governor between 2015 – 2019, when he threw his hat into the political ring, for a second time, to run for the House of Assembly. His bid was successful and Oborevwori emerged Member of the Delta State House of Assembly to represent Okpe Constituency.
Mercurial, methodical and always striving for more ways to add value and uplift the people whose mandate he holds, he emerged Honourable Speaker of the 6th Assembly of the Delta State House of Assembly in 2019 and was re-elected to the Speakership of the 7th Assembly.
As speaker of the Delta state assembly, Oborevwori was first elected Treasurer, the Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures of Nigeria in 2020, a position he held before being elevated to Deputy Chairman of the Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures of Nigeria and then Executive Governor of Delta State
Like the proverbial poplar of Christopher Okigbo’s poetry, Oborevwori is always thirsting for light and learning, and insights that would be for the good of the larger majority.
Not content with his two degrees in Political Science and not daunted by his responsibilities as a political appointee and politician, he found time to attend courses and obtain certificates from prestigious institutions across the globe; Certificate in Top Executive Leadership from Manchester Business School, UK; Certificate in Leading Inclusive Development from the London School of Economics and Political Science, Certificate in Advanced Leadership from the University of Cambridge, UK; Certificate in Legislative Framework for Budget Management from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, USA; Certificate in Legislative Management and Leadership from the International Law Institute, Washington DC, USA; amongst others.
The excursion through Sherrif Oborevwori political sojourn is important in contextualizing Oyedepo’s message in the framework of Oborevwori’s emergence. What does his string of qualifications both as a political gladiator and intellectual powerhouse augur for Delta State?
It means that Delta state has in Sherrif Oborevwori a politican, technocrat and intellectual who will not be stumped by documents filled with technical jargon; he will not be bamboozled by policy proposals from civil servants; he will not dither when he finds himself at the intersection of politics and policy; neither will he be tripped by the banana peel of legislative shenanigans. This is a man who has spent the better part of three decades preparing for this moment.
And for anyone in doubt, he served notice of his intentions by becoming one of the very first governors to appoint principal officers and his choices were instructive, especially in his appointment of Dr. Kingsley Emu as Secretary to the State Government. Emu a banker, economist, financial expert, and dyed-in-the-wool technocrat, has also earned his stripes as a familiar and influential figure in the corridors of Delta politics.
For Sherrif Oborevwori, business was the first order of the day. His M.O.R.E agenda will privilege Meaningful development by providing Opportunities for all through Realistic reforms and Enhanced peace and security for all.
The expected tangible outcomes from the M.O.R.E agenda will be felt in areas that include ¬ Job Creation, High GDP and IGR Generation, Capital Inflow, Export of raw and processed agricultural products, Improved Economy of the State and living conditions, Environmental rejuvenation and Improved infrastructural facilities, Social stability and security of lives and properties as well as Improved educational and healthcare systems.
How realistic are these expectations and how successful will Oborevwori be in implementing his lofty agenda? The state is currently implementing an N642.8 billion budget made up of N571bn passed in December 2022 and an N71bn supplementary budget passed in May 2023 in the twilight hours of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa administration.
Of that sum, N241.1 billion (58%) is slated for recurrent expenditure while N401.6bn (42%) will be utilized for capital expenditure. In his breakdown of the N571bn budget, Governor Okowa noted that: “In 2023, we propose to spend N111.4 billion on Works, N5.9 billion for Urban Renewal – Delta State Capital Territory Development Agency, N8.3 billion and Warri-Uvwie and Environs Development Agency, N8 billion. Others include N12.4 billion on Health; Education, N42.6 billion; Trade and Investment, N8.6 billion; Sports N8.4 billion; Culture and Tourism, N2.7 billion and Housing, N10 billion.”
How do this breakdown and budget assumptions chime with Oborevwori’s M.O.R.E agenda? Only time will tell but Delta State is luckier than most. The new governor is not just a member of the PDP which has witnessed a smooth transition from one governor to another, he was a key figure in the former administration so no doubt familiar with the SMART agenda.
The hope is that as he takes the reins, he will chart a new course of economic prosperity and development for Delta state by bringing to bear not just on his office but the lives of Deltans the breadth of his intellectual rigour, political sagacity, and experience as a technocrat of the highest order.
– Toni Kan Onwordi, writer and PR and Developmental expert writes from London