By Godspower Michael-Eyakwaire
As the politics of succession takes centre stage across the federation, the People’s Democratic Party in Delta State have a real chance to further cement their position as the preferred party in the state. That opportunity is embodied by Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, serial entrepreneur and foremost indigenous private employer of labour in the state. But it remains to be seen whether the party leadership will seize the opportunity.
To say Delta State is a PDP stronghold is akin to saying the Pope is catholic. It’s that obvious. However, despite such complete dominance since the inception of the Fourth Republic, the opposition which has existed largely as a mere appendage of a multiparty system in the state has made serious incursions into similar strongholds in other states in more recent years. And that should be a concern to the PDP.
THE CASE FOR GBAGI’S CANDIDACY
I have followed the 2023 governorship succession array of the PDP, nay Delta Central senatorial zone, with renewed enthusiasm over the past one year. Like every other state of the federation where incumbents would be exhausting the constitutionally allowed maximum of two terms by 2023, the race in Delta has already started heating up. While some people may feel it’s too early for such heat because of the propensity of same to distract an incumbent, the truth is, the politics of succession is a different ball game from that of continuity. Even when the subject of party continuity remains a key factor for all those involved, the battle to win a party’s ticket often assumes gladiatorial dimensions for those involved. But of all the many players, and of course pretenders, involved, of great interest to me is the aspiration of Dr. Kenneth Gbagi, former Federal Minister for Education and foremost indigenous/private employer of labour in the state.
As a matter of urgency, the leadership of the PDP in Delta State must wake up to the reality of the take-the-territory-at-all-cost disposition of the opposition. Their best chance at continuity can no longer be hinged on candidates whose claim to the throne is a mere loyalty to party supremacy. Rather, the priority should be to identify a candidate who is capable of delivering on good governance to the people. It is my sincere belief that with Gbagi’s interest in the party’s ticket, the PDP in the state now has a golden opportunity to ensure that merit thrives over mediocrity.
Kenneth Gbagi’s quest to become Governor of Delta State is something that should be of great interest and excitement to everyone connected to the state, especially the PDP family. As a Deltan who has always yearned for sustainable economic development in the state, and as an enterprise development enthusiast, Gbagi’s aspiration evokes serious interest for me on several levels.
While I am well acquainted with the several other players jostling for the PDP ticket in the state, I will not be drawn into the polemics of their credentials as I x-ray the raison d’etre of the subject of real interest to me here, Gbagi. It is pertinent for me to clarify here too that I speak of the ‘other interested aspirants’ beyond party borders whenever I make allusions to how they stand juxtaposed with the subject of my interest in this piece.
I feel compelled to x-ray Gbagi’s aspiration because of his raison d’etre in this race, to wit, the promise of enterprise-driven economic revival in the state. It is an opportunity that the PDP cannot afford to bungle. He’s their best shot.
A TRACK RECORD OF SUSTAINABLE WEALTH CREATION
The case for a Kenneth Gbagi candidacy is inspired by a vision for real economic prosperity for Delta State. World over, there is a major leadership shift from career politicians to businessmen providing leadership for nations and states. From Donald Trump to his Asian and Arab counterparts, we have seen the power of politico-economic thinking at its best. The motivations are the same everywhere: people crave for leaders who can create enabling environment for employment and real security which begins with the economy. We cannot expect less from underdeveloped or developing economies. Any candidate search by a serious party in a state like ours must begin with keywords such as ‘wealth creator, enterprise developer, and bridge builder’. You can rest assured that the name Kenneth Gbagi will be the dominant hit for such a search.
Gbagi boasts an impressive, formidable resume which easily dwarfs those of many other aspirants in the race towards 2023. A serial entrepreneur and distinguished lawyer, his storied expertise in enterprise development, particularly how he turned around the fortunes of the then Delta Development and Property Authority from a zero account balance outfit when he assumed office as its chairman to having over N800 million in its accounts in a matter of years remains a reference point in government agency management circles. It is a story of incorruptible service, doggedness and fierce dedication to high moral codes and personal principles of nobility. His credentials as an economic activator cannot be matched by any of those in the fray for the party’s ticket. We are looking at a man who understands and has a proven track record for creating wealth for many over the years. His decades of experience in tourism, oil, construction, hospitality, industry, publication and education will no doubt provide valuable leverage for the state when he becomes elected. And there’s more.
In Kenneth Gbagi, the PDP has a man who understands the terrain in terms of socio-political and socio-economic dynamics at both national, regional and grassroot levels. Beyond serving as a Minister of Education under the Goodluck Jonathan presidency, Gbagi’s voice has reverberated through the years in topical issues at both national and state levels. From calls to strengthen the fight against corruption to inputs on social justice, good governance, youth development and socio-economic restoration, he has maintained a consistency that stands him out as a true elder statesman. It would be a shame if the PDP fails to see the opportunity in front of them.
VALIDATED BY CONFLICTS
Gbagi’s aspiration was initially greeted with some level of opposition within and outside the PDP from the moment he signaled interest for the party ticket. From allegations of anti-party politics to conflicts connected to his Oginibu heritage, he has had his hands full. Ironically, these attacks and challenges have also given his quest a competitive edge over his assailants and opponents for the party’s ticket as they have placed him at the epicenter of all conversations regarding the road to 2023. As they say, a smooth sea never made a great sailor. The man has weathered the storms well, making the most of the visibility and showing critics the true depth of his character and strength. Unfazed and determined, he has been validated by the same conflicts he has had to deal with in such a short time, rising from them all as a more formidable force to reckon with.
THE ONLY SMART PLAY
Having nursed this vision to lead the state for the past twenty years, it’s clear the PDP and Urhobo nation are looking at a very patient and passionate guber prospect in Kenneth Gbagi. We have for the first time in a long while a leader without the usual porkmarks of godfatherism, profligacy, and very critically, a poor understanding of the economics of wealth creation.
A break from the norm, Gbagi comes as a man who can galvanize the best brains and intentions to move Delta state forward. His pedigree shows he is not the type who will be overwhelmed by the administration of state resources or fall into primitive capital accumulation. We are looking at a man who has done it before, with excellence, at the highest level. As they say in our local parlance, he is not a learner.
Gbagi’s 2019 Christmas and New Year message to all Deltans captures the heart his heart as a leader and what a future with him as governor holds: “We, as a people must define our destiny, direct our destiny and use our God-given talents to turn around our state to compare with any state in the world.”
In my opinion, it should be a no-brainer to see that pitching tent with a man of this caliber should be the focal point of the PDP’s 2023 succession plan. It is the only smart play.
Godspower Michael-Eyakwaire is a content creator and business development consultant based in Lagos, Nigeria.