Interviews

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HOW WE ARE WORKING TO MAKE LIFE MEANINGFUL FOR DELTA PEOPLE – Ukah

UKAHMr. Patrick Ukah is the Delta State Commissioner for Information. In this interview with NAIJ.com’s Austin Oyibode in Asaba, Ukah speaks on the developments in the state, how Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s government is impacting on the people and battling to pay salaries amidst reduced federal allocations. He also speaks on the effort to curtail youth restiveness in the state. Excerpts:

How is the governor coping with salaries of workers, considering the reduction in federal allocation?

On Thursday June 25, 2015, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa presented a statement of affairs report on the state to the State House of Assembly. In his speech, he presented a graphic illustration on what he met on assumption of office. The highlights of his speech to those not privy to it are: (1) the revenue receipt from the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) has dipped significantly, dropping to just N8.03 billion in April (as received in May 2015), from a high of over N20 billion in previous years.

Based on the various financial outstanding from the previous administration, a total monthly deduction of N4.60 billion will be made from our FAAC receipts with effect from June 2015 to March 2017, and thereafter N1.098 billion monthly until September 2017. The State workforce as at May 28, 2015 stood at over 60,000 persons with a monthly personnel cost of N7,437,940,015.38 inclusive of N678 million State Government’s support to Local Government Councils for the payment of primary school teachers’ salaries.

So, if we assume that the FAAC allocation stays at N8.03 billion monthly, with the deduction of N4.60 billion, it leaves us with N3.4 billion, and even when you add roughly N2 billion derived from Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), (which is a positive assumption considering many corporate bodies have left the state as a result of pipeline bombings), the total available fund is N5.4 billion. The implication is that the available fund cannot offset the monthly wages (N7.437 billion) of the State’s workforce and the LGC primary school teachers’ salaries.

In a bid to address the challenges posed by the drop in statutory allocation, the State Government developed the Delta State Medium Term Development Plan (DSMTDP) (2016-2019), a policy document that provides the road map to: (1) Drive rapid infrastructural development. (2) Ensure and sustain inclusive economic growth and sustainable development (3) Reduce the worrisome high level of youth unemployment, pervasive poverty. (4) Woo the private sector to explore and exploit the economic and business opportunities in Delta State.

At this point, it is worthy to cheer the state’s Public Private Partnership (PPP) model, which is already yielding results with agreements already signed for the Delta Commercial City Project, Umunede Rest Park, Asaba Integrated Power Project, Warri-Effurun Water Scheme, Agro-Industrial Parks and Housing Projects in the state.

What is the governor doing to restore lasting peace to the state especially in the restive coastal communities?

We cannot deny the fact that the destruction of oil facilities in the Niger Delta region has compounded the financial woes of the nation and the state in particular, as oil prices have not only reduced but the country could not increase oil production to boost revenue.

The Okowa-led administration is working assiduously with various stakeholders on the need to create a peaceful atmosphere for the development of the Niger Delta region and Delta State specifically. And, in his bid to strengthen the unity of Delta State, the governor inaugurated a 42-man Peace Building and Advisory Council, which has former Minister for Information and Culture, Professor Sam Oyovbaire as the chairman.

The Delta State Deputy Governor, Barr. Kingsley Otuaro, as chairman of Advocacy Committee Against Oil Facility Vandalism, has been meeting with traditional rulers, youth groups and other relevant stakeholders to find a solution to oil pipeline bombing as well as to ensue peaceful co-existence among communities.

The mandates set out for both committees are against the backdrop of implementing the Meaningful Peace Building Platform as enshrined in the SMART mantra, all in a bid to maintain peace in Delta.

Some areas in the state feel marginalized especially the Ndokwas in the distribution of projects by the Governor, what is the government doing to rectify that?

There is no evidence to suggest that Ndokwa is marginalized. Only recently, some projects were either commissioned or inspected, they included the reconstruction and widening of the existing 7.5km long road between Owhelogbo in Isoko North and Abbi in Ndokwa West as well as the rehabilitation and widening of Access road to Beneku community in Ndokwa East.

In education, there is the establishment of Utue Secondary school, Utue-Ogume in Ndokwa West; a completion of a 24 classroom storey building at Ashaka Mixed Secondary School, Asahaka in Ndokwa East; infrastructural upgrade of Utagbe-Ogbe Technical College and construction of six classroom block with offices and toilets in Umuze primary school, Ossissa, Ibrede primary school, Ibrede and Isselegu primary school, Isselegu of Ndokwa East.

In water, rehabilitation of water supply scheme in Aboh, Ogume, Obiaruku, Umukwata, Abbi and Ejeme-Aniogor. Also, there are many sons and daughters of Ndokwa that are in the government of Okowa. But, the projects highlighted, are the gains of one-year of Governor Okowa’s administration. But it would not stop there. Are the gains enough? Many may say No, but there is a need to be patient, as this government would go the extra mile to impress on its people, why it coveted and won their votes.

Do you envisage permanent peace in the Niger Delta following the continuous bombing by the militants?

If you will recall, I had explained how various committees have been put in place to thinker up innovative ideas and solutions to bring about peace in the Niger Delta. The various committees are working assiduously to deliver their mandate. The state government in turn, is in constant talk with community leaders, the military and other stakeholders to bring about peace. So I do believe that there will be permanent peace in not just the Niger Delta but Nigeria as a whole. As at now, there is enough evidence to suggest that peace is gradually returning to the Niger Delta and just as the governor announced to investors in the two-day Economic and Investment summit in Asaba and a lecture organized by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group and Lagos Business School in Lagos on September 10, 2016, we can assure our prospective investors that we are going to have a lasting and sustainable peace in the region and that a conducive atmosphere awaits them.

What can you say the present governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, has achieved since he became Governor of Delta State?

Governor Okowa came into office with the bold promise of “Prosperity for all Deltans” hinged on a five-point agenda for his administration. The first year of the administration of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa has witnessed massive infrastructural work in the construction, completion and commissioning of 22 roads while 12 roads that are presently ongoing would be commissioned upon completion in the nearest future.

In markets development, the Orerokpe Model Market is at an advanced stage of completion. In the education sector, three primary schools, one model secondary school, one technical college and the faculty of law complex, Delta State University, Oleh Campus and model secondary school Ashaka were completed or near completion. In the health sector, the paediatric ward, water scheme, accident and emergency project and other facilities at the Patani General Hospital were either newly constructed or renovated; the Abavo General Hospital now wears a new look with a new health facility.

The Asaba drainage problem is being confronted head-on in order to deliver a lasting solution. Following an extensive study and review of this embarrassing problem, arrangements have been concluded to provide an effective remedial short-term solution and a master plan for the Asaba drainage works. It is our expectation that within two years, our capital city will be flood-free.

Having spelt out the past and the present administration’s achievement so far, as regards infrastructural development, there is no doubt that there is a need for more infrastructural development. And, I must assure you that the Okowa led-administration is willing to make Delta a model for everyone to follow, even in these hard times.

Delta just celebrated 25 years of state creation. Do you see Deltans as a people pursuing the same objective?

At the recently concluded 2-day Investment and Economic Forum, which was part of a week-long Delta at 25 celebrations, I noted that most speakers agreed that Delta State is a mini Nigeria due to her diversity, location and economic importance. While many may consider the marriage of the five major ethnic groups as strange, unlike the federal level, we’ve figured a way to live amicably.

Politically, we’ve found power sharing a long-lasting solution to resolve our peculiarities. On infrastructural development, we have more people living in urban areas across the three Senatorial districts than any other state that makes up the federation, excluding Lagos and Abuja. In sports and entertainment; irrespective of our divides, we are proud to associate with our numerous talents at home and abroad.

Is the state government thinking of employment besides the youth empowerment programme?

Every right thinking government is concerned about creating jobs. Our primary motivator about jobs is not necessarily about employment but more about its citizenry being more innovative and proactive by becoming entrepreneurs. Our duty is to create that enabling environment. And, it has gone beyond YAGEP and STEP. The sum of N546 million was disbursed to a total number of 3,100 persons within the various micro, small and medium enterprises from May 2015 to April 10, 2016. They comprise 2,052 females representing 66% of the loan recipients and 1,058 males representing 34%.

However, The Graduate Employment Enhancement Programme (GEEP) is designed for a distinct segment of unemployed graduates with professional training who live in urban areas. In particular GEEP is targeted at unemployed graduates with Bachelor’s degree or Higher National Diploma in Engineering, ICT, environmental disciplines and others.

The aim of the programme is to improve the employability and job-readiness of the graduates by affording them relevant work experience and exposing them to job opportunities. The programme also helps participants who wish to establish their own companies and enterprises in the respective professional fields, as groups or partnership.

We are focused on meeting our target, which is to grow the state economy by at least 5% annually, create 50,000 jobs annually up to 2019, increase house hold incomes by 5% annually, reduce unemployment by 5% annually and reduce overall poverty by 5% annually.

As a state where PDP is firmly rooted, what do you think can be done to settle the crisis at the national level of the party?

At the last convention held in Port-Harcourt, the constitution was amended based on the prevailing situation the party found itself as regards the post of national party chairman, tenure and mandate. I do believe that come next year at the expiration of every person’s actual and alleged tenure, the party will automatically right itself.

That the PDP is firmly rooted in Delta State is largely attributed to a power sharing model that easily resolves our peculiarities and ethnic divides.

Originally published on Naij.com

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I Have Never Made Any Confessions- Felida Essi

FONE Media means: (F)elida Oghen(O)sede E(N)eromoja (E)ssi is a newspaper publisher, educationist; businesswoman, singer and actress. Former member of Actors Guild of Nigeria; Felida is a founding member and Public Relations Officer (PRO) of South-South Women Organisation (SSWO), founding member and Vice-President of Ewomamagwolo Co-operative Society of Uzere; founding member/secretary of Uzere-Arasa Social Club; member, Uzere Community Women, Lagos Branch; and Community Newspapers Publishers Association, Delta State Chapter.
In this interview with Editor, JOHN EJEJIGBE, the Isoko Mirror publisher/editor-in-chief speaks on the allegations in circulation in printed pamphlet that she made certain confessions of witchcraft activities and the fact that she killed certain people whose names were mentioned in the publication. Excerpts:

Who is Felida Essi, the alleged witch?
I don’t know what you mean by witch and who Felida Essi is. I only know of Felida Ogheneosede Eneromoja Essi. She is in her 40’s. She was born to Mr. Raphael Avuake. Essi and Deborah Onosighoviuwo Akudo, who hail from Uzere and Olomoro, Isoko South local government area of Delta State. Her father is the vice-president of Uzere Customary Court.
Felida began life soon after she rounded off her high school education and started work very early. In 1987, precisely at age 19, she was secretary of Leader Records, a company that was into music production, marketing, sales of records and cassettes. She was Corporate Affairs Officer of MBI Production, an entertainment enterprise that was into large scale hospitality business, including night clubs and artistes management between 1989 and 1991. She became Customer Relations Officer of Magnum Finance Ltd between 1992 and 1994. Felida later founded Mafel Nigeria Enterprises through which she carried out general contracts, including buying and selling. She was fully into business when the lure of acting took her into the movie industry in 1997. While running her business, she was at the same time attending the Lagos Film Institute. No sooner did she graduate from the institute than she played roles in several films. The first home video in which she acted in 1998 is “Ghost Lover” wherein she played the role of a ghost. Her starring in the “Ghost Lover” led to her appearance in other films, including “Why Me;” “One Blood;” “Aba Women Riot;” “11:45 Too Late;” “Prodigal Brother,” Prodigal Brother,  “Big Brothers;” “One Day in Heaven;” “The Storm is Over;” “Stolen Bible,” and others.
Besides home videos in which she starred, she featured in soap operas, including “The child series” that was produced by Lai Asadele, sponsored by United Bank for Africa (UBA). Other soap operas in which she featured included “MACPELLA;” “Royal Tears;” “Scorching Sun;” “I need to know;” etc..
In 2001, she joined the defunct Isoko News newspaper as an advertisement executive; and later, reporter. In 2004, she crossed over to Isoko Times with the same designation. She worked closely with deceased publisher of Isoko Times, Ms. Patricia Akpavie. Upon the demise of the publisher, Felida held the reins of the newspaper for three months before it went defunct.
However, in 2005, Felida established her own newspaper, Isoko Mirror with the financial backing of Chief J.A.D. Iboma. The likes of Comrade Alex Eyengho, former Secretary-General of Association of Movie Producers (AMP), who is currently the National President of Association of Nollywood Core Producers (ANCOP); National President of Association of Itsekiri Performing Artistes (AIPA) and Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of Warri Mirror magazine; Chief John Araka, former General Manager of Daily Times of Nigeria Plc; HRH Frank Ndudi Odhe (II)  the Odio-Ologbo of Okugbe Isoko Kingdom, Bayelsa State, Jevi Eduzuka, HRM Capt. Frank Okwurakpo Odeh II, Mr. Rex Azere, Mr. Jevi Eduzuka, Mr. Opa Williams and others were instruments God also used to shore up the birth and present status of the newspaper.
But you were accused a witch in printed pamphlet wherein it is alleged that you made certain confessions of witchcraft activities and the fact that you killed certain people whose names were mentioned in the publication….
The allegation is laughable. It lacks substance. It shows the desperation of some groups of animalistic, disgruntled and diabolic elements in Isoko to run me and my newspaper down. I believe you have not so soon forgotten what Mr. Clifford Iliaror Ikogho, Ajangbadi, Lagos State-based suspected notorious criminal did against you and I between 2008 and 2010. There was nothing Ikogho didn’t say and used the so-called Isoko Today newspaper to publish against us. This is a man who came to us in our office and appealed that we help publish his articles as advertorials on credit, with a promise to pay later. We did the job for him; he was very happy. But when it got to the time for him to fulfill his own part of the bargain by paying the advertisement sum, he resorted to blackmailing us; and threatened to kill us over our money. Because demonic and criminal elements don’t have shame, Ikogho called the Lagos State police to arrest us on trumped-up charges. He accused you of going to his house to steal his landed property documents and so forth. Today, I thank God that we have successfully put Ikogho where he belongs. He now knows that “this small girl of yesterday” as they, I mean the Ikoghos and Amadhes of this evil world always described me, with the help of God, can become the biblical David, who killed Goliath. when they owe and don’t want to pay, they start making trouble.
Narrowing it down to the answer of your question, if you look at the eight pages pamphlet, you will observe that the allegations were the handiwork of a baby propagandist. First, the propagandist said I confessed at a church without mentioning the name, address and pastor of the church, the date and time of the confession. Second, the demonic element and his cohorts could not be bold enough to disclose their names and contact address; phone numbers or email; names of witnesses; let alone recorded voice or video clips of the confessions.

Where do we go from here?

They said I confessed that I killed “one Mr. Akpavie, the original owner and publisher of Isoko Mirror so that I can inherit the newspaper; and that I have since then inherited the newspaper but the spirit of my late boss has every night visited me with tongues of fire and brimstone,” among others.  Any gullible person can easily believe this story. However, let us ask ourselves some questions: which company publishes Isoko Mirror? It is FONE Media Integrated Company. What does the acronym FONE stand for? The “F” stands for ‘Felida.’ The “O” stands for ‘Osede,’ which is the short form of ‘Ogheneosede.’ The “NE” is a short form for ‘Eneromoja. the E stand for Essi’ These are all my English and native names. If you go to the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), you will see my name as the Chief Executive Officer of FONE Media Integrated Company, publishers of Isoko Mirror. Chief Dele Aziakpono Iboma of Uzere was the one who called me to start an Isoko newspaper in January 2005. At first, I refused but later agreed and started work on the then proposed newspaper project. Comrade Alex Eyengho, an Itsekiri man, who is the publisher of Warri Mirror magazine, was the one who assisted me in arriving at the newspaper name, Isoko Mirror and its registration both at the National Library and CAC. He was my first consultant. Chief Iboma and Comrade Eyengho are both alive. Whoever is interested in knowing the genesis of Isoko Mirror should go and find out from them.

Who is Mr. Akpavie said to be the original owner of Isoko Mirror?
The Bible makes us to understand that in spite of all the powers the devil claims to have, he couldn’t make any successful attempt to mess up our Lord Jesus Christ, who God solidly stood behind before, during and after the days of His trial. This is how I see it. Before the birth of Isoko Mirror, Isoko nation had recorded the birth and demise of four newspapers. They are Isoko Hope published by Mr. Akpososo Akpos of Okpe-Isoko; Isoko News published by Mr. Vincent Omovusu of Oleh; Isoko Vanguard published by late Mr. Wede Omughele of Ellu and Isoko Times published by Ms Patricia Akpavie of Ivrogbo-Irri, who died in August 2004. Akpavie was a woman, not a man. This is one fact the propagandist didn’t know. Like I said earlier, Ms Patricia Akpavie was the publisher of Isoko Times, not Isoko Mirror. I once worked very closely with her, I mean as her advertisement executive cum reporter. And upon her demise, I held the reins of her newspaper, Isoko Times for three months before it went defunct. Between August and December 2004, I had gone back to the Nollywood industry before Chief Iboma asked me to consider the idea of setting up my own newspaper and later supported me with some amount of money as capital.

Are you sure you never made any confession in respecting  of Chief Iduh Amadhe’s political ambition?
The allegation that I confessed that I have perfected the plot to make Chief Iduh Amadhe to fail his Delta State House of Assembly bid is pathetic and preposterous. It is sad that a traditional chief, who was one-time chairman of Isoko South council and president-general of Isoko Development Union (IDU) could relegate himself to the status of irresponsible desperation in a bid to become a member of the Delta State House of Assembly in the April 2011 election. My investigation revealed that his wife was the one who circulated copies of the pamphlet to staff and others in Isoko South council secretariat, Oleh; Uzere, and other Isoko villages, including Lagos State. Again, it is only Chief Amadhe that has a copy of my picture that was used in the front page of the pamphlet. He was very close to me, and I have been using Isoko Mirror to promote him, except libellous materials. Apart from that, some of his political supporters had warned me that if he (Chief Amadhe) losses the election, they would hold me responsible. When I got wind of the baseless allegations in the eight-page pamphlet in circulation and was making enquiries as to where it emanated from, one of his supporters called me and said, “When you were asked to publish things against Hon. (Prince) Johnson Erijo, you refused to publish them; and this is one of the results.” I think from this statement, the writing on the wall is lucid enough.
So, on Thursday, February 24, 2011, I called officers of the Delta State Police Command, Asaba, to arrest Mrs. F. Amadhe, who was responsible for the circulation of the libellous pamphlet. She was immediately arrested; and on interrogation, she confessed to the police in Asaba that she saw the pamphlet in her compound, made photocopies and started circulating them. The question presently on the lip of many is: How could someone claimed to have seen something in her compound she knew nothing about and went to make photocopies and started circulating them from one Isoko village or town to the other, as well as sent some to Isokos in Lagos? Anyway, the rest is history as the police are carrying out investigation on the matter.

Hon. Lucky Utunye, former isoko Commissioner on the board of Delta state Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC) once sued Isoko mirror because of some articles lkogho brought that were published. Could you tell us the current state of the case?
The problem with the Isoko people is the pull-him-down syndrome. when lkogho brought his articles under the auspices of isoko Watchdog association (IWA) claiming that Utunye embezzled DESOPADEC’s funds meant for the development of Isoko nation, we conacted Utunye in a bid to get his own side of the story. We booked appointments. He later stopped picking our phone calls and replying our text messages. It was at this juncture we went to press. This was after other newspapers had published the stories. But immediately the stories started coming out in Isoko mirror, Utunye threaten brimstone. He vowed to deal with us by making sure he close the newspaper and jail us.
He went to court and slammed us with N500 million libel suit. Luckily, we were not the one that published the stories. The Guardian, Daily Independent, PM News, Vanguard, The Urhobo Voice and other newspapers published the stories. But because Utunye knows he cannot fight the others, let alone close their newspapers, he decided to sue only Isoko Mirror, which, perhaps, he thought he would close overnight. He even took the principal authors of the articles, lkogho, leader of IWA; Mr. Alfred Ejugo, publicity secretary of IWA; Barr. lsrael; Itugbu, secretary-general of IWA to court to testify against us that the publications were libelous.
On our part, we told the court that Utunye’s action against Isoko Mirror negative malice. Our submission compelled him to add others like vanguard and The Urhobo voice in the suit, but excluded The Guardian, Daily Independent, Pm News and the authors of the articles- all because he is solely after how he would kill Isoko Mirror, which is the current progressing Isoko newspaper. Well the rest is history because as a law-abiding citizen, I won’t want to run flaw of the law since the case has been sub-judice since 2008.

Lastly,  in the face of these heavy allegations, what is your take?
I see the allegations as nothing. I don’t lose sleep over unfounded allegations. Sometime ago, they said I was getting money to publish Isoko Mirror from men I was sleeping with. I have also heard rubbish talk about my dressing. But when they realised that I didn’t give them listening ears, rather Isoko Mirror is waxing stronger day-after-day, they went to bed to strategise these new allegations in an already failed bid to destroy my image and kill the newspaper. But I take delight in all this because in 2 Timothy 3:12, the Bible makes me to understand that everyone who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. In John 15:20, Jesus Christ says, “If they have persecuted Me, they will persecute you.” And in John 16:33, He says we shall have tribulations in the world. However, there are benefits of persecution. Psalms 37:32-33 say “The Lord will not leave him (the righteous) in his (the wicked’s) hand.” So, the Lord is my Helper and I will not fear what man shall do unto me because I know I will not die before my enemies will confess. They will confess and die while I am still living because the power of God is covering me. I owe the success of Isoko Mirror to the grace of God and a spartan self-discipline

Isokos Have Benefitted Under Uduaghan- Macaulay

Comrade Ovuozorie Macaulay needs no introduction as a Deltan. His bonding with Delta State is akin to the umbilical relationship between a child and the mother right from the womb and last all through a lifetime. His antecedents and achievements in Delta State speaks volumes. In fact, it has been said in many knowledgeable quarters that the unity, harmony and togetherness which Delta state enjoys today and which has continued to hold the state together as one indivisible peaceful unit is due greatly to the very huge and unparalleled efforts and contributions of Comrade Macaulay, sometimes at the very risk of his own life, in the turbulent days of crises is some parts of the state.
The fact that he was able, by sheer courage, fearlessness and strategic brilliance, to bring peace to the state, remains one of the major legacies of this generation of Deltans to future generations. In fact, if there was a Nigerian version of the Nobel Prize for Peace, then Comrade Ovuozorie Macaulay would have been decorated long ago with the distinguished recognition.
He was the first Chairman of the Delta State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ). He is arguably the first indigeneous Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Delta State. He has been Special Adviser and Commissioner for Special Duties in some of the most challenging portfolios and his sterling and outstanding contributions to the progressive development of Delta state, since creation in 1991, has been a study in the display of selfless service, heroic commitment and courageous conviction in the face of what has sometimes manifested as unwarranted and selfish opposition.
He celebrated his milestone 50th birthday not too long ago and those who knew him from the early days confess that he still carries on with the vigour and dexterity of his activist days and is even now more energetic and exudes an admirable finess of strategic articulation and visionary acumen which he has brought to bear on his ever demanding schedule of assignments and responsibilities.
Recently Comrade Macaulay meet with some members of the Delta Guild of Indigenous Publishers (DGIP) in a no-holds-barred interactive session. Delta Focus, brings you this very illuminating and forthright interview which dealt with issues ranging from his relationship with his beloved Isoko people, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan and his desire to continue to be of service to Delta state. Excerpts

On his relationship with Isoko people in view of the re-run election
The issue is this, when you are in government, especially the level at which I am operating in government, the perception of people about me is that not everybody is happy that we are the rallying point. There are some old institutions that still want to remain even till death. And when they see another light coming, they want to do every thing to dwindle or extinguish that light. It was this group that sowed the seed of discord, of disagreement, of annoyance among some few people. But the problem I must admit is that since i am operating at the State level, I have to accommodate all and not look at Isoko people alone. And knowing full well that the things I am doing for the Isoko people are good enough for them, I should expect it to be appreciated and reciprocated. I am more concerned in ensuring that there is peace in this State. But i must say that while I was doing this I did not know that the enemies at home, who would not want any other person to grow were at work. And that’s what happened in the last re-run election. However, since then, several people have come to apologize to me, claiming that they were misled. Some have said “we were paid to just fight you”.
And again, another thing that was not in doubt during the re-run election throughout the state was that we were prepared for a free and fair election under the principle of one man one vote. But that is not what happened. When I was attacked at INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) office by over 400 youths I was not with anybody. If I knew that was the type of situation I was going to encounter I would not have gone there without any security. But I thought we were dealing with fellow gentlemen and the fear of adequate security would not exist.
Of course, we’re assured that for every polling unit there was going to be armed security men but I can tell you that out of the thirteen units in Owhe-Ologbo, in my own ward for instance, only five of the police men came with arms and every unit had just one police man, who in some cases was not even armed. The mobile police men that came were just moving from place to place. They were never on the ground to resist any unrest. I approached them and their answer was that they could not do any thing unless there was an attempt on somebody’s life, especially the officials, before they could intervene.
So you can see that we were people who went there with the innocent mindset to do the right thing, only for us to get there and see the wrong things being done and being supported. The results that came out were not certainly a true reflection of what is on ground.

On his efforts to bridge the disconnect between him and his people of Isoko and build political confidence among the people especially in view of future political career.
It is that political career that every body is looking at and attempting to break. They are not just fighting Macaulay for the sake of it but they feel that the way Macaulay is going with Uduaghan we must bring him down now to cut his wings because nobody knows what he will become tomorrow. Besides they believe that those of them who had passed this road before could not do what we are doing now.
But I challenge them and I want to call on the Isoko elite to look carefully and identify which Isoko man has been in politics in the past who can boast of the things I put in Isoko today. I call on the Isoko people to judge me fairly and appreciate the efforts I have made towards the over all development of our people. Okpe-Isoko for instance was thought to be a place where there was a curse; that there can never he light (electricity). Today Okpe Isoko has light which has been on now for the past two years. They have been enjoying consistent PHCN light in the last two years.
Before I came into Uduaghan’s administration the highest transformer in Isoko land was a 2.5 MVA that was at Oleh and for years it could not work because it was faulty. Today, only in Isoko land, we have two 7.5 MVA transformers, fully installed, commissioned and working effectively. The third one is coming with the step down of the 132 KVA in Ozoro.
Let them tell us, which Isoko man in the past has stood to fight the kind of fight I have put up to make sure the campus in Oleh is developed. Is there any community in Isoko North today where my presence is not felt in terms of projects? There is a 2.5 MVA in Orie, up to Edhemoko, I’m also lucky that the Governor is such a person that any time I go to him to say this is the problem of my people, he listens and he respects Isoko people for that.
But I also know that with my closeness with him I’m also a target of attack. And when it started I knew some of those who were behind it. There are those who believe that because I’m close very close to the Governor I must come and report to them on what the Governor is doing on a daily basis. But I tell them that it’s not possible. Some of them whom I served as a youth have turned out to declare a war against me. But I told them that it is not in my character to fight my elders and I will never do it. I’ll leave every thing with God.
You see, over seventy percent of our wards are covered with appointments. You can talk of Felix Ofou who is from Okpe, you can talk of Sunny Areh from Ozoro, you can talk of Edevor from Ozoro, you can talk of Mr. Aluta from Ellu; I can go on counting. And I make sure that these things are spread across-so that when election time comes we should be able to have at least one appointee in every area. This is something that was never done in the past. People were concentrating appointments within their families. But I tell my family that what I have is for all of us and so we must spread other things to other people.

Relationship with Governor Uduaghan
My relationship with the Governor did not start as Governor and Commissioner. We are family friends. I’m committed to him and whether i am a commissioner or not we will remain the family friends that we are. Let is face it, look at the past and look at the present time. How many Isoko people have been commissioners before and what did they do with the position? Compare what ever they did with what I’ve been able to do and judge me well.
We developed the Ozoro Polytechnic; we have two Faculties of the Delta State University in Oleh; a modern campus of Engineering and the Faculty of Law. We are doing roads, re-surfacing and opening roads. You can talk of Iyede-Emede-Oleh road, which is being resurfaced, Olomoro-Igbide Road, which is also being resurfaced and a number of other roads which are being done.
What do they mean when they say that this or that area of Isoko is not getting attention? Is the area not being developed? Are our sons and daughters not being given appointments? So I’m really surprise when people just complain without justification.

On his efforts at Reconciliation.
Yes. I’ve thought over all these attacks i have received and reached a conclusion that they are the challenges that one must brace up to. And as a result we started talking almost immediately with those raising these issues with the intention to address these challenges. But in course of talking it turned out that some of the opposition’s grievances are laughable. Some are purely on personal grounds that are childish and puerile.
However, we are talking with the opposition. But if the opposition thinks that what happened in some places during the last re-run election is a show of popularity they have got to have a re-think. What happened in some places was a clear fraud and it won’t happen during the main elections.

On the mass removal of Senior Special Assistants, Special Assistants and Personal Assistants in Government after the re-run election
I’m happy that you used the word mass, which defeats the argument that they didn’t perform during the re-run and that’s why they were removed. All the SSAs, SAs and PAs couldn’t have failed in their areas. Some of them performed brilliantly and in some of those areas we got good results. Thank God, some of those from Isoko are still keeping their jobs. But you see, for every experienced politician, that’s what happens in government. If not for the annulment the 2007 election the action would have been done much earlier. When you are moving into the campaign period you do some re-organization to suit that particular period.
There are those who are good in political mobilization and there are those good in government, so at election time you must re-organize for effective campaign. There are field workers and we are now in election period. This is exactly what the Governor has done. And it’s rather unfortunate if anybody is reading meanings to it.
It was not a mark of failure at all on these who were dropped or that they had been found guilty of betrayals. Yes, there were people, fickle minded double dealers, who thought Uduaghan would not make it and they decided to stand astride with their two legs on both sides. But I don’t think that was the main reason why the Governor had to ask everybody to step aside for now.

On his efforts to re-sensitize Isoko people on the good intentions of Government for them
I must tell the Isoko people that first and foremost I hold no malice against anybody because I know that most of the people who are today playing the role of opposition are being misled into believing that it is the best thing to do. Again the factor of hunger cannot be removed. So, I hold no malice against anybody. But I want the Isoko people, particularly the elite to be very careful and look well before making important decisions. We must advise ourselves better as we go into the election. A man can come and promise all kinds of things; building roads in the air, putting air conditioners on the streets without even telling you that he has to bring light first.
The other man comes very quietly and humbly and tells you “please you know I’m from a poor background like you. I know what it is to be starved; I know what it is to eat once in a day. I used to trek to school, so please why don’t you just give us time to open up the roads, let’s give you light to replace the use of candles and hurricane lanterns. In other words, we want to build for tomorrow.
And like I keep telling them what Uduaghan’s administration stands for is Delta without oil, Delta State of tomorrow. And the Isoko people should ask themselves, this Delta State without oil, this Delta State of tomorrows, are we being positioned to be part of it? And if the answer is yes, they should just do what is right. And I think for me, the answer is right before us. This is because we have two major things which facilitate the rate of development in this world; they are education and electricity power. Industries, small scale farmers and other businesses will spring up as people won’t have to buy generators before they could engage in a small business like barbing saloons, when there is electricity because there is hardly anything you could do when you don’t have steady light. Again with the campus of Delta state University at Oleh we are developing our human capital capacity.
In December last year we had to create a separate circuit for the Isoko line and that is why you see that the Isoko people are now having steady light more than any part of this country today since December. I had to ensure that a separate circuit was created for the Isoko line which is even serving part of Ndokwa now.

On the IPP Project
On the issue of the IPP programme, i must tell you that most people do not understand what it involves. You do not start and finish the process in one year. It entails a lot of planning and patience. The equipment has to be configured to modern specifications so that you do not end up paying for something that is outdated according to industry standards.
We had placed orders to purchase the up-to-date equipment when we started but then the Central Bank of Nigeria came down hard on the banks and we could not access the funding when we needed it. By the time the situation normalized, the industry specifications had been up-graded and so we had to review our contracts to ensure we did not bring obsolete equipment for the Delta state IPP. These also had to be built to particular specifications and this will not be done overnight.
Some people went to the sites we had earmarked for the project cried foul that we had abandoned the project because according to them, weeds had over-run the place. But they did not know that these equipment takes time to be configured to specification so what was the use of clearing the site only for it to be overgrown again while waiting for the equipment to arrive? The project will soon re-commence once our equipment arrive and that will be very soon i assure you.

On why he has not contested for elective office yet
(Laughs). I am not afraid of contesting for public office. In fact those who know me will tell you that i am a politician through and through. Of course you know that i have been a labour leader before so politics and elections are not things i should be afraid of.
But i am a man of principles and i believe that what is worth doing at all is worth doing well. I believe in Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan and i am fully committed to ensuring that he succedes as Governor. Like you very well know, i was a key player in the advocacy to achieve power shift in Delta State and i can say with every sense of pride that we have achieved power shift with the succesful election of Governor Uduaghan as our governor.
My duty now is to make sure that all my energies are directed towards his success in bringing the dividends of democracy to all Deltans.
Of course people have come to me and tried to convince me to go for elective position especially in recognition of the good works i have done for Isoko people. I thank them all but my answer is simple. I do not want to be distracted from my responsibility in ensuring that i give total loyalty to the administration of Governor Uduaghan. He has given me his confidence and placed a huge trust in my ability and the only thing i owe him is to ensure that i continue to give him quality service and by extention to Delta state.
I will only consider any other alternative when his tenure is over and like some of you know, i am also a farmer so i can even retire to my farm and live a quiet life with my wonderful family after service. But everything is in the hands of God and when the time comes i am sure He will direct me on the path to follow.

Delta North Will Not Compromise 2015 -Senator Ikpo

Senator (Obi) Nosike Ikpo is eighty-one years old and counting, yet the political icon and Delta North political leader, remains one of the few leaders and Elders in Delta state today who still commands genuine respect and attention, even when some of those in his class of elders have lost their relevance and sacrificed their reputation on the alter of selfish and pecuniary considerations. He was a student of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, but parted ways with him. He was involved in several well documented battles with the late former civilian governor of defunct Bendel State, Prof. Amrbose Alli. He has seen it all and has the credential to speak authoritatively on the metamorphosis of politics from the old Midwest region, through the old Bendel state to present day Delta state. Senator (Obi) Nosike Ikpo is very angry at the current happenings in the state; a situation which propelled him and some well meaning elders to initiate the Delta State Peoples’ Elders Council, DSPEC, led by the erstwhile deputy premier of the defunct Midwest Region, Chief James Otobo. He is quite disturbed by the fact that some political office seekers from the central senatorial district, especially Chief Ovie Omo-Agege and Chief Great Ogboru, would want to be the next governor of the state, when the zoning arrangement, initiated in 2007, has not run its circle. He also took a critical look at the Delta Elders, Leaders and Stakeholders Forum, founded by Chief Edwin Clark and concluded that the group has turned into a refugee camp for those who have one axe or the other to grind with the leadership of PDP in the state, and former governors: Chief James Ibori and Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan. In this extra-ordinary interview at his country-home, Ibusa, Delta State, (originally conducted by Emma Amaize and first published by the Vanguard Newspapers), Senator Ikpo leaves no one in doubt about where he stands on the very critical issues of politics, governance and the role of Delta North in the forth coming elections in the state. Delta Focus brings you excerpts of the interview in our usual reader-friendly style. Excerpts

Politics in my time

Politics in my time was played according to the rules. There was discipline. We had a hierarchy. You don’t just jump out from nowhere and impose yourself on the party leadership and party machinery. In those days, politics was a pleasant game.

Odd things that happened in life

When I had to part with my mentor and leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, I disagreed with the defunct Bendel State governor, the late Prof. Ambrose Alli, before the 1983 election. I had to support another UPN aspirant against Ambrose Alli at the primary presided over by the late Dr. Tai Solarin. When Alli won the primary against Dr. Isaac Okonji, I protested vehemently. I had earlier applied for nomination for my re-election to the Senate to which I was elected in 1979. For the most part of Prof Alli’s administration, I led a large number of UPN legislators at the national and state assemblies to oppose what we considered to be bad in Alli’s administration.

Turning point

The 1983 governorship primary provided us opportunity to remove him (Alli) from office, but he was more important to the party than us (legislators). In spite of the beauty of our case, the party lent its weight behind him, so he won the primary election in a manner that did not satisfy us. Consequently, I had to write that night to the party electoral officer, Dr. Solarin, resigning from the party since I found it difficult to share the same platform with the governor and defend what I considered as his failure in office. Chief Awolowo did not take my resignation lightly. He felt so bad about it that during the campaign, he came to Ibusa, my countryhome, to personally campaign against me. In spite of that, however, I won the election hands down.

Some of you elders of Delta State recently formed a group called Delta State Peoples Elders Council, DSPEC. Why, when there is the Delta Elders, Leaders and Stakeholders Forum, DELSF, led by Chief Edwin Clark?

No God-fearing person would encourage looting of public funds. Where there is evidence that an office holder has abused his office by stealing public money, money that belongs to all of us, nobody would quarrel with any disciplinary action taken against him. I do not know the origin and how E.K. Clark formed the DELSF. As time went on, the forum became an all-comers forum. Its membership is not determined by any known standards, either of age or status. It becomes a sort of refugee camp for aggrieved PDP members who have grievances against Ibori, Uduaghan or the leadership of the party. Several others look up to the forum as a veritable ladder to secure employments, contracts and board appointments, especially since Jonathan became president. Consequently, the forum seems to have lost focus and the conventional sagacity of an elder who beats a child with the right hand and brings him back home with the left hand. This reached the point when Governor Uduaghan’s 2007 election was nullified by the Court of Appeal, Benin City, which ordered a re-run election in Delta State within 90 days from the date of the court’s decision. In the circumstance, Uduaghan, who was already campaigning for a re-election, is now to face a re-run. He has to face two elections within four months. As humans, some of us felt that Uduaghan deserves sympathy. Instead, our friends in Chief Clark’s forum intensified their hatred for Uduaghan. Out of sympathy, a few of us came together and formed our forum to offer an alternative view of Delta State, and explore the possibility of working with E.K. Clark in a truly recognized Elders Forum, and reconcile him with Uduaghan. From the communiqué of our internal meeting, you can see that we said nothing ill against E.K. Clark. Our forum is on a rescue mission. You are the only one Chief Clark said he respects in DSPEC. Have both of you crossed each other’s path in the past? Chief E.K Clark is a straight-forward man. As he said in your interview with him, he has nothing against me because, in my relationship with him, I did not do anything for which he could have condemned me. We have been good friends, talking from time to time, comparing notes. I told my colleagues so at our inaugural meeting. Since then, Clark and I have discussed and agreed to join forces to unite all true elders in Delta State.

So what should be the way forward for Delta State? Won’t the elders resolve the issues and tell the younger generation what next?

The thrust of the 2007 governorship election campaign was zoning. It bears repetition that since the creation of Delta State, governorship of the state has come from the central senatorial district, dating back to the tenure of Governor Felix Ibru, to the eight years of Chief James Ibori’s administration. We did not need a written agreement to expect that the next governor, after James Ibori, was going to come from either Delta south or north. And, so, when Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan from the Delta south won in 2007 as governor, all right-thinking people believed that a convention of zoning had been established in Delta. ‘How Delta north will vote’ I do not know what to make of the inordinate ambition of some new generation politicians who aspire to high offices without the humility of conducting sufficient consultations, which may help see themselves as others see them. Such as one young man who goes by name, Obarisi Ovie Omo-Agege, who wants to be governor of Delta state at all costs. Some of us have been in politics of this area since Midwest Region was created. I have never heard of Ovie Omo-Agege as a party ward chairman, a councillor or an ordinary party activist. Suddenly, Ovie Omo-Agege emerged from the Ibori stable and wants to be nothing lower than the governor of Delta State. If he rose from the ranks, he should know that in a political party, there is a hierarchy by which candidates who are qualified for elective and appointive offices are drawn. I don’t know who gave Ovie Omo-Agege the impression that Delta north will vote for him in any election. As Christians, we can forgive, but as humans, we cannot forget that his father, as chairman of Delta State Electoral Commission, short-changed a large chunk of Anioma Local Government Area in ward delineation in 2004, in an attempt to put Delta north in a permanent political disadvantage. It took the efforts of Anioma members of the third session of Delta State House of Assembly and the vociferous Delta North Leaders Forum to fight that political manipulation. It offends my sensibility whenever I hear Ovie Omo-Agege or his brother, Great Ogboru, appeal to Anioma people to vote for them in the re-run election, with a promise that they would serve only one term that will terminate in 2015, so that Delta north may take its slot thereafter. The truth is that Delta north did not vote for Great Ogboru in the 2007 governorship election. They will vote against him this time around. Not because they don’t like him as a person, but because the mind-set of Delta north people now is that anybody who wants to be governor of Delta before the zoning established in 2007 has run its circle has a dead conscience. Such a person does not deserve their support. Such a person should wait until Delta north has produced a governor for Delta in 2015.

How I won in the Three Warri’s -Uduaghan

Delta State governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, has not rested since his initial mandated was annulled by the Court of Appeal in Benin City, Edo state on November 9, 2010. In fact his very busy scheduled dates back to just before the annulment when he collected and returned the PDP nomination form for the 2011 elections and commenced the process of his second term bid with several critical meetings with political office seekers in Delta state. He was just getting into stride when the bombshell of the annulment landed while he was at the Government House Squash Court, officiating a football match between staff of Government House and Journalists in the state.
He immediately commenced his re-run campaign, which took him round the state to meet with several key statesmen and opinion leaders in the three senatorial zones. He did not shy away from the several meetings with INEC prior to the re-run and even participated in the Governorship debates organized by Channels Television and welcomed President Goodluck Jonathan to his final campaign rally in warri, before confronting the re-run elections, where he emerged victorious in a landslide.
No sooner had he won the re-run he was faced again with the PDP governorship election primaries, which he won with a landslide.
He then literally jumped into the next available late flight to Abuja and the Eagle Square, where he led the Delta state delegation to join thousands of PDP delegates to vote for and endorse President Goodluck Jonathan as the PDP flag bearer for the April 2011 Presidential elections.
And then it was sudenly the time for the voter registration exercise and the governor had to endure some long days of delay before he finally registered in his home town of Abigborodo.
He returned form Abigborodo just in time to mobilize and receive the South South, South East Governor’s, who used Delta state as the launchpad for the bandwagon road show to convince the governors in their various geo-political regional blocks to support  President Goodluck Jonathan. He even had time to have breakfast with Journalists operating in Delta State, before joining his colleagues.
As at the time of this interview, the Nort Central governors had already joined their Southern counterparts to endorse President Jonathan for 2011.
Governor Uduaghan, as usual took out time to speak with some Journalists, after the North Central meeting, where he spoke extensively on the January 6, 2011 gubernatorial re-run election in the state and the three warri LGA’s, President Jonathan’s chances in the 2011 elections and the allegation by some elders of the state that he has the penchant for dumping people after using them to fulfill his political ambitions.
Delta Focus brings you a richly served version of that Interview, already published in some National Newspapers, in our usual poignant and exciting offering.

Excerpts:

How do you plan to reconcile aggrieved party members and prominent citizens of Delta state after your victory in the gubernatorial rerun election?
I usually have three boxes set aside where I put such issues for deliberation. In one of the boxes I put people who whatever you do to reconcile them or try to appease them, they will never, no matter what you do, even give them your blood; they will never be ready to put the interest of the people first.
There is another box containing people who may not be loyal to you or your administration but if you are able to convince them to see reason with what you are doing, they would change. Of course, there is also the box of those who are loyal, core loyalists who always believe with you, who always are there for you.
If you focus on the box of those who will never change, you tend to lose people from the middle box and annoy people from the loyalist box. If you focus only on the box where you have people that are neither here nor there to the detriment of the loyalists, they may interpret it that you are ignoring them and they may not be too happy. What am I saying? For that box where people will never change, all I do is just to watch them, their next move, because they are always making moves, one mischievous move or another.
But in the middle box really, that is where I am concentrating on, to see how we can bring as many of them as possible back while also keeping the loyalty of the third box by encouraging them to continue to work for us. Specifically on how we are trying to convince those in the middle box, we are reappraising them. In the next few months, we will assess our working conditions and do one or two things to win the confidence of the people.

There is this allegation against you that you use people to achieve your political ambitions and after using them to climb up and making promises to provide welfare and infrastructural ammenities to  them and their areas, you dump them unceremoniously without fulfilling your promises. How true is this?
 Let me correct that. I never made such promises to anybody. I am very conscious in making promises. First of all, I am not a neophyte in politics. I didn’t start politics from the position of governor. I was a commissioner, I was SSG, and so I know what is on ground. I know my capabilities.
So, there was no where one person will tell me oh, I said I was going to construct this road. Now when you are going about, people can make a request and say construct this road. I never made commitments to any community. I can challenge any community or anybody who said I made commitment to him or her. Now, why I wanted you to be specific is because I have heard stories of,  oh this one supported you and now he is on the other side. Of course you know that there were so many people who oppose me even to the last minute.
Even after the election, they were still in court. In fact, I think I am one of the most opposed governors in 2007 and it was even worse in 2010. Fine, after the election, I even tried to make moves to many of them.  Now, some were giving me some very impossible conditions, very, very impossible conditions and some said, ‘okay, we’ve settled’. But we’ve settled and the next moment they are doing something else.
To me that is not good. In fact, there was one I talked to yesterday. I said ‘ I thought you said your quarrel is not with me but with Chief James Onanefe Ibori, I went to him and we talked and we settled but he has not done anything. ‘The next day, you were somewhere in another meeting.
Of course, I have to assess whether you are really genuine or not’. So that is why this issue of I made promises cannot hold water. I didn’t make promises to anybody. Okay there is one, yes we talked and I said I will consider the issue but then I also gave my conditions. That in your local government, ‘I have senior people from your local government; deputy governor is from your local government.
You don’t recognize my deputy governor, yet you say you settled with me? It’s not possible. So whatever we even talked about in terms of settlement, one condition is that you must respect my deputy governor because if you don’t respect my deputy governor, how do I move; that is why I wanted you to be specific. Settlement is both ways, it’s like the bus conductor, that will say, ‘every day you de ask for change (cash) change; you yourself when you go bring change too’. So change is both ways.

The issue of the animosity towards you by Chief EK Clark has become a recurring question in every interview you have granted. Do you finally have an answer to that question especially now that you have won another election in Delta state and he is still not happy with you?
There is no personal quarrel and I have asked the question publicly and he has also tried to answer the question by saying I am corrupt; I was imposed by Chief James Ibori. Well, we went for re-election; Chief James Onanefe Ibori wasn’t there. He is trying to talk about corruption but there is nothing specific that he has said. I know during this period he did a lot, to try and bring issues of corruption.
The truth is that as secretary to government, you do not have approval limit beyond N1million. What I am saying is that there has been a lot, that has been done to pull me down but I am here.

What lessons have you learnt while your were on what has been referred to as your ‘Vacation’ or ‘Sabbatical’ period, between the annulment and the re-run election?
I will say the period I was out of office gave me the opportunity to analyse and understand people better. What I also came to know is that there are many fair-weather friends around you. When it’s good, it’s good; when it’s bad, it’s goodbye. There are those who of course it’s not totally bad yet, from their assessment. All I will say is that every day, when you wake up, just pray to God because he is the only one that can protect you. There are a lot of persons who I will say are very trustworthy. But there are few who you think that they are trustworthy but they are really not trustworthy.

Former governor, Chief James Ibori  is facing several charges. Are you doing anything about it?
Of course he has his challenges and I think he has a lot in his hands dealing with these challenges. I just want to leave it at that.
Does that mean he has been dumped?
No, no, no. First of all, we are related by blood. There is no way I can sit here and say I want to disown him. I will not do that. We all have challenges; I mean he has his peculiar challenge as a person. We have our family challenges; no matter how you see it, what is happening to him has family challenge; we have our family challenges. So I did not disown or dump him.

The recent meeting between governors of the South-South and South East, with even Gov. Peter Obi who is not of the PDP stock, is it an alliance for 2011 or are we likely to see a merger?
Something is building up in that direction (alliance) but it is not a merge. It is an understanding. They (APGA) don’t have a presidential candidate, but we have. We are in agreement that they will come and support us to deliver our presidential candidate. That is why I said that it is an understanding.
Now, let me put what we are doing in proper perspective. President Jonathan has emerged as the  PDP candidate but the presidential primary election is just a part of the process of making him the president beyond May 29, 2011. The real process is the main election in April and we as governors don’t just want to say that he has emerged in the primary and relax. We need to prepare for the April election. So that meeting really was our first move in trying to prepare for the April elections.
The PDP governors of the South-South, South-East and the APGA governor came together to appraise what happened at the primary and to map out strategies on how to win the April 2011 poll. In the next few days, we are also going to make other moves; we are going to develop on that relationship beyond the two regions. We are moving into other regions. Politics is a game of numbers; it is about lobbying, consultations.

What is your opinion regarding the statement of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) to sanction governors who voted for President Goodluck Jonathan at the primary and the insistence that the north must produce the next president?
My attitude is that they have made their point but we will go to them or we should go to them and discuss with them and try to soften them. This is politics; we must try and win their hearts. It is not a politics of saying that they have made that statement, we must counter the statement. And we should not ask them why they made that statement or if they don’t know it is wrong to make that kind of statement or argue with them that don’t you know it is our turn or it must be our turn. That is not politics. The North is very, very significant and very important to the 2011 polls. So, it is left for us to also go to them and say, ‘look, you have said this but for XYZ reasons, can you not just look at what we are saying, consider it and support President Jonathan? Those are the kind of things we will discuss with them. I also want to appeal to our people that they should not react to such statement with another hot statement; it does not help matters at all. We should just examine what they have said and try to soften them.

Many people have said that your victory in the January 6, 2011 guber  re-run election over your main opponents, especially Chief Great Ogboru was influenced by alledged rigging of the votes of the three Warri Local governments over that of the mainland areas of the state. How do you react to this allegation?
 If you look at those who registered to vote in the state, the truth is that the Warri area of these people have been surviving on elections. In fact if you look at the elections from Mid-West, old Bendel, even up till now, you have always had majority of the votes coming from the Warri axis.
This is not the first time we are having majority of the votes that determined the winner in an election from that side. Many times it is the votes that come from that side that decide who the governor becomes. Let’s go back to history; from the days of Alfred Rewane, he always made sure that the people are sensitized to vote because that is the only way they survive. So it is nothing new. I will only add that they are more politically conscious and sensitive to voting. In the  Warri situation for example, lets say we are in a room and we are about 20 in the room. We can have 10 people in another room and they say, go for an election. You will be surprised that at the end, you might have more people from the room with 10 people, voting more than the people from the room withy 20 persons. Of the 20 persons, maybe only 3 might vote while 8 of the 10 other persons might vote. So relatively, you now ask, why there are more votes from the smaller room than the bigger room.
The thing is this; the issue of population is subjective. If you go back to the last population census, it is not true that you have more people in the upland areas of Delta state than the riverine communities of Delta, made of Warri and so on. Moreover, the people of Warri know me as one of their own who has suffered and toiled with them in their hour of suffering. So as far as they are concerned, I am a safe pair of hands for them. I have been involved in a lot of things that brought peace to them today. So whether they are Ijaw, Urobo, Itsekiri, I am the one they know. I am the one they want to deal with. Even the issue of the annulment of the election in the first place, was very painful to them. To them it was a challenge because they felt; ‘why and how did this come about because Uduaghan is our own’. And really, this is the first time they are really having their own as governor.

How I won in the Three Warri’s -Uduaghan

Delta State governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, has not rested since his initial mandated was annulled by the Court of Appeal in Benin City, Edo state on November 9, 2010. In fact his very busy scheduled dates back to just before the annulment when he collected and returned the PDP nomination form for the 2011 elections and commenced the process of his second term bid with several critical meetings with political office seekers in Delta state. He was just getting into stride when the bombshell of the annulment landed while he was at the Government House Squash Court, officiating a football match between staff of Government House and Journalists in the state.He immediately commenced his re-run campaign, which took him round the state to meet with several key statesmen and opinion leaders in the three senatorial zones. He did not shy away from the several meetings with INEC prior to the re-run and even participated in the Governorship debates organized by Channels Television and welcomed President Goodluck Jonathan to his final campaign rally in warri, before confronting the re-run elections, where he emerged victorious in a landslide.No sooner had he won the re-run he was faced again with the PDP governorship election primaries, which he won with a landslide. He then literally jumped into the next available late flight to Abuja and the Eagle Square, where he led the Delta state delegation to join thousands of PDP delegates to vote for and endorse President Goodluck Jonathan as the PDP flag bearer for the April 2011 Presidential elections.And then it was sudenly the time for the voter registration exercise and the governor had to endure some long days of delay before he finally registered in his home town of Abigborodo.He returned form Abigborodo just in time to mobilize and receive the South South, South East Governor’s, who used Delta state as the launchpad for the bandwagon road show to convince the governors in their various geo-political regional blocks to support  President Goodluck Jonathan. He even had time to have breakfast with Journalists operating in Delta State, before joining his colleagues. As at the time of this interview, the Nort Central governors had already joined their Southern counterparts to endorse President Jonathan for 2011. Governor Uduaghan, as usual took out time to speak with some Journalists, after the North Central meeting, where he spoke extensively on the January 6, 2011 gubernatorial re-run election in the state and the three warri LGA’s, President Jonathan’s chances in the 2011 elections and the allegation by some elders of the state that he has the penchant for dumping people after using them to fulfill his political ambitions. Delta Focus brings you a richly served version of that Interview, already published in some National Newspapers, in our usual poignant and exciting offering.

Excerpts:
How do you plan to reconcile aggrieved party members and prominent citizens of Delta state after your victory in the gubernatorial rerun election?I usually have three boxes set aside where I put such issues for deliberation. In one of the boxes I put people who whatever you do to reconcile them or try to appease them, they will never, no matter what you do, even give them your blood; they will never be ready to put the interest of the people first.There is another box containing people who may not be loyal to you or your administration but if you are able to convince them to see reason with what you are doing, they would change. Of course, there is also the box of those who are loyal, core loyalists who always believe with you, who always are there for you.If you focus on the box of those who will never change, you tend to lose people from the middle box and annoy people from the loyalist box. If you focus only on the box where you have people that are neither here nor there to the detriment of the loyalists, they may interpret it that you are ignoring them and they may not be too happy. What am I saying? For that box where people will never change, all I do is just to watch them, their next move, because they are always making moves, one mischievous move or another.But in the middle box really, that is where I am concentrating on, to see how we can bring as many of them as possible back while also keeping the loyalty of the third box by encouraging them to continue to work for us. Specifically on how we are trying to convince those in the middle box, we are reappraising them. In the next few months, we will assess our working conditions and do one or two things to win the confidence of the people.
There is this allegation against you that you use people to achieve your political ambitions and after using them to climb up and making promises to provide welfare and infrastructural ammenities to  them and their areas, you dump them unceremoniously without fulfilling your promises. How true is this? Let me correct that. I never made such promises to anybody. I am very conscious in making promises. First of all, I am not a neophyte in politics. I didn’t start politics from the position of governor. I was a commissioner, I was SSG, and so I know what is on ground. I know my capabilities.So, there was no where one person will tell me oh, I said I was going to construct this road. Now when you are going about, people can make a request and say construct this road. I never made commitments to any community. I can challenge any community or anybody who said I made commitment to him or her. Now, why I wanted you to be specific is because I have heard stories of,  oh this one supported you and now he is on the other side. Of course you know that there were so many people who oppose me even to the last minute.Even after the election, they were still in court. In fact, I think I am one of the most opposed governors in 2007 and it was even worse in 2010. Fine, after the election, I even tried to make moves to many of them.  Now, some were giving me some very impossible conditions, very, very impossible conditions and some said, ‘okay, we’ve settled’. But we’ve settled and the next moment they are doing something else.To me that is not good. In fact, there was one I talked to yesterday. I said ‘ I thought you said your quarrel is not with me but with Chief James Onanefe Ibori, I went to him and we talked and we settled but he has not done anything. ‘The next day, you were somewhere in another meeting.Of course, I have to assess whether you are really genuine or not’. So that is why this issue of I made promises cannot hold water. I didn’t make promises to anybody. Okay there is one, yes we talked and I said I will consider the issue but then I also gave my conditions. That in your local government, ‘I have senior people from your local government; deputy governor is from your local government.You don’t recognize my deputy governor, yet you say you settled with me? It’s not possible. So whatever we even talked about in terms of settlement, one condition is that you must respect my deputy governor because if you don’t respect my deputy governor, how do I move; that is why I wanted you to be specific. Settlement is both ways, it’s like the bus conductor, that will say, ‘every day you de ask for change (cash) change; you yourself when you go bring change too’. So change is both ways.
The issue of the animosity towards you by Chief EK Clark has become a recurring question in every interview you have granted. Do you finally have an answer to that question especially now that you have won another election in Delta state and he is still not happy with you?There is no personal quarrel and I have asked the question publicly and he has also tried to answer the question by saying I am corrupt; I was imposed by Chief James Ibori. Well, we went for re-election; Chief James Onanefe Ibori wasn’t there. He is trying to talk about corruption but there is nothing specific that he has said. I know during this period he did a lot, to try and bring issues of corruption.The truth is that as secretary to government, you do not have approval limit beyond N1million. What I am saying is that there has been a lot, that has been done to pull me down but I am here.
What lessons have you learnt while your were on what has been referred to as your ‘Vacation’ or ‘Sabbatical’ period, between the annulment and the re-run election?I will say the period I was out of office gave me the opportunity to analyse and understand people better. What I also came to know is that there are many fair-weather friends around you. When it’s good, it’s good; when it’s bad, it’s goodbye. There are those who of course it’s not totally bad yet, from their assessment. All I will say is that every day, when you wake up, just pray to God because he is the only one that can protect you. There are a lot of persons who I will say are very trustworthy. But there are few who you think that they are trustworthy but they are really not trustworthy.
Former governor, Chief James Ibori  is facing several charges. Are you doing anything about it?Of course he has his challenges and I think he has a lot in his hands dealing with these challenges. I just want to leave it at that.Does that mean he has been dumped?No, no, no. First of all, we are related by blood. There is no way I can sit here and say I want to disown him. I will not do that. We all have challenges; I mean he has his peculiar challenge as a person. We have our family challenges; no matter how you see it, what is happening to him has family challenge; we have our family challenges. So I did not disown or dump him.
The recent meeting between governors of the South-South and South East, with even Gov. Peter Obi who is not of the PDP stock, is it an alliance for 2011 or are we likely to see a merger?Something is building up in that direction (alliance) but it is not a merge. It is an understanding. They (APGA) don’t have a presidential candidate, but we have. We are in agreement that they will come and support us to deliver our presidential candidate. That is why I said that it is an understanding.Now, let me put what we are doing in proper perspective. President Jonathan has emerged as the  PDP candidate but the presidential primary election is just a part of the process of making him the president beyond May 29, 2011. The real process is the main election in April and we as governors don’t just want to say that he has emerged in the primary and relax. We need to prepare for the April election. So that meeting really was our first move in trying to prepare for the April elections.The PDP governors of the South-South, South-East and the APGA governor came together to appraise what happened at the primary and to map out strategies on how to win the April 2011 poll. In the next few days, we are also going to make other moves; we are going to develop on that relationship beyond the two regions. We are moving into other regions. Politics is a game of numbers; it is about lobbying, consultations.
What is your opinion regarding the statement of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) to sanction governors who voted for President Goodluck Jonathan at the primary and the insistence that the north must produce the next president?My attitude is that they have made their point but we will go to them or we should go to them and discuss with them and try to soften them. This is politics; we must try and win their hearts. It is not a politics of saying that they have made that statement, we must counter the statement. And we should not ask them why they made that statement or if they don’t know it is wrong to make that kind of statement or argue with them that don’t you know it is our turn or it must be our turn. That is not politics. The North is very, very significant and very important to the 2011 polls. So, it is left for us to also go to them and say, ‘look, you have said this but for XYZ reasons, can you not just look at what we are saying, consider it and support President Jonathan? Those are the kind of things we will discuss with them. I also want to appeal to our people that they should not react to such statement with another hot statement; it does not help matters at all. We should just examine what they have said and try to soften them.
Many people have said that your victory in the January 6, 2011 guber  re-run election over your main opponents, especially Chief Great Ogboru was influenced by alledged rigging of the votes of the three Warri Local governments over that of the mainland areas of the state. How do you react to this allegation?  If you look at those who registered to vote in the state, the truth is that the Warri area of these people have been surviving on elections. In fact if you look at the elections from Mid-West, old Bendel, even up till now, you have always had majority of the votes coming from the Warri axis.This is not the first time we are having majority of the votes that determined the winner in an election from that side. Many times it is the votes that come from that side that decide who the governor becomes. Let’s go back to history; from the days of Alfred Rewane, he always made sure that the people are sensitized to vote because that is the only way they survive. So it is nothing new. I will only add that they are more politically conscious and sensitive to voting. In the  Warri situation for example, lets say we are in a room and we are about 20 in the room. We can have 10 people in another room and they say, go for an election. You will be surprised that at the end, you might have more people from the room with 10 people, voting more than the people from the room withy 20 persons. Of the 20 persons, maybe only 3 might vote while 8 of the 10 other persons might vote. So relatively, you now ask, why there are more votes from the smaller room than the bigger room. The thing is this; the issue of population is subjective. If you go back to the last population census, it is not true that you have more people in the upland areas of Delta state than the riverine communities of Delta, made of Warri and so on. Moreover, the people of Warri know me as one of their own who has suffered and toiled with them in their hour of suffering. So as far as they are concerned, I am a safe pair of hands for them. I have been involved in a lot of things that brought peace to them today. So whether they are Ijaw, Urobo, Itsekiri, I am the one they know. I am the one they want to deal with. Even the issue of the annulment of the election in the first place, was very painful to them. To them it was a challenge because they felt; ‘why and how did this come about because Uduaghan is our own’. And really, this is the first time they are really having their own as governor.

My Victory is for all Deltans -Ogboru

Great Ovedje Ogboru is not a stranger to the struggle for good governance and better leadership. His heroism is legendary and although many Nigerians may now not actually remember the details of April 22 1990, those who still do, hold him with nostalgic fondness, not only for the courage and bravery associated with that failed coup  but indeed for the lives of  the young Nigerian Soldiers, especially from the Niger Delta and the Middle Belt, which were cut short in their prime as a result of the failed putsch.
Great Ogboru went into exile after that sad episode and returned to Nigeria after 13 years to join the political fray and contest the governorship of Delta state, in a bold move, which many thought was long overdue.
However, he learnt a bitter lesson from the Ibori political machinery which not only defeated him but almost dislocated him from Delta state. But it is a measure of his fighting spirit that he was out again in 2007, this time to contest against Emmanuel Uduaghan, Ibori’s cousin. The popular sentiment on the streets of Asaba at that time was that with Ibori out of the way, his Cousin Uduaghan was beatable, so Ogboru and some other politicians decided to take him on.
Ogboru contested the April 14, 2007 gubernatorial elections in Delta State on the platform of the Democratic Peoples Party, DPP, and when the results came out and he had lost, he refused to roll over and die. Instead he went to Court and it has taken three years and seven months for him to get the justice he desired.
In this interview, first published in the Vanguard Newspapers, Great Ogboru maintains, as he had done from the onset,  that the 2007 governorship elections in Delta State was fraught with irregularities and that Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan was never governor of the state owing to the nullification of the 2007 polls. He also expresses huge confidence that he will win the re-run elections anytime INEC decides to schedule the poll because Deltans, he says are tired of the Uduaghan/Ibori cabal
DELTA FOCUS brings you Excerpts of this exclusive chat:

How do you see the Court of Appeal verdict nullifying the election of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan as Delta State governor?
It has been a very hard fought battle. We fought against one of the most powerful governments in sub-Saharan Africa, if not in Africa for that matter.
Our opponents happened to come from the school of do-or-die politics, using any means necessary, legal and illegal to vanquish their opponents. With that type of background, you can see that in a way, it is poetic justice and we are very happy.
I believe that all Deltans, irrespective of which party they belong to, are also happy because justice, at last, has come.

What was your experience like during the long legal battle?
As a candidate and as a person, I felt robbed, but my personal loss is nothing compared to the injustice and fraud that were perpetuated against our people, our nation. The experience can be equated as crime against humanity; especially against the backdrop of the 2007 elections and the huge atrocities that went with it.
When you take the right of the people to decide who to govern them, you take away from them the essence of their living. That’s why I’m saying it is a crime against humanity. For me, it is a more painful thing from a societal perspective than a personal hurt and injustice that I experienced.

Why didn’t you plead to be declared the winner of the 2007 elections?
I could not have pleaded to be declared the winner in an election when there was no election. If there were elections and I felt I won the lawful votes cast, I would have asked to be declared the winner of the elections.
But where elections did not take place, it would have been impossible for me to say ‘swear me in.’ On what basis is that? You can only be sworn in as governor of a state through an election. Unfortunately, the likes of Emmanuel Uduaghan became governor without an election, which is rather sad.

Now that the Court of Appeal has ordered for a rerun within 90 days, is there a possibility of you going into alliance with the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN?
We will seek support of all Nigerians and all interest groups that have a stake, one way or the other, in Delta. So, if the ACN happens to have a stake in Delta State, we would seek their support. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.

It has been a trend that whenever a rerun is called, the PDP usually emerges winner, how prepared are you for the rerun?
If it is as we have been told that there will be one man, one vote, then I can tell you that we are more than prepared, even if we are to conduct the elections now. Because the people of Delta State know that there is a new order and they have vested in me their confidence to come and govern them.
The (James) Ibori-led PDP at that time realised that in the contest, they had no stand and so they made sure that there was no election in Delta State, they contrived the result, declared themselves winner of that election and of course, used all illegitimate means to make people believe that Uduaghan was governor.
People like us have always said that he (Uduaghan) was not a governor, had never been a governor because he didn’t win an election.

In 2003, you had a lot of support but immediately after the elections, you were no longer seen in the political scene. Now that you are contesting how do you intend to convince the people to vote for you?
People are still jubilating, as a we speak now, in Delta State. That is to tell you that the popularity of Uduaghan is zero. In an election, Uduaghan knows that he would not get 10 per cent of the votes of the people of Delta State. Unfortunately for him, the opportunity he had with a stolen mandate to endear himself to the people, he just could not do that, if not, we would have had a task before us.
At this point in time, I am telling you that the people of Delta State have spoken, Uduaghan cannot be governor of Delta State in any shape to come. No matter how contrived the elections will be, he will not be governor. He has left office and he won’t get back there again.

What are your expectations from the Prof Attahiru Jega-led Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC in the rerun polls as we are still likely to use the old voters’ register?
It will be difficult to use the old voters’ register because of the number of persons that have become of adult age or voting age between 2007 and today. To use the old register will be to disenfranchise them, whereas the incoming government will be a government that will affect their lives. So, they will not accept to be disenfranchised, to that extent, there will be a new voters’ register for that rerun elections.

Do you think your candidacy will be in line with the equation of zoning in the state?
Zoning in Delta State has become a means to disable competent and better candidates.
There was no issue of zoning the governorship until 2007 when Ibori was looking for a hireling to cover his bad track and so, he came up with this idea that the governorship has to be zoned.
There was never any meeting in which the people of Delta State said they wanted to zone or share power among the senatorial districts, there were never such meetings at all.
But Ibori imposed it on the state. I actually see the Delta people as been one because of our shared paths. We are more homogenous than any other state in spite of the fact that we have different languages.
The people of Delta State have been united by the pidgin English they speak, so we see ourselves more as one and we look at the more competent persons among us to be able to lead.
Even if you were to zone and you come with a candidate that the people consider inferior, people will vote against him. What I’m trying to say is that the zoning thing will work only as far as we can have credible candidates who are better.

What is your relationship with foremost Ijaw leader, Chief E.K Clark?
He is our father, he is our political leader in the state. Don’t forget, he was among those who made my candidacy in 2007 a consensus candidacy in Delta State and even as we speak, I believe we have good understanding as to the issues and interest of Delta State.

What are the things you will be doing that will be different from what Uduaghan did?
Look at where we came from and look at where we are. Our value systems were those that encouraged hard work, integrity and honesty but today, where are we in Delta State? There are some value systems that must change and those are the things we need to address first before talking about development.

How do you view comments that you might decamp to the PDP, if elected?
We will like to have a good working relationship with all political parties including the PDP, but to as to jumping ship, I see it as political exigencies that time only can decide.
At this point in time, we are very content with going with the Democratic Peoples Party, which is our party, strengthening that platform and using it for elections now and in the future.
Hopefully with a good ideology and good philosophy, we can have more people come in there. In fact, we can convince the PDP to come into the DPP. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

What is your message to the people of Delta State as they prepare for the rerun polls?
I want to use this opportunity first to congratulate the people of Delta State for their massive support all these years, for their show of solidarity, for the pains and perseverance which they had to undergo all these years because they believed in what we are doing.
I dedicate this victory to them, it is their victory, it is not mine. We also need to thank the judiciary for their objectivity