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Published On: Sun, Jan 5th, 2014

Defection of PDP Governors’ll not Affect Re-Election of Jonathan-Omo-Agege

Chief Obarisi Ovie Omo-Agege receiving cheers from his loyalties during a rally to mark PDP Ughelli North success in the just concluded Delta Central Senatorial election


LAGOS JANUARY 5TH (URHOBOTODAY)Recent activities of Former Secretary to Delta State Government (SSG) and incumbent Chairman of Urhobo Political Congress (UPC), Chief Obarisi Ovie Omo-Agege has placed him in the forefront for the struggle of Urhobo unity andthe eradication of the wrong notion of a betrayer of Urhobo course. In this interview with our correspondent, the erudite legal luminary bares his mind on several issues which include Delta Central Senatorial election, his role in Delta State politics and chances of President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015

Excerpts

Until you withdrew from the just concluded senate election you were considered the front runner. How is it like to withdraw from the race you were well positioned to win?

It was not an easy decision for me and my supporters but it was one we had to make when we realized that I will not be the candidate of the party. We ran a good campaign that was focused on issues that are important to the people. I am proud of what we did. Once again I want to thank the team that worked with me and our supporters for their understanding of the circumstances that led to my withdrawal and their continue support.

Why was the election so important to you that even after you withdrew from the race, you worked so hard to ensure that your party nominee wins?

You will recall that beginning in 2011 election Delta Central shifted their support from PDP to the opposition Democratic People’s Party (DPP) and we were left out of the coalition that elected Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan in 2007, 2010 and 2011 and became isolated in the politics of our state. As the majority ethnic group this was not acceptable. We cannot afford to let others continue to decide who govern the state without Urhobos having a say. So it was very important that we end this isolation and reclaim the leadership role which our demographic bestowed on us.
That was what my campaign for the senate was all about. I truly believe that the Urhobo nation will not have a strong voice in the politics of our state and country if we remained in opposition. I saw the senatorial bye election as an opportunity to end the isolation. The campaign was not about me. It was about ending our isolation in affairs of our state by repositioning my senatorial district in PDP for the challenges ahead. So it was easy for me to continue with the same drive after my withdrawal from the race. And I am very glad that the people of Delta Central responded positively to our message by voting overwhelmingly for the candidate of People’s Democratic Party, Senator Emmanuel Agwariavwodo.

PDP won the election by a very wide margin. How was this achieved by the party given that a few years ago PDP lost the senatorial seat to DPP with a wide margin?

We won because we were better organized and united. We must commend Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan for his strong leadership in making this possible in the election and a solid record to run on. On the other hand, the opposition was fragmented. The major opposition party DPP was split into two factions with one faction moving to the new All Peoples Congress which had no unified structure to pose any serious threat to the PDP. Our formidable structure across the length and breadth of the Delta Central senatorial district was superior.
More importantly however we also had a simple but effective message which the voters understood and believed. And the message was that the isolation and marginalization of the Urhobo nation was not acceptable and the PDP is the party that can pull us out of political wilderness. The opposition had the same message but fortunately for us the electorate did not believe the opposition candidates that they can end the marginalization. And they were right because the opposition do not have what it takes to give the Urhobo a strong voice in the affairs of state and country because they are not in power at both levels of government. It was dishonest for the opposition to say they could wield such political influence. Thus, with unity better organization, superior and believable message on our side and defections of prominent members of the opposition parties to the PDP there can be only one outcome, a victory for PDP.

As the National Chairman of UPC, what challenges do the defection of Chief Amori from UPC to form UPF pose to Urhobo unity and interest in 2015 and how do you intend to manage this unwelcome development?

I do not think the split in the UPC will affect the unity of the party in any way. We are all committed to the party even though we may belong to different groups. We are united by a common purpose of ensuring that the PDP retains power in 2015 at state and national level. We also have the common desire that Urhobo assumes its proper role in state and country. Perhaps UPC and other groups may support different candidates in the primaries but once the party concludes its primaries we all will work for the candidates of the party at the general elections. I have no doubts that that will be the case. I also do not see how this will jeopardize Urhobo interest once it is defined in the contest of 2015 elections. However, we will try to reconcile our differences and unite both groups again to have a stronger voice in the politics of the party.

What is your assessment of the President Goodluck Jonathan administration so far? Do you think he deserve to be re elected?
President Goodluck Jonathan promised us during the campaign that he will transform Nigeria. He was given the mandate to make change happen so Nigeria can fulfill its promise. So far the president has not disappointed. He has been a creative, decisive and visionary leader that has demonstrated boldness and strength of purpose in handling the problems that confront us as a nation. Nigerians voted for a transformational leader and I believe he has risen to the occasion. He has brought the Boko Haram insurgency in the North under control after showing courage in declaring state of emergency in some states of the north. He has unbundled PHCN and privatized the power sector to make the sector more efficient. Nigeria will soon have uninterrupted power supply, so Nigerians do not have to generate their own electricity to power their homes and businesses, so foreign investors can come to Nigeria to invest because about 40% of their operating cost on power has been eliminated.
As a consequence, the manufacturing sector will soon flourish to create employment opportunities for our people and hence improve security as our youths are becoming gainfully employed. We have all seen the impact of the privatization of the telecommunication sector on the economy. The multiplier impact of the privatization of power will even be much greater.
Under this administration we have recorded consistent high economic growth. In agriculture we are 60 percent self sufficient in rice production and by 2015 we hope to be fully self sufficient. For the first time last year Nigeria achieved commercial scale export of chips when it began the export of cassava chips. We are the largest producers of cassava in the world. Trains are now running again between Lagos and Kano and our airports have been modernized.
The National conference which the president has offered Nigeria showed how determined the President is in changing Nigeria for the better because a successful national conference will benefit our nation in every area of our national life.
With all these achievements the president deserve to be re-elected to continue the good work he has started because there is still so much to be done and I sincerely hope that he will contest the election. Any decision not to contest will be unacceptable to all of us in the Niger Delta.

Five governors of PDP have joined the opposition APC. What is your take on this development? How will this affect the growth of democracy in Nigeria in general and the chances of President in winning re election if he chooses to contest?
The changing dynamics in our political landscape will enhance the growth of democracy because it will engender greater competition for political power. More competition will mean improved performance which will ultimately benefit the people. However, as a member of the PDP and supporter of Mr. President, I would have preferred a situation where the governors remained in the party because it is not the wish of any party to lose its members to the opposition. As I said earlier, the president deserve to be re elected and the defection of these Governors will not change that because at the end of the day Nigerians are seeing the difference this administration is making in the lives of the people. We the supporters of the President just need to work harder to expand the support base of the President and assist him to build a winning coalition.

What do you expect the national conference to achieve?
The national conference is long overdue and for the president to have a change of heart on this issue is commendable. Perhaps he has come to realize that the structural defects in the system are too strong to be ignored. I believe that these structural defects that have prevented us from developing despite our huge human and natural resource must be corrected if we are to industrialize and develop. I expect that at the end of the conference substantial resources and responsibilities would have been moved from the jurisdiction of the federal government to the state and local government. It is equally important issues of resource control and derivation are resolved once and for all so that the federating unit can compete and develop at their pace as was the case during the first republic. I also expect the policing of the country to be decentralized to address the rising security challenge.

It has been observed that no Urhobo man has indicated interest on the Governorship position of Delta State in 2015 on the platform of PDP. Can this be interpreted to mean that Delta Central PDP accepts the arguments of Delta North that it is their turn to produce the next Governor of Delta State in accordance with the PDP power rotation among the senatorial districts?

The decision to run for any office is a personal decision and it is not one you take lightly. In making that decision there are certain questions you must answer. First what are the chances of winning? If you think you have a reasonable chance of winning then you must ask yourself can I raise the necessary funds to prosecute the campaign? Do I have the time to campaign? Can I cope with the demands? And many more questions depending on your situation. It is not a decision you have to rush. I believe that if anybody in Delta Central comes to the conclusion that he can win under the platform of PDP and have the resources and time to run the race they will declare. There is still time for anyone to enter the race. I am very sure of that.

You contested the PDP gubernatorial primaries in 2007 in which you came second to Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan who eventually won the election. His victory was seen by a segment of Deltans particularly the Urhobo as an imposition which they resisted for so long. You were at the forefront of this opposition to Uduaghan. It is on record that you were the only prominent politician in PDP who stepped forward in response to the wishes of your people to challenge Uduaghan yet you were accused of betraying the Urhobo interest. What do you have to say on these allegations?

It is true that I contested against the Governor Uduaghan in 2010 and 2011 but thank God we have reconciled our differences and I am back to the PDP. These allegations and rumours of betrayal are lies intended to mislead the Urhobo people by my political detractors who are ready to do or say anything and everything to undermine me. It is part of a vast conspiracy by my political enemies to destroy me personally ever since I expressed my interest to be governor of Delta State. I thank God that they have failed woefully.
Let me use this opportunity to state categorically to my kinsmen that I contested those elections in response to your collective desire to produce the governor of our dear Delta state, believing that I can win and I did all I could do to win. Do not be deceived by anyone because my opposition to Governor Uduaghan was genuine and anyone who has evidence to prove otherwise should come forward. I am sure if there was any arrangement between the Governor and myself to undermine Urhobo interest there should be something in it for me. I gained nothing from my public opposition to His Excellency.

We have moved beyond these things and as I said earlier I have settled with the governor and I am happy in the party. I am just saying these things to let those who still see me as man who has been used to undermine Urhobo interest to have the opportunity to know that they have been fed with lies.

In case you find yourself in power again, what will be your priority?

My priority has been and will always be to improve the standard of living of our people. I am committed to better schools, hospitals, roads, markets, clean and safe streets and jobs for our people. Mind you I don’t have to be in power to make these things happen. I just need to be able to influence things to make a difference in people’s lives.

What are your plans for the future, in particular 2015?
As chairman of UPC, I have only one plan and that is to promote the interest of the group within the contest of the greater Urhobo interest in 2015 and work for the success of our party in the state and the re election of President Goodluck Jonathan.
It is my desire to offer effective leadership that will give the group a strong and united voice in promoting Urhobo interest in our party.

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