By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South
ONE-TIME Commissioner for Education in Delta StateÂ and currently the Deputy Chairman of the PDP in the state, Chief Ighoyota Amori, the national chairman of the Urhobo Political Forum (UPF) is a politicianâ€™s politician.
He is reputed for his deft political footworks and not a few would swear that he has the power to make any person the governor of the state if he chooses. In this interview with Saturday Vanguard at his Mosogar country home, he speaks on the myth surrounding his politics, the controversy over the role of the UPF in the 2007 governorship campaign by Urhobo gubernatorial aspirants,Â the performance of the PDP administration of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, why Urhobo people would want him to continue in office, the perceived rift between Dr. Uduaghan and a former Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Ovie Omo-Agege among other things. Excerpt.
You are like a political oracle in Delta state, do you think your party and the government under Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan is doing well enough to get another nod from critical Deltans?
First, I believe that PDP, the governor and the government are on course. There is no gainsaying that the face of Delta state you see today is different from the face of Delta of yesteryears. That can be credited to the past and present administration and of course, the PDP government of Delta state.
I believe the party has done very well. If you look at the state today compared to what it was before in all ramifications in terms of infrastructural development, itâ€™s so visible. In terms of peace, which is part of the three-point agenda of this administration, it is so pronounced and human capital development is there . Even the dead can testify that the Delta of today is not the Delta of yesterday.
There is no need to compare, the state is practically a one-man state because I have not seen any opposition and itâ€™s too late for any party to wake up and want to contest or rub shoulders with the PDP in Delta state.
You have just beaten your chest like a wrestler who won a major contest but the opposition is wont to say that beyond the street light projects at Asaba and Warri and the unfinished Airport project at Asaba, there is nothing the government should be proud of?
First of all, even if you restrict it to street light projects and airport, think of the billions that are involved- an international airport at Asaba and of course, the expansion of the Osubi airport. It the stateâ€™s money that is properly utilized, the street light is so pronounced, itâ€™s something that people have not seen before.
If you know how the street light in Asaba and Warri have contributed to the peace and security of the state, improvement in the social life of the people and of course the beautification of the cities, which is part of what I believe governance is all about, I will say itâ€™s just not too complimentary to say its just street light or just airport.
Apart from these two things, think of the roads being constructed all over the place in Delta state, think of the micro-credit scheme, think of the free medical care, think of the role of the state government in the amnesty process, think of the engagement of the people, look at the transport sector, look at the expansion in the education industry, you can count and count and count and of course, this is just two years of this administration. Sometimes, people should learn to appreciate what is good.
We did not say we are going to solve the problem of Delta state in one day. But each administration has always impacted on the life of the people of Delta state. Chief James Ibori came and turned Delta state around and Dr. Uduaghan came and of course, he has consolidated and improved on what Ibori started. Besides, if you compare what is happening in Delta state to other states, you will see that we are far, far ahead.
Delta state is a complex state but in spite of the complexities, it has been well managed. I want to raise my hat for those who are in-charge of running the administration. They have done their best because itâ€™s not easy running a state like Delta state.
How do you see the governorâ€™s move to reconcile aggrieved members of the party in the state and to what extent has the peace effort gone?
Well, itâ€™s a national policy of the PDP. Of course, the former Vice President, Dr Alex Ekwueme recommended total reconciliation with all aggrieved members and taking the party back to its founding fathers and that is what the governor is doing. And apart from that, it is cheaper to be at peace than to be at war.
Whether there was a directive from the national or not, as you become the governor of a state, you are governor of everybody, not just PDP members, not even political class, you are governor for everybody. So, if there is any department that is aggrieved, it is the duty of the governor to reconcile them and that is exactly what he is doing. So, apart from being the PDP policy, he is doing what he ought to do as a governor. If people are not aggrieved and all is well, then, there will be no need for a governor. The governor is to govern everybody.
Talking about theÂ policy of the party on aggrieved members, was it not the national chairman of PDP that said the other day that aggrieved members of the party in Anambra state were free to take the exit door?
I donâ€™t want to believe that the national chairman of the party, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor said exactly that aggrieved members were free to go.
He could have been misquoted and one thing you should know is that Anambra is a peculiar place and if one says he is not fed up with the developments in that state, I am deceiving myself.So,even if Ogbulafor said anything near it, I am sure he said it out of anger but not meaning that they should go because there is nothing the PDP has not done (shakes his head) to address the crisis in Anambra.
All sorts of committees have been set up on Anambra, all manner of caretaker committees here and there : constitution committee, congress committee and for more than one year or so, it has been crisis upon crisis. Of course, you remember the Ngige saga and all that.
To conduct congress and primaries in Anambra, PDP rolled out its arsenal, governors, senators, speakers were all brought to Anambra, but, in spite of the arsenal that was rolled out to address the Anambra crisis, the crisis continued in Anambra, and of course, this crisis is being perpetrated by persons.
So, whatever Ogbulafor said was out of anger. If your right finger causes you to sin, cut it off. I am sureÂ that is what he was trying to say, that if those causing crisis in Anambra do not want to stay, they should get out of the place. I think it got to a point when he said he has had enough. Enough is enough. After all, Anambra is not the only state in this country. That is the way I see it.
How do the Urhobo people see the Uduaghan government, will they want him to continue in office?
I am sure that the Urhobos are part of the state and they have been part of the James Ibori administration, who is Uduaghanâ€™s predecessor and of course, you know the history between James Ibori and Uduaghan.
Dr. Uduaghan was part of the Ibori government and I believe that his administration is a continuation of that of Ibori and if Iboriâ€™s own was a success story and it begat Dr. Uduaghanâ€™s own, I see the Uduaghan administration as a success story so far.
In the past two years, I will not say that the Urhobo people are not happy with Dr. Uduaghan, I will not say that at all because for me as a person, my community has benefited from his government and we definitely have to appreciate the dividends of democracy we have got from the Uduaghan government and the only way to reciprocate it is by voting for him again and that. I advise Urhobo people all over the state to do that. I donâ€™t see the Urhobo people being in opposition to Uduaghan.
What really happened in the 2007 governorship primaries of the PDP, it appeared the Urhobo people were beaten to the game by Dr. Uduaghan from the Itsekiri ethnic group because the Urhobo ethnic group still wanted to produce a successor to Ibori?
Well, I wonâ€™t say that was something unusual if we, Urhobo wanted to be governor after James Ibori. It was our right to aspire to be governor of the state and of course, it was not restricted to the people alone but in all elections since the advent of this democracy from James Ibori time, every part of the state has contested the governorship at any time the race was declared open.
You will remember that in 1999 when Ibori contested, people from the South senatorial district contested against him, likewise people from the North senatorial district and even from the Central senatorial district where he hails from. In 2003, the same thing repeated itself. So, when Uduaghan was contesting at the end of Iboriâ€™s tenure, there was already a precedent, people from the three senatorial districts contested. But the thing is that at the end of it all, somebody must win. When Ibori and others contested, Ibori won and those others cooperatedÂ with him.
When he contested in 2003, the same thing happened and so, Dr. Uduaghan contested in 2007 and won. The Urhobo contested along with others against him and we have to cooperate with him. There is no big deal because at any time, somebody must win and when there is a winner, the best thing is to cooperate with the winner. To say that we are beaten to it, if we are beaten to it, we have equally beaten others to it in the past.
After the PDP primaries in 2007, some of the governorship aspirants from your Urhobo ethnic group said you deceived them, that you had your own agenda but conned them to contest under the platform of the Urhobo Political Forum (UPF), which you lead?
First of all, it is unfair for anybody to say that I deceived anybody knowing that I did not go to anybody to say come and be a governor. I did not go to any person to beg him. You came out to contest on your freewill and you solicited my support, to support you for your race. So, if you came out to contest an election and asked for my support, which I did, where did I go wrong? What we did, which was what others did also was that we tried to galvanize all the Urhobo people that were contesting.
Instead of them fighting and abusing themselves, we brought all of them together under one platform ,from where they were free to canvass for your vote. Ours was to organize them so that they would not fight from home because a house or home divided cannot stand. We organized them into a body and from that body, they should reach out to anybody and people within that body were free to support any of them.
We did not say that we have a preference for A or B. Itâ€™s not a matter of deceiving anybody or betraying anybody. None of them can stand today and tell me that I deceived him to contest. How?Â Secondly, none of them can say today that oh, I took money from him. No, you decided to contest and you spent your money, not me.
I observe that somebody like the former Secretary to the Delta State Government and Governorship aspirant in 2007, Mr. Ovie Omo-Agege has refused to cooperate with Dr. Uduaghan despite the peace efforts of the governor. Have you spoken to him about his attitude?
Well, first, I cannot speak for Ovie Omo-Agege. He has his own life to live politically and I have my own life to live politically. If he is not working closely with the present governor, Chief James Ibori is the political father of two of them .
The duo were SSG under Ibori. Uduaghan handed over to Omo-Agege and both of them are very close to Ibori and so, if there is any disagreement between both of them, James Ibori is the rightful person to intervene and bring them together. I definitely cannot but itâ€™s all political. Of course, both of them have ambition to be governor of the state, both of them were SSG, both of them were commissioners, so you see where they are coming from.