Chief Mathias Ewariakpo Ujuri Otobo is the Chairman of Michel International Group of Companies; a former accountant with Julius Berger Nigeria Plc and the first African Commercial Manager of German Bilfinger Oil and Gas Nigeria Plc. A philanthropist and an employer of labour across the Niger-Delta, he speaks on the Isoko Development Union election and other issues. Excerpts:
What is your view on the recent IDU elections?
It is the best election the Isoko people has ever had. The emergence of General Paul Omo [rtd] can be described as putting a round peg in a round hole.
What is your expectation for the IDU executives and what words of advice do you have for them?
I strongly advice them to swing into action immediately. They should see to it that the Isoko House is completed before the 2015 general elections. They should discuss with Kingsley Kuku, the Amnesty Programme boss, and fashion a way to bring into the program the teeming youths of Isoko, who out of distrust, initially refused to join the program.
As the mother body of the Isoko people, Isoko Development Union should, as a matter of urgency, mediate between warring parties in the Isoko Youth National Movement. As leaders of tomorrow, our youths should learn not to wash their dirty linen in the public. This is a crucial time in Isoko land, our people should speak with one voice. Isoko people, home and abroad, should see this as a golden opportunity to lay a solid foundation and reclaim our lost glory by supporting our President General.
What is your take on the PDP crisis?
It is unfortunate. But as the biggest party in Africa, it is expected. The exit of Alhaji Bamanga Tukur as the party chairman came after serious damages had been inflicted on the party. It is also unfortunate that the misunderstanding between the President and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo became a matter of public debate. Their relationship is like that of husband and wife; it should never have been a matter for the public. South-south people owe a debt of gratitude to the former President for the fatherly role he played in the emergence of Dr Goodluck Jonathan as President.
Where were those people now attacking Obasanjo when he was campaigning for Jonathan? Where were they when Obasanjo fought Atiku and IBB over Jonathan? The issues between Jonathan and Obasanjo should be resolved by the President without a mediator. We in the South-south respect our elders and the age difference between them is like that of a son and a father. So I advise the President to go to Ota Farm to resolve the issues with Obasanjo.
How best do you think the Isoko people can prepare for the 2015 general elections?
The Isoko people have been neglected in the past because we are the minority. But the truth is that our votes determine who rules Delta State. People feel we are not good enough for the governorship race. Come 2015, we are not going to play the siddon look role.
I believe the oracles have spoken and we are ready to take the bull by the horn. Before now, during elections, people come and say their grandfather or mother is from Isoko just to win our votes, we cannot be considering grandfathers when the children are not satisfied. Enough of that.
Can Isoko produce the next governor of Delta State?
Yes. We are a very calm people, that is why you hardly see unrest in any of our towns and villages. It is not as if we cannot make trouble and take our stand, but we want to to do it legally. The Isoko are well respected in Delta State; the Isoko of yesterday are not the Isoko of today. Financially, morally, physically, mentally, we have qualified men who will soon declare their intentions to run for the seat of the governor of Delta State.
I believe it’s time for Delta people to pay us back for the support they have received from us all the while. We have never produced the deputy governor, a minister, an ambassador, nothing. We have people who are academically sound, financially buoyant and have experience when it comes to governance. I am surprised that our respected Secretary to Delta State Government is being challenged; insulted by people who outside politics are nothing simply because he said there was no zoning on who becomes the next governor of Delta State.
During the era of former Governor Ibori, people from various ethnic groups came up and declared their intentions to contest for seat of the governor. The same thing happened during Uduaghan’s and Ibru’s eras. Now that an Isoko man has not even declared, they are crying foul.
If they have a credible candidate, let them name him and come to the field. The Isoko are consulting and when the oracles speak at dawn on whom the cap fits as the next governor of Delta State, the moving train will commence its unstoppable journey
What is your opinion on the suspicion/fear that Nigeria might disintegrate come 2015?
Definitely Nigeria will remain one. About 50 percent of the current population of Nigeria witnessed the civil war; today we are also seeing what is happening in Syria, Sudan, Egypt, Central African Republic, and Libya; so nobody wants Nigeria to experience that. The unity of Nigeria is not negotiable. If Nigeria must divide, it must be done in a civilized manner that it may then become the United States of Nigeria. Population or size is not the problem. Nigeria’s population is about one tenth of India yet Indians live together as a country and relatively peacefully compared to Nigeria. Nigerians have inter-married, so no one wants to throw stones into the market. Even Boko Haram is not a threat to the unity of this country.
What is your opinion on the National Conference?
The President is practising democracy. From the death of former President Yar’Adua, it became clear that there is a lacuna in our Constitution. Those who drafted our Constitution erred in some areas and the National Conference will address such matters; so it’s a welcome development. The pedigree of people selected to organize the conference is evidence that it will be the best thing that has ever happened to this country. Those who are envisaging crisis on the National Conference who do not want progress for this country will be put to shame. And I believe that the National Conference will bring an end to the issues of self-help by religious and ethnic groups in Nigeria because by the time things are spelt out clearly, nobody will have any reason to carry arms against the government