By Festus Ahon
OBAISI Ovie Omo-Agege is one of the strong contenders for the 2015 governorship position in Delta State. He is not a greenhorn in the governorship race having been eyeing the seat since 2007, when he ran against Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan and lost. He also ran against him in the 2010 governorship rerun and the 2011 gubernatorial election but was not also successful in the two elections.
Not daunted by his poor show in the past elections, he has indicated interest in the forthcoming gubernatorial election with strong conviction to be successful this time around.
In this interview with selected journalists, Omo-Agege bared his mind on why he wants to govern the State.
You have started consultation ahead of the 2015 gubernatorial election; how has it fared. Will you run for the governorship position in 2015?
The consultation has been going on very well. People are very excited about my message and the responses across the three senatorial districts have been encouraging. I am very happy with the state of the consultation and I can tell you right now with confidence that I will contest and win the primaries of the People’s Democratic Party for governor of Delta state.
I have put together a formidable team and we are just waiting for PDP NEC to issue the guidelines so the campaigns can kick off. We are ready and I believe Delta State is ready for us.
You have contested the governorship of the state three times; what is the driving force?
I contested for the PDP ticket in 2006 and twice for the governorship in the re-run and general elections of 2011. Some people misinterpret this to mean that Omo-Agege is desperate or over ambitious. They are mistaken. I have passion to serve and it is this passion that is the driving force behind my quest to govern Delta State.
As Executive Assistant to the governor, Commissioner for Special Duties in Government House and Secretary to the State Government, I have seen first-hand what difference government can make in the lives of the people. Four or eight years of governance can change a generation and through that generation you can change society as a whole.
I want to change our society for good. I have ideas that will create a better society for our children and future generations. I am tired of people looking at the past with nostalgia. We must give hope of a better future to our children. We must give a sense of belonging to our youths who feel alienated from the society for lack of opportunities. We must strengthen our families by empowering parents with jobs because a society is only as strong as it’s families. These are the things I am passionate about. I believe I have policy ideas to make these things happen in the next four years.
Why do you think the outcome will be different this time around?
There is time for everything. When God says it is your time nobody can stop you. I believe this is our time. It is our moment and I intend to seize it for the good of the people of Delta State.
You sound very hopeful about winning in 2015. Indeed many consider you as the frontrunner not only in the PDP primaries but also in the general election. Should you become the next governor of Delta state, what are the things you intend do for Deltans?
The PDP government in the state has done so well in infrastructural development, education, health and sports in the last seven years. We must commend Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan for the giant strides we have made. But we are not yet where we want to be.
Our people are still hurting because of lack of opportunities to make a decent living. It is my desire to expand opportunities for people by focusing on job creation. When our youths graduate from university and for years they roam the streets without jobs or are under employed because they do jobs meant for school certificate or ordinary national diploma holders what does it say about our economy? It says the economy is not strong enough to provide the basic means of livelihood for our people. This growing opportunity gap must be closed by creating more jobs in the economy.
How do you intend to create these jobs?
Delta state is blessed with all the resources it needs to be what it wants to be, to build the Delta of our dream. We have oil and gas, vast arable lands, water resources, hard working people, just name it.
My vision is a state where its economy, society, people and environment are properly developed, and where lives and properties are fully secured so that those who want to work can find jobs and those who want to set up businesses can find opportunities.
To realise this vision of Delta state of our dream I will erect what I call four pillars of consolidation namely; strong and stable economy, strong and secured society, cleaner environment and new politics.
To create jobs for our people, we need a strong and stable economy that is less dependent on the oil and gas sector that is capital intensive. This does not mean we will abandon the oil and gas sector. What it means is that we will use the resources from the oil sector to develop the agricultural and rural economy, agro-based industries, promote tourism, entertainment industry, and sports. We also need to modernise and expand our infrastructure. This is what Delta Beyond Oil programme of Governor Uduaghan is all about. I subscribe to this vision and I am committed to driving it forward.
We also need to strengthen our society by increasing access to quality educational and health services and provide security for all and not just the privileged few. We also need to protect our environment from pollution, flooding, erosion and keep it clean. If we are able to erect these pillars, we would have created the enabling environment to compete and attract domestic and foreign capital to our state to establish businesses that will employ our people in the private sector.
And to achieve these things we also need to change our politics so we can have open, accountable and ethical government that is responsive to the needs of the people. We also need to strengthen our democracy by engaging our people in participatory democracy promote viable civil society and partner with NGOs including religious bodies, media, trade unions and associations. So too are our local governments and civil service. This is the message I have taken to the people during my consultation and it has been well received.
Insecurity remains a big problem in Delta state. How will you handle this issue if elected governor of the state?
Insecurity is still of great concern to the people. But we must also appreciate what Governor Uduaghan has achieved in this regard. In the last seven years security has improved significantly. Communal conflicts, robbery, murders especially ritual killings are down. Even kidnapping has declined. Nevertheless we can do better by improving and expanding the security framework of the Uduaghan administration.
I am committed to reducing insecurity in Delta state further by adopting a two prong approach. We will be tough on crime as well as the causes of crime. That is why I have said severally during the course of my consultation that unemployment is the greatest security risk will face as a nation. I strongly believe that the high unemployment situation in the country especially among the youths is fuelling insecurity.
So if we focus on the creation of jobs and opportunities and get our youths engaged in legitimate productive activities, less of our youths will resort to crime.
But we also know that there are some people who sees crime as a more lucrative venture and will always choose crime regardless of the legitimate opportunities that are open to them. That is why we will be tough on crime. We will have a zero tolerance policy on crime. We will strive to ensure that all crimes in the state are investigated and the culprits are held accountable. There will be no safe haven for criminals especially kidnappers in Delta.
How do you intend to make Delta State crime free?
Our people who indulge in these criminal activities live in the same community with us. They are known within the various communities. So what I plan to do is to partner with our youths by establishing Community Security Marshals in each community to provide community policing services.
These marshals will be recruited from within the communities and trained by the police. They will operate in collaboration with the Nigerian Police and the State Security Service (SSS) to provide intelligence that will help to solve criminal cases. Governor Uduaghan has introduced the Waterways Security Committee and Advisory Council to check oil theft in our waterways. I want to extend it to land and engage our youths, the locals who were born and raised there. They understand the terrain better than anyone else.
There is no doubt you are aware of the agitation by the people of Delta north that it is their turn to govern the state. How do you reconcile this aspiration of yours against this agitation?
I am in the race not because of where I come from or the language I speak but because I believe that I have a better plan to move the state to the next level. I offer a pan Delta agenda of transformation to create jobs for our people. I am better prepared to add value to governance than anyone else in the race. That is the case I have been making to the people of Delta state since I started my consultation.
Those who believe that they should be governor on the basis of power rotation are free to make their case to the electorate. Ultimately, the people will make the decision as to who should be the next governor of Delta state
How do you perceive the APC and the chances of the PDP in the 2015 elections in Delta State?
The emergence of APC has altered the dynamics of elections in Nigeria and PDP expects more competition in 2015. In Delta State, the task is even more daunting because we do not just want to win the gubernatorial and presidential elections but we want to win in such way that APC will be denied 25% of votes in the presidential election which they desperately need in the Delta state. Who flies the party’s flag in the gubernatorial election will be a determining factor in achieving this goal. I believe only my candidacy can make this possible.
Do you think President Goodluck Jonathan deserves a second term?
Absolutely, the president has done well enough to deserve re-election. In the 2011 election campaign President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan promised to transform Nigeria economically and politically. Today, three years later he has achieved economic transformation and is on course to changing our politics.
The president has introduced economic reforms to diversify the economy and reduce our dependence on the oil and gas sector. Reforms aimed at achieving a private sector driven economy by reducing the dominance of the public sector were also introduced. These reforms have started to yield the desired results.
For the first time in our history our agricultural sector is attracting Foreign Direct Investment, we are over 60% sufficient in rice production, we are also the largest producer of cassava in the world and now exporter of dried cassava chips. The successful unbundling of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria will enhance power generation and distribution.
The President signed into law the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Bill 2010 (Local Content Bill), which has increased Local Content in the Oil and Gas sector and the PIB which will check the excesses of operators in petroleum industry is before the National Assembly. The first private refinery is under way.
Airports have been remodelled and expanded. Rail transportation has been restored and the roads are being refurbished and expanded. These economic reforms have resulted in impressive economic growth. And today International ratings agencies such as Fitch Ratings and Standard and Poor’s have revised our outlook from negative to stable and we are now the fourth largest growing economy in the world.
On the political front, electoral reforms were introduced to restore credibility to our electoral process. The president has also inaugurated the National Conference to restructure the country from centralised federalism to a more decentralised federalism. The conference is about winding up and at the end of the day; not everyone maybe satisfied with its outcome but its recommendations which are in the public domain, when implemented will ensure greater political and financial powers to state and local governments, thus changing our politics positively.
Transforming a society that has long been bedevilled by structural defects is not an easy task. It is a long and painful process that cannot be achieved in four years. Mr. President would have chosen the easy way of business as usual but he chose to go the hard way of transformation because of his commitment to change. And despite the obstacles thrown on his way by those who do not want change, he has done well.
What the president has achieved in only three years is incredible and he deserves four more years to finish what he has started. And if I am given the opportunity to serve as governor, I will partner with President Goodluk Jonathan to transform Delta State and our country.
Finally sir, what do you think are the chances of Mr President in 2015?
His chances are very bright. I do not have any doubt that President Goodluck Jonathan will be re-elected in 2015 to continue with his transformation agenda. What is the alternative? Is it APC which claim to be a progressive party yet they are against the National Conference which will bring fundamental and structural changes to Nigeria. I don’t think so.
Nigerians will vote for change that will bring about a better management of our resources for the good of the majority of the Nigerian people and not the status quo that has benefitted only a few. President Goodluck Jonathan is better than any alternative that APC will offer and Nigerians know it. More importantly is that the Mr. President has made a good start and there is every reason to believe that he will make more progress on his transformation agenda in a second term.