FORMER Chief of Staff, COS, to the Delta State Government, Chief Paulinus Akpeki, who recently led some Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, chieftains in the state, including two ex-Commissioners, Barrister Misan Ukubeyinje and Mr. Ebifa Ijomah, to defect to the All Progressives Congress, APC, spoke to Saturday Vanguard at Asaba, capital of the state, on the reasons for their action.
A confident Akpeki pointed at the rot in the system in the state, saying that few of them with guts decided to wake up from lethargy and upturn the status quo. He predicted that the road would be rough, but was optimistic that change would definitely come in 2019. Excerpt.
You were the last person expected to defect from PDP to APC in Delta state, were you frustrated out of the party or you were running away from something?I would not know why you think I am one of the last persons that would leave the PDP because I am not the owner of PDP. Even among the 34 founding fathers some of them have since left.
Secondly, I did not leave PDP because I was chased out and I will not say that I left PDP out of frustration, but I also know that I left PDP because such a decision had to be taken. When some people do certain things that are wrong, at the end of the day, you will be tagged as one one of them because you were part of them when the things happened.
So, in order not to be accused of it at a latter time, I decided to opt out now, instead of fighting all the time inside. I want to elaborate on that. I have three idols that I cherish and respect. One is former president of the United States of America, the late J F Kennedy, two, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and three, Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia.
Few weeks ago, Ogbemudia celebrated his 83rd birthday, he was asked by newsmen if he had any regret being member of PDP, I remember clearly he said his regret was not being able to sum up courage at a time to resign from PDP and he was asked why.
He said he saw it coming but his warning and advice to elders, elder statesmen and well-meaning citizens inside PDP to avert the misfortune that befell the party was ignored. Having heard such a thing from somebody like Dr. Ogbemudia , who I respect so much, I am seeing some of the same things happening in Delta PDP, I do not want to be part of those who will get old, as old as Ogbemudia and I come back to say that my regret was not being able to leave PDP at the appropriate time.
So I made up my mind that this is the time to go, so that I can sit outside and be able to speak my mind when something happens. I don’t want anybody to say that he is fighting his party or somebody will sit down and say suspend him and use one small boy in their clique to insult people. That is why I decided to pull out now so that I will use the remaining part of my life to rewrite the history of my state.
What were the things you saw coming that made you to quit PDP?
PDP as at today in Delta state is a party that has become a conglomerate of family and friends’ government. Looking at it the way it is set up now, the poor do not have a say in the party and administration of the state. It is either you are a family member or you are a member of a family, who is a friend to a big shot in PDP without who there is nothing for you.
But , PDP is forgetting the voting class, that not everybody in this country is a member of a political party, but they are voters and they vote for individuals, even though they have sympathy for one political party or the other. But somebody asked me the question that I campaigned for Okowa, I said yes, at that time, I campaigned for Okowa because I believed he was the best and is still the best.
My assumption, however, is that having come to power, he should be able to look outside a particular set of families and set of friends. But when you advise and your advice meets deaf ears, in order for you not to be insulted or abused or have enemies, what do you do? You go away because he who lives to run away, lives to fight another day. That is what I have done.
But some people say you left because you did not get appointment from Okowa?
In the government of Delta state as it is presently, the organogram is the Governor, Deputy Governor, Secretary to the State Government, SSG, Head of Service, HOS, and Chief of Staff, COS, then all other positions follow. I stayed and climbed to becoming the chief of staff of this state, not just an ordinary chief of staff, but one that served with enormous powers.
Having being chief of staff, the only position I would want to attain again is SSG, HOS or COS that I held before. I have served, I have gotten to this stage and I always tell people, I stay in a position for once, I don’t go back to that same position. What position do you think I would have taken in the present government?
Is it to become special adviser, special assistant or board chairman that I have passed through over the years? No, one of my brothers used to tell me, you cannot be so hungry to eat your tongue. I am already in the state where I will become an elder statesman, somebody that will sit in his house and proffer advice to the younger ones and advise government. But what do you do when you find out that in the midst of the people that are in the system, you are a lone voice?
Many still think it is scandalous for you to leave the party that you were one of the pillars in the state?
A former president in this country sat down and watched over his own liquidation because he was not listening to the truth of what the people were saying about him on Channels Television and other fearless media houses. He was listening to sycophants, who told him that all was well. They were telling him to go on, that heaven would not fall and all that. We experienced it here in Delta before and you say it is scandalous.
What is scandalous there? On December 9, 2014, I sent a text message to the present governor of the state, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, after he won nomination on December 8, 2014 and I told him, Ekwueme, which is his title anyway, God gives power and chooses people to lead at a particular time. Now that God has chosen you to lead over your people in Delta state, find a space in your heart to accommodate everybody in that big umbrella.
These were my words. The Ekwueme, I know is an experienced politician and administrator, the man I admire because we have been together in the terrain. He replied me, saying, Ugo, thank you for this, this phase is now over, let us put what happened in the past behind us and let us work together, thank you for your message.
I know that I also put in one or two things into his campaign thereafter because I believed in him and PDP at the time and I still believe that Okowa can do better, but he is also surrounded by a team like the one that surrounded President Goodluck Jonathan when he was in office and made him not to see beyond what was in the periphery.
My prayer for Okowa is that he should try a little bit to get out of the shackles of sycophants. With that, he can do better than what is happening now.
You have just painted a picture of nothing askew between you and Okowa, but many believe you had a sour relationship with him since the December 8, 2014 governorship primary, where you allegedly worked for another candidate?
Chief Akpeki as an individual and Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa as an individual have no personal differences and I cannot remember at anytime when both of us had any disagreement in terms of primary. Let me say this, I was to contest the governorship primary too but on the 10th of October, 2014, the former governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, told me to drop my governorship ambition and that was 10 days to when I was to resign as a member of his cabinet.
I believed and I believe in Dr Uduaghan, am a student of loyalty, and on the spot , I told him okay, called my supporters subsequently and opted out of the race. Having opted out, I cannot see where and how I would have had any direct confrontation, quarrel or problem with Dr. Okowa.
I will not know if he had anything in mind because I was in council, I would not also know if he still has anything in mind, but as I speak to you now, I think you should also crosscheck from him, I do not think we have any difference.
Did you discuss your leaving the party with him and what was his response?
I have my own fundamental human rights regarding my decisions. I do not need to discuss anything with Governor Okowa as it concerns me politically because he would not even discuss his own with me. I also remember that I mentioned one or two things to Prof Sam Oyovbaire, though I did not tell him that I would leave, I just sounded him out because they say he is the father of the government, so I had to sound him out and incidentally , he is my uncle and a chief from my kingdom and I respect and will continue to respect him.
Answering your question, I have nothing against Governor Okowa, he remains my friend, in fact, let me state here, it is not about Okowa as an individual, the decision I have taken is to pull out Deltans from slavery, nobody will understand it now, but tomorrow, they will.
Not until this country fell out from the PDP at the national level, did not know that Nigeria was already in bad state. Look at a personal aide of a former minister returning $100 million dollars to the federal government, all of us are in cabinet, bad apples spoil the good ones, consequently all are bad.
How do you feel when you are in a system and people are calling that system corrupt, meanwhile, you did not pick one dime. That is what I am saying, Deltans will remember tomorrow the decision a few of us have taken today. And I can tell you, many more will follow.
Talking about slavery, when did this slavery start, Chief James Ibori was there for eight years, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan was there for another eight years, is it under Okowa that this slavery in the state started?
You see this is the mistake people are making. I just said something now, it is not about Okowa, I wish people will understand this today, PDP has been in power in Delta state since 1999, it is about a system and this system we must change. And that is the change slogan, PDP was in power at the federal level since 1999, a few people saw many things wrong and they said we must change this federal government.
They came together and they changed the system and not until they changed it, many people did not know the rot at the federal level. It is today that the international community is saying that Nigeria has come out, you heard what they are saying about former governor of Bayelsa state, Diepreye Alamieseigha, now , a government that cannot take decision because of certain reasons is not a government.
So, it is not about Okowa, it is about the system, maybe this system started from 1999 till now, but nobody has been able to sit up and say we must change this system.
However, a few of us have seen it and said let us change this system. I repeat, nobody is saying Okowa must go now, whether we believe it or not, until the tribunal gives judgment, Okowa will still be in power until we have another election in 2019.
I , as an individual want to effect a change in 2019, that is what I am working for. And the change must be that Delta must bring somebody that can govern this state without the dictates of this system but those of another system, the system of change.
Secondly, the PDP has no agenda , it has no ideology, you were talking about Ibori spending eight years,
Udaughan spending eight years and Okowa is here now. Yes, none of these three people are bad, but the PDPsystem is bad. Now, Ibori came in, which political ideology did he implement? What were the programmes of PDP that he implemented? Uduaghan came in, I was part of that and I am proud to be part of that.
We came with three-point agenda of peace and security, human capital development and infrastructural development, those were Uduaghan’s programme, not PDP’s programme. Okowa came in with his SMART programme, is it PDP’s programme?
I hear the chairman of PDP and some other people say key into Okowa’s programme, but the truth is that you are supposed to key into the party’s programme because every government is put up by a political party and that political party’s programme is what you must implement, it is not your programme. So that when a new government comes, it will continue from where the previous government stopped.
Only some few months ago, people were shouting that they (Uduaghan government) left debt behind, they are owing this and all that, I ask which money are they talking about? The amount they say the previous government was owing, I do not believe it is true that we left debt of such magnitude.
It is a matter I will address at another time, but all I am trying to say is that if a political party has a political programme, it is that programme that all who come to power must implement, not that when you come, you push aside the programme of the other man, then you start your own with the same state money. When another person comes, he will push away your own and starts his own with state money.
That should be unacceptable to Deltans. If that bridge across that road there (referring to flyover at Asaba constructed by Uduaghan) was not too big to be demolished, may be, may be in quote, it would have been demolished because it is not good for that place.
In the night, the streetlights are not good enough, so they will get money somewhere to do something else because it is not the man’s programme. The micro credit scheme of Uduaghan is not good enough, so they have scrapped it with all the monies already invested in it, maybe part of the money they claim we borrowed, you start your own.
And it was a scheme the Central Bank honoured Uduaghan with an award. You start your own, tomorrow, another person comes and begins another programme, no. Deltans should look at these matters from another point of view and when you say some of these things inside, they will say you are fighting them
They are many and many more, it is a continuous thing, I will talk about them. I remember the former governor of Anambra state, Peter Obi coming to Delta state and saying that he used to stand on the side of Onitsha and look at Asaba end of Delta state as England, today,
Governor Willie Obiano probably would stand at the other side of Onitsha and look at Asaba as Oviri Okpe because the streetlights are no longer there, Trucks have demolished the streetlights on the highways, the whole place have been turned to total darkness because maybe the streetlight was Uduaghan’s programme.
With all the amount of money we spent on streetlight, maybe streetlight is not in the programme of the present administration. That is what I am trying to say, that a political party without a political programme is not a political party.
We have put up some of this advice before now, but nobody was listening. Would you be indifferent when one small boy, who you brought up politically suddenly becomes the thin god because he sits with the governor?
I tell you something today, most leaders listen to blackmail. They are happy when somebody comes to malign you, that you are this, that you are that, because they want to push you far from him.
You once said you would swim and sink with Uduaghan, now you re-echoed that you believe and still believed in him, but Uduaghan is one person that does not like dumping his party, you have just dumped PDP, how are you loyal to him?
Dr. Emmanuel Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan was former governor of this state. I , Chief Paulinus Akpeki was his Commissioner for Housing and Chief of Staff. I owe him that loyalty and I will continue to be with him.
I will dine and swim with Uduaghan, political differences aside, but I tell you, I am John the Baptist, he, who cometh after me is the greatest and the greatest is the Christ. Uduaghan as an individual has the right to take his decisions.
I also have the right to take my decision. As at today, I have not spoken with Uduaghan, but I can comfortably say that wherever he is , I will always wish him well. The Tsunami movement is on, many will follow , the Christ will come, we are just mere messengers.
When John the Baptist came and said that the One coming after him was greater, students of the Bible know who he was talking about, but in this case, political students do not know the Christ you are heralding ?
(Laughs) What I can tell you right away is that if students of the Bible know who the Christ is when John the Baptist spoke, then political students should also know who the Christ is since Akpeki has spoken.
I don’t know , that is why I am asking?
Since you do not know, wait until the said Christ arrives, he will arrive at the appropriate time (another long laughter).