By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South
UNTIL he returned to the PDP, which he originally belonged to recently, Chief Tony Ogbo, a one-time acting chairman of Oshimili North Local Government Area of Delta State gave the party jitters, as the chief spokesperson of Chief Peter Okocha, the AC gubernatorial candidate, whose court case against the incumbent governor, Dr, Emmanuel Uduaghan, generated a lot of tension for the PDP.
That is a matter of the past now. But what reallyÂ happened in Okochaâ€™s camp during this trying period and finally,Â when the Court of Appeal dismissed the case? What kind of overtures did Uduaghan make to Okocha? Did he bribe him as was speculated? Why is Chief Ogbo back to PDP? How did the Okocha camp see the Uduaghan government when the battle was on and how does Ogbo see the oppositionÂ mounted against Uduaghan by the Delta Elders, Leaders and Stakeholders Forum, led by former Minister of Information, Chief Edwin Clark? The political tactician speaks to Saturday Vanguard . Excerpts:
We didnâ€™t leave PDP. We were shut out
I worked for the re-election of the former governor, Chief James Ibori in 2003 and thereafter, the issue of who becomes the governor of Delta State in 2007 came into play and we were of the opinion that power would shift from Delta Central senatorial district to any other senatorial district, and the present state chairman of the PDP, Chief Peter Nwaoboshi, then a commissioner under Ibori, carried out that campaign of Equity 2007.
He was at the centre of the campaign that power must shift. And made people like us move out of the PDP in 2007 was when after the Ogwashi-Uku primaries because we were preparing for the primaries, you would recall my principal then, Chief Peter Eloka Okocha, was heading for the primaries. He attended the screening exercise, headed by two-time governor of the defunct Bendel state, Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia in Port-Harcourt and thereafter, he was not given clearance to contest the primaries and so, we felt that he ought to have been given a chance and he failed.
That is a different thing. He was shut out of the primaries and we felt that was not good for democracy. We did not leave the party per se. This is the impression a lot of people have that Okocha, Ogbo and others left the party. No, the party shut us out and said we should go and when the door is closed, you look for another place to inhabit. That was what happened in December 2006.
Court of Appeal ended Okocha era
We joined AC thereafter and what we tried to do was to ensure that Okochaâ€™s vision for greater Delta state is known to people because as at then, people did not know his plan. He had a very good manifesto where he said he was coming to build an international airport in Asaba through BOT (build, operate and transfer) and he has a vision of taking Delta state to a greater height. I felt that such a man who had such vision should be given the opportunity to actualize his vision.
Unfortunately, he was excluded and we said we should use all legal avenues, which was the only thing left to make sure that the election was upturned so that he could have the opportunity to test his popularity before Deltans because itâ€™s not only PDP, we are talking about the entire electorate in Delta state that will decide who will be the governor of the state but that dream was aborted by the declaration of the Court of Appeal that he was not even duly nominated ab intio, let alone contesting an election.
So I saw that verdict by the Court of Appeal as the end of an era, especially for what we were trying to pursue, that is to ensure that he emerged as a governors and the beginning of a new dawn for people like us. Like I said, I started from PDP. I wasÂ one of the conveners in my local government and convened the party in my ward and so I felt I had to go back to the party which I originally belong.
You said Okocha has the vision of building an international airport in Asaba and taking Delta to greater height. But itâ€™s same vision both have. Is one stealing the ideas of the other?
Itâ€™s the elite that use the airport; the common man can stay 20 to 30 years without travelling by air. Apart from the economic activities, the airport has financial implication. For instance, you know that 80 per cent of the importers in Lagos are from the Eastern part of the country, Aba and Onitsha and itâ€™s going to be a cargo international airport.
So it will create a lot of employment for our people. Itâ€™s going to increase commercial activities and maybe because of our constructive criticism that the airport will be in this place, the man has taken a bold step by making sure the project is completed and is also dualising the road from Koko to serve the Koko port to the Benin-Asaba expressway and the Ughelli-Asaba expressway.
If these roads are completed, the businessmen who transport by sea would not mind passing through Warri and Koko ports while those that fly their goods would see Delta as the best alternative.