By DapoÂ Akinrefon & Charles Kumolu
OLOROGUN Kenneth Gbagi is a former Chairman of Legal Aid Council, LAC and a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party,PDP.
In this interview with Vanguard he argued that Delta State needs people like him if there must be prosperity in the state. Gbagi, whoÂ he is poised to contest the 2011 gubernatorial election the state, dismissed insinuations that he had left PDP. He also condemned calls on zoning of the presidency, but cautionedÂ President Goodluck Jonathan to seek the face of God on his alleged presidential ambition. He also spoke on other national issues.
There are indications that some people in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party,PDP, in Delta State would contest the governorship election against the incumbent governor, who is a member of your party. How true is this?
In 1999 and 1999 when it became apparent that political minded Nigerians had struggled to send the military back to the barracks, we formed various political parties. There were parties like UNDP and others that were part of the Abacha arrangement. And James Ibori happened to be one of the people who were looking after Abachaâ€™s interest. Ibori was one of the people looking after GDM on behalf of Major Al Mustapa, who is now in prison. Ibori was never known nor was he a player in Delta State . What happened was that he had come home to inform the team of Urhobo nation and Delta state in general that Abacha had sent him to solicit their support.
Can you vividly tell us those, who were with you during the formative years of PDP in the state?
When we formed PDP, Ibori was never a member. I was the first governorship aspirant in Delta . We had Senator Dafinone, Sen Francis Nwajei among othersÂ who came and launched the party with us in Asaba. I was the only one, who was a governorship aspirant that spoke on the podium on that day that PDP was launched in the state. After I finished a young man from Sapele, who is like a brother to me made a ruse that Ibori must be allowed to speak on the podium.
You talked about being a founding member of the PDP, but there was a time that we read media reports that you had left PDP to achieve your gubernatorial ambition on another platform. How true is that?
Newspapers want to sell, so stories are carried the way the Newspapers house wants. I have not left the PDP. And it is not sensible to leave the house you built. However, If you have mad people living in your house as a result of political expedience, like it was in the PDP, what you do is to serve them notice. The chairman of Labour Party,LP, Dan was my classmate in the law programme and when heÂ visited Delta State, he wanted to pay a visit to our leader, who is a father figure to me and I went with him.
Dan had been talking to me even before 1999 to run for the governorship of Delta State. He said that unless I do so, the state will remain moribund. I am not an LP member and I donâ€™t have a membership card of that party. I remember having a meeting with Ogbulafor in his bedroom, where he told me to allow his plans for the state as it relates to who will contest.
He told me that my influence in Delta is being appreciated and noted that some are doing a lot of things to undermine my power.Â He even told me that he wants to come to the state to launch Uduaghanâ€™s second coming and he would wish if I would join him in raising Uduaghanâ€™s hand at the podium. We also spokeÂ about E.K Clark and other issues.
I told him that I would never have anything to do with Ibori and Uduaghan because I know the kind of image they command in the public. You can take what is not yours temporarily. We have an adage that if you take someoneâ€™s child, you must return it when the mother comes. That is what is happening in Delta State today. It is only a matter of days to come, Urhoboâ€™s would take their mandate.
Are you telling us that come 2011 you will contest the governorship election of Delta State. If yes, what are your chancesÂ and donâ€™t forget the fact of incumbency factor?
By the grace of God I will contest the elections in 2011. The fact remains that elections are contested based on pedigree and I believe I have that pedigree to be the governor of the State. We are only few that have this kind of pedigree, IÂ built it right from time because I know I was going to go for a public office. I am not worried about incumbency factor. Even the incumbent knows that a Gbagi candidate is sellable any day.
â€œDeltans today are ready. I hope you know about the comment of a very prominent Deltan, who said he would have the Bible on one hand and a cutlass on the other hand to protect the peoplesâ€™ votes. We are talking about the revolution against the usurpers of general will. Incumbency can only work where the incumbent is popular. The incumbent may be banking on the Igbo and Isoko votes.
We will see how a state will produce a governor where seventy five percent of the state are not voting. We have seen it all and have resolved that its not going to be business as usual. The incumbent can not get votes even from the Itsekiri people in a free and fair election.â€
Among the things we have, numerical strength is a plus and that state is our state. Whether you like it or not, Urhoboâ€™s would burry the hatchet and work towards producing the governor of the state next year. The arrangement that allowed Ibori to give power to his brother, is something that can rarely happen anywhere.Â It is by error that Uduaghan emerged and it would be corrected ahead next elections.â€ I have a manifesto and you will see that I have good plans for my people.
Calls on whether President Goodluck Jonathan Should run or not, no doubt is overheating the polity. And the man at the centre is yet to say categorically on whether he would contest for the presidency. looking at the circumstances surrounding his emergence and Nigeriaâ€™s political environment, what is your comment on this?
In my opinion, Jonathan has a date with destiny to write his name on gold. He stands the chance of being next to Mandela of South Africa, because there are a lot of expectations on him and he cannot afford to fail. He should not toy with the opportunity that God gave him to fix Nigeria. Obasanjo made me a minister but I refused. Goodluck did not pass through the process of election to become president, it is through the grace of God.
I am positive that he would do well if he seeks the face of God. There is no Nigerian, whether black or white that can make him to take a decision he does not want, so I believe that God would lead him in deciding. Presidency is for a period, Mandela is no longer a president but he is still the Mandela of Africa. And God who has given Jonathan that opportunity should hold him strong and see him through. I am not saying that he should not contest, I am saying that he should seek the face of God because it is transparently obvious that God likes Jonathan.
The issue of zoning is also at the centre of whether power should shift to the North or South. Zoning did play a role in Obasanjo and Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s emergence. Do you think the practice should be retained ?
I believe from time abinitio that zoning is the best way to kill any country. Let the best among the lot emerge. When you zone anything, you may not get the best out of it. It’s like parents in Urhobo who leave their assets to their first child, you find out that the method does not bring the best out of any family.
It is like that in Yoruba and Igbo, the child you think that would take over from you, may not even be there when you die. So allow the best to emerge. When we did the two party system, which I strongly advocate for, Abiola emerged on a Muslim/Muslim ticket. Could that have been possible under zoning? Let us stop this stupidity and allow the best to emerge, when you give an office to someone, who is not ready to serve, you will get bad results.
A lot of people are interpreting your partnership and that of Chief E.K Clarke as a partnership that overheats the polity in Delta State. Can you make some clarification on that so that people would get a clear picture of that alliance?
Those who are saying that E.K Clark marriage with myself is a negative one, are only criminals.