By Emma Amaize
TWO great leaders of Delta State, Deputy Premier of the defunct Midwest region, Chief James Otobo, and former Federal Minister of Information, Chief Edwin Clark, fell out, yesterday, over the propriety of the course each of them had decided to chart with their separate groups in the state.
Chief Otobo is the national leader of the Isoko ethnic nationality, is the interim chairman of the newly-formed Delta State Peoples Elders Council, DSPEC; and the Delta Elders, Leaders and Stakeholders Forum, DELSF, led by the national leader of the Ijaw ethnic nationality, Chief Edwin Clark.
While Chief Clark fired at Chief Otobo, describing him and some of his DSPEC colleagues as discreditable men and political prostitutes, Otobo said Clark is not a man of integrity.
Otobo’s a discreditable person- Clark
Chief Clark spoke to Vanguard on phone from Abuja, on the new group, DSPEC, which many believe, would act as a check to his leadership in the state, said the attention given to the group by the media was undeserved in the first instance, as it tried to conscript the former Military Governor of the defunct Midwest region as its member.
His said: “Most of the men there are discreditable. Chief Otobo was with us. He was a member of my group. At his age, I expect him to stand by his word. In 2007, he said Uduaghan would become governor of the state over his dead body. But later, same year, I was surprised to see him in Obiaruku, campaigning for Uduaghan.”
He said the Iyatsere of Warri, Chief Gabriel Mabiaku, who pitched camp with the Otobo group was not a politician. He said he would have been worried if it were leading Itsekiri politicians like Chief J. O. S Ayomike, Chief O. P. Edodo and Mr. Isaac Jemide, that joined the DSPEC.
Clark said he had nothing against two-time Senator and leading Delta North politician, Senator Obi Nosike Ikpo, who he described as his old friend, and also depicted one-time governorship aspirant in the defunct Bendel State, Chief Godwin Iwegbue, as a political prostitute.
He said Otobo was confused as the elders’ group he formed was a parallel organ to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, elders’ group, led by one Chief Sefia, which Prof. Benedict Ijeomah and Senator Brume are also members.
The elder statesman maintained that though DSPEC said it differed with him on the affairs of the state, he did not see where the elders that met in Asaba substantially disagreed with the points he had made over the years.
He said they raised the issue of the embarrassment of the detention of Ibori and the battle for his extradition in Dubai, conviction of his wife and others, which they found worrisome, adding that it was only on Dr. Uduaghan that they towed a different line.
His said: “My battle requires the cooperation of true Deltans. I don’t see where they have accused me of anything,” adding, “they only said we were causing trouble in the state. The state needed peace, and they want a true elders’ council.
“I agree with them on peace but how to bring peace about is the matter. They told me they were sending a delegation led by the former deputy governor of the state, Chief Benjamin Elue. Senator Stella Omu came to tell me. I did not disagree with them; we have to come together and work as elders of the state.
“Indeed, there is a problem. If we work together as true elders, we can find permanent solution to the problems of Delta State and there will be good governance. I am ready to receive them; I will also invite the elders on my side too.
“Let me tell you, I do not hate Emmanuel Uduaghan. This is Delta issue, it is not a personal matter. All the elders that make up the entire ethnic nationalities in the state should meet to address the unfortunate situation we have found ourselves in.”
Clark is irresponsible- Otobo
Chief Otobo, who spoke to Vanguard on phone from his Uzere country home in Isoko land said: “First of all, I want to make it clear to you that DSPEC has no quarrel with anybody over the former governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori. His case is being taken care of by the appropriate agencies.
“On the former governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, lest somebody begins to accuse us of what we did not say, our position is that if Clark has any cases or cases against Uduaghan, he should report to the appropriate agencies or take him to the court, as only the court, not he (Clark) can say the former governor is corrupt.
“Clark is insulting the sensibilities of Deltans as far as this matter is concerned, because it is clear there is more than meet the eye in the whole thing. It is not for Clark to say Uduaghan is corrupt, it is left for the court. That is the point we are making as elders that have taken an unemotional look at the issue.
“Let me posit on Major-General Ejoor before I proceed further. We have not made any false claim on Ejoor, which I expect Ejoor himself and Clark, who must have read our communiqué that was published in your paper on Saturday, November 26.
“We stated copiously that he (Ejoor) was not physically present, but sent an apology to us at the meeting for his absence through Senator Brume. We got a message during our deliberations that he said he was part of us, even though he was unable to make it to the inaugural meeting.
“So, how are we claiming to be what we are not? I know how some people at the meeting asked Senator Brume to still call Ejoor to confirm his position and he said he told him before he came to the meeting that he was part of us. The same way we got a message on Ejoor. I have explained before. That was how we heard from the Iyatsere of Warri, Chief Gabriel Mabiaku.”
On 2007 guber polls
Back to the Ijaw national leader, the elder statesman said: “Point of correction. I was never a member of Clark’s group, so it is wrong for him to say I was a member of his group. What happened was that both of us were together as leaders trying to approve a gubernatorial candidate for the state in 2007. As Dr. Uduaghan emerged as the PDP gubernatorial candidate in 2007, I gave him my support.
“I said I will not support Chief Great Ogboru of the DPP, and when he came here in 2007, I practically chased him out. My reason is that it is the turn of Delta South Senatorial District, which I and Clark are from, to produce the next governor of the state, Ogboru’s Central Senatorial District, having ruled for eight years under Chief James Ibori. I cannot fathom up till date why Clark is against his own senatorial district producing the governor of the state.
“We fought for power shift at the national level, for the South-South to produce the President of this country. Why are we against power shift in Delta State? What is the principle he is upholding in supporting power shift to Jonathan and resisting power shift to Uduaghan?
“Since this episode, I have had nothing to do with Clark because I cannot be party to raising corrupt allegations against somebody without proof just because of personal and tribal animosities.
“Chief Clark cannot describe me as a dishonourable man because we are not at the same level. Where was Clark when we were fighting for the independence of this country? Where was Clark when we put up the battle for the creation of the defunct Mid-West region? He is a product of the military.
“I challenge him if he thinks he is popular in Delta State to contact Independent National electoral Commission, INEC, to conduct a referendum between I (James Otobo) and him (Clark) to find out who Deltans would choose as their political leader.”
The respected politician said he had contested several elections and won in the country and so, “this is not time to talk. It is now one man, one vote. I ask Clark and his group if they are popular and it is Ogboru they want to field as their gubernatorial candidate. I don’t care who it is. Whether it is Ovie Omo-Agege and co, let everybody go to the field. They should go and muster votes from the people if they think they are popular for the re-run election.
“We have started our own mobilisation for Uduaghan. Let us see who is more popular. Enough is enough, let them stop talking. We don’t want semantics anymore. This is not about writing baseless petitions to stop anybody. Let them go the field and prove their case.
“And let me tell you, it is irresponsible for Clark, as a member of the PDP, to be working against the gubernatorial candidate of his party. President Goodluck Jonathan and the national leadership of the party had already endorsed Uduaghan’s candidature. Why is he working against it?
“He said PDP is a divided party in Delta State, how is it a divided party? The state chairman of the party is Chief Peter Nwaoboshi. He is the one who is causing division and that is an act of indiscipline.”
Chief Otobo said: “I am not in the same rank of elders with Chief Clark. He is an inconsistent person to be part of the DSPEC and it is because of his inconsistency as a human being that I have been avoiding him as much as possible. DSPEC is a focused organisation which he knows from the calibre of the membership.
“He cannot taint the character of the members and I want to tell him that if he wants to be a member, he should apply. It is only when we screen and find out his uprightness that we will admit or not admit him.”
Elue committee parleys with Clark in Abuja today
Meanwhile, the Constructive Engagement Committee, led by a former Deputy Governor of the state, Chief Benjamin Elue, which was inaugurated, this month, by the acting Governor of Delta State, Prince Sam Obi, to dialogue with Clark and other dissenting leaders of the state on the way forward, is expected to meet with the Ijaw leader and other DELSF members, today in Abuja.
Secretary of the Committee, Mr. Oma Djebah, who is also the Delta State Commissioner for Information, confirmed the meeting of the committee with Clark and his group of Delta elders today.
Members of Elue’s c’ttee
Other members of the committee are the former Deputy Governor of the state, Simeon Ebonka, Prof Benedict Ijeomah, former Minister of Information, Prof. Sam Oyovabaire, ex-minister of Agriculture, High Chief Chris Agbobu, former Police Affairs Minister, Alaowei Broderick Bozimo, Chief Gbragada, Chief (Mrs.) Stella Omu, Chief Mike Adiotomre and Dr. Festus Okuboh.