By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Chief Great Ogboru renowned businessman and politician was the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) gubernatorial candidate in 2007 in Delta State who successfully moved the Court of Appeal to affirm that there was no election in Delta State in 2007.
In this interview with Vanguard’s senior editors, he lays bare his views on the situation in Delta State, articulates his plans for the State and assess the performance of the immediate past administrations in the State.Excerpts:
Why are you here?
Changes took place in Delta State a few weeks ago and we expect that those changes will translate into a reality that will give the people of Delta State a new administration. We are here to answer your questions and elaborate on those areas that hitherto were thought not clear or not very clear.
So, gentlemen of the Vanguard it is my pleasure to be here today and I am looking forward to having a useful interactive session with all of you. Hopefully at the end of today we shall leave this place with a new idea or a new concept of what or who Great Ovdje Ogboru is and his or our vision for Delta State.
Last time we heard even with shrinking receipts from oil, Delta State was expending about N6 billion on salaries monthly. What would you do to ensure that the economy of Delta State is not tied to federal allocations from Abuja?
First of all, it is my own view that N6 billion for salaries in a State like Delta State is too much. We will make an audit to find out if we have ghost workers and if they are there, to fish them out so that we can reduce the wage bill.
But that is not all. I also believe that in a State like Delta State where income is tied only to receipts from Abuja it is not good enough, in fact it is not good at all.
Unfortunately there is no economy in Delta State, Delta State has no economy that you can pinpoint.
What we have is that we receive money from Abuja and that money is neither invested nor are they gainfully employed to affect the livelihood of the people of Delta State and unfortunately that money is frittered away and all we know is that we read about the money of Delta State being used to finance pseudo elections or being frittered away into foreign capitals which has led to one of our former Governors being kept in Dubai today.
And off course some ladies associated with him have also been jailed. Those are the type of things we have been hearing about Delta State money.
It is on record that from June 2000 when the 13% derivation principle was started that Delta State has received over N800 billion but that money is not invested in the State. Projects such as the airport in Asaba which was originally earmarked for N1.7 billion and then increased to N6 billion ended up at a whooping N40 billion. What do you need a N40 billion project in Asaba for? Where people haven’t good schools, where we don’t have industries that are working. Where our health facilities are not functioning and where the peasant farmers are not given any form of assistance. So you will question that kind of investment.
Closely related to that is the IPP project. The IPP project has so far gulped N16 billion but the place is still a bush, we haven’t seen anything on ground, yet Delta State is supposed to be a rich State. So, if you ask me what would you do differently, I will tell you that we will judiciously apply the money belonging to the people of Delta State, we will apply the resources of the people of Delta State in Delta State, we will invest the money of Delta in Delta, you will not have a situation where the money of Delta State is frittered away elsewhere.
I can tell you that any day that you hear that Chief Great Ogboru has any (foreign) account anywhere publish it because that money is stolen money, because I will not operate any account outside this country.
Most importantly, we are going to get people of like minds to monitor and to make sure that we implement the programmes.
You are from Delta Central that produce James Ibori and Uduaghan is from Delta South and the people of Delta North are desirous of the office of Governor. Don’t you think that your quest will make that impossible?
Yes Chief James Ibori is from Delta Central, but as you know we challenged him in 2003 and we still believe that he did not win that election but unfortunately he was able to manipulate the system to impose his brother as Governor of Delta State without an election.
That is not something we should assume should be swept away or swept under the carpet. It is not something that we should condone or live with because we are talking about zoning or no zoning. These are sheer criminal actions of individuals in the State that must be challenged.
This country is bound by a constitution so if any person gets into office irrespective of the zone he comes from illegally we have a duty to say no. this is not an issue of zoning per se, we are talking about illegalities in government. I think there is a distinction.
I will draw the distinction clearly. The question is what is the assurance you will give to the people of Delta North that one day they will one day produce the Governor?
The question is clear and my answer is even clearer because my deputy comes from Delta North and it is assumed that it is a ticket that is on running. That if I did or we did well in the period of time that we govern the State by the grace of God, it is natural that he should assume the mantle of leadership.
What will you do to promote ethnic harmony in the State and address the perception that some parts of the State such as Asaba were neglected to the benefit of other parts of the State?
We are not questioning the fact that there is an airport there (Asaba). We are questioning the colossal wastage in sums and also the safety issues that are being identified. Yesterday, I was told that there is a problem with the slope of the airport itself because it seems to be as if it is not on a plateau but on a hilly ascending surface which is risky for landing and taking off of aero planes.
I am told that another N10 billion is required to flatten that hilly part of the airport and to make it a plateau. I don’t know if that is going to take the project to N40 billion or would make it N50 billion.
For goodness sake, a project of N4 or N5 billion for an airport in Asaba would have been better. If we spent another N20 billion developing Asaba our State capital we would have better houses, jobs and employment for the people there. In a nutshell, what I am saying is that we would want an airport in Asaba, but we want to be reasonable with the cost.
Yes, Asaba needs to be developed but not at the expense of other parts of the State and that is why we came up with the programme which we know will give the people of Delta State equal opportunity to develop at their own pace.
What is your relationship with the Delta State Leaders Forum led by Chief Edwin Clark and what would you describe as the greatest legacy of Dr. Uduaghan in the three years he governed Delta State?
I will start with the fact that for three and a half years we have been in the law courts going from one court to another trying to seek justice.
The truth of the matter is that it took much more time than we thought. We thought that in a period of five or six months we would have disposed of the petition in Asaba and gone to the Appeal Court and had a re-run election.
But our opponents had this attitude of filibustering and bringing in silly and irresponsible motions to create delays and then to move from one court to the other seeking irrelevant motions or irrelevant rulings for hopeless motions. That is why we have been away for so long. It is not that we wanted to be away, it is painful and a big sacrifice for us to be away from our people for three and a half years.
You are not free when you challenge a monstrous regime that elections didn’t take place. Maybe you do not understand something about the Electoral Act we have in Nigeria, because if you as a candidate in an election petition die, that is the end of that petition. So, any time you challenge a sitting regime in Nigeria you have to be very careful that you don’t die, because if you die your petition is closed. In any case, about the legacy of Uduaghan in three and a half years, I would like to use one word, waste
Are you not bothered that another aspirant from the same senatorial district with you, Chief Ovie Omo-Agege is preparing to contest the election and could as well spoil your chances. Are you equally prepared to go the whole length of the possible arbitration that could arise from the election?
The case of my brother, Ovie Omo-Agege is akin to what lawyers call invitation to trade. It is not different from what market women or tourists call window shopping, it is an empty, empty exercise. It is not allowed by law, and will not be allowed by law no matter how much campaign or press propaganda that is carried out on this issue because it is a settled issue by the Supreme Court of this country.
Whether it is a re-run, whether it is a fresh election or by whatever name so called, the election to be conducted is deemed to be the election conducted in 2007. so the re-run election we are going to have whenever INEC says this is the date is deemed to be the one conducted on 14th April 2007 and I don’t think that if you went back as far back as 2007 that there is space for anybody to come in because all the issues about nominations and change of candidates are closed.
So, I don’t know why my brother is doing what he is doing, but I only wish that he were able to contest that election so that we will beat him round handsomely and never again will he say that he wants to be a candidate.
If you are asking if we are going for another long distance race, we will tell you that it is not necessary.