By KINGSLEY OMONOBI
Delta State governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, last week, spoke to Sunday Vanguard on the January 6, 2011 gubernatorial re-run election in the state which he won, President Jonathan’s chances in the 2011 elections and the allegation by some elders of the state that he has the penchant for dumping people whom he used to climb.
The recent meeting between governors of the South-South and South East, with even Peter Obi who is not of the PDP stock, is it an alliance for 2011 or are we likely to see a merger?
Something is building up in that direction (alliance) but it is not a merger, it is an understanding. They (APGA) don’t have a presidential candidate, we have but they will come and support us to deliver our presidential candidate. That is why I said that it is an understanding.
Now, what we are doing; let me put that in proper perspective, President Jonathan has emerged as the PDP candidate but the presidential primary election is just a part of the process of making him the president beyond May 29, 2011. The real process is the main election in April and we as governors don’t just want to say that he has emerged in the primary and sit down; we need to prepare for the April election. So that meeting really was our first move in trying to prepare for the April elections.
The PDP governors of the South-South, South-East and the APGA governor came together to appraise what happened at the primary and to map out strategies on how to win the poll. In the next few days, we are also going to make other moves; we are going to develop on that relationship beyond the two regions. We are moving into other regions.
Politics is a game of numbers; it is about lobbying, consultations.
What is PDP’s decision about the position of chairmanship and will the discussion with APGA take into account the Igbo’s desire for the presidency in 2015?
We are not discussing that and we have never discussed that and I don’t think we are going to discuss that anyway. The issue of power shift or no power shift; the issue of who becomes the president after President Goodluck Jonathan, these are things that I don’t think anybody will want to put on the table now. What we want to focus on is how we deliver President Jonathan in the April elections.
What are your plans towards reconciliation with aggrieved party members and prominent citizens of your state after your victory in the gubernatorial rerun election?
I usually have three boxes set aside where I put such issues for deliberation. In one of the boxes I put people who whatever you do to reconcile them or try to appease them, they will never, no matter what you do, even give them your blood; they will never be ready to put the interest of the people first.
There is another box containing people who may not be loyal to you or your administration but if you are able to convince them to see reason with what you are doing, they would change. Of course, there is also the box of those who are loyal, core loyalists who always believe with you, who always are there for you.
If you focus on the box of those who will never change, you tend to lose people from the middle box and annoy people from the loyalist box. If you focus only on the box where you have people that are neither here nor there to the detriment of the loyalists, they may interpret it that you are ignoring them and they may not be too happy. What am I saying? For that box where people will never change, all I do is just to watch them, their next move, because they are always making moves, one mischievous move or another.
But in the middle box really, that is where I am concentrating on, to see how we can bring as many of them as possible back while also keeping the loyalty of the third box by encouraging them to continue to work for us. Specifically on how we are trying to convince those in the middle box, we are reappraising them. In the next few months, we will assess our working conditions and do one or two things to win the confidence of the people.
One of the allegations against you that led to some elders and a sizeable number of your supporters working against you in the last election is that you dump people after using them to climb up. How true is this? Some said that during your campaigns, you promised them good access roads to their communities, potable water, electricity which were not fulfilled?
Let me correct that. I never made such promises to anybody. I am very conscious in making promises. First of all, I am not a neophyte in politics. I didn’t start politics from the position of governor. I was a commissioner, I was SSG, and so I know what is on ground. I know my capabilities.
So, there was no where one person will tell me oh, I said I was going to construct this road. Now when you are going about, people can make a request and say construct this road. I never made commitments to any community. I can challenge any community or anybody who said I made commitment to him or her. Now, why I wanted you to be specific is because I have heard stories of, oh this one supported you and now he is on the other side. Of course you know that there were so many people who oppose me even to the last minute.
Even after the election, they were still in court. In fact, I think I am one of the most opposed governors in 2007 and it was even worse in 2010. Fine, after the election, I even tried to make moves to many of them. Now, some were giving me some very impossible conditions, very, very impossible conditions and some said, ‘okay, we’ve settled’. But we’ve settled and the next moment they are doing something else.
To me that is not good. In fact, there was one I talked to yesterday. I said ‘ I thought you said your quarrel is not with me but with Chief James Onanefe Ibori, I went to him and we talked and we settled but he has not done anything. ‘The next day, you were somewhere in another meeting.
Of course, I have to assess whether you are really genuine or not’. So that is why this issue of I made promises cannot hold water. I didn’t make promises to anybody. Okay there is one, yes we talked and I said I will consider the issue but then I also gave my conditions. That in your local government, ‘I have senior people from your local government; deputy governor is from your local government.
You don’t recognize my deputy governor, yet you say you settled with me? It’s not possible. So whatever we even talked about in terms of settlement, one condition is that you must respect my deputy governor because if you don’t respect my deputy governor, how do I move; that is why I wanted you to be specific. Settlement is both ways, it’s like the bus conductor, that will say, every day you de ask for change (cash) change; you yourself when you go bring change too’. So change is both ways.
The animosity towards you by Chief EK Clark, what do you think is responsible for this and what is the way out? Is there a personal quarrel we don’t know about?
There is no personal quarrel and I have asked the question publicly and he has also tried to answer the question by saying I am corrupt; I was imposed by Chief James Ibori. Well, we went for re-election; Chief James Onanefe Ibori wasn’t there. He is trying to talk about corruption but there is nothing specific that he has said. I know during this period he did a lot, to try and bring issues of corruption.
The truth is that as secretary to government, you do not have approval limit beyond N1million. What I am saying is that there has been a lot, that has been done to pull me down but I am here.
What has been the lessons you learnt during your sabbatical?
I will say the period I was out of office gave me the opportunity to analyse and understand people better. What I also came to know is that there are many fair-weather friends around you. When it’s good, it’s good; when it’s bad, it’s goodbye.
There are those who of course it’s not totally bad yet, from their assessment. All I will say is that every day, when you wake up, just pray to God because he is the only one that can protect you. There are a lot of persons who I will say are very trustworthy. But there are few who you think that they are trustworthy but they are really not trustworthy.
Now the former governor is facing several charges. Are you doing anything about it?
Of course he has his challenges and I think he has a lot in his hands dealing with these challenges. I just want to leave it at that.
Does that mean he has been dumped?
No, no, no. First of all, we are related by blood. There is no way I can sit here and say I want to disown him. I will not do that. We all have challenges; I mean he has his peculiar challenge as a person. We have our family challenges; no matter how you see it, what is happening to him has family challenge; we have our family challenges. So I do not disown him.
What is your opinion regarding the statement of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) to sanction governors who voted for President Goodluck Jonathan at the primary and the insistence that the north must produce the next president?
My attitude is that they have made their point but we will go to them or we should go to them and discuss with them and try to soften them. This is politics; we must try and win their hearts. It is not a politics of saying that they have made that statement, we must counter the statement.
And we should not ask them why they made that statement or if they don’t know it is wrong to make that kind of statement or argue with them that don’t you know it is our turn or it must be our turn. That is not politics. The north is very, very significant and very important to the 2011 polls. So, it is left for us to also go to them and say, ‘look, you have said this but for XYZ reasons, can you not just look at what we are saying, consider it and support President Jonathan?
Those are the kind of things we will discuss with them. I also want to appeal to our people that they should not react to such statement with another hot statement; it does not help matters at all. We should just examine what they have said and try to soften them.
There is the allegation that the votes that brought ‘you back to power’ were procured in Warri and the riverine areas?
Let us say we are in a room and we are about 20. We can have 10 people in another room and they say, go for an election. You will be surprised that at the end, you might have more people from the room with 10 people, voting more than the people from the room with 20 persons.
Of the 20 persons, only three might vote while eight of the 10 other persons might vote. So, relatively, you now ask, why there are more votes from the smaller room than the bigger room. The thing is this; the issue of population is subjective. If you go back to the last population census, it is not true that you have more people in the upland areas of Delta State than the riverine communities of Delta, made of Warri and so on.
If you look at those who registered to vote in the state, the truth is that the Warri area of these people have been surviving on elections. In fact if you look at the elections from Mid-West, Bendel, even up till now, you have always had majority of the votes coming from the Warri axis. This is not the first time we are having majority of the votes from that side.