Senator Francis Spanner Okpozo is a Second Republic Senator and an elder statesman. In this interview with Vanguard in Benin City, the Isoko-born leader urged President Goodluck Jonathan to stay away from the godfathers in his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in order not to derail on his campaign promises. He commended what he described as the democratic manner, the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal emerged and said it was a signal that the era of godfatherism was gone in the politics of the nation. He spoke on why Delta elders were against Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State among other issues. Excerpts:
BY SIMON EBEGBULEM
What are your expectations from the new government being formed by President Goodluck Jonathan?
He should stay away from sycophants and those godfathers in his PDP. Jonathan became President not by his earlier good work but he came there to rule Nigeria by design. His coming is by God’s dictate not by his efforts or previous antecedents that people considered to be alright for the well being of this country. He is a child of circumstance. Jonathan who came from one of the smallest states in this country was fortunate to get the position. In his period of administration with President Yar’Adua, he showed total humility and total submission to Yar’Adua. He clearly made the world realise that he has fear of God in mind.
When Yar’Adua died, he took the family closely and participated very well during the burial of the former President despite what happened earlier on as regards the health of his late boss. He won the admiration of everybody whether Ijaw or Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo or any tribe in the country. He did not win the admiration of the people because he was President under the PDP. People saw that he can handle the political affairs of this country, therefore he was looking for the maximum cooperation of Nigerians irrespective of their tribe. Election results are clear on this very point.
Jonathan’s administration is an administration that will continue to receive the support of Nigerians because of the result of what he has done. Look at the issue of the management of the oil sector and the oil companies in this country. Before he became the President of this country, no refinery was working. Petroleum products were being imported from abroad and people were sleeping in petrol stations. But since the advent of his administration, he has with a good Minister, Dieziani Madueke, corrected all these abuses. What her tenure has disclosed to us is that all those who were petroleum ministers before her, were allies of the cartel in the oil industry all over the world. So they never cared about the sufferings of Nigerians. I will say right away that no amount of pressure from the outside world or inside Nigeria, should influence the decision of Mr President, to remove that woman. He should re_assign it back to her if he does not want Nigerians to suffer more especially in the area of management of the oil companies.
Besides the oil sector, we know that the President has spent some money on the PHCN but something is still wrong there. He should properly look into the problem in the power sector. All these years nothing has changed so he should work hard to make some changes in that sector because what Nigerians actually needs now is power. If there is steady power, many industries will take off and the economy will be boosted. Again, infrastructures, education should be paramount in his mind.
That takes me to the appointment of ministers. He should appoint ministers, who are professionals. He should not bring somebody from the field of agriculture to head the Education Ministry. He should not make any appointment based on political affiliations. Politicians only go there, look for what they want and dump good ideas. That does not mean that he should not appoint the good ones. But majority of them should be people who are from the new breed.
We have a lot of them in this country and there is no need to recycle people every time. Let the old hands go because they have caused a lot of deficiencies in all sectors of the economy of this country. The President should put young men who are talented, who have knowledge of the field to take over the administration of most of these Ministries. Political considerations should stop. If other political parties agree to participate in the administration, the President should look at the qualified ones there and make them ministers. I will not want him to dwell on PDP alone.
Jonathan should also watch out for the activities of god fathers in his PDP. If you have been in a political party for so many years, you have been a President of this country, either during the military, or civilian, you have tested that position and nothing was found good in you and you are still interested in ruling the nation quietly, then Jonathan is selling his liberty and the trust Nigerians gave to him. If you have been President of this country, stay in your house.
If you are chairman of the PDP or former Chairman of Board of Trustees of the PDP, stay at home. If you are a former chairman of Board of Trustees of PDP stay at home. All these people have faded away because even in their home towns they are no longer relevant. Jonathan should leave those people alone and face Nigerians because these people will deceive him to the detriment of Nigerians and he will not enjoy what Nigerians will do to him if he fails them. If these god fathers think they are being smart, the disgrace they will receive from the younger ones if they refuse to leave Jonathan lone, will be too much for them to handle.
What is your take on the PDP zoning formula?
As regards the PDP zoning, I want to say that the areas where democracy has succeeded so far in the world, political parties do not zone offices. Look at America, Obama came from Illinois, a small state but he is ruling America today. Nobody zones offices in Britain, which colonised us. So where did we learn this zoning from? I know that the Northerners have been dominating in the past years but having settled that matter, with the coming of Jonathan, nobody should rely on zoning. The Northerners have realized that those who have been occupying positions must be changed. Zoning should not be a priority this time around. Nigerians should look for better men and women who can manage the affairs of this country.
Why is zoning so much in the minds of our people? It is because of the fear that when Jonathan concludes his tenure it will go to the North and the North may keep it for a long period. This is a character they have displayed before. But they should not forget that during the voting of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, southerners voted for Tambuwal, who is from the North. It means that people have realised that the issue of zoning is no longer relevant in our political system. Even if you allow the North to continue to hold power, time will come when they will be divided because they will definitely have disagreements among themselves. And in that case, the South will unite and that will lead to agitations for disintegration.
So, let us look for good men and women that can help handle the affairs of this country and elect them into offices. What the House of Representatives has done is the right thing. How can matured men like that sit there and somebody with gray hair will be dictating to them whom to make Speaker? For such old men to even sit at the gallery of the House of Reps and be watching the proceeding of the House is even an insult to the intelligence of Nigerians. Let those people go to their houses and wait for the days God gave them rather than going there to tele-guide the proceedings of the House.
And I want to advise Mr President to stay away from these people because they are working indirectly against him and he may not know now. The House of Representatives did a marvelous work and I urge all Houses of Assembly to emulate them by doing the same to their Governors. Nobody should dictate to anybody because when they are teleguiding the House they are undermining the intelligence of those who even voted them into power.
And let me also warn that those who are intruding into the affairs of Delta State from other states should remove their hands from Delta affair because when we respond, it will be terrible. We are elders so they will not claim to be in politics before some of us who are here now watching events. I am warning those people in PDP who call themselves leaders from other states who come to Delta to plant godfatherism. Godfathers should stop in their states and in their homes, they should stop coming to Delta State.
Why did some elders in Delta State opposed to Governor Uduaghan?
Governor Uduaghan has not done anything to me and I don’t think he has done anything to the elders in Delta State. All I am saying is that his administration did not favour my people, the Isoko people. And we have the same problem in most areas in Delta State and that is why you see the elders fighting him. I stand on the side of Isoko people, even if he is doing every thing to please our people, until I am satisfied I will not give support to him. And many of my people will not support him, let those who are making noise continue to make noise. We will continue to fight until we are satisfied. If he had done anything for Isoko people like him come out and show us what he has done for our people.
Recently, he appointed Macauly, one of our sons as the Secretary to the State Government (SSG). If we did not cry out would he have ever thought of appointing any Isoko man for that position? However, Macauly is going to be Uduaghan’s own secretary not secretary to the people of the state. We want to see physical development of Isoko land. Development of roads, schools and hospitals.
You are in Benin here are you not seeing what Oshiomhole is doing? So, why is Uduaghan not copying what is happening in his neighouring state? He passes through Benin so he should know. But the problem is that he has a lot of sycophants around him who do not tell him the truth. So until my people in Isoko are satisfied, I will not give my support.