By Lekan Bilesanmi
Mr. Smart Asekutu, President, Delta Ijaw Peace Movement (DIPM) and a top brass of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Delta State, in this interview, speaks about the 2015 elections, especially the chances of President Goodluck Jonathan and the emergence of Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa as the gubernatorial candidate of PDP in the state, among other issues.
Are you in the vanguard of those canvassing for the re-election of President Goodluck Jonathan in the 2015 election?
Yes. Jonathan as president of this country and from where he came from in mind, people really don’t expect so much because generally they assumed that he would not be able to perform but between you and I, today in the area of power, road and infrastructure, even in terms of our economy, he has done wonderfully well. To this end, if somebody is performing or he has performed beyond our imagination, I don’t see any reason he should not continue. So, I am very much in support of President Jonathan coming back come 2015 to continue the good works that we all know that he is doing.
Let us narrow it down to the Niger Delta. How has he done well for your people?
If you look at Niger Delta today, you will discover that the issues of insecurity and militancy have become a thing of the past because Jonathan initiated processes that guarantee peace and security in the region though we still have pockets of kidnapping here and there but the militancy in the region had been put under control such that today, the oil companies are operating unhindered and oil production is increasing.
Today, look at the East/West Road, though there were a lot of issues but in recent time they already positioned contractors so that by 2015 they will commission this road. We have a maritime school in Okerenkoko in Delta State and the EPZ project is also underway in Delta state. These are major projects that will at the end of the day provide jobs to people.
What is your reaction to the emergence of Senator Ifeanyi Okowa as the gubernatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Delta State?
His emergence as PDP’s flag bearer is a welcome development and this calls for celebration because Okowa is a man that can be trusted with the resources of the state and he is a man that has worked with those in power today. He has moved progressively in his political career, regardless of the opposition. Even in the contest for the ticket of the PDP, he was opposed in a manner that ordinarily nobody wants to think that he would win the primary. He is a man that we are very sure of, that he can deliver if given the opportunity to serve as governor.
He was a one time commissioner, SSG and now a senator and delegates decided to vote according to their conscience because of his track record of public service. He has done so many things that could speak for him as a man to be trusted. He was not backed by any godfather but the grassroots decided he should be the candidate of the ruling party in the state and that is why every member of PDP in Delta is very happy that Okowa is the flag bearer of the party.
Do you think Okowa can confront the candidates of the opposition parties, especially those of APC and Labour Party (LP)?
People believe that things should be done fairly and that things should be shared equally. The other day Chief Edwin Clark said that this time around whoever that would become governor should come from the Delta North because they believe that it is the time for a Deltan of the Delta North extraction to become governor.
Yes, we heard some people complaining here and there but genuine people of Delta know that this time it is the time of Delta North to produce the governor and so, today, Okowa is from that region and I would think that every well-meaning Deltan would give him their support, they will do what is right by voting for Okowa because all other candidates are not from that region. When you are trying to do something against what we think it is the right thing, to start with, it does not show that you are a good leader because when you cannot stay and work for what people believe is right, I don’t know where we are going with that kind of person.
Are you aware of the protests by some sections of the Urhobo and Isoko against what they termed betrayal by the Ijaw of Delta South?
We have been reading some text messages by some faceless persons concerning that, we don’t know who are behind that action. It is not out of place for people to complain but I want to mention here that we need to be careful. You don’t just complain because what you desire is not in place or that you don’t get what you wanted, therefore, the best thing is to destroy. It is not good enough.
Today, the Ijaw, the Urhobo, the Isoko, we are one. We need each other to succeed in everything we have to do and so we cannot go to the extreme because you wanted something and you did not get it and then you condemn a whole tribe. The Urhobo have produced governors. After the tenure of Okowa, we will always have this kind of moment. So, you cannot just sit back and say because it did not happen the way you wanted it, then you started calling people wrong names.
Specifically, how do you react to the name calling against the person of Chief Government Ekpemukpolo, alias Tompolo?
It is so worrisome. A lot of people may not have known who Tompolo is. One thing I will say for sure here, the kind of struggle Tompolo was in, in the Niger Delta region, if he is a wicked man, he will not even survive a day; if he is a man that is tribalistic, he will not even survive one day. This is one man, who lives a very upright life even at a time he was a militant leader in the Niger Delta and today why are people respecting him all round the Niger Delta and beyond? It is because this man does not represent one ethnic group but the Niger Delta region. All that he was trying to do is to ensure that there is good life for the people of the Niger Delta region. We should stop insulting people who have worked hard to make life meaningful for us.