Chief Thompson K.Okorotie, fondly called TKO by his associates and admirers, is one of the foundation members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Bayelsa State. He is the PDP Elders Committee Secretary in the state and also the scribe, Bayelsa Elders Forum. He spoke on the PDP national leadership crisis and the way forward for the troubled party as well as contentious issues in the Niger Delta region urging the people to have faith in the President Muhammadu Buhari led federal government effort to address the problem of the region. He also bared his mind on the administration of Governor Seriake Dickson. Excerpts:
By Samuel Oyadongha
AS a member of the PDP, how would you react to the crisis rocking the national leadership of the party?
The lingering crisis at the national leadership of our great party, the Peoples Democratic Party is a source of serious worry to us who are foundation members of the party. And as Secretary of the PDP Bayelsa State Chapter Elders Committee, we feel worried that some players at the national level do not seem to be thinking about the best interest of the party.
The struggle and conflict had gone on for too long. It has been a big task for the National Reconciliation Committee headed by our own governor, the governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson. We were quite pleased when in recent times a decision was taken that a political solution was the best road because after the Port Harcourt Court of Appeal judgement was given and Senator Sheriff declared as the national chairman of the party. That is why some people believe that there are deliberate plans by other parties to whittle its power down as much as possible.
The reconciliation committee has submitted its report after its consultations with the party critical stakeholders, what does this portend for the party?
I believe that it will to a large extent be the template for moving the party forward because you cannot be stagnant in a place and expect that things will work out. The different issues have been looked at severally at different fora and yet we have not been able to put the people together. But now that Sheriff is saying he is not going to contest and everybody is going to resign, the best way is to go to the convention. I think the report was very clear, if your tenure was to expire in August let them sacrifice for the party. It is to my mind the best way to ease Sheriff out when this report was given. But I believe that the reconciliation committee should be supported and let us go to convention so that we can stabilise the party and work towards the year 2019.
You said political solution is best option but the matter is before the court.
The matter is before the Supreme Court. What I am trying to say is that it is not fair that we just fold our hands waiting for court decision, the time for which we cannot determine right now. So, we should learn from our past and I believe that going to the convention is a very good way out. But that does not stop anybody from approaching the Supreme Court and when that decision comes they should abide by it.
How would you react to President Buhari’s directive to the vice president to take charge of the Niger Delta discussion?
It is a welcome development. Those of us in PANDEF and indeed the overwhelming majority of the Niger Delta people have confidence in the Vice President. The journeys, the travels and visits that he made to states he has covered so far have reawakened confidence. It has doused tension in the region, particularly when he directed that the oil companies should relocate to their states of operation which is what is practised abroad. So, we believe that the Vice President, who is working so hard and who was sent by Mr. President to do what he is doing, is the right person that has been appointed. I am sure that PANDEF is pleased.
But some have expressed reservation about the sincerity of the Federal Government directing the International Oil Companies, IOCs, to relocate to the Niger Delta.
I don’t think we need to express doubt on this. With time we shall see. Let me tell you it is too early to see the desired result. Relocating is not easy, it takes time. It takes planning and it has come at a time they were not prepared. So they need to plan, strategise and so it is too early.