•Why Wike, Fayose, PDP Governors turned against Sheriff
Dr. Cairo Ojugboh, the immediate past national vice-chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP was a central player in the crisis that recently enveloped the opposition party having served as the Deputy National Chairman to Senator Ali Modu Sheriff before the court invalidated that tendency of the party.
A former member of the House of Representatives, the medical doctor turned politician spoke on issues pertaining to the APC, the Federal Government and his home state, Delta in an interview. Excerpts.
By Dapo Akinrefon
What necessitated your movement from the PDP to the APC?
My interest in politics has always been people. I look at myself as an example, from a very humble background. My father died when I was very, very young, and he was the breadwinner of the family, yet I was able to continue my education from secondary school in my village and from there, went to the University of Benin. I have had the best of everything in my time. That is not possible now in Nigeria. So, how do we deliver the dividends of democracy to the people?
That was the vehicle I had been looking for. When I joined PDP, I believed that the PDP would have done it, but of course we have seen the PDP gradually rise from the vines that are germane to the hearts and minds of people to the extent that the party had to be voted out of power. And even being voted out of power, the party still learnt nothing. You can see how impunity led to crisis in the party, you have seen how impunity even now is waging war against the party.
How can the party say that the position of chairman of a party cannot be micro-zoned in the South just because they have been influenced, because they have a candidate, and want to produce Uche Secondus and the reason they want to produce Uche Secondus is very simple and that is why we left the party.
What is the reason?
The reason is because of Wike. Wike’s treasury bag is huge. It attracts the party leaders like a magnet! That is the only reason. Ordinarily, the party leaders know that what is best for the party is to keep the chairmanship of the party in the Southwest.
If Secondus emerges as the chairman of the party, you will see what is going to happen.
When you talk about impunity, you were yourself not long ago the national vice chairman of the party and part of the impunity that you are now talking about?
You see in the PDP, there are two camps; the progressives and the conservatives. I have always been a progressive and progressive minded people in the party are the ones fighting impunity, but the conservatives hang on to the control of the party because they have money with which they use to bribe the system. So, the issue of me, being part of the party, yes; but I had always insisted on the right things being done.
I will give you an example. I was made chairman of the Nigerian Exports Processing Zone Authority. When I got to the place, I saw the way the place was being run. The M.D. suddenly came up one day and said that he had employed 75 persons, I said no, that is not right. The board has not discussed that, but he said no, that a (former high official in the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation) did that. I said no, that is not right that it is the board that should give approval first to the minister and then to the SGF. That anything short of that is unacceptable.
In the same NEPZA we were told that the Centenary City was a free zone, I said no, that a centenary zone in the centre of Abuja that we must look into it and he (former government official in the Office of the SGF) said no, that I had no right as chairman to argue. I said no and I stood my grounds.
That is what we need in this country, men with conscience. I will not accept a mess of pottage to break my conscience. I will not. You can say anything you like about me. Look at what is going on in Delta State, we bring issues, they start to tell lies, they go to the internet to attack my person and my name. Just because I am telling them the truth. It cannot continue.
You talk of mess of pottage, but you were accused of accepting a mess of pottage to destroy PDP alongside Senator Ali Modu Sheriff.
Today you have seen, there is no way that my asking for the party to do what is right will now mean destroying the PDP. You have seen that we went to court and what we sought to stop in court, that is impunity is continuing today in PDP.
They will not allow people to vote their conscience. They are going to a convention and they are handpicking people and they are imposing people, is that a party that will grow Nigeria? That accusation is what I find ridiculous and it is most unfortunate.
But it is said that Sheriff came into the PDP and you a PDP veteran despite all persuasions helped to stabilise him and fan his bid to destroy the PDP against the injunction of the mainstream of the party?
Let me tell you, as a politician I work with my conscience. If you recall during Obasanjo’s first term, the Southwest did not particularly support him; did they? But as soon as Obasanjo won they rallied round him to be able to hold his position and prosecute his second term. I didn’t bring Sheriff. I was the strongest voice against him. I went everywhere to campaign against him that the method through which they were bringing Sheriff was illegal. That was my position. After bringing Sheriff, you want to disgrace him? You brought him and you now saw that he would not buy your impunity agenda, because you know the man has the capacity and the capability to say the right thing and do the right thing, because you didn’t know that he was a very strong person. You didn’t know that he has a vision. The man came up with an idea that I had been looking for, that had been the mainstay of my politics, to return the party to the grassroots, to fight impunity and when he started speaking like that, the people who brought him said, oh no.
Who brought him?
Wike, Fayose. They went to bring the man from his house. I told them the way you people are bringing Sheriff is wrong. I told them and they said, “you, Dr. Cairo, national vice-chairman of the party, you are arguing with me, a governor?” That was what Wike told me.
I said, ‘Wike, yes, today, you are a governor, I respect your position but remember, very well what Nnamdi Azikiwe told Ukpabi Asika, “That the lorry that brought him from Onitsha to Lagos that what they wrote on it is ‘No Condition is Permanent.” I told him that. As it would happen his condition and his position changed and my condition and position changed. That is life for you. I told him, no condition is permanent.
People have also questioned your sense of loyalty. You were seen like a son to Chief Tony Anenih. What happened between the two of you?
Chief Tony Anneih has retired from party politics. Do you expect me to retire with him?
Even while he was still in politics, you sided with Sheriff against his injunctions?
Has Chief Anenih come out to tell you that he was against Sheriff?
He is our political father.
He is still your political father?
Yes! We have a very good relationship.
Even while you are in APC?
Do you know where he is?
What is your assessment of the APC government that you have just joined?
To be very honest with you, you cannot build a house if you do not have a solid foundation. Nigeria needs reformation. The foundation is very, very weak. Extremely weak. It has leaked water, the foundation is in rot and what has caused this is impunity and corruption. Nigeria will not move forward if corruption is not tackled heads on. There is nothing you will do for Nigeria to progress and proceed and move forward if corruption is not checkmated. If the only result Buhari’s government will target and address is corruption, then we would have repaired the foundation of the country and that is what he is doing very well.
The critics of the president’s anti-corruption crusade have no solid defence. They will tell you that it is lopsided which I have not noticed.
You have seen the former SGF he has been handed over to the anti-corruption team, the former DG of the NIA has also been handed over.
They have not been handed over. It was only recommended that they should be prosecuted.
That means that they have been handed over.
But they have not been prosecuted and that is more than a year after the indictment was first raised.
But you know how wheel of justice grinds, it grinds slowly because the English legal system is built on the maxim that it is better for one million criminals to be set free than for one innocent man to suffer injustice. The legal system processes and grinds slowly to its legal conclusion. Of course, the two persons have been relieved of their positions. What else do you expect the president to do? The big fishes are now being picked up one by one and the anti-corruption agents are doing their work and you should know that corruption is very powerful also.
Can you mention one big fish in this administration among those who have been indicted that has faced prosecution?
If they are indicted, they would be picked up. See, people just sit down and speculate that this person has taken money or that.
Can you mention one person apart from PDP chieftains that has been picked up?
Babachir Lawal and Oke, you heard the president say that he has recommended them to the anti-corruption agencies. I have named two! You heard the EFCC say that they are setting up a crack team to investigate them. I have named two. You said I should name one, I have named two!
Your party in Delta State seems to be organizing. Do you have the capacity to challenge the PDP administration in the state?
We are reengineering the party, we are re-working the party to elicit and propagate correct opposition mechanism in Delta State. If you look at the party manifesto and if you look at what they want to do in Delta State, Deltans cant wait for it to happen.
You talk of removing Okowa who as an outsider came in and removed the choice of an incumbent governor. So how can you do that?
Who did he defeat? That was within the PDP.