By Festus Ahon & Ochuko Akuopha
OLOROGUN John U Oguma is one of the founding members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Delta State. Having contributed immensely to the growth of the party in the state, Oguma is often referred to as one of the strong pillars of the PDP. In this interview, he speaks on the achievements of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and chances of the PDP in the 2019 general elections.
It will be three years on May 29, 2018 since Governor Ifeanyi Okowa assumed office. What is your assessment of the governor’s performance?
Governor Okowa came into office with a well thought out plan to add value to the lives of Deltans, irrespective of political, social and cultural affiliations. Here is a governor who came into office at a time when revenue receipts to the state were at the lowest ebb.
In spite of this daunting challenge, that was occasioned by the poor price of oil at the international market and vandalization of oil and gas installations in the Niger Delta, particularly here in Delta State, the governor moved on with his human and capital development agenda which today has transformed all parts of the state.
Okowa, in his wisdom, has taken governance to the rural and riverine communities connecting them to the urban centres through the construction of intra and inter-community roads.
Today, there is massive road construction, completed and on-going across the three senatorial districts. There is road construction in Escavos, Ogulaha clan, Yokri, Obotobo One and Two, Burutu, Okerenkoko and environs, thus giving them a facelift. In the area of political appointments, he has ensured that virtually every community in the state has representation in his administration, thereby giving everybody a sense of belonging.
The governor, on assumption of office, came up with what he termed the SMART Agenda. How would you say he has fared in meeting his promise of bringing prosperity to Deltans?
Governor Okowa, as someone who has been in touch and abreast with the yearnings and aspirations of his people, was not unmindful of the massive youth unemployment in the state. In a bid to tackle the problem, the governor established a Job Creation Office with the mandate to train and equip the teeming youths of the state in skills of their choices.
Today, over 10, 000 direct and indirect jobs have been created by his administration. The Job Creation Office has trained, equipped and empowered over 3,000 youths in skills such as poultry farming, piggery, shoe making, confectioneries, generator repairs, among others.
Beneficiaries of this initiative have become employers of labour, thereby reducing crime wave in the state. Some of these beneficiaries were trained under the Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programme, STEP, and Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme, YAGEP, in addition to various youth empowerment programmes in the state.
The opposition APC has been accusing the Okowa’s administration of being insensitive to the plight of workers and pensioners and that his administration is bringing untold hardship to Deltans. What is your take on this?
This is laughable. It shows that our opposition brothers in the state are either ignorant of the workings of government or are mischief makers. Now, this is a governor that is not owing civil servants, a governor that is working round the clock to make life more meaningful for both civil servants and pensioners in the midst of scarce resources. As we speak, Delta is one of the few states in the federation that is up to date with the payment of salaries.
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa is sensitive to the plight of Deltans and has been assisting local governments in the state in the payment of their workers. Local government workers have been receiving their monthly salaries while the backlogs are being defrayed even though it is not a direct responsibility of the state government. These allegations are aimed at projecting the government in a negative light, but the governor has remained focused and resolute in his efforts to fulfil his electioneering campaign promises.
2019 is around the corner, what do you think are the chances of your party, the PDP, in winning governorship and other elections in the state?
The taste of the pudding is in the eating. We are about going into elections; Governor Okowa’s overwhelming performance in all sectors speaks volumes and will surely earn the PDP and all its candidates good votes in Delta. Delta is a PDP state and the party has come to stay, the mischievous moves of the APC, notwithstanding.
APC is one party that is not on ground and has no structure to win elections in Delta. APC is a confused party made up of confused politicians who have no direction; Deltans are too wise to allow themselves to be deceived by this bunch of uncoordinated political actors.
For over two years, APC has been in supremacy crisis. Since 1999, PDP in Delta has always spoken in one voice and has its taproots in all the nooks and crannies in the state. So, how do you expect a confused party without a defined leadership like the APC to be a threat to PDP? There is no gainsaying the fact that 2019 will be a walk over for the PDP, a party that has done so much for Deltans.
As a prominent Urhobo politician in Delta State, do you see the Urhobos voting for Okowa in 2019, considering allegations of lopsided appointments by his administration?
Don’t be deceived by the antics of the opposition and political jobbers, the Urhobos will vote massively for the PDP in all elections in 2019. Don’t forget that the PDP, from 1999 till date, has carried the Urhobos along both at the federal and state levels.
This is about the first time that the Urhobos are grossly marginalized at the federal level despite the fact that it is the fifth if not the fourth largest ethnic nationality in the country. Here in Delta, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and the PDP gave the Urhobos and other ethnic groups in the state their fair share in terms of political appointments and infrastructural development.
Going by this, I can tell you that the Urhobos are for the PDP. We the Urhobos are no fools; it is safer and better for us in the Central to support the re-election of Okowa. We must not forget that our son, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, did two terms, and our brother, Dr Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, from the South, also did two terms; therefore, it is only fair and just to allow Okowa, from the North, who is doing very well despite the economic downturn, to get a second term. It will be foolish of us to vote for another person from Delta North in 2019, knowing well that he will seek re-election in 2023.
It is a common knowledge that the Urhobos and Ika people have political affiliation from the days of NCNC till date. The Ikas supported Jereton Mariere, Felix Ibru and James Ibori. The Ika people even voted for the late Chief Daniel Okumagba of NPN in 1979.
What do you have to say about former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s letter to President Muhammadu Buhari?
Obasanjo spoke the minds of Nigerians. The Buhari-led APC administration has failed Nigerians in all aspects of governance. This is a government that cannot even guarantee security of lives and property in the country, let alone putting food on their table. Under the watch of Buhari, thousands of Nigerians are being killed and maimed by rampaging herdsmen.
Today, majority of Nigerians cannot afford three square meals daily due to the poor economic policies of the APC government; fuel has gone far out of the reach of the poor; cost of staple food has also gone up, people find it difficult to pay medical bills and meet their social and economic obligations.
The dollar has continued to rise against the naira; the future of Nigerians is bleak under the Buhari government. I therefore implore President Muhammadu Buhari to heed the wise counsel of Olusegun Obasanjo by quitting office and bidding himself goodbye from Aso Rock in 2019. The National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, had, in his acceptance speech at the Eagle Square on December 10, 2017, served quit notice on the Buhari government, Obasanjo only reaffirmed the position of the PDP