By Ephraim Oseji
The Okakuro of Agbon Kingdom, High Chief Wilson Okpubigho, is the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of OK Contractor Group of Companies. Also a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ethiope-East area of Delta State, Okpubigho, in this interview, talks about President Muhammadu Buhari’s efforts to improve the lives of Nigerians, the agitation for restructuring, the moves by the APC to take over Delta, unity in the Urhobo nation and why he wants to use his wealth of experience to elevate his people should he have the opportunity to serve at the state House of Assembly.
Running for the Delta State House of Assembly seat
My people are behind the move to have me represent them at the state House of Assembly because they have seen my strength in terms of politicking and administration and indeed my efforts to help the poor which has always been my cardinal point. I run my own business. But what I have done for my people back home without being in government is enormous. As a businessman, I have employed and empowered many of our youths. I think that is why the pressure on me to contest for elective position is high.
You want to be lawmaker in Delta State believed to be a PDP stronghold and you are in APC. How do hope to achieve that?
I don’t understand what you mean by the ruling party is fully on ground. People keep saying that Delta is a PDP state. But this is a state where PDP never won a free and fair election before. In other words, Delta is not a PDP state. APC is fully on ground in the state. The question I expect you to ask is, what is our plan to defeat the ruling party?
Okay, what is your plan to defeat the ruling party?
Right now I cannot disclose that to you because it is a strategy. But I can tell you that the spirit of change is very high. The people’s eyes are opened. The days of handpicking a candidate to represent the community is over. Everybody is working hard to ensure that the PDP did not occupy the Government House, Asaba come 2019.
In Delta, your party is battling internal crisis that has led to division. How do you think the APC can win 2019 elections with such a divided house?
Crisis in a party is not unusual. Where progressives operate, there could be disagreement. But when it comes to election, they will come together.
Are you saying that with the present division, your party still has the hope of capturing Delta?
Sure! We have 100 per cent hope of taking over Delta just like we just captured Ekiti.
PDP and 30 other political parties are in alliance to defeat your party at the national level. What do you say on the alliance?
That merger is only in newspapers. It is not real. Even if it is real, that will not give PDP the chance. That name PDP is an aberration. Even if they change the name, the characters cannot change. We know them. Some of them came into the APC and smuggled themselves into the National Assembly and alleging marginalization. On what basis are they alleging marginalization? You smuggled yourself into the National Assembly, conducted a mushroom election and you still claim marginalization. How do you measure marginalization? Is it because they are prosecuting you? You could be prosecuted if there are facts that you erred in the course of being in public office. If you say you are being prosecuted for your acts in the past and as such you cannot allow government to run smoothly, no sane government will allow such people to remain perpetually in government. So if they say they are leaving, they are free to go. But I can assure you that some of them who tell you that they are going are not ready to go.
So, you think their leaving APC will have no impact on the party in the 2019 elections.
No impact whatsoever. When the devils are out, the home becomes peaceful.
How do you assess the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari since he assumed office?
The administration has recorded giant strides. Let me start with the South-East. 16 years of the PDP administration left the entire region without infrastructural development. Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway was not motorable before Buhari came into office. There are other federal highways which were totally neglected. The administration of Dr Goodluck Jonathan was a failure in terms of infrastructural development. He is from the South-South and South-East by marriage. He allowed such infrastructural decay throughout his stay in office. To crown it all, we have been clamouring for Second Niger Bridge which is not going to serve only the interest of the easterners but also the interest of the entire nation because the stress people pass through on the bridge during festivities is gargantuan. But since Buhari came into office, and with all the problems coming from the National Assembly which has not allowed the government to move, he has started the Second Niger Bridge and fixed a lot of federal roads in the South-East. That alone, I believe, will deliver the South-East to Buhari in 2019.
The people are crying today because things are tough. I agree with them. It affects me too. But I do not believe in a class of people who live a life that is not real. I do not believe in people who live false lives You know you don’t have this thing, but you pretend to have it and you continue to spend lavishly. We have to turn back to where we were coming from. The British government left this country on a very good note. But we used our own hands to destroy ourselves because of corrupt elements. PMB said no, let’s go back to where we are coming from and build the economy gradually. In the course of building, some people are bound to suffer. The monumental fraud that was going on under Jonathan’s administration has reduced. Because you know if you try it, within a short while, you will be caught. So people are very careful. I believe in the ideology of ‘let us be real’. If you travel out of this country, people look at you suspiciously. We went into recession when the past administration left because they were not telling us the real situation of things. PMB’s government was able to take us out of recession. I believe Buhari’s economic agenda is working. We just need to give ourselves some time to bear the pains and give PMB the opportunity to return to office and correct some of these things.
A man of President Buhari’s status who has ruled this country as a military man before cannot turn himself to a herdsman that kills. There could be some bad elements in government. But the government is doing his best to stop the killings. You know when security agencies are working, they cannot tell you their strategy but, very soon, you will not hear of Boko Haram or killer herdsmen again. Also the killings could be the handiwork of the opposition who one day will be apprehended and prosecuted.
There is the claim that Buhari’s war against corruption is one-sided and that he is using it to witch-hunt the opposition. Could that be true?
I don’t believe that. It is not until you have concrete evidence against a former public officer that you can prosecute him. There must be facts before you can be prosecuted. And the law is there to interpret your facts. I do not know who you want to mention that is supposed to be arrested and has not been arrested.
Do you support the agitation for restructuring of the country?
No sane administrator will object to restructuring. Therefore I support restructuring. But it is difficult to restructure right now because of the fear of the unknown by some people. But I know that this government, with the way things are going, will end up restructuring the country.
As an Urhobo, do you see an Urhobo man emerging as governor of Delta in 2019?
When you asked if we can remove PDP from office in Delta, I said I do not want to reveal the strategy but I can assure that the game is up already. In a democracy, the majority carries the vote. The Urhobo nation is in the majority and all we need is a popular candidate. In order words, I believe an Urhobo candidate will win the governorship election in Delta in 2019.
There is this belief that the Urhobo cannot muster the votes to win the governorship seat because the Urhobo constitute just one senatorial district out of the three in the state. So what are you talking about?
Delta Central is fully occupied by the Urhobos who are related to Delta North in the Abraka axis. We live together and do things in common with Kwale in Delta North. It is also the same thing in Delta South. If you look at the candidate in the making, Chief Great Ovadje Ogboru, is related to the three senatorial zones and that makes him more qualified than anybody in the state. Maternally he is from Delta North, paternally he is from Delta Central and by marriage he is from Delta South. All he needs from the two other senatorial zones is just collaboration and support.
Still on the Urhobo nation, what is the panacea for unity?
The only thing to unite Urhobo is political power. If Great Ogboru comes in tomorrow, the Urhobo will be united. Urhobo is divided today because of hunger. PDP came in with an obnoxious politics of rotation which has turned the state to a winner takes all. The moment a nation adopts the policy of rotation, it is doomed because there will be a lot of pressure from the community which is their turn and as such they will want to take everything. You will see the difference when an APC government comes in. Development should spread across Delta. That is why I keep telling you that under an APC government, the people of the state should go and rest .
What message do you have for the people of your constituency?
They should all get their PVCs so that we can vote out the PDP. They should vote APC. It is a progressive party. It may be rough now, but, at the end of the tunnel, there is light.