Comrade Monday Agbeyi is a chieftain of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in Delta State. In this interview, Agbeyi speaks on the contest for the Senate ahead of 2019 in Delta South among other issues.
What is your take on the senatorial ambition of former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan?
Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan did very well as governor between 2007 and 2015 and, for that reason, we are prepared to support his ambition to represent Delta South in the red chamber come 2019.
There is the rumour that he wants to decamp to the All Progressives Congress. What do you think?
There are individual differences. I am Comrade Monday Agbeyi, there is no way I can be the same person as Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan. There may be certain things which he may have seen that must have necessitated the rumour. Meanwhile we don’t know how credible the rumour is. So we have to wait and see how events unfold. Nothing is permanent in politics except change. And if you assess the parties in Nigeria, you will find out that most of them don’t have good manifestoes. That is why many people are clamoring for independent candidacy. Independent candidacy will go a long way in solving a lot of problems but because that has not been enshrined in the Electoral Act or the Constitution, people now move from one party to the other in order to get candidacy. If somebody defects from one party to another, I want to believe it’s because there is no provision for independent candidacy in the Electoral Act.
What necessitated the agitation by the Itsekiri that Delta South senatorial seat should be zoned to them?
About 12 years ago, the three major ethnic groups in Delta South came together to form a body called ‘Three I’s’. The ethnic groups used the body to struggle for the governorship seat to come to Delta South. At the time we thought that Delta Central wanted to lay perpetual claim to the governorship seat. Our agitation then was for power to shift from Delta Central to Delta South. It was on that basis that power shifted from Delta South to Delta North. On that basis too, in 1999, when this dispensation started, Senator Stella Omu, an Isoko woman, was the first person to represent Delta South in the red chamber. At the expiration of her tenure, the three ethnic groups came together to say it was time for the Ijaw to go to the Senate and Dr. Uduaghan was instrumental and at the forefront of the struggle, in spite of the fact that the relationship between the Ijaw and the Itsekiri then was not too cordial. He stood against the wish of other Itsekiri to say Senator James Manger must represent Delta South then. Now, after taking the slot for four terms of 16 years, I think there is nothing wrong if the senatorial seat is zoned to the Itsekiri. Although the seat is not meant for ethnic sharing, for equity and fairness, it should be zoned to the Itsekiri. If Dr Uduaghan says he want to run for Senate, there is nothing wrong if the Ijaw and the Isoko give him their support because one good turn deserves another. Since he supported Senator Manager at that time even against the wish of his people, there is nothing wrong if Senator Manager reciprocates that good gesture come 2019.
What advice do you have for Senator Manager who is obviously aspiring to go to Senate for fifth term?
Political positions are not traditional stools; it’s not a civil service job where you have to serve up to 35 years before retirement. It is my humble advice to Senator Manager, for the sake of equity, fairness and the party, he should allow an Itsekiri man to represent Delta South. President Jonathan partly lost the 2015 election because northerners were clamouring for equity which the PDP didn’t allow to happen. I foresee same scenario in Delta South if the situation is not properly managed. I foresee ethnic politics playing out in the senatorial district come 2019, and that will not be too good for our people and the PDP. A situation where all the Itsekiri going to one side and Ijaw going to the other side is dangerous; so the earlier the party intervenes the better for us.
Do you see the recent entry of Senator Manager into the Delta South senatorial race as a result of failure of the Itsekiri to present a consensus candidate?
There are individual differences. Hon. Michael Diden used to be one of Dr Uduaghan’s followers but the youth must grow to become adult. Maybe he felt that he has grown to be an adult to take a vital position which is a fact. There is nothing wrong for him to contest, if he says he want to slug it out with his former political master, politically there is nothing wrong with it. We have seen situations where a son and his father contesting for one position because they have different political views but at the end of the day whoever wins should be able to represent the party effectively.
What advice do you have for leaders of the PDP in Delta South in order to scale the hurdles of Uduaghan, Manager and Diden senatorial aspirations?
They all belong to the Chief James Ibori political family although the sitting governor is now the trustee of the political family. Maybe the governor and the leaders should sit down and take a decision because the earlier a decision is taken, the better for the party.
How do you assess the administration of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa since he assumed office in 2015?
He has done creditably well; you know he came to power when the price of dollar was very low. And you know that in this country we depend on allocation from the federal government and at the time he came to power the funds coming from the federal government were not even enough for recurrent expenditure. But inspite of the financial constrain, he was still able to carry out some capital projects. So to me he has managed the resources of the state very well to the best of my knowledge. The recurrent expenditure of Delta state is very high because we have a lot of high institutions in the state; we have Delta State University, Abraka with campuses at Anwai and Oleh, three polytechnics, Marine School at Burutu, School of Health, Ofuoma, two Colleges of Education at Warri and Agbor and many others. At the time you put all these together and the conventional civil service, the money that will be use on monthly basis for personnel cost is very high. As a matter fact, as at when he took over, the recurrent expenditure was more than the monthly allocation from federal. To me he has managed the state resources very well.
But there have been some agitations from the Itsekiri axis that he has not done anything for them since he assumed office in 2015 to date, how do you react to this?
Budget is on yearly basis, there is no way one year budget can cover every part of the state. If one budget can do everything then there would be no need of budgeting every year. If your area is not covered in this year’s budget, the budget of next year will cover your area, so I don’t see any reason for unnecessary agitations. Although you know that oppositions will always make noise, especially in this type of country that we found ourselves, clamor to be there by all means is always there but in most cases, the people that are even criticizing, at the time you give them the opportunity, they won’t be able to do anything.