By Perez Brisibe
Professor Sam Oyovbaire, former Minister for Information, was a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP campaign council in Delta State. In this interview with Vanguard, he spoke on the 2019 general elections and the performance of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC in the state as well as on the efforts of the State Advisory and Peace Building Council, which he chairs.
His take on the petition of PDP Presidential Candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar against President Muhammadu Buhari
Though legal matters are not clear court matters until you begin to examine them, but a good number of knowledgeable minds have been assembled and they will comb every area where the elections took place.
There are a lot of infringements in the electoral process. I know the thoroughness in which Alhaji Atiku Abubakar works. He is a very thorough man, and the little I know is that he has in his possession very strong evidence. At a general level, he should be allowed to test the process and I am glad that he has beaten the deadline in approaching the tribunal and a lot will be revealed in the process. So, Abubakar has done well by going to the tribunal.
On Delta State governorship election
I want to first congratulate His Excellency, the governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa on his re-election during the March 9 governorship election. Personally, I was convinced that Okowa will be there for a second tenure. If you were to know the origin of what turned out to be his manifesto and working document which we call the SMART agenda, you will know that the document and its contents therein are not meant for four years, but eight years.
While congratulating him on his re-election, I also want to appreciate the role of the Delta electorates. For once, we have a young man whose performance is so outstanding in one, the depth from where he took off. Because the state was in complete red and he got over that red and gradually he took it to green in terms of revenue availability and management.
Adding that to what he subsequently did, you will then appreciate that the young man has done very well and as a person, he has also made some of us who stood by him proud because he has governed with the guide of equity, justice and fairness.
So, based on this, I thank the people of Delta State who reciprocated by voting for him massively. The other thing I want to say is that the amount of investment into the peace building process in the state and with what is on the ground, I am sure he is going to deepen the peace building process because if you do not have peace, you cannot talk about roads, schools and hospitals
On the performance of INEC
In Delta State, in fairness, INEC has done well. The governor at the last meeting of the State Advisory Council appreciated INEC. We were worried at a point when we took stock of the INEC men and women from Edo State, but it turned out that they did very well other than the usual spot of Ethiope East and Ughelli North, we are happy.
So, INEC did fairly well, that notwithstanding prejudice to my party men like our lady, Hon Evelyn Oboro who is also going to court because we have very strong suspicion of a relationship between elements of the APC in control of at least two or three local governments and INEC, and all that needs to be proven, but generally speaking, INEC hasn’t done badly at all.
Okowa’s calm amid challenges
Even His Excellency, my good friend, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan knows that the state was owing a lot of money by the time Governor Okowa took over and there must have been good reason for the debt he was owing. That situation constrained the incoming government then, from mounting its own programme immediately.
But I can tell you something openly that not just me but also a few people around him (Okowa) that in addition to his own mind frame anyway, we asked him not to create any trouble, don’t allow any provocation to manifest between him and anyone, more so that Delta is in opposition as the federal government will find any reason to get involved in our activities.
So, swallow the things you can swallow otherwise, there is no previous government that does not have dirty cloths if you are searching for dirty cloths. But it is one thing to say there are dirty cloths and another to say, yes they are there, I will manage and that is the mindset of Okowa.
However, it is unfortunate that people think Okowa runs the state with undue ethnic sentiments such that DESPOADEC does not impact on its mandate, but he is not somebody driven by undue passion for not caring for others.
Peace efforts by State Advisory and Peace Building Council
You cannot quantify what we have been doing like roads and schools that you count. This is a body of 41 members and two ex-officios making 43.
Our terms of reference include power to call anybody working with the government to give account of him or herself and I can tell you that the commissioner of works appeared before the council more than two or three times, same as the commissioner of transport, health, basic education and even the state civil and local service commission.
We take decisions and when some require the governor approving, we tell him while with others, we just settle immediately and of course make a report to the governor.
As regard the crisis between Ogbe-Ijoh and Aladja communities, I must tell you that tension has come down in the area, but peace is a process and not an end. The fact that people can leave together without fighting everyday provides hope that the process of living together will be deepened.
I cannot tell you that peace as an end has been archived in Ogbe-Ijoh and Aladja, however, it is unfortunate that lives have been lost in that area, but people should also know that they do not have right to prevent others from using an access road and the Aladja area is a gateway to Ogbe-Ijoh. So, basically, the tension has come down and I think that is worthy of celebration.
On the violence in Kaduna
Look at what is happening in Kaduna state, if I want to extend the discussion, I spent 14 years in Zaria and I used to love a particular place in Kaduna because of its beautiful landscape and I used to say if I had my choice to choose where I would like to stay, I would move to that area.
But God forbid, if I had moved, I probably would have been dead by now, and that is the kind of situation today as it has gradually became worse under a young man. With due respect to Governor Nasir el-Rufai, under your watch, how can you catapult a state into virtually a disaster? From this angle of the discussion, El-Ruai is a disaster.
So, coming back home, in Delta state, we have this peaceful arena under Okowa and people use to appreciate it and we thank God that all the predictions and hype particularly done by our young friend, Adams Oshiomhole who suddenly found himself so important at the national scene, collapsed completely and we thank God for the state.