Prince Efe Duku is the Special Adviser on Legislative and Plenary Matters to the Deputy President of the Senate, Sen Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta-Central, APC). In this interview with Temisan Amoye, he discusses the DSP’s legislative representation and achievements, governance in Delta state, and clears the air on the alleged rift between the leadership of the Delta State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) , and governorship run by the DSP in 2023. Enjoy
By Temisan Amoye,
You have been described as the ‘engine room’ of the Deputy Senate President’s office and political operations. How would you respond to that?
If the usual meaning of the phrase ‘engine room’ is what is exactly intended by those whom you may have heard use it about my humble self, then I must quite humbly, honestly, and confidently tell you that they are wrong. Not an attention seeker, such flattery is never for me.
… but that is the reality out there. You can’t change it by humble denial?
You would agree with me that perception is often different from reality. So, watch it when you say, ‘reality’. What reality? I recall addressing this same issue sometime in the past. Politics often comes with doses of comic relief, mischiefs, or high-sounding but meaningless titles beautifully dressed to massage and inflate the ego of the unwary. Can anyone be more ‘engine room’ than engine room itself, if I may use that expression? It reminds me of when former President Donald Trump was asked a question about Steve Banon of Breibart online news platform being his “chief strategist”, the man said he was his own chief strategist. Period. So, let’s move away from such talks. Our worth and impacts are defined more by less noise and claims to irrelevant titles. I am not the DSP’s engine room, please.
… So, who or what would you consider as a proper description of the DSP’s engine room?
Quite frankly, that issue should not be a necessity. But if I may, let me say it should ordinarily be taken for granted that the ‘engine room’ or think tank of the Deputy President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria cannot be just one person, even if superhuman. Definitely not. It is a public fact that The Obarisi, His Excellency, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege has one of the smartest, most vastly experienced, and diverse team of uber-brilliant intellectuals, thought leaders, scholars, veteran political strategists, vibrant thinkers, and notable achievers as advisers and aides.
Each is just a humble part of this great dedicated team that is supporting the DSP’s courageous and impactful leadership. Having said that, one cannot ignore the terrific leadership blessing and stabilising force that our Chief of Staff, Dr Otive Igbuzor is. He is a noiseless constant in the success equation of the DSP’s office. You may also talk about other prominent leaders like Elder Omeni Sobotie whose political engineering sophistication is just terrific. As Don Sobotie recently noted, individuals win medals, but good teams win championships. So, please focus on our team, not me. Can we now go beyond this ‘engine room’ talk (laughs)?
Okay sir, let us look at the DSP’s performance so far in the 9th Assembly. How would you rate him?
I get the clear purport of the question but permit me to say that it is for our people to assess and pass their verdict on Senator Omo-Agege’s performance as their senator and a leader, generally. Without question, so far that verdict has been broadly positive and encouraging, and we are grateful to God. We thank God particularly because our people, especially the Urhobo people who being intrinsically republican from history, hardly ever come to a full consensus on any topic.
So, it is amazing that there is undoubted consensus across political, ethnic, and religious lines and tendencies in the State and beyond that Senator Omo-Agege is a ‘super senator’ on account of his excellent, bold record of achievements in legislation, representation, political leadership and untiring capacity to network with critical stakeholders and leaders across the country to strategically advance our people’s best interests.
Specifically, how has the DSP faired in terms of legislation, especially given the idea that presiding officers do not sponsor legislation?
Thank you. First, though pervasive, the notion that presiding officers do not sponsor bills is incorrect. It depends on demands of necessity and style. Humbly, this is my turf, so to say. As the DSP’s Special Adviser on Legislative and Plenary Matters, I can authoritatively state that with about 30 high-profile bills in less than two years in the life of the 9th senate, Senator Omo-Agege has established himself as one of the most productive senators and indeed Deputy Senate Presidents in Nigeria’s history in terms of legislation.
That is a hard, undeniable fact for which we are quite proud. And when we say high-profile bills, this may be considered as subjective praise-singing, but the quality of and issues addressed by these bills support the objectivity of the assertion. We are talking about the bills to establish the Federal Polytechnic Orogun; repeal and enact a new Electoral Act and fundamentally reorganise and make whole our national electoral legal framework; create a National Electoral Offences Commission to comprehensive deal with electoral offences; better manage dormant accounts in the country; and amend the Court of Appeal Act to accommodate his proposed amendment to the National Industrial Court Act.
There is also the bill to end sexual harassment of our students, as well as about 20 bills to further alter the 1999 Constitution to make our democracy work better. By any standard of analysis, you would agree with me that this is real business. And the most interesting thing is that despite his hectic schedules, the DSP is fully engaged in the process of preparing all his bills. You do not just go and write wishy-washy bills in his name. They must be thoroughly researched and conform to his original thoughts, standards, and diversity of scholarly thinking to bear his name as the sponsor. That is what you get with leaders who value scholarship and respect plurality of thoughts, and I am proud to lead his team in this particular area.
Talking about the Federal Polytechnic Orogun, that is a major win. How did it happen?
That positive sentiment that the Federal Polytechnic Orogun is a ‘major win’ essentially sums up the overwhelming sense of joy and gratitude with which our people received President Muhammadu Buhari’s gracious approval of the establishment of the polytechnic following Senator Omo-Agege’s productive leadership within and outside the Senate in that regard.
The institution will undeniably go into our people’s history as a legacy win and a constant reminder of the high legislative benchmark that Senator Omo-Agege chose to set for our present and future legislators to surpass in the people’s best interest. It will speak for ages in the future that given a rare opportunity and privilege to represent our people in the Senate of the Nigerian Republic, Omo-Agege offered a bold leadership vision backed with God’s grace, unequalled smartness, tenacity of purpose, and strategic political networking to birth one of Nigeria’s foremost citadels of academic learning and innovations.
On exactly how it happened, I will just say that the Federal Polytechnic Orogun confirms the word of God in Proverbs 29:18 that, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” When the DSP decided to sponsor the bill establishing the polytechnic, he was very clear that it would come to fruition. His optimism was infectious, and it remained so even when tyrannical attempts were made during the 8th Senate to frustrate and embarrass him because of his unapologetic support for President Buhari.
The DSP always maintained then that it was a “badge of honour” to be oppressed for standing against what was manifestly an organised political front to misuse parliamentary authority to frustrate the President’s governance agenda. For this, he refused to accept that any co-equal should get away with obvious impunity and dictatorship against his person and he had our absolute support because we hate nonsense in our place.
That extraordinary courage became a defining moment on many fronts. The majority of our people worldwide and the electorate of Delta Central Senatorial District reconfirmed him a true son of his great, no-nonsense father, the late erudite Honourable Justice James Omo-Agege. On this ground partly, he was overwhelmingly re-elected to continue to fight for our people’s strategic interests because the Urhobo Ethnic Nation never rewards cowards who recoil when noisy dogs bark.
You must demonstrate a robust capacity to make good things happen, defend their pride as a people and uphold the tenets of truth, justice, and good conscience for them to promote you. That is what happened. So, the Federal Polytechnic Orogun is a product of that sound decision by our people to re-elect Senator Omo-Agege.
You are probably the fiercest critic of Governor Okowa. Why is there this notion that you don’t just see any good in his government?
First, let us separate the person of His Excellency, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa from the official positions he occupies as the governor of our State. Personally, I do not see him as a bad human being. All people of the Christian faith are enjoined by the scriptures to love others unconditionally. I must therefore appreciate him as a big Deltan brother and pray God to guide him aright in his good thoughts as he governs. I surely wish him well and hopes he succeeds.
Having said that, it is a different kettle of fish when it comes to his role as the chief executive of our state – a person charged under the constitution to lead the State. For those who appreciate the American partisan political engineering model, it is not my business as a member of a party in opposition to Governor Okowa to sing his praises for his actions and policies that have been objectively and generally determined to be wrong, unacceptable, and condemnable. He is to be vigorously called out on such matters, and we have tried to do so with decorum. It is not our style to insult people, even if we disagree with them. We interrogate and speak to facts and issues.
The general, consolidated perception in Delta is that based on empirical facts, Okowa’s government is a unique colossal failure. They have failed in virtually every dimension of public governance. Their so-called ‘Smart Agenda’ has turned full circle to be outright mediocrity and a joke. There is hardly one objective mind who projects Governor Okowa’s lacklustre performance as the best we have to offer. Compare their underdevelopment of the state to the visionary leadership being offered by the likes of Governors Wike of Rivers State, Ayade of Cross River State, Udom of Akwa Ibom State, El-Rufai of Kaduna State, Obaseki of Edo State, Fayemi of Ekiti State, and Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State. Even Governor Zulum who is administering a seriously challenged environment like Borno has outclassed Okowa in terms of good governance delivery. Go and see the schools Zulum is building in Borno! Delta’s private sector is virtually dead. No viable for private initiative. The only notable ones they handled were designed to sell off public assets under questionable arrangements that have all the trappings of corruption. Just consider what they allegedly did with the Asaba Airport. The published details are shocking, sickening and just indefensible.
We have repeatedly challenged them to name just one world-class project initiated, undertaken or commissioned by Okowa’s government in the whole of Delta State. So far, it appears that they are nursing boils in their mouths because there is just none. So, without the right answers, a few uncivilised scoundrels have resorted to the ad-hominem fallacy of personal insults. An example being one rascally Latimore who is nothing but the worst symbol of self-abuse at old age, intellectual underfeeding, mental instability and constant indecency. And this happens because everything about Okowa’s government is infinitely wishy-washy.
Whereas some roads constructed by Ogbemudia in the former Midwest or Bendel State in the 1970s are still intact, virtually all the roads constructed under Okowa have failed. That is a hard, undeniable fact and they know it. Go to our schools see the rot. The tertiary institutions have been reduced to glorified secondary schools because of poor funding, yet they are increasing fees with arbitrariness. Also, our healthcare facilities are dying. They only pay lip service to our abundant agricultural opportunities. The social and moral fabrics of our traditional society are being destroyed daily. Huge security votes are collected, but where is the security reality in Delta. Warri has become a dirty shanty. Everything indicts them because they do not appreciate that public governance is beyond hiring people to post early morning quotable quotes on social media handles. They are guilty of mediocrity, sloganeering, and praise-singing which are not tools of social-economic development, societal organization and governance in general. These cannot stand unchallenged; hence we speak out.
Significantly and probably most importantly, Okowa’s government comes across to many as one on a clear vengeance mission propelled by deep-seated hate, disdain and disrespect for some ethnic groups, especially the Urhobo people. The government is an existential threat to the Urhobo people. Bonafide Urhobos in the government often tells us in private about the suffocating ethnic cleansing agenda of the Okowa government. Okowa created electoral wards, he excluded Urhobo. Urhoboland is in pervasive decay in terms of public infrastructure development. If they do anything at all, they give us death traps. Delta State University, Abraka has been totally left to rot away because it is in Urhobo. The government has deliberately frozen the development of state polytechnics and colleges of education in Urhobo.
The government is also charged with allegedly freezing the post-graduate scholarship for first-class graduates because of the notion that it was dominated by Urhobos. And that raises serious questions. Do you punish your best because they are the best? It was alleged with convincing facts at a point that respected Urhobo leaders were being humiliated and slapped indiscriminately in Okowa’s government. That was never addressed. So, should we have a State where ethnic profiling, oppression and suppression of the Urhobo Nation, or any other ethnic group for that matter, are tools of governance? If everything is done to suppress and destroy the Urhobo people, should that be unacceptable? Never! This is where we draw a hard line in the sand. They can still change this troubling perception by addressing the issues satisfactorily. If not, they must wear dirty apparel befitting personae non grata or notable enemies of our people.
Let us go to your political home front. Is there a war between Chief Great Ogboru and the DSP?
My answer is simply, No. There is no ‘war’.
But it is believed that they fell apart after the last primaries of the APC in Delta State because the DSP alleged betrayed Chief Ogboru. It is even said that you tried to reconcile them. How true are these?
I suspect where you may be headed but let me disappoint you upfront that you will not extract any breaking news from me on this issue. (Laughing) I am not wired to discuss or disparage people I respect tremendously in public. But let me say that allegation that the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege ever betrayed Chief Great Ogboru in any shape or form is the handiwork of mischief-makers, detractors, saboteurs and enemies of the brotherly love between both leaders.
It is sickening. I recall that even the APC Governorship Campaign Council/Great Ogboru Campaign Organisation condemned the allegation as “most unfair” in a formally published statement signed by its Secretary, Mr Peters Omaruaye. In fact, if I can still recall accurately, that statement actually described the matter as “wild, unfounded and unsubstantiated allegations deliberately sponsored and orchestrated by desperate forces to cause internal disaffection, mistrust and hate amongst our leaders and members, and ultimately harm our party”. So, it is clear that thoughtful leaders identified from the beginning that some persons may have calculated that they could use Tower of Babel tactics to achieve their sinister agenda of disorganising our strong and common leadership front.
But that does not amount to war as you described it. Mischief-makers may have succeeded to cause storms in teacups, but they will be disappointed. Our leaders are determined to straighten decks even on the Titanic, even if that is what it will take to ensure that there is an APC government in Delta State in 2023.
Talking about an APC government in Delta in 2023, is the DSP contesting Delta’S governorship election in 2023, and if yes, would that not automatically stop others?
Definitely, that is neither my decision nor an announcement to make, if at all. To do otherwise will be irresponsible. What we all however know is that Senator Ovie Omo-Agege is eminently qualified to contest for any of several offices, including the governorship of Delta State. It is his constitutional right to so contest if he decides to. I have heard people say, howbeit jokingly, that they will go to court to compel him to vie for the governorship.
As I said, that is a joke that reminds one of Daniel Kanu, General Sani Abacha and what the late Cicero of Esa Oke, Chief Bola Ige classically referred to as ‘the five fingers of a leprous hand’. The decision to run for a public electoral office should be a strictly personal one and there are several considerations, especially divine guidance, the huge resources involved and the right people to organise and manage the decision to fruition.
And what do you mean by ‘automatically stop others’? How? Against that suggestion, and unless we are talking of consensus candidacy which the law allows, if the DSP were to decide to run, that cannot necessarily or automatically bar others who may be similarly qualified. What I know and more interested in at this stage is that there is a broad consensus all over Delta that the state desperately needs a very strong, broad, bold, and well-resourced rescue mission. It is my earnest prayer that God helps us to do everything right in 2023 to finally end the established pattern of the electoral heist for good.
Even greenhorn politicians know that because of the strategic place of Delta State in the Nigerian polity, defeating PDP in Delta would be a seismic paradigm shift in the politics of the South-South and Nigeria as a whole. That will require doing extraordinarily huge things lawfully. It will require leaders paying really careful attention to many strategic and practical electoral issues, including proper, judicious and timeous allocation of resources, especially human, intellectual and financial.
Our people will surely make an extraordinary judgment call in the forthcoming general elections, starting with our party’s primaries. I am seeing signs that give great confidence that it will be well in 2023.