• As governor, he hit the ground running
By Kenneth Oboh, Deputy Online Editor
Olorogun Fred Majemite, a chieftain of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Delta State, was two-time commissioner and currently a member of DC-23, a pressure group working towards a governor from Delta Central.
The philanthropist, legal luminary-cum-politician, in this interview, spoke among others on the politics of Delta and the need for continuation of power rotation system because it has engendered peace in the state.
At the last DC-23 meeting in Asaba, you declared your intention to contest the governorship of Delta State in 2023…
It is true that I have indicated my interest to run for the governorship of Delta State in 2023. If you look at my antecedent, you will know that I have worked for the party and have remained loyal and very steadfast. I have never jumped at any time.
I have attempted the Senate twice, but due to the differences within the party and the leadership of the party, I withdrew unconditionally. However, I supported those who were privileged to run in my stead. This time around, we believe that the governorship is coming to Delta Central.
And by the grace of God, we have a small lobby group, because if you look at our constitution many people are qualified to run for the governorship so long as you are of age and, of course, you meet the requirements, whether you are from Delta Central, Delta South or Delta North.
But what we are saying is that the understanding we have that the governorship should be rotated from one senatorial district to another should be adhered to so that it can bring sanity to our state and also, for us to continue to enjoy peace as we are enjoying at the moment.
For now, what we are doing is not to heat up the polity but to embark on consultations. Let your leaders know of your interest, let them assess you and if you put yourself on a scale and you find out that you weigh well, you can now declare formally.
So, we also use this opportunity to tell our brothers in Delta South and Delta North that they should join forces with Delta Central to get the governorship in 2023 and after eight years it will go to the next senatorial district. As for DC23, it is just to let others know that they should support Delta Central for 2023.
A few months ago, Governor Okowa was quoted as saying that there was no agreement for senatorial zoning of governorship in the state. This has generated a lot of controversy. What is your take on this?
There was no written paper or agreement and that was why I used the word, ‘understanding.’ During the administration of Chief James Ibori, there were different groups outside Delta Central such as Equity, G3 and so on. All those were lobby groups set up to ensure that power moved from Delta Central to other senatorial districts. And of course, it did move. And because we said it should move, the candidate from that senatorial district was voted for.
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I was one of those who said it should go to the South. Also, after the administration of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, there was agitation that the governorship should move from the South to the North. And I was one of those who said that it should go to the North. Though somebody from Delta Central actually contested, we voted for the candidate from the North in line with the rotational arrangement among the three senatorial districts.
So, this time around, it is the turn of Delta Central as far as I’m concerned. I am not saying other people should not contest because they have the constitutional right to contest. But if we agree that it should be the turn of Delta Central again, when Delta Central aspirants come out, I’m sure the leadership of the party and well-meaning Deltans will vote for the aspirants from Central.
By the time it goes round again, we would have been well grounded. So, all this talk that the governor said there is no rotation or there is rotation, I believe that His Excellency, the governor is a bottom-up man. You can take anything from Okowa, but not politics.
I know that the governor means well for the people of Delta State. Whether you like it or not, Senator Okowa is one man who understands Delta politics. He is one man that, if he gives you his word, he will keep those words. Maybe that is why they call him ‘Ekwueme’. Some have overblown what he said. But if you recall, in one of those campaigns, he had made it clear on one or two occasions that the governorship was coming to Central.
So, I believe that in 2023, the governor will come from Central and we are going round now, lobbying leaders from other senatorial districts for their support for Delta Central. So far, all the people we have visited have not given us room to believe there will be any problem.
If it is zoned to Delta Central, which of the three federal constituencies in Delta Central should it go to?
What we are concerned about now is for the governorship to come to Delta Central. We have eight local government areas in Delta Central and the governor can come from anywhere in Delta Central as far as we are concerned. That is the wish and dream of DC23.
The idea of saying which area it should come from will polarise the system, so let us not go into that because we believe that anybody from Delta Central who is qualified, can contest the election. It is left for the people to pick whoever they want from Delta Central. We will not discriminate against anybody. We are all from Delta Central as far as we are concerned.
You are very passionate about the things of Urhobo. How would you deal with the issue of Urhobo unity as far as the 2023 governorship election is concerned?
When DC23 started the lobbying, we first of all visited the Urhobo kings in all the kingdoms. And we told them of the need for them to support an Urhobo son to be governor. We also told them that there is the need to work together as a team and that there should be no division among the Urhobo at all. This is because a house that is divided cannot stand at all.
And unless we are cohesive as a body, we may not be able to get the kind of development we wish for our people. First of all, our Urhobo national anthem, ‘Urhobo Ovuovo’, should always be at the back of our minds. Once we do that, you will see everybody as your brother’s keeper; you will see somebody from Oghara, Ughweru or Okpe as your brother.
What touches one, touches all. And by the grace of God, any governor that will be produced from Delta Central come 2023 should ensure that every kingdom is carried along without short-changing other local government areas in the state.
A few days ago, the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, was passed into law by the National Assembly with an allocation of 3% provided for by the Senate and 5% by the House of Representatives for the funding of host communities. There have been dissenting voices, especially from the Niger Delta that the percentage allocated to the region is grossly insufficient. What is your take on that?
You will recall that this bill has been there for donkey years, from one legislative year to another and nothing was done. So, I’m happy that, finally, the Petroleum Industry Bill has been passed.
You see, we can never get enough if you look at the problem in the Niger Delta. If they say they will give us 50%, it will not even be enough. The Niger Delta is grossly underdeveloped. I don’t know if you have had the opportunity to visit the creeks, you will not only be amazed, you will weep for our people. If you leave the creeks and go upland you will feel disheartened. An example is my mother’s village.
If you go there you will be surprised to know it is an oil-producing community. Same thing with Afiesere, Kokori and so on. And that is why I said we cannot get enough. But I’m happy that we are starting from somewhere, though three percent is small. This is so because we were expecting nothing less than 10%, so that if you add the 13% derivation, it will make some sense. Or, if it is 5%, then when you add the 13%, it will be 17%.
Generally, three percent is small. Besides, I want us to know that the host communities are not only in the Niger Delta. There is hardly any state that does not have any mineral resources.
What is your confidence in the DC23 pressure group that it will be able to manage and come up with a candidate that will be the flag-bearer of the PDP in 2023, especially against the backdrop of the rumour that the group is being sponsored by one of the aspirants?
First of all, I’m a pioneer member of that group and also an aspirant. I’m not sponsoring the DC23. I’m also aware that nobody is sponsoring the group. At our inaugural meeting, nearly all of us who have indicated interest to run were in that meeting. I think about six of us were present in that meeting. And so I was surprised when I heard that the meeting was called at the instance of one of us.
I laughed because at that meeting some very serious persons who, most times, were not working together politically were there. Chief Ighoyota Amori was the convener. Another leader at the meeting was Prof. Sam Oyovbaire. These are people who, naturally, disagree on most political issues. So, who is the aspirant sponsoring the meeting now?
I believe the meeting was called for us to beg our brothers from other Senatorial districts to allow a candidate from Delta Central to be the flag-bearer of the PDP. That is the whole essence of the meeting. Apart from the gubernatorial race, nobody is allowed to mention his Senatorial, House of Representatives or House of Assembly ambition there, No!
And we also know that there is nothing we will do that will put pressure on the present government. When we talk about Delta Central producing one candidate, you and I know that it has never happened in any Senatorial district before. But I know that as we get closer to 2023, some people will change their minds because good reasons give way to better ones.
For me, as I told you, if you recall, 2003 and 2011, if somebody had told me that I’ll not be a senator, I would say it is not true. This is because in 2003 when I was running, I was as good as endorsed. In fact, people were already congratulating me. And because of what happened later, some of our leaders even left the party. When at the eleventh hour, I was sacrificed that it should be Felix Ibru, I did not object. Instead, I withdrew from the contest and even supported Felix Ibru of blessed memory with money for his campaign. In 2011, I was asked to go into the race.
I was called upon by the power that be that, Fred, come and complete the tenure since our brother, Senator Pius Ewherido, passed on. They said somebody from his federal constituency should complete the tenure and I was called upon. And they gave away that chance again. But all that is history now. You can see that some of us have made a lot of sacrifices. So, I believe that, if not for anything, they should also consider my antecedent and how loyal I have been and let me run for the governorship. Once again, nobody will tell you that he is sponsoring the DC23. That is not true.
With two more years to the end of Okowa’s administration, how would you assess his performance so far?
You see, Okowa is one man who prayed to be governor. He is equally one man who worked to be governor and he got the governorship. Okowa is one person who understands Delta State very well. He didn’t just wake up to say he wants to be governor, he has been preparing himself for the governorship.
That was why when he became governor, he hit the ground running. He tried to consolidate on the achievements of his predecessors. Okowa never let any project that was started by his predecessors abandoned. He is trying to complete all the projects that were started by his predecessor that he couldn’t finish and he is still building others.
That is the beauty of continuity. Okowa has consolidated on the achievement of his predecessors and has also come up with fresh initiatives to the extent that it is now difficult to say who between him and his predecessors has achieved more.
One of the greatest achievements of Okowa, if you ask me, is how he has succeeded in managing the peace we have in Delta State. You may not realise it, but once there is a crisis, it will be difficult for any meaningful development. Okowa has impacted more on the lives and the development of our brothers in the creeks.
I was in Gbaramatu the other day, you will notice the network of roads in the area, some of them made of stone pavement. We all know how much it costs to build roads in those areas. And so, there are others he has done. I’m not his Commissioner for Information, but if you ask me how much he has done, I will tell you that he has done more than average by my assessment. But it is not yet Uhuru!
You spoke of how you stepped down for some persons when you aspired to be Senator sometime ago. As you now indicate interest in the governorship, if the call comes now for you to step down for someone else, how would you take it this time?
I have withdrawn, not once, not twice. So, this time around now, I should also be considered. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. Our people know that Fred Majemite has made a lot of sacrifices and I doubt, if this time around, they will ask me to withdraw again. And if I say I won’t withdraw again, nobody will say I have done badly. I’m not going into the race to negotiate. No.
When I withdrew the first time, Ibori did not give me any political appointment. And like I said, when I withdrew, I never negotiated. Instead, I contributed to the elections of others. So, as I’m going to run now, I’m not going to use it as a platform to negotiate. I’m running. I have the interest of the party and our people at heart. I’m going there to serve. If the people don’t want me to serve, let them show it at the polls.
What is your position on how NDDC has been run since the Buhari administration?
The stories we hear coming from the NDDC are unbelievable. Since Buhari came into power, not much has been done for the people of the Niger Delta through the NDDC. For some time now they have been running the place with IMC or Sole Administrator to the detriment of the representatives of the nine states’ members.
What we are saying now is that the board should be constituted. That way, when you have the nine members in place, everybody will start to struggle for the development of their individual states. I believe that if you have the nine members present in a meeting, they will be able to share the thing fairly among all the member-states that make up NDDC. So, it is high time the board is constituted for the people of the Niger Delta.