• Queries political antecedents of James Manager, Otuaro, Angozi
By Chancel Bomadi Sunday
Prince Collins Eselemo is the scion of the Eselemo Dynasty, grand patron of the Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, Worldwide, chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Delta State and leader of Delta Ijaw for Urhobo Governor 2023 Movement.
In this interview, Eselemo, an ex-international soccer star who played under the Junior Eagles in the 1979/80s, speaks on the position of the Delta Ijaw for Governor 2023 Movement. Excerpts:
How prepared is your party, APC, for Delta 2023 governorship?
Well prepared. We have a sellable aspirant that is unequaled and has all it takes to lead Delta State to enviable heights in the areas of infrastructure, economic and social development. We’re well prepared.
But the PDP is holding sway in the state with the two contending ethnic groups, Urhobo and Ijaw, for the governorship in 2023 canvassing support across the state. What’s your party waiting for?
Our party is well prepared for 2023 and you will see us do it as planned. But, I wish to react to the position of the Ijaw for Governor 2023 Movement, led by Chief Broderick Bozimo, where they said Ijaw cannot wait till 2031, and claimed the Ijaw umbrella body, Ijaw National Congress, INC, and the youth wing, Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, Worldwide, are in support of his movement.
The publication amounts to nothing as far as I’m concerned. Democracy is freedom of choice as stated by Chief Bozimo himself. But I think, as Ijaw, we are transiting from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope, the audacity of hope and that’s our transition.
So, we will not compromise anything that is against our audacity of hope, our right to self-determination even if it comes from an Ijaw man, Urhobo man, Yoruba man, Hausa man or Igbo man. So, Chief Bozimo has a right to solicit, to advocate for an Ijaw governor because of the type of presidential system of government we practice. Chief Bozimo and I are children of Ijaw nation and from the PDP and the APC extractions, respectively. I represent the APC, he is of the PDP.
So, I expect Bozimo to de-emphasize the Ijaw aspect of his campaign and restrict it to Ijaw PDP members in the state while I, who lead the campaign for Urhobo governor in 2023, will also limit mine to the APC, period! But by the time you bring our umbrella bodies, INC and IYC, into a campaign of this magnitude, then we have every cause to complain because INC and IYC are supposed to be apolitical.
It’s enshrined in the constitutions of these bodies that they should be apolitical. But here is Bozimo who said that the INC and IYC are in support of his campaign for an Ijaw governor, it’s rather unfortunate because I am a member of INC and grand patron of IYC. I played a major role to emancipate Ijaw people from poverty; I drafted the Kaiama Declaration in Ghana.
So, if you are introducing INC and IYC into your campaign, Collins Eselemo has a very serious exception to that. So, I want to state it categorically to the generality of Ijaw nation that there was no time he is a majority, there was no time the INC and the IYC are in support of his movement.
Secondly, on the issue of Ijaw becoming governor of Delta State, we have been listening with keen interest and there’s nothing wrong about it.
If he says the struggle for an Ijaw to become governor has nothing to do with ethnicity, as far as I’m concerned, the Ijaw struggle itself has to do with ethnicity, his body language itself has something to do with ethnicity and I will tell you how.
Bozimo said Ijaw cannot wait till 2031 to be governor. Ijaw, of course, is a republican tribe before Bozimo’s forebears were born and Ijaw remains a republican tribe to eternity. We as Ijaw people will come and go but the tribe remains. So, why can’t Ijaw as a tribe wait till 2031? Except that perhaps in 2031, Bozimo may be 91 or 92 years.
He wants an Ijaw to be governor when he’s alive? Of course he’ll be alive to see it! The Ijaw tribe waited when he was a commissioner and minister, Ijaw tribe also waited when Chief E.K. Clark was a minister and subsequently a commissioner in the Old Bendel State, the Ijaw tribe are still waiting since Sen.
James Manager and Nicholas Mutu have been in the National Assembly for over 20 years. So, Ijaw can wait till 2031. However, Chief Bozimo said Ijaw who do not support his movement but having different opinion are doing so for ‘Egina-beni’ sake.
But I want to emphatically state here that members of Delta Ijaw for Governor 2023 Movement are really the group of Ijaw working for ‘Egina-beni’ because the movement itself is sponsored by aspirants. Now, come to think of this, do you think Bozimo will spend his own money on his movement without support from these Ijaw aspirants, do you think the Ijaw traditional rulers will spend money from their pockets to visit their counterparts in other zones?
As an Ijaw man, what prompted your decision to support Delta Central for the governorship race in 2031?
I decided on Delta Central because fair is fair. Urhobo should have it because one good turn deserves another, it’s an adage. If Bozimo himself says one good turn deserves another, then who among the governors from Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan to Dr Ifeanyi Okowa has done what Chief James Ibori did in terms of infrastructural development? What Chief Ibori did for Delta Ijaw is unequaled, that multi-billion naira Bomadi Bridge project that takes us from Kpkakiama to Bomadi, which enabled land transportation from Bomadi to Ojobo in Burutu Local Government Area and Bomadi to Ezebiri where Bozimo himself comes from.
Those NDDC roads wouldn’t have been done without the Bomadi Bridge crossing and that’s Ibori for you, and that remains the only project standing till date. That’s a good turn and it deserves another.
Are you saying that the opposition APC in the state is also aligned with the ruling PDP’s arrangement of things?
This is not about PDP’s arrangement of things, and that’s why I want people to always listen attentively to Prince Collins Eselemo. I’m a historian, it started before the inception of this political dispensation in 1999.
Chief E.K. Clark became a senator because it was zoned to Ijaw, he benefited from that type of zoning, Justice Franklin Atake became a senator because it was zoned to Itsekiri, Francis Okpozo became a senator because it was zoned to Isoko from the NPN days till date as I speak. It has been the tradition among tribes in Delta South. Even in this dispensation, it started from Stella Omu of Isoko to James Manager who has refused to let go of it for this long. Mutu himself has refused to let it go. We have ambushed ourselves.
There are currently three aspirants from Ijaw and not only James Manager, Ijaw position is that all major tribes have ruled the state except Ijaw and they’re consulting with other tribes to understand their position. Do you think Ijaw demand is out of place?
He who comes to equity must come with clean hands. The Itsekiri and Isoko have been waiting for over 20 years for the office of the Senate. The people of Patani Local Government Area have been waiting for over 20 years to occupy the office of the House of Representatives and you said there’s no zoning, we’ve ambushed ourselves.
If Ijaw are pleading for understanding, then the Ijaw campaign team should mind their use of words. You cannot say you don’t want to be ambushed when you have ambushed others. I’m also ambushed by these people holding grip on power, who have overstayed their offices. I’m still saying that Ijaw can wait.
Do you think your party, the APC, can make wave in 2023 in Delta?
As I said earlier, democracy is freedom of choice. Nobody will have thought that Goodluck Jonathan will be President of this country, nobody believed that Buhari would be President. It depends on the state of mind of Nigerians. I believe that the choice of the people is God’s.
Nobody can tell but I’m sure that the aspirant we’ve anticipated to run for the governorship, His Excellency the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, has all it takes to win. Let us now agree that James Manager becomes the candidate of the PDP, we are all Ijaw people, tell me how can we sell him as a candidate?
We must all be informed of political antecedents of aspirants, we must all be informed of the political antecedents of James Manager, Deputy Governor, Kingsley Otuaro and Dr Braduce Angozi. We need a sellable candidate. Within eight years of Omo-Agege’s leadership, there is a law school and a federal polytechnic in Delta Central where he represents.
Bomadi is the cradle of Western Ijaw Civilization where you have people like the late J.P. Clark, Chief E.K. Clark, my dad, Eselemo, Willy Bozimo (Willy Bee) and you name them. But Esenaebe College is a caricature of itself. An Act was passed by the state House of Assembly during Emmanuel Uduaghan’s tenure that a polytechnic should be built at Bomadi. Where is the recreational facility in Bomadi like the stadia in Warri, Ughelli and Ozoro? Now, it’s Delta State University of Science and Technology you have at Ozoro. The type of stadium you see at Ozoro was supposed to be built at Bomadi, Burutu and Ogbe-Ijoh. Again, in all the Ijaw speaking local government areas where Ijaw people are predominant, there’s no ATM but the Ughelli man walks to any bank and transacts his business, but we have to use the POS as solace.
Are we cursed? Ijaw people are in captivity and the governorship seat alone cannot emancipate us from poverty and slavery. So, we the APC have a sellable candidate and if James Manager emerges as PDP flag bearer, that’s a big chance for APC.
You said if Manager emerges flag bearer of the PDP, it’s a big chance for your party; how possible is your expectation seeing Delta as PDP stronghold?
It’s simply because we have a sellable candidate.
But your party has many factions fighting for supremacy in the state…
There are also factions in the PDP, there are factions in every party and there are also factions in your family which is a conventional thing, it’s normal. What’s required is your ability to reconcile aggrieved members. Again, we, Delta Ijaw, don’t have the political capital to match that of Urhobo, we really don’t have it.
More so, the relative peace we have in this part of the state is as a result of zoning, it’s as a result of give and take in Warri South-West local government area. More so, our politicians have not invested in Bomadi and other Ijaw council areas where they come from. But Omo-Agege has his own at Orogun, where he represents. So, how do you sell your aspirants?
I’m talking about selfless efforts to better the lives of Ijaw people. When you visit home, everybody is wearing the same face, poverty, there’s nothing positive, with due respect. If you have been there for 20 years in custody our rights and I can’t see it in the faces of the people, you’ve already failed the people.
So, Ijaw people should wait because one good turn deserves another, Chief Ibori had given us infrastructure to enable us industrialize, which is a good turn.
What do you expect from a governor of Urhobo extraction if he eventually emerged?
What I have anticipated is simple. The governor of Urhobo extraction sees a movement led by Collins Eselemo who is an Ijaw man, who didn’t go the other way, who feels that the Urhobo man should be governor and whose sympathy is for the Ijaw area to be industrialized because one of them, not Manager, not Mutu, not Bozimo and not Clark agreed that an Urhobo man should become governor.
The reasons he has advanced were very technical and compelling because James Ibori was the only governor that has established a multi-billion naira infrastructure in Ijaw land, more so, Bomadi which is the cradle of Western Civilization. Urhobo will do more for Ijaw when elected in 2023.
Ijaw as a nation never said Urhobo shouldn’t be, Ijaw said Urhobo should be and I spearheaded it with my own time, energy and substance and I don’t need the Urhobo to make any form of input in my movement because I have the wherewithal to accomplish this task. All of you are seeing Ibori’s effort on daily basis and development ends there till date.
But don’t you think if given an executive power, an Ijaw man will do better than any other person?
Omo-Agege hasn’t got an executive power but, as we speak, there are federal institutions in his senatorial district through his efforts, just under eight years! The federal budget is being determined by the National Assembly and that’s why he had to appropriate those institutions to his immediate community. Come to imagine if he’s give an executive power.
Final words to Deltans
Ijaw people, let us adhere to this principle of one good turn deserves another. Fair is fair, give it to the Urhobos so Ijaw will not miss it in 2031.