Olise Imegwu, former Speaker, Delta State House of Assembly in this interview with Tunde Oso, says emphatically that ex-Governor James Ibori cannot leave the party owing to his dissatisfaction with outcome of the Delta State governorship primaries and also maintained that it is also wrong to make Ibori the scapegoat for the crisis.

He also bared his mind on the internal crisis rocking the national and state PDP, vote buying and sundry issues. Excerpts:

There are speculations that ex-Delta State governor Chief James Ibori may defect from PDP, to collapse his structure for the DSP Omo-Agege-led All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2023 due to his alleged ill-treatment by his party. How true is this?

Extreme speculation, capital NO! Chief Ibori can never leave the party he co-founded with others. The process of reconciliation is on-going. I understand Chief Edevbie is in court, Chief Amori won and his daughter also won and it is also being rumoured that he supported Gov. Okowa’s emergence as VP candidate, wherein is the ill-treatment you alluded to?

It seems the power of the ‘godfather’ Chief James Onanefe Ibori, has been whittled down viz a viz the emergence of Sheriff Oboriwhori as the gubernatorial candidate of the party against the wish of the dynasty, what’s your take?

It is true that when two elephants fight, the grass suffers. In this particular context of Delta State politics you make reference to, it is wrong and unfair to make Ibori the scapegoat. The “polarising factor” is not one-dimensional as you may want to paint it, it is pervasive and multi-dimensional. There are other polarizing factors in the Delta State PDP at the wards, LGAs and State levels, just because they have been beaten down, oppressed, intimidated, harassed, threatened and “contractised/hypnotized”, I suspect, doesn’t mean that all is well.

Take for instance, my good self, a former Speaker, National Assembly member, a scholar/philosopher, and particularly, a national convener, who with Chief James Ibori, our leader, Prof. Oyovabaire, H.E. Ifeanyi Okowa, Senator James Manager, Senator Nwaoboshi, Mrs. Nkem Okuofu, Late Chief Humphrey Iweriebo, to mention a few, were the foundation members of PDP. From PTI Warri, we retired to Palm Grove Hotel, where we set up the first PDP State Executive Committee and Senator James Manager and Nwaoboshi emerged its Chairman and Secretary, respectively.

Today in PDP at the wards, LGAs, Ndokwa/Ukwuani Federal Constituency and Delta North Senatorial District, I am not consulted when major party decisions are taken at these levels. You now can see that if the aggrieved at these levels across the state have what it takes to remove the chains of oppression around their necks, it will then be obvious that Chief Ibori is just one of the factors and not the only factor. The primaries have come and gone and having emerged the winner, if there is no challenge, he becomes the candidate of the party to fly its flag, the legal challenges notwithstanding.

As a PDP chieftain, what hope is left for your party towards 2023 general elections?

Initially, given the socio-economic and security problems in the forms of the impunity of banditry and Boko Haram attacks, rising inflation, strike leading to shutdown of our Universities for onward of 6 months now, energy crises, high cost of living generally, the dearth of good road transportation in some major cities of the country, I had thought that PDP has a fighting chance to win the Presidency come 2023.

It is bizarre to notice the deadly internecine war or the internal strife tearing it from within and has taken a toll on its ability to win come 2023. So, I don’t think PDP can rise from its self-afflicted malady to win the presidential election in 2023.

As Gov. Wike was coasting to victory on the party’s presidential primary, it appeared that a gang up was hatched to deny him victory, so he alleged. Gov. Wike, who was recommended as the first choice for the party’s Vice Presidential ticket was again undermined. If the above issues, if not properly handled, PDP should kiss its hope of winning the presidency bye-bye.

Allegation of vote-buying was levied against politicians during the recent Ekiti governorship poll and party primaries; comment

If you sell your votes, you have sold your future and don’t come looking for scapegoats. The ENDSARS, Adhoc and national delegates and Ekiti voter’s experiences at the APC/PDP conventions and Ekiti general elections, respectively, are pointers to your culpability. You will only get the representation and government you enthrone and if you suffer under-representation, oppression, corruption and bad governance, you are not victims but accomplices. The giver and the taker are both guilty of the electoral crime.

Democracy died in Nigeria at the conventions of PDP and APC in 2022. Its carcasses are going to trickle down to the general elections in 2023 which have already began with Ekiti State because there is no difference between delegates and voters in this context of the debasement of democratic ideals when you add Boko Haram and banditry ravaging the North, unknown gunmen in the East, obscene corruption and the incapability of the law enforcement agencies and judiciary to rise to the occasion, I doubt if 2023 election will take place.

There seems to be disquiet in the ranks of your party as a result of a conflict of interests, what way forward?

Until justice is done and nourished to assuaged the various interests, the disquiet will be a time bomb waiting to explode at the slightest trigger. The way forward is what is good for the geese is good for the gander. Rotational justice and equity, a solemn agreement enshrined in the PDP Constitution and practised since 1999.

Is it that the governor is not comfortable with you or something?

From the grapevine and from certain observed phenomenon, it is possible.

Are you aggrieved….?

Not at all. Frustrated and disappointed that a party I helped build in 1999 as a National Convener, served meritoriously for 12 years, became its State Assembly Speaker, former member of the National Assembly and presently the PDP State caucus member, could treat me with such ignominy, a further proof of many ” Iboris” at the wards, LGAs and State levels.

Do you think the emergence of Chief Onyeme as running mate to Hon. Oboriwhori will assuage the feelings of marginalisation and age-long neglect by Ndokwa people?

It is only time will tell.

There’re reports that Ndokwa leaders are unhappy over the choice of Onyeme, state your view

Which Ndokwa Leaders? The 11 out of the lots of Ndokwa Leadership who recommended him. In fact, who made them Ndokwa leaders. Seriously speaking, who should be concerned with what the generality of Ndokwa people think not the so called self- appointed leaders. Until the nomination becomes widespread, you cant judge by what your imaginary grumbling of Ndokwa leaders say or feel.

Your governor is running mate to Alhaji Abubakar, did it come as surprise?

No! I know he is capable of pulling such feat.

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