December 5, 2022

Why Omo-Agege is not suitable for Delta governorship — Ekpokpobe

Iteveh Nur’ Ekpokpobe is a man of many parts: Anti-corruption crusader, 

investigative journalist, political analyst and media strategist. He is a member of the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON), Nigeria Institute of Public Relations and a Fellow, Institute of Management Consultant. With his rich experience and interest in the Niger Delta struggle and development, Ekpokpobe, in this interview, speaks on several issues and proffers solutions. He does not leave out politics. Excerpts:

The Pipeline Surveillance Contract awarded in the Niger Delta has been at the front burner of public discourse. The Senate just passed a confidence vote on ‘Tompolo’ over the contract. Do you have any opinion on the issue?

The Niger-Delta struggle has, over the years, been infested by several variables that tend to derail its mainstay. One of such is the pipeline surveillance contract as well as the Presidential Amnesty Programme initiated by the Federal Government. Let me tell you how. The Kiama Declaration, which is supposedly the first and most publicized decisive action taken in the Niger Delta on 11 December 1998 by the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), was meant to bring to the fore issues bedeviling the Nigeria Delta.

These issues range from degradation of the environment by transnational oil companies to the fact that the Nigeria Delta has been robbed of their natural rights to ownership and control of the land and resources. The fallout of that declaration became militancy and the call for resource control by leaders of the region.

The establishment of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and eventually the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) were all pacification efforts of the Federal Government. Did these efforts eradicate crude oil theft in the Niger Delta? The answer is no.

Today, Nigeria’s external reserves no longer come from selling crude oil. Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, recently, disclosed that Nigeria’s foreign receipts from oil declined from US$3.0 billion monthly to zero in 2022. What happened to our crude? It has all been carted away by the people in power in collaboration with international crime syndicates and investors.

The pipeline surveillance contract is another pacification plot by the Federal Government to get locals or residents involved in monitoring pipelines and crude oil exploration facilities in the Niger Delta. As an interested stakeholder in the Niger Delta development question, while I must commend the fact that the contract was given to our illustrious son, High Chief Government Ekpemopolo alias Tompolo, it is worthy to stress that the purpose of the contract is at the verge of being defeated, since it is fast becoming politicized especially as it relates to the Isoko nation which is also covered in the contract.

You asked for my opinion and I will tell you that in as much as we shall continue to revisit how the Federal Government has given the Niger Delta a carrot and stick approach to destabilize us, our leaders must show probity and not further exacerbate our plight with their greed. Isoko must be given its due place in the equation and its pride of place. And any Isoko leader or people who support the APC as it were would be aggravating their plight.

The Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, is running for governor of Delta State where you are from. What is your assessment of his ambition vis-a vis the issue on ground?

Considering the abysmal performance of the APC at the national level, it is quite a pitiable situation that the APC should even consider campaigns rather than perpetual apologies to Nigerians. But that is not the question you have asked me. The need for a leadership that listens and truly understands the yearnings of every typical Deltan is more crucial now than ever. Delta State needs a leader who shares a common understanding of what it means to live as a Deltan and I dare say Ovie Omo-Agege does not fit that description. Over the years, Ovie Omo-Agege has enmeshed himself in more controversy than in leadership.

In the period between 2017 and 2022, I can tell you categorically that his true persona became exposed. Omo-Agege has exhibited all the trappings of a despot. Take a look at the Labour Party that revived his dying political career. What did he do? He left it for the APC when he felt he was not given the room to take charge. The APC he moved to is but a shadow of itself as we speak.

Where are the Victor Ocheis and the Cairo Ojougbohs who were with him ab initio? Why did former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan really exit the APC and returned to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)? What is Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru’s disposition towards Omo-Agege today? Ogboru has moved to the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA). For a legislator who is theoretically the bedrock of democracy, Omo-Agege is a far cry; one who neither listens nor takes dissenting opinions. Once you can’t toe his line you are kicked out.

Today, while the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Delta State has taken the soul of the APC’s little support base, other bigwigs of the APC are littering the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP) and APGA. This is the same man crying foul in Delta State. Omo-Agege should be more focused now in putting his house in order and subjecting himself to sober reflection. He claims to be the senator representing Delta Central, yet almost all the projects that government allowed, he dragged to his community. While he swims in luxury, other party members wallow in wanton so much so that the state APC Chairman, Chief Omeni Sobotie, is perpetually cap in hand around corridors of power here and there to raise funds for party activities. I can tell you categorically that even his party members have rejected him and his ambition and I hope he realizes it on time.

The internal squabble in the PDP in Delta State has made several political pundits to predict a bad outing for the party in 2023. Do you think in the same direction?

As a principal witness and an actor in the 2019 election, a view of the intricate web of the PDP in Delta State can push you to predict almost impeccably that it is impossible for the party to lose Delta State. The APC may have been a viable option considering ‘Federal Might’ as it is said in politics. But, today, that ‘Federal Might’ is irrelevant to Deltans having observed and suffered the pangs of the Federal Government’s reckless abandonment of its citizenry throughout the almost eight- year reign of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC government. When people talk about the internal squabble in the PDP in Delta State, all I can say, as an analyst, is that the PDP has jumped tougher hurdles in Delta than it is now faced with.

It is merely a storm in a tea cup. And the courts have extensively laid the issues to rest. Of course, there may be little bitterness here and there, but, with time, all stakeholders concerned will be pacified. The 2023 election in Delta State is such that the battle line would be slightly in Delta Central and Delta South; a near repetition of 1999. While the senatorial candidate of the APC in Delta North, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, is nowhere to be found, the PDP senatorial candidate, Prince Ned Nwoko, is fully on ground going about his campaigns. Both deputy governorship candidates are from Ndokwa/ Ukwauni, not forgetting that the incumbent governor and vice presidential candidate of the PDP is from the same Delta North. For Delta South, the Isokos have fully keyed into the Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori, #Sheriffied movement.

The Itsekiris have the senatorial candidacy of the PDP with Hon. Michael Diden alias Ejele. The return of former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan has further swollen the ranks and given further visibility. Here I must commend Uduaghan for his political maturity and fatherly leadership which has proved to be far above pettiness. The battle ground is Ijaw nation which seems to be aggrieved.

And with the pipeline surveillance contract given to their son by the APC government, one is not so sure where their pendulum may swing, but it is likely towards the PDP since they have been so deeply rooted.

In Delta Central, Sapele, Okpe and Uvwie Local Government Areas have no reason to sacrifice their son who is the governorship candidate of the PDP. Ethiope East has always been a ground of Chief Great Ogboru. Ethiope West has Senator Ighoyota Amori battling for Senate as candidate of the PDP as well as Erhitiake Ibori-Suonu, daughter of former Governor James Ibori, as House of Representatives candidate for Ethiope Federal Constituency. The battle ground is Ughelli North since Ughelli South has never been in contention. In the face of all of this, as much as the party leadership deserves some ovation for keeping it up in the face of the tension that bedeviled it, it still has greater roles to play in the cohesion of the party ahead of the election.

The party’s candidate has made it easier with his open door policy judging by information at my disposal. All said, I am no prophet, but I can say that there is a metaphysical hand behind the candidacy of Rt. Hon Sheriff Oborevwori. The love he gets as seen from afar is so immense that one could help but wonder. While the election may not be without political casualties, which is very normal, the variables on ground totally rule out a bad outing for the PDP.

The NDDC Board has been announced after so much outcry and expectations. Do you see something good now for the commission now?

The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has not enjoyed the autonomy necessary for it to operate viably. Nevertheless, the appointment of a Board and a requisite management is long overdue. And, sadly too, this history of messiness is most punctuated under the APC led government. After all said, I must congratulate the appointees. Although there are fresh squabbles on the floor of the National Assembly, we hope as stakeholders that the dust settles soon for the proper business of development to resume. Meanwhile, my concern as a stakeholder is more on the fact that the report of the forensic audit that consumed billions of Naira still stands hidden. We see it as an insult that the report is hidden from us. There is need to know the names of those who have stifled the growth of the Niger Delta region for their self-aggrandizement. I do hope, too, that implementation and prosecution of the report tops the to-do list of the incoming administration.