From Paul Osuyi, Asaba
Olorogun Elvis Ayomanor is the deputy chairman of the Delta State All Progressives Congress (APC) caretaker committee. In this interview, he examines the crisis rocking the state chapter of the party, and came up with a verdict that APC may once again lose woefully in the state in 2023. He fingered Governor Mai Mala Buni and Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege as principal actors fuelling the crisis.
Less than two years to election year, your party is in crisis again in Delta; what are your party’s chances in the 2023 general elections?
To a great extent, you know what is going on. APC on a normal note, has a very bright chance of winning 2023 in Delta State but with the way the leadership of the party is going at the national level, I am afraid we may not even score up to 20 percent of vote cast in any election in Delta State. We have a situation where it is looking like, I am not saying it is, the national leadership of the party has compromised Delta State because we are looking at a situation where somebody is ruining the fortunes of the party in the state, and the national seems to be supporting these atrocities. For instance, Ovie Omo-Agege, the Deputy Senate President, what he is doing is virtually destroying APC in Delta State. Maybe he has a plan to set up a structure of his own, to set up a party, he wants to maintain the name APC but not with APC members. In the history of politics in Delta State, Ovie Omo-Agege is a household name and he is known for failure, inability to do the right thing. He is known as someone who can only drive impunity, someone who cannot move a step given the ideal situation. That is the same person who goes to the national and makes them believe that he is in charge in Delta because he is the DSP. Let us get this fact very clear; he is the DSP because he got into the Senate and did all the scheming there, which is good for him. But let us not forget that he could not have been the DSP if he didn’t win as a senator in Delta central. And he was single handedly made a senator by Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru. Ogboru sponsored him with his money, Ogboru asked his followers to vote for him. Omo-Agege had tried his hands in everything and failed in all until Ogboru picked him and dusted him up, and made him a senator. As we speak, the same Omo-Agege has no followers anywhere. We just saw the Isoko North bye-election few months ago, how he hijacked it and ran it and APC ended up scoring about 2,000 votes. And that was because few of us, I personally went to Isoko North to beg APC people to come out and vote for the party. They were angry that Omo-Agege hijacked the structure of the party and gave to people who are not on ground. But because I went there as the deputy state chairman of the party and loved by the people, we were able to score 2,400 votes. A lot of them refused to vote in spite of my begging, and those who voted reluctantly did it because of me. This time, he repeated it in Isoko South Constituency I. Believe me, the people got so angry and mad and said they want to see Omo-Agege’s strength. They ended up scoring 1,301 votes. That tells that if I didn’t go to Isoko North to beg, maybe APC would have scored just about 900 votes. You can see that the man has no weight. So, the party instead of looking at the realities on ground, they are looking at the lies and the carrot he is dangling and the national is even giving him support. If that continues, I can assure you that total vote cast in Delta State will be about 20 percent anywhere in any election. But if the national reverts and work with the College of leaders here in Delta State and ensure that everything is done free and fair, APC will chase out PDP in Delta State.
Does APC have a place for College of leaders in its constitution?
Necessity is the mother of invention, they say; like when they say drastic problems require drastic solutions. When you have a situation on ground that requires attention, we make the rules, the rules don’t make us. That is why a particular constitution is flexible and another is rigid. You make it bendable so that you can achieve what you want to achieve. Now, we have a problem of leadership, so there is nothing wrong with the College of leaders; it’s a matter of semantics. We have a problem, so leaders come together, that is why it is a College of leaders, to try to resolve it. Leaders coming together is constitutional in APC, that is why we have BoT, NEC, caucus. Leaders come together to chart a way forward for the party. So, it is constitutional for leaders to come together. If it is the name, College of Leaders, that is confusing everybody, wipe out and call it leaders of APC in Delta State.
Prior to 2019, you were a beneficiary of the consent judgment to become the deputy state chairman. Ogboru and Omo-Agege were in the same camp and emerged as candidates under the leadership that was birthed by consent judgment. So where did things go wrong for these two chieftains of the party?
There are so many stories to this which anybody can attribute to personal interests. Let me not be seen as attacking anybody though I am angry about it but I will not go personal. Omo-Agege and Ogboru are my witnesses to what I want to say. On several occasions, I flew to Abuja, I have other witnesses that went with me; somebody like Sam Ojeikere, on some occasions we went with the state woman leader, Mrs. Oyibo and the Delta central chairman. We went to Abuja on several occasions to beg, I mean beg, Omo-Agege and Ogboru to resolve whatever the problem was. We did everything possible to resolve it but we realised that the problem could not be resolved. So I sat down and went through all I could infer from it. This whole thing is nothing but about 2023; who becomes the governor. We had a situation where somebody is contesting for governor in 2019, somebody is contesting for Senate in 2019, and they are fighting over 2023. Where is it coming from? I call it stupid ambition. That is all I will say on this.
What is the role of the state chairman in trying to reconcile the differences between party leaders?
The chairman since the inception of the party in the state, has been Jones Erue. He was the interim chairman, a first tenure chairman and now this is his second tenure before we rounded off, and they made him the caretaker committee chairman though he is on suspension as we speak as a result of the ruling of the High Court, Asaba. I am now the acting chairman of the party in Delta. That had been the major problem of APC. They just did election in his constituency, he scored three votes. Is that person worth being the unit chairman of that ward? You cannot score three votes and say you want to be the unit chairman.
In the first place, the party picked someone who knew nothing about politics to be state chairman, that is the biggest mistake. He is just one greedy man who wants money, all the confusion in this party was set up by him just to make money. So, he lies against this person to another person. He grabs money from you and tells the lies you want to hear and moves on to the next man. There was a time last year when he went to contest the president general of his local community, Emede, he failed woefully. The mistake of our party is terrible, it’s so unfortunate. He sells this party to the PDP; in fact you need to hear the state chairman of PDP, Esiso, say how they work by day as APC, and work with him by night as PDP. I felt so ashamed that I am deputy under him. Some of them don’t even hide it; you see them in secret meetings with PDP. But thank God we are phasing out those caliber of people, and APC would find its feet again.
What do you think the national party should do to get APC Delta on the right track?
When they came to sell materials for the ward congresses, Omo-Agege and the same Jones stole the materials. We reported to them. What were they supposed to do? Pause it and investigate what was going on. We said they should pause it, because a lot of people paid for forms and you did not give them forms and you said the congresses should go ahead because of impunity. Even the man you sent down asked that the exercise be paused, you refused. Do you need to know that somebody has been compromised somewhere; money must have changed hands. Sometimes I wonder why Buhari would sit down and watch these so-called leaders destroy our party. But don’t be surprised that President Buhari is not even aware of what is going on. It is unfortunate. I will say it very direct, Buni should sit his butt down and resign. He has failed woefully; he should just resign, otherwise there is going to be a plethora of court cases coming after him. He should just resign than selling the party; that is my personal opinion.
You party has been wooing former president Jonathan ahead of 2023. And this is somebody who was roundly criticised as under performing during his tenure as president. Do you think, your party is doing the right thing to woo him over?
Well, I don’t know about that. I am at the state level not at the federal level. And that thing is not being done at the state level.
Speaking objectively as a Deltan without political sentiments, what is your assessment of the Okowa-led administration in the state?
You can also attest to every bit of his administration. Okowa is a failure; he is not a very good administrator. But to pay the devil his due, in a bit he did some good works in terms of road construction. This is not because he did much road, no! The few he did, he did them well, they will last. So, I give that up to him, he did a few good roads. Any other thing, I didn’t see what he has done.
Looking at the political configuration for 2023, the PDP is looking at Delta central for its governorship candidate, there is also the Ijaw agitation. Where would you prefer your party picks its candidate from?
I will say it categorically, we did not do any zoning. So, anybody can come but the leaders will sit down and look at the catchment areas where we have a better chance of winning. PDP can do their zoning; it’s none of our business; we have never zoned. But if we need to pick from an area we think is catchment, then we will do so.
There used to be parallel congresses whenever there is crisis in the party; we did not witness that in the recent ward and LGA congresses. Now what would your group present at the negotiation table if it comes to that?
What I know is that the College of leaders which is the leaders of APC in Delta State have done everything possible to have a unified list of executives as recommended by the national leadership of the party. But I think the Omo-Agege faction is having a parallel congress. It is left for them to have that; O’tega did it in 2018 like you know and he failed woefully. And O’tega has joined him now to do their parallel congresses. For me, we have a consensus list by the leaders of the party as recommended by the national. We don’t have any problem. All we did was affirmation, we affirmed our party executives at the ward and LGA level so far. But we are still looking at zoning and consensus at the state level; we will do the state as well. We will, and we know too that the Omo-Agege/O’tega faction are doing their parallel state congress; it’s their stock in trade, they did it in 2018 and they are repeating it. I can assure you that it leads them to nowhere.
What is your message to APC faithful across the state?
My message to them, as the acting state chairman, is for them to go about their normal party businesses with no cause for alarm. The party is moving forward. Very soon, on the 7th, we will have our state congress where state executive officers would emerge to pilot the affairs of the party in the next four years. Our members should be resolute, and I want to thank them for their resolve not to waiver but to stand by the party and not a group who wants to forcefully take the party out of track and sell it for personal gains. We have resolved to move forward as a party and by His special grace, we will take over this state from the PDP.