From Paul Osuyi, Asaba
Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege is the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Delta State for the 2023 election. In this interview, Omo-Agege who represents Delta central, unfolds his plans for the state, insisting that Deltans must reject the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in all the elections next year. He also explained his role to stop the attempted impeachment of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2018.
You have outlined laudable plans to develop the state if elected, and you happen to be a very senior member of the ruling party at the centre. Why has the Federal Government which you are part of not been able to make life better for Nigerians?
We are saying that Governor Okowa has not done well given the amount of money we have received in this state in the last seven and half years to the tune of about N2.8 trillion by way of FAAC and several billions of naira by way of IGR and other sources by way of 13 percent derivation. If you go round Delta State, you will not see anything that would reflect the receipt of N2.8 trillion. We are saying that the reason we are in this situation is bad leadership of Okowa and not the bad leadership of Buhari. Buhari has nothing to do with it; it is Okowa’s bad leadership and mismanagement of resources. He is dwelling on the wrong priorities that have led us to this state of decadence. That is what Deltans are angry about, and that is why Deltans want a change. Buhari at the centre has done all he could to assist the states. Even beyond the receipts from FAAC and IGR, Buhari tapped into the federal component of our revenue and also made revenue available to the states including to help in the payment of salaries. You recall that in 2015 when he came on board, there was no money. This state and indeed many states were going into bankruptcy. Buhari has to approve a cash bailout which came out from the federal component; it was not money meant for the states. So he bent backwards to give the bailout funds, and those monies have not been repaid. Even though the Federal Government insisted that it must be repaid, he has continued to grant them moratorium just to make sure that they have enough resources to take care of our people. But rather than use the money to develop the state, it is being channeled into unholy issues not limited to his ill-fated campaign to go for vice presidency of this country at a time when the entire country inclusive of northern Nigeria governors, southern Nigeria governors, President Buhari had decided that it is the turn of southern Nigeria to produce the next president. Rather than abide by that decision, Okowa decided to trade away or attempt to sell the rights of the entire people of southern Nigeria just for him to get vice president. The entire southern Nigeria including PANDEF and every well meaning individual and group have decided that what Okowa has done is treachery and have appropriately labelled him a traitor because we do not want a vice president; what has been given to us this time is the president.
Few weeks when you inaugurated your campaign council, you told a cheering crowd that when the Saraki-led 8th Senate attempted to impeach President Buhari, you exhibited the Delta spirit in you to stave off that impeachment plot. Can you tell what you did exactly to save the situation?
You must understand the circumstances that led to the fracas at the National Assembly on that day. What led to this, we had taken a position and indeed a decision as the 8th Senate led by my committee on INEC; even though I was not the chairman of the committee, it will not be out of place to say that I was the de facto chairman of that committee. And in that position, I took it upon myself to assume responsibility for the re-writing of the amendment of the Electoral Act. After we wrote the Act, after we pushed it through the committee in the Senate and indeed passed it, it was sent to the House of Reps for concurrence. But rather than concur, the leadership of the Senate at the time headed by Saraki who and others had decided that it was best to remove the president at that time, they decided to alter what we have passed in the Senate most specifically by introducing a clause changing the sequence of elections. The power to determine the sequence of elections as provided in the constitution is vested in INEC, and INEC had exercised that power by bringing the presidential and NASS elections first and thereafter, the elections for governors and state Houses of Assembly. But the Saraki leadership at the time felt their interest geared towards the removal and impeachment of Mr. President would be best served if that sequence was changed. And some of us having seen through the agenda, we refused. To ensure that people like us who were in the forefront of the agitation to shut down that exercise, they decided that I should be suspended. Unfortunately for them, I, being a lawyer, having perused the provisions of our Standing Order and the constitution, did not see anywhere power was reserved for the leadership to suspend a sitting senator. Nigeria by constitution, is a country with 36 states, with each state divided into three senatorial districts. The senators merely represent the constituents of those districts. When you now assume the power to suspend, not just suspend but one that has the potential to even turn such a suspension which you have no power over, to now become de facto expulsion, what you are saying in effect is that a senatorial district recognised by the constitution cannot be represented in the Senate. And that power is not vested in the leadership or membership of the Senate, neither by the constitution nor by the standing orders in our inferior legislation that we passed. So by my knowledge of the law to the extent that there was a purported suspension, it was null and void and of no effect. Now when an act is deemed to be null and void like it never happened, so what it meant was that on that very day when the decision was taken to move to get the president impeached, most of us in our group, Parliamentary Support Group for Buhari, we decided that we should shut down the exercise. And to shut down the exercise, we needed the presence of all duly elected senators on the floor of the Senate and I happened to be one of them. So, I showed up to work just like other senators, and because of my presence which they resisted, the events of that day took place, and the objective to shut down the exercise which was to remove President Muhammadu Buhari was achieved. And I have no regrets about that.
You are going into the governorship with the APC divided in Delta State. What is your reaction?
Who says that Delta APC is divided today? I feel that is just wishful thinking. I will admit that about six, seven months ago, we were divided but since the primary that threw me up as the governorship candidate, all of the leaders, everyone in Delta APC, we have since come together determined to get rid of the Okowa tyranny. There is nobody who is somebody in APC that is not with us right now. All the leaders including the founding leader of APC in Delta, Olorogun O’tega Emerhor, Victor Ochei and all the others are with us except the only one who went to APGA because of his belief of the entitlement to the governorship every four years. Otherwise that toga of division that we have worn for so long, we pulled it and wore it on PDP. That is why today, PDP is divided from top to bottom. About 70 percent of PDP now operate under the Delta Unity Group (DUG) which represents the intellectual wing and it is under the leadership of James Ibori, by the reckoning of many Deltans. In APC we are united and determined to win the governorship of this state in 2023.
Is it true that you used your office as DSP to provide soft landing for a prominent member of APC in the state, Ngozi Olejeme who was under investigation by the EFCC?
It is not true. Olejeme is not just a leader in the party but a leader here in Delta State. She served so many years under the Goodluck Jonathan administration in various capacities most especially as chairman of NSITF. In that capacity, she was a blessing to so many here in Delta State most especially in Delta North. There is no homestead here in Asaba where her impact was not felt either by one employment or another. In fact, she had challenges, I can recall, with the chairman of committee on Federal Character while she was there because of lopsidedness of employment opportunities that she brought to Delta State. For that reason, Deltans have every right to celebrate her for the service she rendered to this country and the benefits to the state. So as one of our leaders who by the last time I checked, has not been convicted by any court of law, we abhor corruption in APC. Corruption is one of the things we are fighting against at the national and state levels. Here in the state, our resources have been moved into private pockets, state assets undervalued and sold to cronies. We expected the media to expose the under hand transactions that gave away Delta Line, how the Asaba Airport was purportedly concessioned to cronies of this current government, and others. I can assure you that under my administration, the treasury of Delta State is in safe hands; it will be safe, the proceeds of the treasury will be utilised for the benefit of the majority of the people in Delta State. At my age, I already have all I desire in life by way of assets acquisition. I have been the DSP going to four years; before that, I was a senator for four years. If you go to Abuja, the property I have was acquired before I became a senator, that is where I live; I have refused to move into the official residence allocated to me because I am not interested in primitive acquisition.
How would you react to fears being expressed by Delta northerners that the area would be abandoned if you become governor?
This is a concern I have heard about but it is very misplaced. I am as much a stakeholder here in Delta North as Okowa or anyone. If you are familiar with the history of Delta State, you will understand that Orogun, where I come from, has a cultural and ancestral affinity with Aboh in Ndokwa East here in Delta North. Every Orogun person is pretty much an Aboh person and vice versa. It is for that reason I championed the establishment of the Federal University of Agriculture to be sited in Aboh.
Okowa has been governor for seven years, and before then, he was a senator for four years, even before then, he was SSG for another four years. He never at any time deemed it fit to do anything for the people of Ndokwa nation. That is the only federal constituency in Delta State that does not have any state or federal tertiary institution. He had the opportunity to fight for them as SSG, senator and as governor; for seven and half years, he has not bothered to do it. Not too long ago, working with his stooge as Speaker, he established three state universities in one day. Not one of those universities was established in Ndokwa land. But myself as senator representing Delta central working with the senator representing Delta North, Peter Nwaoboshi, championed the bill to establish the Federal University of Agriculture in Aboh. God willing, before the end of this administration, that bill will receive the assent of Mr. President. Secondly, Asaba is the capital of Delta State but even the people here in Asaba know that the city has not been accorded its right place in the comity of state capitals. Most of the developments that ought to have come to Asaba have been taken elsewhere, and I am sure the people of Asaba know where the developments were taken to. We are talking about state resources which should be judiciously applied for the benefit of the three senatorial districts. Rather than affect all the communities in Delta North, all the developments are in one community, Owa-Alero in Ika North East. People in Delta North should be worried about what Okowa has done and allowing his stooge to take over because Delta North will suffer the same fate they have suffered under Okowa. And we all know, God forbid, that if the stooge of Okowa emerges, it will constitute a third term for Okowa as governor. So, it is in the interest of the people of Delta North to break free from anything Okowa. Let me also tell you that as the senator representing Delta central, I have brought a lot of developments to the zone. There is no village, no community, no town that has not felt the impact of the dividends of democracy brought about by my office. What it means in effect is that those are developments from the Federal Government. When I become the governor, I will sit down with our elected legislators, traditional rulers, I will let them know the entitlement of the state and we will share all of that equally, equitably among the three senatorial districts. The people of Delta North should be very comfortable with an APC administration to be led by Ovie Omo-Agege as governor.
There is the wide spread accusation that the projects you attracted to Delta central are concentrated in your community, Orogun. Why have other communities in the zones not benefitted from your representation?
The polytechnic that was established and sited in Orogun, I will like to ask you if Orogun is in Imo State. There is no village, town or community in Delta central where I have not established one federal project or another. The polytechnic is not the only project I brought to Delta, if you go round all the communities in central, there are solar street light from the FG, they all have transformers to boost electricity in their communities. We have also brought roads, shore protection projects in riverine communities. We have renovated primary and secondary schools across Delta central. There is no LGA in central that we did not build or renovate blocks of classrooms. I have also built ICT centres in two or three schools in every LGA. I can’t sit here and begin to enumerate the projects we have attracted. As we speak, we are seeking out communities that have not benefitted, we still have close to about 4,000 poles of street lights that we are waiting to install in communities that have not benefitted. In case you don’t know, beyond my senatorial district, I have also ventured to other senatorial districts as well. I attended St. Georges Grammer School, Obinomba. And I have it in the budget that is being implemented and the one that will come on stream, I have voted over N1 billion in bringing development to that school. And the last time I checked, that community is in Ukwuani in Delta North. In this current budget, in the next few weeks, there will be street lights in Utagbuno, Abbi both in Ndokwa West, I am bringing street lights to Koko in Warri North, Agbor in Delta North, Okerenkoko, Oporoza in Warri South West, Onicha Olona. I have constructed a road in Illah. I like to be compared, if you don’t mind, compare my record of service in the Senate with that of Ifeanyi Okowa. Okowa as senator brought nothing to Delta State, other than amassing financial arsenal to plot the hostile take over because he is now sidelining his mentor, James Ibori who brought him from nowhere to make him commissioner, SSG, senator and governor. That is why I call it a hostile takeover of Delta State. While at that, I am the candidate of APC, you should also compare my record with that of the stooge Okowa is sponsoring right now as the candidate of the PDP. As Speaker of the state House of Assembly, he holds the gavel. He was the one who held the gavel and landed it on the day that Okowa established three universities here in Delta. Not one, he could not have the guts to ask for permission to take one to Delta central or to his own village. Charity begins at home. He tells people that he is the longest serving Speaker, that is even a threat to Delta State. If you serve as Speaker for five, six years and you cannot point to one thing you used that office to bring to the people of Delta State, why should they trust you that when you become governor, you will be able to bring anything. I have not become governor, yet I am being accused of taking things to my place; at least I brought something to my place. The people of Okpe should ask Sheriff, as Speaker for five years, what did he use that office to bring for the benefit of the people in the constituency. I can tell you what I use my office as DSP to attract to the eight LGAs in Delta Central. Look at the airport in Osubi, that is in Sheriff’s immediate constituency. Rather than push for the expansion and improvements of the facilities in that airport, he would not even dare to look Okowa in the face to say vote some money for the development of anything remotely close to his village. Okowa is the governor, Okowa is the Speaker. Sheriff only masquerades as the Speaker but the real Speaker of the state House of Assembly resides in Owa-Alero.