From Paul Osuyi, Asaba
Former Minister of Education and a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Delta State, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, has declared that the main opposition party in the state, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its governorship candidate, Great Ogboru stand no chance of winning the next governorship election.
Why did you not contest the primary with Okowa?
We must all, irrespective of where we are from know that first and foremost that we are Deltans, the Anioma, Urhobo, Ijaw, Itsekiri, Isoko, we are Deltans notwithstanding the school we attended, what we eat and drink and despite our various locations across the world. When something is good, we should support it. Age, maturity in a different sense is crucial, but reality is another thing. In the last 20 years, I pride myself as one of the first citizens of the PDP and we reached a consensus. The consensus either written or unwritten is a compromise and it has worked effectively for us and has doused the so-called acrimony, the fight, the quarrels and killings. You would recall that recently President Olusegun Obasanjo in his visit to my native land, Oginibu, made mention of it that we both ended part of the killings in Delta State. Therefore, if you ask me, the arrangement that every person from three senatorial districts should contest in rotation is what has saved Deltans from collapse. Ibori and I once contested it, Ibori hails from the central senatorial district, and he did his eight years. The south senatorial district as exemplified by Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan has done its turn, it is the turn of the Anioma and they brought Senator Ifeanyi Okowa. Every other district did eight years each, so it is only sensible, wise and credible to allow Okowa do eight years for Anioma, thereafter, it comes back to Central and in that rotational manner and peace will continue to reign in the state. You see, whatever people congregate to do that makes them happy and live together is their law. The greatest mistake the All Progressives Congress (APC) made and to the advantage of Okowa is to have nominated a non-Anioma for governorship.
Your friend, Great Ogboru, does not believe in the unwritten agreement you are talking about…
(Cuts in) You see, Great Ogboru is my friend; I was the one who went into the airplane after he and I had spoken for over one year calling ourselves K and G to beat security arrangement as it were then, to bring him out after the coup episode. If you read news then, it was Gbagi who went to receive Ogboru into the country. Ogboru and I had a meeting at Imperial Hotel in London and he swore on his life that he would never contest governorship. All these contrivances of Ogboru are as made by deceitful people to him. When he came, I flew him in a plane to Warri after I hosted him in Lagos, he was staying in my guest house in Warri and until tomorrow, at times when Ogboru wanted to contest election, I gave him money just as a friend. What I am trying to say in effect is that we cannot alter the issue of Delta State, the state is bigger that everybody. Together we will work for the peace, success of the state as opposed to an individual. Ogboru will not win election in Delta; we are not talking about rascality. Ninety percent of persons, who hitherto were talking about Ogboru have all left him and are back to PDP.
You said he swore, that is a very strong statement, where did he swear and why?
Ogboru swore to me in the presence of people and just to remind him, he had a rider that the only condition he would be interested in politics is if former President Ibrahim Babaginda is going to contest an election, then he would roughen him out by contesting the presidency. However, he swore and this is a statement of fact, I bought him his V-Boot car with which he rode when he came; I chartered a plane to bring him here. It is not that I do not know that he has tremendous respect for my person, but you know in the arrogance of this world, he is a big man, but I can tell you that with the political machinery on ground, APC does not stand a chance in Delta. Really, do we even have APC here, what I see is PDP members who gravitated to APC and they are mostly people, who quarreled with their wives and go to APC, but their wives and children remain in PDP, loyal members of the family for that matter. You are asking me when he swore to me, check the day he came back, seven months before that day. I said at Imperial Hotel in London in meeting which about 10 of us attended. Now, somebody had told me that the APC has plans to rig elections in Delta and they were going to use the military to steal votes, carry ballot papers and whatever happens, we should go and die. Either number one or the second most powerful person in the so-called APC in Delta had a discussion with me and he said to me that we, PDP, never believed in fairness, so with the gun, they will do what they need to do. Unfortunately, I used this medium to call both my students and all security personnel in the country not to set Delta State on fire because of its uniqueness as I can assure you that measures are in place to resist any such attempt. The people want to have a free and fair election and the wish of the people should prevail. We cannot turn Delta to a scalawag zone. However, I can assure you APC cannot repeat Osun and Ekiti mischief here, it will not be possible and Delta is too unique, 99.9 per cent of people are PDP; it is not a gun totting arrangement. I say that the peace we are enjoying today in Delta, where our oil is flowing and they are lifting is because of the arrangement in the three senatorial districts and nobody should truncate it because the consequence will be unimaginable.
Are you aware that the National Chairman of APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole had boasted that APC would take over Delta in 2019?
I read Adams Oshiomhole’s comment, Adams Oshiomhole as you know is still grappling with problem that is besetting him as a former governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole is not from Delta and he can never be from Delta, he is not an aborigine and what we know, he will never know. He was a former governor, I was a former minister of the Federal Republic and we have our different callings. I see those comments as one coming from a rattled person, who believed that he had a personal score to settle with Okowa. The issue of the governorship of Okowa is beyond tribes, it is beyond individuals, it is scientific, a situation we have put in place as a people and that is why I am calling on the Aniomas themselves to stand up to defend their rights. Anything that is not good before God will never be good before man. Therefore, the Aniomas should stand up for their person, who incidentally is a fantastic man. The Urhobos should reciprocate the good gesture of Okowa, the Urhobos must not be seen to be mischief makers and cannot be. Agreement is an agreement; defend this agreement to prove with their lives that they are people of integrity. One of the problems we, Urhobos have had is this issue of integrity. Urhobos must stand firm and we would have had a common understanding, just as Ijaws, Isokos and Itsekiris from the South have a duty to defend it too, what we have put in place for 20 years, we will not throw it away for nothing.
You keep saying there is agreement, I hope you know that APC members in the state see the so-called agreement as a PDP affair and maintain that Deltans are not part of it. What is your take?
You see a child go to primary school for six years, secondary school for six years and university for four years. There is no agreement, the system put that situation in place and Urhobos took the first shot. Urhobos have done theirs, the south has done theirs, the north started their own and they just have to complete it. Moreover, I say to you, people who cannot follow an agreement will never do well in life. I want to restate that if APC is wise, wanted election and fielded an Anioma candidate with credibility, it would have caused quite an issue for PDP, but like I said, God who designs finished it, bringing an Urhobo man to come and truncate what we Urhobos have enjoyed is a misnomer. I supported Okowa with everything to become a governor, as a lawyer, I will be a very stupid lawyer if I do not follow through what is an agreement, it means I and my Urhobo people have no integrity and I call on Deltans to forget rivalry and do the right thing. Urhobos as I said earlier must go back to the drawing board and should not give room to everybody in the world to call them rascals, there is an agreement which made us to give Urhobos eight years shot, south senatorial – eight years shot and we are giving Delta north, which is part of Delta eight years shot. We must support Okowa and deliver him so that he will in turn support them in 2023 to produce the best Urhobo and it continues in that way.
What is your relationship with former governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori, who many believe stood between you and governorship of the state for some years now?
I will not want to believe that ex-governor; James Ibori denied me governorship of the state because it is not in his place to deny me of it. James Ibori and I contested very keenly for the office of the governor of the state and as you know, it is one person that can be there at a time. After James Ibori from my senatorial district, it went to south, after the south, it came to the north, it is after the north that it will come back to the central where I am from. Should the pressure that is coming become inevitable, when we get to the bridge, we will cross it.