Delta State governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, has not rested since his initial mandated was annulled by the Court of Appeal in Benin City, Edo state on November 9, 2010. In fact his very busy scheduled dates back to just before the annulment when he collected and returned the PDP nomination form for the 2011 elections and commenced the process of his second term bid with several critical meetings with political office seekers in Delta state. He was just getting into stride when the bombshell of the annulment landed while he was at the Government House Squash Court, officiating a football match between staff of Government House and Journalists in the state.
He immediately commenced his re-run campaign, which took him round the state to meet with several key statesmen and opinion leaders in the three senatorial zones. He did not shy away from the several meetings with INEC prior to the re-run and even participated in the Governorship debates organized by Channels Television and welcomed President Goodluck Jonathan to his final campaign rally in warri, before confronting the re-run elections, where he emerged victorious in a landslide.
No sooner had he won the re-run he was faced again with the PDP governorship election primaries, which he won with a landslide.
He then literally jumped into the next available late flight to Abuja and the Eagle Square, where he led the Delta state delegation to join thousands of PDP delegates to vote for and endorse President Goodluck Jonathan as the PDP flag bearer for the April 2011 Presidential elections.
And then it was sudenly the time for the voter registration exercise and the governor had to endure some long days of delay before he finally registered in his home town of Abigborodo.
He returned form Abigborodo just in time to mobilize and receive the South South, South East Governor’s, who used Delta state as the launchpad for the bandwagon road show to convince the governors in their various geo-political regional blocks to support President Goodluck Jonathan. He even had time to have breakfast with Journalists operating in Delta State, before joining his colleagues.
As at the time of this interview, the Nort Central governors had already joined their Southern counterparts to endorse President Jonathan for 2011.
Governor Uduaghan, as usual took out time to speak with some Journalists, after the North Central meeting, where he spoke extensively on the January 6, 2011 gubernatorial re-run election in the state and the three warri LGA’s, President Jonathan’s chances in the 2011 elections and the allegation by some elders of the state that he has the penchant for dumping people after using them to fulfill his political ambitions.
Delta Focus brings you a richly served version of that Interview, already published in some National Newspapers, in our usual poignant and exciting offering.
How do you plan to reconcile aggrieved party members and prominent citizens of Delta state after your victory in the gubernatorial rerun election?
I usually have three boxes set aside where I put such issues for deliberation. In one of the boxes I put people who whatever you do to reconcile them or try to appease them, they will never, no matter what you do, even give them your blood; they will never be ready to put the interest of the people first.
There is another box containing people who may not be loyal to you or your administration but if you are able to convince them to see reason with what you are doing, they would change. Of course, there is also the box of those who are loyal, core loyalists who always believe with you, who always are there for you.
If you focus on the box of those who will never change, you tend to lose people from the middle box and annoy people from the loyalist box. If you focus only on the box where you have people that are neither here nor there to the detriment of the loyalists, they may interpret it that you are ignoring them and they may not be too happy. What am I saying? For that box where people will never change, all I do is just to watch them, their next move, because they are always making moves, one mischievous move or another.
But in the middle box really, that is where I am concentrating on, to see how we can bring as many of them as possible back while also keeping the loyalty of the third box by encouraging them to continue to work for us. Specifically on how we are trying to convince those in the middle box, we are reappraising them. In the next few months, we will assess our working conditions and do one or two things to win the confidence of the people.
There is this allegation against you that you use people to achieve your political ambitions and after using them to climb up and making promises to provide welfare and infrastructural ammenities to them and their areas, you dump them unceremoniously without fulfilling your promises. How true is this?
Let me correct that. I never made such promises to anybody. I am very conscious in making promises. First of all, I am not a neophyte in politics. I didn’t start politics from the position of governor. I was a commissioner, I was SSG, and so I know what is on ground. I know my capabilities.
So, there was no where one person will tell me oh, I said I was going to construct this road. Now when you are going about, people can make a request and say construct this road. I never made commitments to any community. I can challenge any community or anybody who said I made commitment to him or her. Now, why I wanted you to be specific is because I have heard stories of, oh this one supported you and now he is on the other side. Of course you know that there were so many people who oppose me even to the last minute.
Even after the election, they were still in court. In fact, I think I am one of the most opposed governors in 2007 and it was even worse in 2010. Fine, after the election, I even tried to make moves to many of them. Now, some were giving me some very impossible conditions, very, very impossible conditions and some said, ‘okay, we’ve settled’. But we’ve settled and the next moment they are doing something else.
To me that is not good. In fact, there was one I talked to yesterday. I said ‘ I thought you said your quarrel is not with me but with Chief James Onanefe Ibori, I went to him and we talked and we settled but he has not done anything. ‘The next day, you were somewhere in another meeting.
Of course, I have to assess whether you are really genuine or not’. So that is why this issue of I made promises cannot hold water. I didn’t make promises to anybody. Okay there is one, yes we talked and I said I will consider the issue but then I also gave my conditions. That in your local government, ‘I have senior people from your local government; deputy governor is from your local government.
You don’t recognize my deputy governor, yet you say you settled with me? It’s not possible. So whatever we even talked about in terms of settlement, one condition is that you must respect my deputy governor because if you don’t respect my deputy governor, how do I move; that is why I wanted you to be specific. Settlement is both ways, it’s like the bus conductor, that will say, ‘every day you de ask for change (cash) change; you yourself when you go bring change too’. So change is both ways.
The issue of the animosity towards you by Chief EK Clark has become a recurring question in every interview you have granted. Do you finally have an answer to that question especially now that you have won another election in Delta state and he is still not happy with you?
There is no personal quarrel and I have asked the question publicly and he has also tried to answer the question by saying I am corrupt; I was imposed by Chief James Ibori. Well, we went for re-election; Chief James Onanefe Ibori wasn’t there. He is trying to talk about corruption but there is nothing specific that he has said. I know during this period he did a lot, to try and bring issues of corruption.
The truth is that as secretary to government, you do not have approval limit beyond N1million. What I am saying is that there has been a lot, that has been done to pull me down but I am here.
What lessons have you learnt while your were on what has been referred to as your ‘Vacation’ or ‘Sabbatical’ period, between the annulment and the re-run election?
I will say the period I was out of office gave me the opportunity to analyse and understand people better. What I also came to know is that there are many fair-weather friends around you. When it’s good, it’s good; when it’s bad, it’s goodbye. There are those who of course it’s not totally bad yet, from their assessment. All I will say is that every day, when you wake up, just pray to God because he is the only one that can protect you. There are a lot of persons who I will say are very trustworthy. But there are few who you think that they are trustworthy but they are really not trustworthy.
Former governor, Chief James Ibori is facing several charges. Are you doing anything about it?
Of course he has his challenges and I think he has a lot in his hands dealing with these challenges. I just want to leave it at that.
Does that mean he has been dumped?
No, no, no. First of all, we are related by blood. There is no way I can sit here and say I want to disown him. I will not do that. We all have challenges; I mean he has his peculiar challenge as a person. We have our family challenges; no matter how you see it, what is happening to him has family challenge; we have our family challenges. So I did not disown or dump him.
The recent meeting between governors of the South-South and South East, with even Gov. Peter Obi who is not of the PDP stock, is it an alliance for 2011 or are we likely to see a merger?
Something is building up in that direction (alliance) but it is not a merge. It is an understanding. They (APGA) don’t have a presidential candidate, but we have. We are in agreement that they will come and support us to deliver our presidential candidate. That is why I said that it is an understanding.
Now, let me put what we are doing in proper perspective. President Jonathan has emerged as the PDP candidate but the presidential primary election is just a part of the process of making him the president beyond May 29, 2011. The real process is the main election in April and we as governors don’t just want to say that he has emerged in the primary and relax. We need to prepare for the April election. So that meeting really was our first move in trying to prepare for the April elections.
The PDP governors of the South-South, South-East and the APGA governor came together to appraise what happened at the primary and to map out strategies on how to win the April 2011 poll. In the next few days, we are also going to make other moves; we are going to develop on that relationship beyond the two regions. We are moving into other regions. Politics is a game of numbers; it is about lobbying, consultations.
What is your opinion regarding the statement of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) to sanction governors who voted for President Goodluck Jonathan at the primary and the insistence that the north must produce the next president?
My attitude is that they have made their point but we will go to them or we should go to them and discuss with them and try to soften them. This is politics; we must try and win their hearts. It is not a politics of saying that they have made that statement, we must counter the statement. And we should not ask them why they made that statement or if they don’t know it is wrong to make that kind of statement or argue with them that don’t you know it is our turn or it must be our turn. That is not politics. The North is very, very significant and very important to the 2011 polls. So, it is left for us to also go to them and say, ‘look, you have said this but for XYZ reasons, can you not just look at what we are saying, consider it and support President Jonathan? Those are the kind of things we will discuss with them. I also want to appeal to our people that they should not react to such statement with another hot statement; it does not help matters at all. We should just examine what they have said and try to soften them.
Many people have said that your victory in the January 6, 2011 guber re-run election over your main opponents, especially Chief Great Ogboru was influenced by alledged rigging of the votes of the three Warri Local governments over that of the mainland areas of the state. How do you react to this allegation?
If you look at those who registered to vote in the state, the truth is that the Warri area of these people have been surviving on elections. In fact if you look at the elections from Mid-West, old Bendel, even up till now, you have always had majority of the votes coming from the Warri axis.
This is not the first time we are having majority of the votes that determined the winner in an election from that side. Many times it is the votes that come from that side that decide who the governor becomes. Let’s go back to history; from the days of Alfred Rewane, he always made sure that the people are sensitized to vote because that is the only way they survive. So it is nothing new. I will only add that they are more politically conscious and sensitive to voting. In the Warri situation for example, lets say we are in a room and we are about 20 in the room. We can have 10 people in another room and they say, go for an election. You will be surprised that at the end, you might have more people from the room with 10 people, voting more than the people from the room withy 20 persons. Of the 20 persons, maybe only 3 might vote while 8 of the 10 other persons might vote. So relatively, you now ask, why there are more votes from the smaller room than the bigger room.
The thing is this; the issue of population is subjective. If you go back to the last population census, it is not true that you have more people in the upland areas of Delta state than the riverine communities of Delta, made of Warri and so on. Moreover, the people of Warri know me as one of their own who has suffered and toiled with them in their hour of suffering. So as far as they are concerned, I am a safe pair of hands for them. I have been involved in a lot of things that brought peace to them today. So whether they are Ijaw, Urobo, Itsekiri, I am the one they know. I am the one they want to deal with. Even the issue of the annulment of the election in the first place, was very painful to them. To them it was a challenge because they felt; ‘why and how did this come about because Uduaghan is our own’. And really, this is the first time they are really having their own as governor.