Senator (Obi) Nosike Ikpo is eighty-one years old and counting, yet the political icon and Delta North political leader, remains one of the few leaders and Elders in Delta state today who still commands genuine respect and attention, even when some of those in his class of elders have lost their relevance and sacrificed their reputation on the alter of selfish and pecuniary considerations. He was a student of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, but parted ways with him. He was involved in several well documented battles with the late former civilian governor of defunct Bendel State, Prof. Amrbose Alli. He has seen it all and has the credential to speak authoritatively on the metamorphosis of politics from the old Midwest region, through the old Bendel state to present day Delta state. Senator (Obi) Nosike Ikpo is very angry at the current happenings in the state; a situation which propelled him and some well meaning elders to initiate the Delta State Peoples’ Elders Council, DSPEC, led by the erstwhile deputy premier of the defunct Midwest Region, Chief James Otobo. He is quite disturbed by the fact that some political office seekers from the central senatorial district, especially Chief Ovie Omo-Agege and Chief Great Ogboru, would want to be the next governor of the state, when the zoning arrangement, initiated in 2007, has not run its circle. He also took a critical look at the Delta Elders, Leaders and Stakeholders Forum, founded by Chief Edwin Clark and concluded that the group has turned into a refugee camp for those who have one axe or the other to grind with the leadership of PDP in the state, and former governors: Chief James Ibori and Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan. In this extra-ordinary interview at his country-home, Ibusa, Delta State, (originally conducted by Emma Amaize and first published by the Vanguard Newspapers), Senator Ikpo leaves no one in doubt about where he stands on the very critical issues of politics, governance and the role of Delta North in the forth coming elections in the state. Delta Focus brings you excerpts of the interview in our usual reader-friendly style. Excerpts
Politics in my time
Politics in my time was played according to the rules. There was discipline. We had a hierarchy. You don’t just jump out from nowhere and impose yourself on the party leadership and party machinery. In those days, politics was a pleasant game.
Odd things that happened in life
When I had to part with my mentor and leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, I disagreed with the defunct Bendel State governor, the late Prof. Ambrose Alli, before the 1983 election. I had to support another UPN aspirant against Ambrose Alli at the primary presided over by the late Dr. Tai Solarin. When Alli won the primary against Dr. Isaac Okonji, I protested vehemently. I had earlier applied for nomination for my re-election to the Senate to which I was elected in 1979. For the most part of Prof Alli’s administration, I led a large number of UPN legislators at the national and state assemblies to oppose what we considered to be bad in Alli’s administration.
The 1983 governorship primary provided us opportunity to remove him (Alli) from office, but he was more important to the party than us (legislators). In spite of the beauty of our case, the party lent its weight behind him, so he won the primary election in a manner that did not satisfy us. Consequently, I had to write that night to the party electoral officer, Dr. Solarin, resigning from the party since I found it difficult to share the same platform with the governor and defend what I considered as his failure in office. Chief Awolowo did not take my resignation lightly. He felt so bad about it that during the campaign, he came to Ibusa, my countryhome, to personally campaign against me. In spite of that, however, I won the election hands down.
Some of you elders of Delta State recently formed a group called Delta State Peoples Elders Council, DSPEC. Why, when there is the Delta Elders, Leaders and Stakeholders Forum, DELSF, led by Chief Edwin Clark?
No God-fearing person would encourage looting of public funds. Where there is evidence that an office holder has abused his office by stealing public money, money that belongs to all of us, nobody would quarrel with any disciplinary action taken against him. I do not know the origin and how E.K. Clark formed the DELSF. As time went on, the forum became an all-comers forum. Its membership is not determined by any known standards, either of age or status. It becomes a sort of refugee camp for aggrieved PDP members who have grievances against Ibori, Uduaghan or the leadership of the party. Several others look up to the forum as a veritable ladder to secure employments, contracts and board appointments, especially since Jonathan became president. Consequently, the forum seems to have lost focus and the conventional sagacity of an elder who beats a child with the right hand and brings him back home with the left hand. This reached the point when Governor Uduaghan’s 2007 election was nullified by the Court of Appeal, Benin City, which ordered a re-run election in Delta State within 90 days from the date of the court’s decision. In the circumstance, Uduaghan, who was already campaigning for a re-election, is now to face a re-run. He has to face two elections within four months. As humans, some of us felt that Uduaghan deserves sympathy. Instead, our friends in Chief Clark’s forum intensified their hatred for Uduaghan. Out of sympathy, a few of us came together and formed our forum to offer an alternative view of Delta State, and explore the possibility of working with E.K. Clark in a truly recognized Elders Forum, and reconcile him with Uduaghan. From the communiqué of our internal meeting, you can see that we said nothing ill against E.K. Clark. Our forum is on a rescue mission. You are the only one Chief Clark said he respects in DSPEC. Have both of you crossed each other’s path in the past? Chief E.K Clark is a straight-forward man. As he said in your interview with him, he has nothing against me because, in my relationship with him, I did not do anything for which he could have condemned me. We have been good friends, talking from time to time, comparing notes. I told my colleagues so at our inaugural meeting. Since then, Clark and I have discussed and agreed to join forces to unite all true elders in Delta State.
So what should be the way forward for Delta State? Won’t the elders resolve the issues and tell the younger generation what next?
The thrust of the 2007 governorship election campaign was zoning. It bears repetition that since the creation of Delta State, governorship of the state has come from the central senatorial district, dating back to the tenure of Governor Felix Ibru, to the eight years of Chief James Ibori’s administration. We did not need a written agreement to expect that the next governor, after James Ibori, was going to come from either Delta south or north. And, so, when Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan from the Delta south won in 2007 as governor, all right-thinking people believed that a convention of zoning had been established in Delta. ‘How Delta north will vote’ I do not know what to make of the inordinate ambition of some new generation politicians who aspire to high offices without the humility of conducting sufficient consultations, which may help see themselves as others see them. Such as one young man who goes by name, Obarisi Ovie Omo-Agege, who wants to be governor of Delta state at all costs. Some of us have been in politics of this area since Midwest Region was created. I have never heard of Ovie Omo-Agege as a party ward chairman, a councillor or an ordinary party activist. Suddenly, Ovie Omo-Agege emerged from the Ibori stable and wants to be nothing lower than the governor of Delta State. If he rose from the ranks, he should know that in a political party, there is a hierarchy by which candidates who are qualified for elective and appointive offices are drawn. I don’t know who gave Ovie Omo-Agege the impression that Delta north will vote for him in any election. As Christians, we can forgive, but as humans, we cannot forget that his father, as chairman of Delta State Electoral Commission, short-changed a large chunk of Anioma Local Government Area in ward delineation in 2004, in an attempt to put Delta north in a permanent political disadvantage. It took the efforts of Anioma members of the third session of Delta State House of Assembly and the vociferous Delta North Leaders Forum to fight that political manipulation. It offends my sensibility whenever I hear Ovie Omo-Agege or his brother, Great Ogboru, appeal to Anioma people to vote for them in the re-run election, with a promise that they would serve only one term that will terminate in 2015, so that Delta north may take its slot thereafter. The truth is that Delta north did not vote for Great Ogboru in the 2007 governorship election. They will vote against him this time around. Not because they don’t like him as a person, but because the mind-set of Delta north people now is that anybody who wants to be governor of Delta before the zoning established in 2007 has run its circle has a dead conscience. Such a person does not deserve their support. Such a person should wait until Delta north has produced a governor for Delta in 2015.