The question of whether the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) dynasty in Delta state for the past 18 years has brought good or evil has been asked time and time again, and according to political theorist and philosopher Edmund Burke, “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”.
Is evil on the triumph in Delta state? Are good people in the state unwilling to do something about it?
TheNewsGuru sat down with a governorship aspirant of Delta state, and questioned the motives behind his governorship aspirations, and here is what we got.
CAN WE MEET YOU?
I am Comrade Frank Ufuoma Esanubi. I am a governorship aspirant for Delta state. I am a trade union leader, and I work in one of the oil companies currently.
ON UNSEATING PDP DYNASTY IN DELTA STATE
Since the return to democracy in 1999, Delta state has been led by the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), which has been in power, first with Chief James Ibori, and later with Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, and now we have Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa at the helms of affairs. We can ask ourselves: in the last 18 years, how much progress have we made?
The truth is, the PDP, having been in power for so long, they have the resources, they have the structure; but at the same time, if we recall what happened at the national level in 2015, where the PDP had also been in power for 15 years or so, we had the opposition party defeating them at the general elections. That only happened because people were generally dissatisfied with the way the PDP had led over time.
It is the people that will decide the direction of the next election. The people are not happy with what they have gotten. Delta state should be one of the richest in Nigeria going by our position as a major oil producing state, with the derivation fund that we also earn. Unfortunately, we are not where we should be. The people will naturally react. It is not impossible to defeat the PDP, because it is the people that will make the final decision at the end of the day.
ON A MANIFESTO
The challenge of giving manifestos today is that the average man in the street will say every other person came with promises, that before the elections, politicians will come with promises, they will come with beautiful programmes, they will come with beautiful manifestos but when they get into office, it appears that most times they forget what they promised ab initio.
In my case, my history and my pedigree will speak for me, and there are some basic things that we are going to do. For instance, I have been a worker from when I finished my youth service corps. I have worked in a bank; I have worked in fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) company, and I have worked in two major international oil companies. In fifteen years I have worked, for every month, I got my salary on or before 25th day of the month. It is inhuman for anybody to be in authority and deny workers their due wages.
One of the first things I will promise is that workers will get their salaries on or before 25th day of the month. That should not be something that is celebrated; it is something that is given under normal clime, but because of the maladministration that we have, it now appears that it is a big item. Beyond that, the major issues that we will be tackling are issues of job creation and reducing unemployment for our youths.
When you go to some cities of Delta state say Asaba, Sapele, Warri, Ughelli, Obiaruku, Agbor, and the rests, you will see abled young men, 8, 9, 10 in the morning seated and gisting with friends doing nothing. And the truth is that there are no meaningful activities for them to engage in. One of the first things we will do is identify the activities that our youths can be engaged in.
As a priority, we intend to set up one agro-allied company in each of the 25 local government areas of the state. We will look at the locality and look at the particular local government and look at what major agricultural products from that local government: is it yam, cassava, palm oil, etc; and when we identify what a local government has competitive advantage of, we are going to site an agricultural company focused on that product within that local government.
Let us take the issue of refineries today. We are one of the major oil producing states, and there is going to be a new refinery in Nigeria, but it is being sited in Lagos. What that means is that oil would be produced in Delta and shipped by pipelines to Lagos for refining, and after the oil is refined, it would be brought back to Delta and we would pay. What value have we given to the people of Delta state? Absolutely nothing! We need to rework that, and at a minimum, we should have one refinery for each of the senatorial district.
There are many other programmes we will roll out and with time Deltans will get to see the many programmes we will roll out.
ON LEADERSHIP/POLITICAL EXPERIENCE
To give you a little background about myself, I have answered this question once or twice, and some persons have advised that I cannot start politics and just say I am eyeing the governorship seat. They would say why not contest for some other positions and gain experience and then we would know that you will be able to perform at the level of the governor.
Part of the response I have given is that I did not have marriage experience before I got married, and today I am happy to say I have been married for 12 years happily with two kids. That tells you that it is not for every life’s endeavour that you need to ask for prior experience. The experience of life itself is an experience that can spur you to achieve anything in any facet that you want to face in life.
I have been the chairman of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) in Chevron where I was leading over 2,000 workers, and in that office, I, more or less, attend to the welfare and well-being of my members, making sure that their interests are well protected. Today as I speak to you, I am also happy to tell that I am the Deputy President of PENGASSAN representing over 20,000 workers in the oil and gas industry. That places me in a vantage position to know what concerns of people are, and being a leadership position to address some of those concerns.
I have also served on the board of one or two companies. These experiences have exposed me to issues of governance. I will say in terms of preparation, we need to realize that other countries today are tolling the path of having vibrant young people taking over the leadership of their countries. It is at the youthful age that one can make much impact, and that is what we are bringing to the table. We do not need to get to 60 years or 70 years before we want to take responsibilities. We need to rise up to responsibilities and do what we are supposed to do as young people in this country.
ON ETHNICITY AND POLITICS IN DELTA STATE
You see, I like Nigeria’s old national anthem compared to the new one. If you listen to the old national anthem, it says “though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand”. It is telling us about the strength we have in our diversity. Our tribe, our ethnicity, our religion should not actually be something that should differentiate us or that pull us apart. They should be tools that bind us together, and working more strongly.
Today we are happy to celebrate, for instance, that a Nigerian, Toni Iwobi, have been elected to the Senate of Italy. The question to ask is how do we react assuming we have a Yoruba man, a Hausa man or an Igbo man come to Delta state to become a member of the Delta State House of Assembly. We celebrate the Nigerian that is getting a political position in Italy, but when it comes to a Nigerian in Nigeria, we say no you are not from our state.
In that context, I am from Okpe local government area of the state. I do not see myself as just being Okpe; I see myself as a Deltan, I see myself as a Nigerian. I am offering myself to the people of the entire state, not just people of my ethnic nationality. By the time I am given the opportunity to govern the state, I will not just be governing people of my ethnic group, I will be governing the entire state, and I will be leading the entire state. We are all going to work together whether we are Anioma, Okpe, Ika, Itsekiri, Isoko, Uvwie, Ijaw, or what have you, we are going to work together as one big family, and that is what we are.
ON INCUMBENT IFEANYI OKOWA SECOND TENURE AND POLITICAL ZONING
Part of our problems in this country is the issue of power rotation or zoning. What it ends up giving us is mediocre leaders. I am an advocate of having the best lead us at every point in time.
If you take note of what happens in soccer, for instance, the Super Eagles will be playing in the World Cup in June; assuming we are to do rotation, probably we say it is the turn of the North to produce the players in the Super Eagles. And when the North had produced the players of the Super Eagles, we go to the South, and when the South has produced, we go to the West, and so on and so forth. If we follow this order, we are never going to have the best 11 representing us in tournaments. Government is not different. In government, we should have our best hands coming forward to lead us.
But, immediately we bring this issue of zoning, this issue of rotation, what we do to ourselves is depriving ourselves of the best hands that should lead us. So, as a person, I do not believe that zoning is the best thing we need for this country; neither is it the best thing we need for Delta state. I am offering myself to the entire people of the state, and I believe I will be judged on merit to know if I am the best man for the job or somebody else. The people will make a very objective choice in the process.
The constitution actually provides that for the position of the President and the Governor, an incumbent has constitutional right to contest for second tenure, and nobody can take that away from an incumbent. In that context, Okowa has the right to contest for second term. Nobody is depriving him. The constitution also expects that other political parties feed candidates, and it did not envisage that if somebody has done one term, the person must be allowed to go unopposed. The final decision is left for the people of the state to determine if the incumbent has done well enough to earn a second term in office or if there is need to look for more vibrant, more progressive, and better person to lead the state going forward.
ON INCUMBENT GOVERNOR IFEANYI OKOWA PERFORMANCE
I want to say incumbent Governor Ifeanyi Okowa has done to the best of his abilities. But, the question we should ask ourselves is: is Okowa best good enough? Is Delta state supposed to be a state that should be owing workers’ salaries? The answer will be no.
You see the development going on in Lagos state and some other progressive states; is that the type of development we are seeing in Delta state? The answer is no.
Can you juxtapose the resources that have poured into Delta state vis-à-vis programmes and development we are seeing in the state? There is a major and monumental mismatch.
In these contexts, it is difficult to give Okowa a pass mark. He has tried his best, but a point comes in the life of a football player that he has to retire, no matter how well you intend to continue playing. We have had good players in the Super Eagles. J. J. Okocha was a good player. Nwankwo Kanu was a good player. But, if they think that up to this point in time they want to compete with the likes of Victor Moses, Ahmed Musa, Mikel Obi, then, they are just not being fair to themselves.
With due respect to the incumbent governor, he has been within the leadership of the state in the last 18 years, he has contributed his best to the state, but it is time for the state to move forward, and moving forward means that young people have to step up and take over responsibilities. Whatever they have done, we appreciate them for their efforts, but definitely, we expect more and that is why we are coming to give more to the people of the state.
ON GODFATHERISM AND FUNDING
My desire to govern Delta state is to put the state back on track. I am a worker like every other worker. I go to work on Mondays through Fridays. I receive salaries at the end of every month, which is something that every average Delta person goes through; those who are even lucky to have a job in the first place.
I am relying on the people of the state to fund this ambition. I did not keep one big money somewhere. I have never held public office in government where I will say I accumulated money or I went to steal money that I kept aside for this ambition.
But I will tell that when I contested as the Deputy President of PENGASSAN, the total amount that was expended in that election was about N13 million plus. And the N13 million, what I contributed as a person was N200,000.00. The N13 million plus was contributed by over 150 people who believe that I have something to offer PENGASSAN as an association. That is the courage I have in terms of funding my governorship campaign. People of Delta state who are tired of the type of government we have currently will rise up and provide the fund that we will use to prosecute this election.
On the issue of whether I believe in godfatherism; the reality is that godfatherism only thrives when people do not come out to vote. Over time, especially in Delta state, there is this high level of voters’ apathy that whether we vote or not, these people are going to win the election, and that makes these so called godfathers to feel very important. But the challenge for us as the 2015 elections have shown, if as a people we come together, and we say this is what we want for our state, this is what we want for our country, we have that capacity to make it happen. In that context, I will tell you that the godfathers I believe in are the people of Delta state. They are my godfathers.
ON THE DELTA STATE OF MY DREAM
The major driver for me in this election first and foremost is the battle within myself whether I should give up on this country or whether I should still try to salvage the situation. For those of us who have had the advantage to travel to see other countries and then we come back; the people of those countries spend time to make their countries attractive. That is why you see people struggling, risking their lives to pass through Libya despite all the hazards. That is why you see the middle to upper class save their resources and see that they want to relocate from Nigeria to either to the U.S., to Canada or to some other European countries.
The Delta state of my dream is a Delta where people are proud to stay. A Delta where people are no longer under compulsion to say there are no prospects, we are dying, there is no hope. Let me just go and look for greener pastures somewhere else. People should be able to see that Delta is a place where there is actually milk and honey, and that the pasture is actually green in the state.
ON CHALLENGES AHEAD
The major challenge is enlightenment of the people. We need to get this message across to the people of the state because it is like somebody who is in bondage. You feel helpless. You feel that there is nothing more you can do about your situation. You are in the hands of your captor, and whatever you see, you just take it. We need to get this message across to the people that all hope is not lost.
We can get our state back on track. We can get our public institutions to begin to work. We can begin to create real jobs for our people. We can begin to make our children attend conducive schools all over the state. We can provide qualitative healthcare for our people, especially the pregnant and elderly ones.
Once people begin to buy into this message; it will not be too difficult a challenge to surmount. The major challenge is getting the message across to the people.