In this interview with Vanguard, he speaks on his APC senatorial ticket for the 2023 poll, the emergence of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State as the running mate to PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, his rejection of Muslim- Muslim ticket, and the rising popularity of the Labour Party Presidential Candidate and former Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, among other salient issues.
By Henry Umoru, Assistant Politics Editor
You are back from Delta after the senatorial primary election, how did it go?
Let me thank the leadership of APC both at the national and state level and also my senatorial district for finding me worthy to return unopposed. It was a very interesting primary, I contested alone and I am very grateful. It went very well.
What are you looking up to ahead of 2023 with regard to Delta North Senatorial District?
They are going to witness a very big fight. In my senatorial district, the governor and the vice presidential candidate of the PDP, the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, and the Deputy Governorship candidate of PDP, and many other candidates are from there. It is going to be a very interesting contest.
Are you really a happy man leaving the PDP, a party you started, built, and helped to nurture?
The answer to the question is embodied in the statement of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, SMBLF led Elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, everything I said and I told the people about Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, it is now that people are now realizing that I was telling them the truth, that this man can betray you at any time, that he is power drunk.
How can you host a meeting of the South-South Forum, 48 hours after that you were in Minna campaigning to be the vice president? He moved on a chartered flight to Minna to meet the former president and lobby to be the Vice President, and he was deceiving his fellow governors.
And look at the defence he is putting, that his party decided to throw the contest open and then a presidential candidate emerged. First of all, did he vote for a Southerner, did the Delta delegates vote for a Southerner? At least, I kept my own side of the agreement that we should all vote for a Southern presidential candidate.
At the convention ground, he directed Delta delegates to vote for Atiku because he had a pact with him.
When I met Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, he said, ‘Distinguished, why did you leave our party? I am not happy with you.’ I said, ‘the things I saw you will still see them.’ When we went with the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, he was not happy with me when he saw me, he said, ‘Distinguished, how can you do this?’ I said your ‘Excellency, what I saw you will see it.’ I think I am happy he has seen it.
What is your level of consultation ahead of 2023 to come back to the Senate?
Everything I have is from God, I will keep on telling people and I want to repeat, I am not a desperate human being. I never knew that I would get up to the level of being among the 109 Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is God that elevated me to this place.
I became the chairman of PDP; I was invited to be chairman. I was the secretary of PDP; I was invited to be secretary. I was the chairman of Raw Materials Research and Development Council; I was in my house when they called me that they had made me the chairman. I was a member of NEXIM Bank, I was in my house when they called me to be one of the non-executive directors of the bank; and so many positions I have held. Even this Senate, I was on my own when I was invited, my then governor, Ibori sent them to tell me to go and run for the Senate.
So, in terms of level of consultation, the people of Delta North know me and I know them. They know what I can do, my capacity, and credibility. So I am not a name that they will say who is he in Delta State? I have done my best. I was the chairman of NDDC.
I will campaign with what I have done not what I am going to do. I will first of all say this is what I have done and this is what I will do. There is no local government in Delta North that does not have my presence. In fact there is no ward in Delta North that does not have my presence. So, if the people still feel not satisfied then it is for them to judge.
As a ranking senator are you not worried that many of your colleagues are leaving the APC you just joined for the PDP you left?
Just like many people also came in, some people are leaving APC. That is the fall out of the primaries. I have made it clear for those who care to know, there were problems with the processes of the primary. First of all you can’t blame the present executive because the delegates were already elected before they assumed office so you can’t blame them. I believe that they should have been firm in certain decisions.
So, I don’t think that it is going to affect the fortunes of the party. I have been around for over 40 years in active politics, I have sat down and calculated the politics of the area and it is clear to me that APC will win. The only threat as at now is not PDP, it is Labour Party by my assessment.
The majority of the voting strength in this country is the youth. Go to every registration unit now, you will see surge of human beings, it has never happened before, all of them trying to register. Go to anywhere you will see them now, in fact INEC cannot cope with the surge. They even went to court to get an injunction for INEC not to stop people from registering. That is to show you their level of awareness. Who are these people? They are the youths and most of them believe in Obi. When he rolls out his figures and facts, these young guys don’t want to listen to you.
Where is the PDP, where is their base?
For a takeoff, during the time of Obafemi Awolowo, you know that Awolowo is going to takeoff from the South-West, in fact Awolowo won the old Bendel, the whole of the former Mid-West, and what you call the former Western Region, that was his takeoff, where will PDP takeoff? I am just asking, where is their takeoff.
So, Tinubu, like Awolowo, is taking off from South-West including Kwara that the governor is APC. So, I can assure you that Tinubu is going to take off with at least seven states. Where does PDP have the seven states? Their strength before was in the South-East and South-South, they gained about five states in the North, I mean one or two states in the South-East,. They won Sokoto State with less than 400 votes. So, where is PDP’s take off?
I beat my chest, nobody will beat Tinubu in the South-West including even the PDP governor there, he knows he cannot beat Tinubu, PDP cannot win Oyo at the presidential election.
So, PDP does not have a take-off. The South-South is balkanized now. It is not the same South-South that we had, don’t forget that PDP lost Bayelsa, it was the Supreme Court that gave them Bayelsa. So in Bayelsa there is still going to be a big fight because the same people that chased them out before are still there.
Wike brought the highest votes in the South-South in the last election and it is the same Wike you are asking who is he? I am not saying he is leaving the party, it can never be the same zeal with which he fought the last election that he is going to fight this election, even if he decided to fight for PDP.
In Cross River, the governor has joined APC. The governor of Akwa Ibom is there, he is leaving power. It is not going to be the same thing with PDP. You are talking of Edo which is balkanized; Delta is balkanized, where are they taking off from? The South-Est is out of it, you don’t even go there. If you go to Oshimili, Aniocha Federal Constituency, in my Constituency, the people that are threat to me are the Labour Party. In Asaba today, the greatest threat we have today is the Labour Party.
So, Obi is taking off from the South-East, and Tinubu is taking off from the South-West. Does Atiku control the North East, apart from one or two states? Does he own the North central? Does he own the North-West?
I sat down and did the calculation and it is clear to me. It is going to be a situation where if Obi is not well curtailed… the way these young boys are doing now, even my small daughter of 18 years is telling me that she is going to vote for Obi. The only person they see now is Obi. So, it is for the APC to curtail him. Those who are talking don’t know what is happening. I heard what one governor was talking about Obi, I just laughed, he doesn’t know what is happening, if he knows what is happening on the ground, he won’t talk like that.
What is your take on Muslim-Muslim ticket?
I don’t support Muslim-Muslim ticket. That is the truth. Nigeria is not ripe for that.
How prepared is your party, APC, to win Delta considering the fact that all the candidates are from Delta Central and the Deputy governorship candidate of PDP is from your Senatorial district?
I won’t give you the formula but I will tell you that they know that there is a fight. Go to the street and ask any small boy, which people are contesting and they will say it is PDP versus APC. If you are an Urhobo man he is not used to Labour Party, he doesn’t know what is called SDP, he doesn’t know what is called APGA. What the Urhobo man knows is that two parties are here – PDP and APC. That is what the Urhobo man knows, that is what the Ijaw man knows, that is what Isoko man knows. He doesn’t know all those mushroom parties you are talking about.
If you are talking about Labour Party, the only person they know is Obi. Even me, I don’t even know if Labour Party has any other candidate against us.
In PDP before, we had Delta North which was the takeoff of PDP in any election from 1999 to date, minus the first election when we lobbied Ukwuani.
Now, when Uduaghan was going to be governor, the Urhobo didn’t vote for him. So, he took the votes of the South where he is coming from and joined with Delta North and that was how he became the governor of Delta State. The elections he contested, that was how he won, he never won in Urhobo land.
In the time of Ibori, he took his own votes from Delta North and then he got majority of his votes from the South. He and Kragha shared Urhobo land. That was how he became governor. It was his second term that he was able to clear the Urhobo land. When Okowa was coming, he had the Delta North which is his Senatorial district.
So what I am saying now is that it is not the same Delta North now. There is nobody that can boast now that he has his Senatorial District as a takeoff”