Dr. Wilson Odafe Omene is a chieftain of the APC from Ethiope West Local Government Area of Delta State. He was a former executive chairman of Ethiope West Local Government Council on the platform of the PDP and hails from Mosogar kingdom in the Local Government Area. He defected to the APC shortly after the 2015 election. A few days ago, Omene granted an interview to a local medium where he was quoted as saying that “an Urhobo or a Delta Central politician cannot make it as a governor of the state in 2019.” This has provoked mixed reactions across the state. In this exclusive interview with our South South Bureau Chief, John Oghojafor, Omene clearly explained the reasons for his conclusion, among other issues. Excerpts:
Recently sir, you were quoted in the media as saying that an Urhobo politician from Delta Central Senatorial District of the state cannot win election and become the governor of the state in 2019. What exactly informed this conclusion of yours?
Let me say that that medium did not quote me out of context. But the reasons I gave were not adequately reflected. Hence, I want to state it explicitly here and now. First of all, the only time I thought Delta Central would have had the opportunity to win the governorship after Ibori in 2007, was in 2015. In 2015, the Urhobo were still having the opportunity to change the PDP notion of zoning. Of course, if an Urhobo man was able to get that governorship ticket in 2015, then obviously, zoning would have been cancelled from that moment. But the situation where we couldn’t change it, it is now entrenched in the minds of most Deltans that anybody is free to come out and contest the governorship but we have already known where it is zone to and that is where it is going. Definitely, eight years of Delta Central has come and gone, eight years of Delta South has come and gone and the first tenure of Delta North has come and almost going, is it now that it has become known to everybody that it is a game of zoning that Urhobo would now say no, we don’t believed in zoning? You can’t do that. That will amount to shifting the goal post at the middle of the game.
Why I say so is because every average Delta North person, whether he likes Okowa or not, already feels that they are entitled to two tenures and by 2019 they still have one tenure left to govern the state courtesy of the zoning or rotation policy of the PDP. So, even the most foolish Delta North person cannot be convinced that an Urhobo governor will make a better governor for them and so should forget second tenure stuff. This is because everybody has accepted this turn-by-turn tenureship as an entrenched process. So, how are you going to rectify that? Secondly, for an APC member like me, I know very well that no ardent PDP Urhobo man would want to vote for an APC Urhobo candidate for 2019 just because he is an Urhobo man. This is because they already have the feeling that by 2023 it will be the turn of Urhobo and they don’t want to lose as a PDP party to anybody because they know that if they allow an Urhobo APC man to come in 2019, definitely they have lost out unless they have to cross over to the APC. But you know some of them are very hardened PDP people who are beneficiaries of the PDP system. Besides, a lot of these people control PDP structure in Delta Central as I speak to you. So, how are you going to convince even the most foolish person from Delta North to release the last tenure of Okowa to a candidate of Delta Central? Should this be the case, the people of Delta North will see the Urhobo politicians as political and tribal bigots because we have enjoyed our own eight year tenure, Delta South have enjoyed theirs then why are we coming after them? What did they do to us?, they will protest.
So, on the basis of this, let us be reasonable enough to understand the political implications of it. Unless, if, and this is where my ‘if’ comes in, the bill of Electoral Reform is passed into law and Urhobo people area able to reach out to the Isoko people who believe in the ruling party theory, who always look out for any gain for their people in any government and who also strongly believe in the PDP, then we could garner the required support. However, don’t forget that the Isokos also believe that with the way the zoning policy is being implemented, it may one day come to their turn to produce the governor of the state. So, how would you be able to convince the Isokos even if we have to muscle the entire Urhobo to get the 50% which we know we have as voting strength should the Electoral Reform Bill be passed into law with the one man one vote principle? I’m convinced that if the Electoral Reform Bill is passed into law, all those toxic votes from Delta South and some parts of Delta North will disappear. But even at that, how do we now convince people on the minimum 25% of two-third of all the Local Governments? The Urhobos have only eight local government areas as against the small Delta North that has nine. So, how are going to garner 25% of the two-third of all the local governments, that is, seventeen local governments which is the requirement of INEC? This is my concern.
So, the very best option for the Urhobos to be seen as playing the role of ‘our brothers’ keeper’ is to say ok, let us allow the zoning policy which the PDP has forced on us to gain relevance and by 2023 all matters about rotation or zoning would have been completed. The cycle would have been completed. Thereafter, based on the Electoral Reform Act we will determine whether the present undemocratic policy of zoning of the PDP will still continue or not. Obviously, rotation or zoning is undemocratic and to remove such system we have to find a way just like what APC did to PDP in 2015 by allowing a free democratic process to prevail.
It has been said that the so-called zoning or rotational policy of the PDP was introduced by the former governor of the state, Chief James Ibori. Should he defect to APC today, for instance, and then the party insists on dumping that policy, don’t you think what happened in 2015 at the national level where the APC undermined zoning to produce the President would equally happen in the state?
Well, you may quote me, that there is currently a clandestine move to bring Governor Okowa to APC, allegedly through the Minister of Petroleum. These are the things going on as I speak to you. That perhaps is the reason, I suspect, why the anti-grazing bill is allegedly being truncated by the governor. This is because he cannot be pushing to come to APC for a ticket in 2019 and at the same time supporting the anti-grazing bill which may not in the agenda of the power that be in APC at the national level.
Some persons believe that in the past five governorship elections in the state, the PDP had allegedly rigged their way to victory. Should the Electoral Reform Act come into force before 2019, is it not possible for a popular Urhobo candidate from the APC to brush aside the so-called zoning policy and win the governorship election?
When you say it has been rigging all the way, the question is who is in the Delta Central now that can take advantage of a free and fair election under an electoral reform to mobilize the people to take over the state? Is the same Ogboru? The Ogboru who everybody now is angry with? You come, you get all the votes of the people and thereafter, you disappear into thin air? What do you do if you are serious about election? Is it not when you lose you gather the people together and start to strategize immediately for the next election?
Going by your recommendation that the zoning should run its full course with Delta North having two complete tenures as it were, who then would the APC be banking on apart from Okowa who was said to be scheming to go to APC?
That is why I’m talking about seeking for a better candidate for APC in Delta North. We should be able to go and source for a credible candidate from Delta North whose hands are clean and bring him up.