Hon. Princewill Ejogharado, was until 2016, a strong PDP stalwart in Oghara, Ethiope West Local Government Area of Delta State. He has held several leadership positions in the PDP including being the Ethiope West Local Government party chairman, member of the Delta State House of Assembly Service Commission and later, chairman in acting capacity for nearly a year. But today, Ejogharado is the leader of the APC in Oghara, home town of former governor, Chief James Ibori. In this exclusive interview with our South South Bureau chief, John Oghojafor, Ejogharado gave reasons why he had to decamp to the APC and stressed, among other things, that the party is set to take over the government of Delta State come 2019.
I am Princewill Ejogharado, I’m from Oghara in Ethiope West Local Government Area of Delta State. I was the PDP chairman, Ethiope West and also, I was a member of the State House of Assembly Service Commission. I later became the chairman of the Commission in acting capacity for about nine months. I was also the chairman of the chairmen of PDP Forum in the state.
Why and how did you cross over to APC?
I had to leave PDP for APC when I saw that my interest was no more there. As we all know, politics is all about interest. Your interest has to be properly guaranteed and assured before you can put in your best. As a PDP person then, I knew the role we played as a people. It is on record that oftentimes, in every election, we see Oghara having the highest votes. We all knew how PDP came about, how it was berthed by an Oghara person, Chief James Ibori. I knew how PDP was born, I knew how PDP was formed. I knew who the godfather used to form the PDP. I knew everybody that were at the foundation of the party, I knew their worth and the strength of their contributions when we all started. It was like Chief James Ibori impregnated the PDP, gave birth to it and midwifed it solely as a person. I can say, without mincing words, a lot of the PDP big names you see today were all created and given birth to by Chief James Ibori. No doubt about that. I stand to be challenged.
Let me state clearly that the interest of my people is beyond my personal interest. I left office as the chairman of the House of Assembly Service Commission just before the last election. And in that election, Oghara still gave their own votes to the PDP. As it was very well known, at the last election our big brother, Chief Ibori, was still facing persecution by the bad government of Goodluck Jonathan; that persecution was transferred from Obasanjo to Goodluck Jonathan. It was very unfortunate, as I always say, one of the greatest mistake Jonathan did was, being a president and he started fighting his own people. So, as it was well known, during the last election Ibori was away in London. But even right from there, he was still giving directives on how we must remain who we were for the PDP and give all our votes to the party. As a matter of fact, that was what we did and the PDP won the election. I think we in Ethiope West gave the second highest votes in the state, especially in Oghara. I make bold to say it. It was here in Oghara that we did all the magic.
To my greatest surprise however, it all started when Okowa had won, Oghara was the foundation of his campaign. Okowa campaign was launched here in Oghara as the base of his campaign. Also, when he finally won his case, the thanksgiving was held here in Oghara. I can say it that PDP is a native of Oghara. But it was like there was a concerted effort to mess the Oghara people up. Yes, any man can be a fool. It is possible that very many people are not seeing it from the prism or angle from where I’m seeing it. But I think that I’m grounded enough in this system to know when myself or my people are being fooled. I saw that Okowa was messing the Oghara people up. First, since he became the governor, it is a fact that up till today there is not one Oghara person in the executive council of the state. Okowa does not see anything good in the Oghara that gave him all the votes. And we are all aware of the powers of the executive council. That is where everything in the state is shared. Oghara is not represented there. So, Oghara is completely out of anything that is happening in the state. Yes, one can ask what about DESOPADEC. We were given the headship of DESOPADEC who is without any power. Yes, Oghara man is the MD, so to say. But we must know that the headship of DESOPADEC was not started by Oghara man. There was Okirika and there was also Kpogho. Is this the kind of DESOPADEC that they headed? The answer is pure No.
Just for Okowa to checkmate and mess the Oghara man up, he created the Asaba Capital City Development Commission to counter the attention of DESOPADEC. I always say that Okowa does not mean well for the Oghara people. I saw that at the state exco, Ibori was not regarded, Oghara was not regarded. That was one. Then, two, the PDP Congress came up and you are aware that I contested the state chairmanship of the party in 2012, I was not defeated. I was prevailed up to step down. But that is not the issue. It must not be Princewill. The issue is Oghara. The PDP Congress came up and behold, not one Oghara person, not one was considered. I stand to be corrected. In the membership of the state executive of the PDP today, tell me where does Oghara stand? Where does Oghara stand? DESOPADEC is a statutory commission just like others. Chief Makinde, the MD does not attend the state executive council meeting. So, he does not know what is happening in the state. He has a lot of restrictions. It has even become worse now that Okowa has deliberately grounded the Commission. The MD is powerless. We all know him and that is why we don’t accuse him of anything because we know who Makinde is. We know our man. We know he is just being deliberately messed up. They wanted to destroy his good name and rubbish his integrity. But because we know what they are trying to do, we are watching and we are saying Okowa cannot rubbish him. So, when I put all these things together and observed it, I now said to myself, I was there at the beginning of PDP. We were all there. If I were to be a good artist, I could draw all of them. I know who Okowa was, I know who all of them were. In fact, I contributed in no small way to the making of the first exco of the PDP. Today, they have become whatever they want to become by the grace of Oghara man. But when such Okowa now turns around and think that, because he has the power now, the best he can do is to mess Oghara up, any man can be a fool. So, if there are foolish persons in Oghara who cannot see this messing up by Okowa, Princewill cannot be among such persons.
It should be noted that before I left for the APC, there was nothing like another party in Oghara. So, I started some dangerous consultations with some of my persons and to the glory of God, I was able to convince some of them and the APC started. I can tell you that if the forthcoming Local Government Council election is to be conducted by INEC, PDP will not get two councillors in Ethiope West. But because of the defect in the state electoral law, it is quite unfortunate. We all know what usually happens.
So, the reason I left the PDP was not actually personal. I had to leave because I felt that the Oghara that made the party and has contributed so much, is being marginalized and messed up. That was why I left for the APC.
Some months ago the leader of the PDP in the state whom you have just mentioned, Chief James Ibori, regained his freedom and came back to Oghara. Barely a month or so, in a public function, he endorsed and adopted Okowa for a second term as governor. This implies that he, Ibori still call the shot as the number one leader of PDP in the state. Of all you have been complaining have you reached to him to explain to him why you left the party? If so, what was his reaction?
Very well, I make bold to say that I have met with my brother, Chief Ibori and I have told him that I’m now an APC member. We sat down and I gave him the reasons why I had to leave the PDP for the APC. He did not query me. He had not told me I must come back to the PDP. Of course, if he tells me to come back I will tell him I’m not coming back. That is the truth because I can’t be messed up by anybody. There is no guarantee that if I go back to the PDP today anything good will happen. The indices are very clear. Okowa is a one-term governor. So, I’m very sure the APC will win the 2019 governorship election in the state. Therefore, I can’t be seeing the light like this and jump back into darkness.
On the issue of my brother, Ibori, endorsing Okowa. He did not endorse Okowa to become the governor of Delta State in 2019. He endorsed Okowa for PDP. And we in APC will be too happy to have Okowa as the governorship candidate of PDP. In fact, we are praying that Okowa is returned as the PDP candidate for the governorship election in 2019 because that will make the victory for APC a very easy one. This is because Okowa’s policy approach has been so much anti-people. And we will exploit that to the letter. So, the fact that Ibori endorsed Okowa, he did not do it for the whole state. It is just for the PDP.
I’m not always very happy when people say that Ibori endorsed Okowa. Don’t forget that at the time he said it, he had just returned from the UK then. And I believe it was due to the euphoria of his arrival. Now seven months or so down the line, he should be seeing different things about Okowa and his government. This is because while he was away, it was phone calls and only the privileged ones can go to London and when they get there they tell him a lot of rubbish. So, he has come now and he is seeing for himself that the people are suffering. It was in the newspapers that I read about the visit of Governor Wike of Rivers State. It was speculated that he (Ibori) was no more comfortable with Okowa.
You have just stated that Okowa’s policy approach has been so much anti-people. Could you be more specific on that?
Everybody in the state knows that Okowa’s policies are anti-people. And this is why I so much love Okowa because he is preparing the ground very well for the APC to take over. The time is coming when the entire Deltans will know what damage Okowa has done to them but for now, we in the APC are very happy with him for what he is doing. We won’t put him on his feet now because whatever he is doing now is aiding the APC. So, let him continue to aid the APC. You and I know that what Okowa is doing now is anti-people. I don’t think that there is anyway anybody can force the civil servants, the Local Government workers, the primary school teachers, pensioners, DESOPADEC workers and contractors, 3,000 sacked workers among others, in the state to cast their votes for Okowa in 2019. This is because they are the worst hit by his policies today. In Delta State now, there is grumbling everywhere. I don’t think it happens even in the Western world. You don’t force people to be insured for the so-called health insurance. So, a lot of his policies are just fraudulent.
One of the biggest pains that Deltans are going through in the hands of Okowa today is the sale of the state-owned transport company, Delta Line Ltd. It is very unfortunate that we are still very timid under the present democratic dispensation. One of the legacies of the former governor of the state, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, which Deltans so cherish very much is the relief provided by Uduaghan buses. But this has never gone down well with Okowa and they are supposed to be the same PDP people. Just for the singular fact that the name of the transport company’s motor parks are associated with Uduaghan, Okowa has been trying in every way to erase it, but the name is already in the consciousness of the people. You hear people say, ‘I’m going to Uduaghan park’, ‘I want to board Uduaghan bus’, etc. This appears to be having a dangerous psychological effect on Okowa. So, the best he thinks he could do was to sell the company services which was really helping the people for a pea nut, just for the sake of his hatred for Uduaghan. However, whether he has sold it or not, when the APC comes to power by the special grace of God in 2019, there will certainly be reversal of Okowa’s anti-people policies because we are coming to restore hope to Deltans. Deltans have no reason whatsoever to be poor. If you are a Deltan that has the opportunity of travelling to different parts this country, you get annoyed when you come back home. Like I always say, I don’t know if there is any way have wronged God. I was in Ondo state recently. I go through Edo state each time I travel to Asaba. Then you look at our immediate neighbour, Anambra State. When you see the level of development in these places and you come back home to consider the wealth advantage of Delta State with the poorest of infrastructure, it can be very disgusting.
You have said earlier on that should the forthcoming Local Government Council election was to be conducted by INEC, the PDP will not be able to win two councillors seats in Ethiope West Local Government Area. Does your assessment represent the strength of the APC in the area?
I can tell you that in Ethiope West, my Local Government, the APC has covered everywhere. There are very many people in the PDP today whom I interact with regularly and they tell me, ‘Princewill forget, we don’t need your campaign, let the election time comes. Who do they want to play with?’ So, we are working underground, we are working in the night, we are reaching out to people and they know that Okowa is taking them for granted, they know they are being messed up. I can tell you that more than 85 percent of people in Ethiope West know that PDP has failed them. Some of us have been hanging on because of our son, Ibori. I’m happy that our brother has come back because Ibori is beyond PDP and APC to the ordinary Oghara person. That is the truth of the matter. I’m of the APC, but I must tell you that Ibori is our resource control. When you are trying to mess up Ibori, the Oghara people are always united in attacking you. We don’t take it for fun because he is not the first person to have political advantage but when he had the advantage, he greatly impacted on the lives of the Oghara people. You can see that the present Oghara is very different from the Oghara you know of several years ago. I can tell you that from the government of Uduaghan till date, there is nothing new that will make the Oghara man to be proud that he is a member of the PDP. I stand to be corrected. So, whatever we have in Oghara today is either from Ibori or from the NDDC.
In 2015, the APC lost election to the PDP. Two and half years down the line, would you beat your chest to affirm that the present APC’s structure in the state has the capability to wrestle power from the ruling party?
I want to say that the APC that conducted the 2015 election were a congregation of non-politicians. It was a congregation of business people. But the APC structure we have today is a mixture of real well-tested politicians. Today, we have politicians in the APC who know how to deal with the PDP. Although there seems to be some little pockets of internal wrangling within the structure because of the coming into the party of politicians from other parties, I know that by the time the APC concludes its next congress it would have been set to take over the state.
What is the way forward?
My prayer is that at the leadership level, they should drop their personal greed, everybody must be thinking about the formation of government. The leadership must sit down and think about the formation of government. If the thought now is how everybody want to become the governor, it is going to tear the party apart. Personal ambition will tear the party apart. We have to do a lot of compromise because the way things are going now the PDP are happy. We must guard against greed. We must guard against tribal politics. We must sit down and know very well that as at today, the governorship of the state is from the north. We must realize that the Urhobo people had produced the governor of this state and we did eight years of two tenures. We must remind ourselves that a governorship candidate came from the sought and he did two terms. We must also know that the governor which the APC wants to replace is just about completing one term. If this is not at the back of our reckoning, then the APC must be heading for something very untoward. So, we must be guided. We must look at this thing very critically. Like it is said, he that wants equity must come with clean hands. So, we must look very critically the issue of equity and fairness. If there is anybody who is currently insisting it must be him for the governor from Delta Central, that person must be watched closely because he might just be someone being used by the PDP to cause problem in the APC. We have to take a lot of things into consideration and be very watchful.
You have just mentioned equity. To you, does that represents the zoning the governorship to the north under the APC?
For me, Princewill Ejogharado, I’m a very conscientious politician. I have conscience and I believe so much in equity. I don’t want to care what anybody would say about it. I still believe that when it comes to the time we want to take a decision on who becomes the governorship candidate of the APC, if we are not careful, if we allow greed to override our sense of reasoning, I can assure you it will be most regrettable.
Just a few days ago, a former governorship candidate of the APC in the 2015, Olorogun O’tega Emerhor, stated publicly that he would be prepared to be a kingmaker if the party picks any member who has the capacity and capability to win the governorship for the party in 2019. What is your take on that statement?
I’ve had the opportunity of meeting with O’tega once and in our interaction, this issue of which zones our governorship candidate should come from that can win the election for us, I remember I told him my mind. You see, I was not in that meeting where he made that pronouncement because I was not around. But when I heard it that he would sacrifice his ambition and be a kingmaker if the party can pick a candidate who can win the election, in fact, my heart has been full of joy because that was one of the cardinal issues I discussed with him. The man has done so much for the party, whether financially or otherwise to the sustenance of the APC. I think, if O’tega who has done so much would say that he is now ready to compromise his personal ambition, then it is as good as saying that the APC has won the governorship election in 2019. This singular pronouncement would make me go to visit him one day to hear from him and thank him and encourage him for all of us together to now work to achieve the governorship. This is because as a politician if your party is not in government, sorry. Nothing for you.
I think that with that pronouncement, O’tega has started laying the foundation for the eventual governorship victory of APC in 2019. I had watched the man, O’tega closely, I see him as the leader of the party in the state. The man has unquestionable pedigree. He is somebody without blemish, I must confess that. He has all it takes to become governor. But the fact is that the Urhobos cannot produce a governor solely. So, if we are too greedy, we may lose out. In 2014, I was in a phone-in programme in DBS and I cautioned that if the Urhobos become too greedy as not to give chance to other zones, we may provoke cooperation between Delta South and Delta North and at that point we may lose out. I’m happy today that I was vindicated. I hope that situation does not play itself out again. I want a situation where the Urhobo will come outside and be the zone that will pick who will become the governor. So, that pronouncement from the leader of APC in Delta State, Olorogun O’tega Emerhor has laid the foundation for the governorship victory of APC in 2019.
You have alluded to the fact that the crop of APC leaders that conducted the 2015 election were basically business men and that was why it could not achieve much. Now, the party threw its door open and many politicians have fused into it but there comes the squabble by different pressure groups angling to produce the governor from Delta Central. What does this portend for the party?
I think that anybody that means well for the party, if the person’s primary intention is not to come and destroy the APC, he must apply wisdom and equity to achieve our purpose of forming a government. From Delta North right now, a lot of seasoned politicians have come into the APC who can give us victory. I’m not saying that those protagonists from Delta Central who are angling to become governor are not qualified, No. There is not one Local Government Area in this state that I don’t have people, even across party lines. I’m telling you from what I know, the people of Delta Central must come together and decide to go to the North and fish for a governorship candidate without which, no matter the hope, no matter what they are looking at, it is going to be difficult. I would repeat again, any such attempt, will provoke another dangerous cooperation between the South and the North to undo the Central. That is my appeal. My main concern is how APC will take over Government House in 2019.
Assuming you are made the chairman of the APC Selection Committee from among governorship aspirants from Delta North, who will you zero your mind on and what would be your criteria?
I know what to do assuming I’m given that opportunity. As a PDP member, I have held such responsibility even at the federal level. I was the chairman the Appeal Panel in Nassarawa State in 2002. So, I don’t see such responsibility as too heavy. When it does happen, I know what to do to give the party the best for them to win. Like I used to tell people, I know how to defeat the PDP.
For now, there is Prof. Utomi and Hon. Victor Ochei from the North. There might others coming on later on. But where would your pendulum as a person swing?
On what criteria, I must tell you that we have been in the system and politics is not just starting. We must be very careful so that we don’t just bring in a neophyte who is without a proper knowledge of the game. We want a candidate who will pose a threat to the PDP. I’m from the PDP and someone like Victor Ochei is from the PDP also. He has contested the governorship primary election before and I think at the appropriate time. Utomi, yes, but you must have that background of being informed to know Utomi. But you don’t need to own a television or own a radio and know how to operate the social media before you know Victor Ochei. And we want somebody who is already well grounded to lead the battle against the PDP. PDP, you must know, that in 2019 when the governorship election will be held, will have been in government for 20 years. In that 20 years, Victor was in there, I was also in there. So, we know how they do it there, we know the terrain. The most important thing is that we want to win the PDP at the poll. Nobody is grandstanding here now. We want to win. It is only when we have won in 2019 that we can say, yes, there is a party called APC in Delta State. At the national level, it is very clear that the APC is going back to Aso Rock. So, we are trying to ensure we put the party in Delta State on the same path with the party at the centre. And to achieve this purpose, the party must be wise enough to come up with people who can lead the battle.