Olorogun (Dr.) Wilson Omene, an APC chieftain from Ethiope West Local Government Area of Delta State is an household name. As a polished politician he has always held strong views in every critical political discourse, especially where it involves inter-party experiences and the way forward for a better Nigeria. In this interview, Omene who is a House of Representatives aspirant to the Ethiope Federal Constituency seat at the National Assembly, spoke to John Oghojafor on the challenges of infrastructural deficit and lack of voice that have become the lot of the people of the Constituency. He also offered himself as a solution provider through effective representation.
Let’s start with your aspiration to the House of Representatives on the platform of the opposition party in Delta, the APC to provide effective representation to the people of Ethiope Federal Constituency. Looking at the array of aspirants emerging daily from your party, one is tempted to ask how prepared are you for the primary election?
First of all, your observation that I belong to the opposition party in the state I agree with you to a large extent, in the sense that if your party is not incumbent then you are basically in opposition but the seat for which I’m vying by the grace of God, I will be there. I will be there by the grace of God through the electorate. The young man there now is on the platform of the PDP while I’m coming on the platform of the APC. So, I’m definitely an opposition. But having said that, to your question on how prepared I’m for the primary in my party. I have said this before in a different forum, but let me say it again, it is not me who will decide on winning the primary, it is the electorate. In this political game, the electorate are the father. It is only the father that has the leverage and the power to send the son on an assignment. It is then your responsibility as a son to accept that message to say, ok, I’ll go. So, I feel strongly that it is the electorate who, in this scenario, are collectively my father, that is expected to send me forth. And they could only do that depending on the character of their son whom they offer to send.
I have done well enough to encourage my father, the electorate, to say yes, this is my good son, let me send him. And why do I say I have done well enough? This is because I have been involved in the affairs of Ethiope Federal Constituency for a long time. First of all, I have the privilege of saying that I was onetime a chairman of a Local Government that forms part of the Federal Constituency. Secondly, while I was there, I did a lot to safeguard the interest of Ethiope Federal Constituency. To be more specific, there were attempts by those who are neighbours to this our Federal Constituency and that is Warri North Local Government Area. They attempted to encroach beyond established borders into our land in Ethiope West Local Government Area. I fought that and stopped it. And that made me to have a very cold relationship with the then governor of the state, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan. At the end of the day, because the Urhobos are not known to be violent people, I went to Revenue Court and I won the case against Warri North. Today, that place is the full responsibility of Ethiope West Local Government in terms of governance, unless something else has happened since I left.
Aside that, I have been able to build up a place to show that it is part of Ethiope Federal Constituency. So, if you are given an opportunity to work in a particular area, then you must exhibit that prowess, that capacity to do something for the people. And what I have done in that respect when the opportunity came was enormous. I actually changed the face of Ethiope West Local Government Area to something of envy from other Local Government Areas. So, I feel that my “father”, the electorate who are supposed to choose someone to represent them will take all this into consideration.
Also, as an Urhobo man, it is my duty to protect the interest of the Urhobo first. I can beat my chest that I was one of those at forefront who put the former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan on his toes to know that we Urhobos are a formidable nation and he cannot just ignore us with our over 800, 000 votes that we gave to him. And today, I’m equally at the forefront of ensuring that such votes which will run into a million plus this time around for the president of Nigeria, will count. And that will only be possible if people like us are given the leverage and the opportunity to go and serve in the Green Chamber. So, to answer your question, I’m very prepared to be the darling son of my father called the electorate.
All along you have been talking about your feats in Ethiope West as a yardstick for considering your candidature among electorates. How do you deal with this in Ethiope East Local Government Area which is part of the Ethiope Federal Constituency?
I come from Ethiope West. And we have rotational understanding between Ethiope West and Ethiope East. We have never flouted it. The understanding involves two tenures for each Local Government Area. Our own Hon. Halims Agoda from Ethiope West took the first shot and did two tenures. He however did a third tenure not because the agreement or understanding but as a result of his antecedent in fighting for a third tenure for supporting the then president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who was pushing for a third tenure, in the House of Representatives. He was generally believed to be the anchor man for the elongation of Obasanjo’s tenure in the House. So, because of that, we were told that both Ethiope West and Ethiope East should allow Agoda to go back because the then president has ordered via the then governor of the state for Agoda to go back. So, Ethiope West and Ethiope East saw that as not part of our agreement. And when he was done with that the person of Hon. Sunny Emeyese from Ethiope East came in. He spent four years and Hon. Idisi came in from Ethiope East and he is in his third year now. So, come 2019, the second tenure of Ethiope East would have been completed and then, it is very obvious that by our own tacit gentleman agreement, we expect that the next representative should be coming from Ethiope West.
As for the primary of the APC where I’m running, we have some challenges from others. I don’t want to say sadly, but the brotherliness in APC, we do know that a lot of people should be given opportunity because we practice what is called internal democracy in APC. Nobody is going to say, ‘na you de go’ in APC. Let me say that some of the people who are challenging now have never played politics in Delta State. So, except probably the electorate don’t know what to do, it will not augur well to allow somebody who has not been tested to go and represent the Federal Constituency.
I believe that it is no longer time for money-bag politicking. It could be in other parties, but APC frowns at it. So, we are not going to rely on money sharing. If it is going to be then I’m not going to be part of it because I feel enough is enough of this money-bag politicking. People who have come out so far in Ethiope West are people who have done their best in other fields but basically not in the politics of Ethiope Federal Constituency. So, I feel I have a better chance because I have been involved in Ethiope Federal Constituency issues, even at the state level I have been deeply involved. I remember when I was the chairman of the State Institute of Continuing Education (ICE), I established new ICE centres in Eku and its environs, Oghara, Mosogar and other parts of Ethiope East. So, as an aspirant I stand a better chance of winning the primary.
One would have expected you to start with the State House of Assembly before taking a shot at the House of Representatives. Why House of Reps first?
I don’t believe that the elderly ones disturbing the younger ones in some of the things which we can leave behind for them. I strongly believe that the younger ones should be given opportunities to have a take-off point. When I was much younger in 2002 I still aspired to this House of Representatives but because they believed in this undemocratic system thing in the PDP, we didn’t have such chances. Right now, I have learnt the ropes and I don’t want to be part of how dubious they are. And that was why I left them. I feel strongly that the younger ones should be able to go for chairmanship and councillorship. In politics, experience is more needed at the highest level in handling state matters. It is not as if House of Assembly is not important, but I feel it is not right for the elders to fill all the existing places leaving the youths nowhere to go to.
You were talking about a tacit gentleman agreement between Ethiope West and Ethiope East in the light of whose turn it is to produce the House of Reps member for the Federal Constituency. But you know that is purely a PDP arrangement. You are in APC. Are you saying that such arrangement is also applicable in the APC? And do you envisage a situation where the incumbent member from Ethiope East who is campaigning for a second tenure on the platform of the PDP would in the spirit of the so-called understanding cede the seat to an APC aspirant from Ethiope West?
Very simple. When you say that the Ethiope West and Ethiope East understanding is a PDP arrangement, no, no. they are two sub-entities into one Federal Constituency. It is not PDP Ethiope Federal Constituency. We only have one Ethiope Federal Constituency made up of two Local Government Areas. These two Local Government Areas are made up of brothers and sisters. It is that relationship that we are counting on. That is where the understanding comes from. All the political parties in the Federal Constituency have members who vote during election. So, if anybody wants to win an election in this Federal Constituency, he or she should not be unmindful of that tacit agreement or understanding. It is not written anywhere. It is tacit, for loving each other and for being our brother’s keeper. It is not a PDP arrangement. You could even see that where a winner emerges from any party to the House of Reps and he fails to perform in his first tenure, he is replaced with another person from the same Local Government Area whose turn is to have two tenures. So, it does not really matter which party is producing the member. So, it is not like copying a zoning arrangement of PDP into APC.
Are you by any means saying that going by the spirit of the understanding, aspirants to the House of Representatives on the platform of the PDP in Ethiope West could reach agreement with those from APC in Ethiope West and agree on who picks up the turn?
Let me tell you quickly. For the other people who are contesting for the ticket on the platform of the PDP in Ethiope West, I think what should be behind their minds too is this tacit understanding. Let me tell you, you would observe that there are more aspirants for the ticket from both parties in Ethiope West than the number of aspirants from Ethiope East. APC aspirants in Ethiope West so far, we are four. One from Jesse, myself from Mosogar and two others from Oghara. As for the PDP aspirants in Ethiope West they are very many. Although billboards don’t win elections, their billboards are everywhere in the Local Government Area.
In Ethiope East, the aspirants from both parties are minimal. So, they know it is the time for Ethiope West to produce the next House of Representatives. For example, from the PDP in Ethiope East now, it is just one aspirant, who is the incumbent. It is not as if they don’t have any other qualified aspirant among other members of the PDP in Ethiope East. It is because they know that it is Ethiope West turn to produce the next House of Reps members. But it is not unlikely they the Ethiope East PDP might want the incumbent House of Representatives member to go back for a second tenure for one obvious reason. If that happens then it will deal a suicide blow on the tacit agreement. But you will agree with me there are some persons from Ethiope West who probably may have higher stakes can trade that off for their higher ambition in Ethiope West ostensibly to get that guy to support him in Ethiope East.
You are from Ethiope West. Some persons believe that it allegedly has the history of electoral manipulations and manufacturing of election results. How do you hope to cope with that should you succeed in picking your party’s ticket to face the candidate of the other party in your area?
I can tell you that that phenomenon was reminiscent of the bad old days. I dare say so because I was in the system then. But I feel so sad about it. Of course, those of us who left that corrupt system left in repentance. I want to say that the electorate from Ethiope West deserve great apology from the PDP for having short-changed them of their rights over these years for their votes to be counted. The last local government election showed that the electorate were already sick and tired of this obnoxious practice that is anti-democracy. But I tell you that that was happening then when the government at the federal level was PDP. I want to see where that would happen, where you would now bring your thugs, where you will now use your federal might and machinery of military and policemen to harass the populace. I swear that that will not be tolerated by the government at the top level. I’m very sure there is going to be free and fair election in Ethiope West. Don’t forget that in 2011 when I was still a Local Government chairman, there was a general election. I had the best opportunity to prove to them that over the years that I have been with them, that I abhors that system. I acted appropriately in 2011. And what did I do? I ensured that enough security was provided and I ensured that what you now refer to as dry voting took place, meaning that there was no manipulation of votes in Ethiope West in 2011. There was a lot of pressure on me but I said no. It is anti my philosophy. But there was always this question why then did you remain with them all this long time? And I always give them this phrase as an answer – if you cannot beat them then join them to change them. And if you cannot change them, it means that the heat in the kitchen is too much and you have to get out of the kitchen to ensure that you have an opportunity to quench that heat in the kitchen from the outside. And that is what I’m doing now.
There is this allusion that APC has not been able to win any election in the state before now. Would there be any change this time around now that you are in the race?
Rubbish! That is part of what I tried to explain that PDP owes the electorate of the entire state a very great apology. They have apologized nationwide, you know that. So, maybe, it is going to trickle down.
Money Politics, How prepared are you?
I’m not prepared for any money politics. By time I notice there is going to be money politics, I will just go and continue to educate the electorate of the danger of money politics. I will educate them that the condition they are today is brought about by politicians who have kept them backward.
Would you opt out of politics?
No, I will definitely not opt out. That is not an option. I’ll stay there and let the electorate know that they will be the one to regret.