By Zika Bobby

Former Speaker of the state House of Assembly and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), Olise Imegwu says Governor Ifeanyi Okowa in this interview, spoke on the godfather syndrome, the internal crisis rocking the party and other issues.

As a PDP chieftain, what hope is left for your party as the 2023 general elections approach?

Initially, given the socio-economic and security problems in the forms of the impunity of banditry and Boko Haram attacks, rising inflation, strike leading to shutdown of our universities, energy crisis, high cost of living,  the dearth of good road transportation in some major cities, I had thought that PDP has a fighting chance to win the Presidency come 2023. It is bizarre to notice the deadly internecine war or the internal strife tearing it from within and has taken a toll on its ability to win come 2023. So, I don’t think PDP can rise from its self-afflicted malady to win the presidential election in 2023.

As Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers was coasting to victory on the party’s presidential primary, it appeared that a gang-up was hatched to deny him victory, as he alleged. Wike who was recommended as the first choice for the party’s vice presidential ticket was again undermined. The above issues, if not properly handled, PDP is likely going to kiss its hope of winning the presidency bye bye.

What’s your take on the just concluded delegate elections across political parties particularly in your party that produced Atiku Abubakar, as its presidential standard bearer?

It was a mess. Democracy died in Nigeria at the recent PDP and APC conventions of PDP and APC. This is going to trickle down to the general elections in 2023 which has already began with Ekiti because there is no difference between delegates and voters in this context of the debasement of democratic ideals. when you add Boko Haram and banditry ravaging the North, unknown gunmen in the East, obscene corruption and the incapability of the law enforcement agencies and Judiciary to rise to the occasion, I doubt if 2023 election will take place. I foresee a postponement and interim government put in place; a caveat, this will not happen if the above concerns are urgently addressed. With this situation, you cannot be talking about Atiku or PDP, we should rather be talking about Nigeria.

There seems to be disquiet in the ranks of your party as a result of conflict of interests, what way forward?

Until justice is done and nourished to assuage the various interests, the disquiet will be a time bomb waiting to explode at the slightest trigger. The way forward is what is good for the geese is good for the gander. Rotational Justice and equity, a solemn agreement enshrined in the PDP constitution and practiced since 1999.

In Delta State, it seems the strength of the ‘godfather’- Chief James Onanefe Ibori, is polarised viz a viz the emergence of Sheriff Oboriwhori as the gubernatorial candidate of the party against the wish of the dynasty. What’s your take?

It is true that when two elephants fight, the grass suffers. In this particular context of Delta State politics you made reference to, it is wrong and unfair to make Ibori the scape goat. The “polarising factor” is not unidimensional as you may want to paint it; it is pervasive and multidimensional. There are other polarising factors in the Delta State PDP at the wards, LGAs and state levels, just because they have been beaten down, oppressed, intimidated, harassed, threatened. I suspect, doesn’t mean that all is well. Take for instance, my good self, a former Speaker, National Assembly member, a Scholar/Philosopher, and particularly, a national convener, who, with Chief James Ibori, our leader, Prof. Oyovabaire, Ifeanyi Okowa, Senator James Manager, Senator Nwaoboshi, Mrs. Nkem Okuofu, the late Chief Humphrey Iweriebo, to mention a few, were the foundation members of PDP. From PTI Warri, we retired to Palm Grove Hotel, where we set up the first PDP State Executive Committee and Senator Manager and Nwaoboshi emerged its Chairman and Secretary, respectively.

Today, in PDP, at the ward, LGA, Ndokwa/Ukwuani Federal Constituency and Delta North Senatorial District, I am not consulted when major party decisions are taken at these levels. You now can see that if the aggrieved at these levels across the state have what it takes to remove the chains of oppression around their necks, it will then be obvious that Chief Ibori is just one of the factors and not the only factor. The primaries have come and gone and having emerged the winner, if there is no challenge, he becomes the candidate of the party to fly its flag, the legal challenges notwithstanding.

Just recently, your party nominated Chief Monday Onyeme, as running mate to Oboriwhori, why not you?

Like I pointed out, his selection was first done at Ndokwa/Federal Constituency level by a few leaders/Stakeholders – 11 of them who then recommended him to the party. I was not part of the process and wasn’t even aware; therefore, I will not be able to say why I was not tipped for the position. This buttresses my point that such an important decision took place, not only that I was not part of the process, I wasn’t even aware. Now, of the 14 persons involved when credentials/ qualifications are put side by side with theirs, I am not sure I will not measure up as a leader of Ndokwa nation. They excluded the founding fathers of the party, the critical stakeholders were undermined.

Is it that the governor is not comfortable with you?

From the grapevine and from certain observed phenomenon, it is possible.

Are you aggrieved?

Not at all. Frustrated and disappointed that a party I helped build in 1999 as a National Convener, served meritoriously for 12 years, became its state assembly speaker, former member of the National Assembly and presently the PDP State Caucus Member, could treat me with such ignominy, a further proof of many “ Iboris” at the wards, LGAs and state levels.

Do you think the emergence of Onyeme as running mate to Oboriwhori will assuage the feelings of marginalisation and age-long neglect by the Ndokwa people?

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It is only time that will tell.

Ndokwa leaders are said to be grumbling over the choice of Onyeme, what’s your take on this?

Which Ndokwa Leaders? The 11 out of the lots of Ndokwa leadership who recommended him? Infact, who made them Ndokwa leaders? Seriously speaking, we should be concerned with what the generality of Ndokwa people think not the so called self- appointed leaders. Until the nomination becomes widespread, you can’t judge by what your imaginary grumbling of Ndokwa leaders say or feel.

Does the governor still enjoy your loyalty and solidarity?

Of course he does. As a party man, still a member of the party and the governor as the leader of the party in the state and whom I started the party with in 1999, he still enjoys my unflinching loyalty and solidarity.

Governor Wike came second at the presidential primary of your party, he alleged regional betrayal by his fellow governors, do you agree?

It appears so because his counterparts in the South and friends in the North, particularly Governor Aminu Tambuwal whom he funded and supported at Port Harcourt Convention in 2018, asked his supporters in 2022 to vote for Atiku. How else does one define a traitor?

Prior to the Abuja convention, were you privy to any accord among southern governors?

I know and read about the South South Accord that was entered to in Asaba and that of the entire Southern Nigerian governors at Lagos where governors Okowa and Akeredolu presided and we heard it was unanimously agreed that the Presidency should be zoned to the South.

Your governor as running mate to Atiku Abubakar, did it come as surprise?

No! I know he is capable of pulling such feat.

In your own judgement, would you say your governor betrayed Wike?

I cannot answer this question because I don’t know their relationship including political bond.

Do you see the PDP winning Delta State in 2023 general elections?

Of course yes. That has been the story from 1999 to date for obvious reasons. Until opposition parties get it right, PDP will continue to marry them for a penny.

The PDP’s godfather seems losing grip of his hold on the party, what does this portend  in 2023?

Who is the PDP Godfather? I understand it to mean the one that is in position to dictate who gets what and who doesn’t and at the moment Okowa is the man the cap fits. So far, he is doing well since everything he wants, he gets, he is the godfather of the PDP.

Do you see Chief Ibori collapsing his structure for the DSP Omo-Agege-led APC in 2023 as payback for the ill treatment allegedly meted to him by his party?

Too speculative. The process is still ongoing. I understand Chief Edevbie is in court, Chief Amori won and his daughter also won and it is also being rumoured that he supported Okowa’s emergence as VP, wherein is the ill-treatment you are alluding to?

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