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STRONG PARTIES GO THROUGH FACTIONS – Edwin Okoh

Mr. Edwin Okoh, a native of Oza-Nogogo, Ika South LGA of Delta State is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), presently; he is the chairman of the party in Ika South LGA.

In this interview which he granted Ika Weekly Newspaper crew recently at the corporate office of media outfit spoke extensively about the ongoing in the unification exercise by the party and other salient issues as it affects the party and their preparedness for the forthcoming 2019 general elections.

Excerpts:

Can we meet you sir?

My name is Edwin Okoh, I am a native of Oza-Nogogo in Ika South LGA of Delta State. I am presently the Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC) of Ika South Chapter.

Is there any contention in APC, Ika South? Is there anybody contending your position as the Chairman? Is there any faction in APC because initially, we heard that Felix Morka is the APC Delta State House of Assembly Candidate for Ika South and later, it was heard that Monday Alika was duly elected internally by the party as their candidate to contest for the position?

Let me start from where you started from and that is the issue of faction. Well, to be frank with you, there were contentions not until Friday, November 23, 2018 when there cased to be factions in Ika South chapter of the APC.

On the issue of Monday Alika that was purported to have emerged as the candidate of the party, you are rightly aware that the matter is already in court. Based on that, I don’t actually think we can dwell on that issue so much otherwise; we will fall under the judicial trap of the court. So, since the case is pending, I feel and wish you cooperate with me to leave that area untouched as far as this interview is concerned.

In that case, whom do we now regard as the authentic candidate?

That was actually why we went to court. Felix Morka contested it and we won it convincingly. As far as I am concerned, Monday Alika never participated in the exercise; you have to participate in an exercise before the eventual winner or loser can emerge. You did not participate as far as the records and my human knowledge are concerned, but when INEC vested with the power of conducting, supervising and monitoring of electoral activities came up with the name of Monday Alika, we don’t have to carry guns and cutlasses to go and destroy their office, no! We were left with one option and that was to go to court for the court to give us a very perfect judicial interpretation of the reasons why such announcement was made. So until they come out with that clarification, it will not be healthy for me to speak for now.

How strong is the party now in your local government?

Before 2015, the party was what I describe as a political weakling because as at 2015, it was just two years old and so, you wouldn’t expect it to command such a political or electoral muscles that will be strong enough to do wonders politically or electorally, but this is 2018. From 2015 to 2018, so much has happened within the confines of the party. So many persons have come into the party and for that reason, the All Progressives Congress is today a political force to be reckoned with as far as partisan politics is concerned, and here in Ika South, it is already causing some uneasiness to other political parties hence, these issues of contentions and factionalization. Mark you, a political party that is not strong doesn’t ever go through factions. So, that the party is passing through the process of factions is a complete exhibition of maturity as it were.

We are also aware that, “a house divided against itself cannot stand,” because when you have several factions in APC, just like we have those under the leadership of Moses Nwakor, we have another two or three of such leaders heading other factions of the party; can you be that cohesive enough to fight because I see the opposition capitalizing on that to have an edge?

Yes. My take is just as you have expressed it because truly, a house that is divided against itself cannot stand. So the issue here is Moses Nwakor is not the Chairman of the party as it is today. Yes, the house (APC) is also carrying out some in-house unification exercise which as I speak to you now, is not being publicized. It is one of our weapons to begin to heal ourselves gradually internally and that is just how it is so far.

What are the chances of APC winning the election in Ika South, vis-à-vis Delta State because in some quarters, people are saying that there is no APC in Ika South? So based on what you just said that you people are on ground, what are your chances of winning?

Politics is a contentious issue. It is a struggle. If I am in party A and you are in party B, the onus is on you to as much as possible discredit, in fact, dethrone party A and you are going to use any machinery in order to be successful in your mission. So, for a political party member that is not a member of APC to say that there is no APC in Ika South and I am here telling you that I am the Chairman of APC in Ika South means that for me to be the chairman at least, I must have one member, so with myself and one member, we are already two and that means there is APC in Ika South.

What about the chances?

The chances of the party winning in the forthcoming election are also high. The election itself is coming up February 2019 with the Presidential and National Assembly election between now and that time, so many works are in the pipe line. Like I said earlier, so many internal healing process is on course and it will continue to be on course even up to election period and beyond. So it means that per second, per day, the chances of the party is increasing progressively. And mark you, all other political parties outside APC also have their chances but people who constitute the electorate in the communities will have several yardstick to measure and then make them take their decision on which party to eventually cast their votes for. All these will be put together for one to eventually know which will take the day.

At the state level, who actually is your governorship candidate because at the state level, we also noticed that there are contentions as to who is there and who is not?

At the state level, the candidate for governorship on the platform of the APC is Chief Great Ogboru.

What will APC say in assessing the performance of the PDP Governor in the state and why do you want him out?

Governance is always in progress at any point in time, there is no vacancy. The Peoples Democratic Party is at the threshold of governance. They are there until their tenure expires and as an individual and a chieftain of APC, my advice to them if that is what you want to hear, is that they should beef up their performance. Since I am from the opposition, I will always say that they have not done enough. Okay, what is the way forward? The way forward is their bar of performance in trying to meet the aspirations of the teeming numbers of the public.

To some extent, it is quite obvious that His Excellency, Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa has made some landmark achievements compared to some previous administrations based on the developments we are seeing in Ika land or would you say that he has not performed?

Well, if you say he has made remarkable performance, you are speaking generally, you did not speak specifically. If you say he has performed, you should be more generous to tell me specific areas.

Infrastructural developments. In the health sector, we have seen several equipment in our rural hospitals, there is renovation works going one in some of these hospitals, we have also witnessed the provision of science equipments in most of the Secondary schools in Ika land compared to the past. Before now, Ika land has never benefited so much from the state government as it is today. What is your view?

Every government is there to build on the previous one, you wouldn’t tell me. If you do so, you know you have lied by saying that His Excellency did everything that we are seeing today, he is building on the achievements of previous administrations and you know that I have not lied. Let us take a very good example: this road that was recently commissioned has been under construction since 1999. So if eventually after 16 years, the road was formally commissioned, we will not attribute it to the work of this administration.

Coming to your other question, was it Okowa that started the construction of the road? Of course not. So how do you define such affront?

Talking about governance, PDP is very formidable in Delta State. How do you think your party will be able to dethrone them?

I want you to cast your mind back to 2015, when the same PDP was in a herculean way old superfluously formidable in nature, but a political party that was just three years dethroned it. So how do you think it was possible? If you can explain to me how it happened, we can ascribe it to anything. That is exactly is how it is going to happen.

How do you see a situation where an Ika man is the governor of Delta State, yet you see some of our people still voting for someone that is not from the region; a situation where such action is seen as morally wrong for one to vote against his own person, what is your take on the issue?

Politics first of all is personal and it’s local. For anything, it must first of all be personal before it will transcend to local. Now for it to be personal, it means you have a lot of chances that are open and available to you, vis-à-vis, the entire game. Now this set of choices are all open; it is like bottled water and malt, both of them were presented, the onus lies on me to make my choice and eventually, I chose water. Why did I not choose the one that has sweetness but chose the one that is tasteless, do I hate sweetening substances? These are questions that are in your minds but such question is not in my mind. I drew my conditions that now informed my decision, that is also the same thing with politics. It is personal and that is the reason why I will say ok from that sense had I will not say ok since he is not from Ika. I am not the one to take the decision, now the onus here is to say that this one is going for governorship, this one is not going for governor, now this one that is going for governorship is not a member of the same party that I am.

I don’t share the same beliefs and ideologies with him. So supporting him might be a difficult decision for me to make. It will be easier and quicker for me to vote for a person whose beliefs and ideology goes along with my own.

When it is politics, moral is at the backyard. It is a matter of interest that is based on ideology and your scope in this case; my ideology rims and agrees with the ideology of the man from the central. It is not as if I hate my brother.

Based on what you have said, one of the major problems we have here is that they lack political ideology, take America for instance, when they had a republican as President, there are things the Americans will expect because already they have structured it and everybody is aware both the Republican and the Democrat are somehow predictable. Then looking at the Nigerian system today, such kind of ideology is not there and that is part of the problem that we are having today because if like a party, you people have an ideology and follow it strictly, if at the end of the day, this people’s ideology does  not favour us a Nigerians and the principle of ideology is lacking in our system, so how do you think that such kind of ideology can be taken into our system?

You have said it all and I don’t have much to add to what you have said. Yours was more like a lecture. The problem dates back to the manifestoes of the respective political parties. Today, we have more than 60 political parties. A very careful look at the manifestoes, you see that all of them have resemblance. These manifestoes were not framed by the four persons here. It is like a newspaper; assume I want to get what is on the news, I go to the newsstand, I pick up a copy and read. So when I pick up the news contained in the publication of Ika Weekly Newspaper I read, I pick up Ika Mirror and read, you will discover that there is no significant difference between the content and outlook, the psychic of Ika Weekly and Ika Mirror. If you pick up the Vanguard and the Daily Sun to read, there is also no significant difference between the outlook and the content of Vanguard and Daily Sun; that is also how political ideology is as you have also noted.

Our democratic exercise is yet to be developed. We are still young in our democratic age and experience. The issue of ideology as a term if you apply it tenaciously today to our democracy, then we will go back to the era of the military because we have to practice this as it is for some considerable length of time for us to internalize some certain terms and terminology processes before we can now say, yes. Let’s say the rightist and the leftist, but what we are practicing today is a little bit to the right and a little bit to the left which means at a point, there will be a mixture of left and right and that is what we are seeing but in a country like America which you cited as an example, it is far of the right hand and far left. You don’t practice such exercise here and if you look at their democratic history, it runs into hundreds of years unlike our own. So I know and very much believe that with time, we will get there.

How long have you been the Ika South APC Chairman?

I became Ika South APC chairman on the 29th of August, 2015

What impact have you made since taking over the affairs of the party?

During my period as Chairman, the party got exposed to the world. I brought in innovations into it in the areas of technology, media which I brought them as concept for performance and function to make people know that yes, this party is here and anywhere you are, you can always access information on the platform of the party, so that made a whole lot of people to begin to have considerations and began to develop soft spots and soft mind for APC, and eventually join the party. All these are during my era.

In summary, the major impact that my chairmanship has really made with regards to the party is that I have opened the party to the world to enlarge its coast and rapidly give room for more membership into the party. I can begin to mention names of registered members of this party since my tenure who were avowed enemies of the APC and they expressed it before my time.

APC came in with the slogan of ‘Change’ and people have said they cannot find that change. In your opinion, have you really made the change mantra that made the masses to fall in love with that maxim?

In my opinion, we have very well succeeded in introducing the change mantra. We have not internalized it on the minds of people. Let me go back again. Now before this time, you and I know that there was constant abandonement of contractual jobs nationwide, which has stopped now. When any government today whether on the platform of PDP, APC or APGA, initiates a contract today, they must see to it that these contracts are done, commissioned to the benefit of the citizenry; that is one remarkable achievement that this party has brought into existence. The All Progressives Congress has brought a treasury security system that is now in vogue to really regulate leakages in the entire economic system in such a way that we will now say that we want to inflate and deflate the economy, we will know that we have a problem at hand. We will know that we have a problem at hand. We will know that a point will come for us to stop that excesses otherwise, that economy will explode. If not for the Treasury Single Account, (TSA) the recession that we had in 2016 would still have been with us, if not going worse than now but for the TSA that helped us having blocked all the leakages. So everything that was coming became injections and the economy was inflated back and we are still inflating it. So these are changes. When you go to the transport sector, even the railway system is becoming part of us today, at a time it became dominant that we cannot talk about it.

What is change in the first place? Change is yes, I used to drink water of the size of 50cl but since I came into Ika Weekly Corporate Newspaper office, I was given 100litres of water and four of us here were given unlike when one was unable to get the 100litres of water, so the positive development is change.

But to the average Nigerian man, the hunger and suffering in the land is very high?

To be very candid with you, that is expected. The reason is this; there was so much looting, so many leakages. So many of our foreign investors ran away hence, there was no income as we do not export our resources. This created vacuum that brought recession. Now in a recessive economy, what are the attendant factors? Hunger is number one.

You talked about the rail system and we are aware that the government tried to fix the rail between Itakpe, Illorin why has it never functioned?

I am very happy you said PDP constructed a rail line from Itakpe in Kogi State to Ovwian Aladja in Udu LGA of Delta State, the main purpose for the construction of the rail line was for the transportation of steel ore from Itakpe down to the rolling mill at Ovwian Aladja so that the raw materials wouldn’t be a problem. It is just an economic principle; yes, they laid the tracks, they really established the process, having done that, that was when Owa-Oyibu became a recognized community. It was this railway line that opened Owa-Oyibu and when President Babangida came to give them local government headquarters and the community became known in the world map but having established the rail tracks. Have they ever transported iron ore to Ovwian Aladja which was the real purpose the rail line was constructed? The answer is No. For forty years, that region suffered serious slumber; there was nothing happening but now they are test running it for free transportation from Warri to Itakpe rail transport and you see this development is a concept of change.

The main word in our mind is centred on the 2019 general election, what is your message to the electorate in respect of the election?

For of all for the Presidential and House of Assembly candidates, my message to my brothers and sisters starting from three of you that are here is that you must have your Permanent Voter’s Card; that is the only way that you can either enthrone or dethrone any person of your choice. When you don’t have the PVC, you don’t have any contribution to the electoral, economic and social development of our country.

People should visit INEC offices; it takes nothing. Go there and collect your Permanent Voter’s Card, it is your property, don’t ever sell it, don’t exchange it for anything, and keep it until Election Day. You showcase it and you use it at the ballot point to vote for the candidate of your choice. There are several candidates on the platforms of so many political parties. They are sixty plus and all of them have candidates. So you have a very high spectrum to choose from, but you can only do that when you have your PVC.

First thing first, you must always be armed with your PVC and then on Election Day, you must not see it as a day of rest, we must not see it as the best day we go and do our business, No. it is a day that has been set aside by the government for us to contribute to the making of a new administration. So go there armed with your power and exercise your franchise for the candidate of your choice.

So come election period, where and where do we expect APC to carry the day? Do we expect that the APC will emerge victorious in the Delta State House of Assembly in Ika South?

Is it specifically only for the House of Assembly or all the positions?

Yes, in all the positions they are contesting for.

You wouldn’t expect me to come here and begin to campaign for a party that I do not have her membership, it is obvious. In mathematics, there is what is called Given Situation.

So, that goes to show that you are quite sure of victory?

Quite sure sir

Currently, we are aware of these money politics taking the trend in the political arena, don’t you think people may want to partake in the game and change their vote by making a sympathy vote?

Sympathy vote is entirely different. Sympathy vote could be coined from what Madam was trying to say when she mentioned morality that could bring about sympathy vote, but your own case is a situation where I have PVC, if you give me money, I vote for your candidate even where ab initio internally I was not supposed to have any relationship with your candidate, that is what you are saying. So that amounts to vote buying. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is very much against vote buying now. If you look at all those bye-elections; you will know we have a staggered electoral process in Nigeria today due to court cases, electoral violence, etc. for example, Ekiti State had their governorship election, same goes for Osun and Ondo States. By the time we will be doing governorship election in major states in March 2019, Ekiti, Osun and Ondo states will be on holidays because they have already had theirs. During the elections in these three states, we saw INEC working round the clock, making sure that voters do not sell their votes. But if you ask me whether they succeeded or not, I can’t say, because I don’t have any yardstick to measure the rate of success.

They tried

I was not there, I don’t do inter-state politics. So that also is one of the checks to vote buying and more especially, the National Assembly is also working on a situation where a bill is currently being worked out and hopefully would be passed into law which will frown at electoral offenses; part of the offenses is this issue of vote buying. If you catch me selling my vote and you are able to document me, maybe by photograph or any means, then you take it to electoral tribunal, I will go in for it. These are the processes of democratic dividends not until all these processes come on board we won’t see any light.

Major Aigbogun who was a formidable factor in APC until just recently from what we have read has now defected to PDP, how come this development? Also, considering his personality, by this defection has APC not lost? Because from the information gathere, he left with a number of party faithful

General Aigbogun was a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC. Incidentally, he is also from my ward. When he was coming into the party, he came in alone as just one person and when he left, he also left alone; this must be on record. He left as one person the day he decamped though I can’t fetch the records now. The day he went to register his membership in that party, he did it alone. He had no follower. That day, HisExcellency, the Governor of Delta State graciously visited him alone but that is not to say that his exit from our party is not a loss. It is a loss of a considerable degree but we have no choice than to wish him well in his new sojourn.

Was Cairo Ojougboh one of the founding members of APC?

No sir

But was he a founding member of the party in Ika South?

Let me correct you sir, there was a question you asked me earlier as to you wanting to know the impact of my chairmanship on the party and I told you that since I became the chairman of the party, I opened the party making use of technologies and social media to reach out to the entire populace that there is APC in Ika South and so when Dr. Cairo Ojougboh got out of PDP through the instrumentality of the court of law, he found solace in APC. That specifically happened on the 16th of September, 2017; just last year. He came to meet a buoyantly existing structure of the All Progressives Congress here in Ika South. So he is never a founding member of the party. He came to meet an already existing party called APC, he joined us but was not with us when we were in the trenches.

Is he still with you now?

Well, I can say yes. He is still with us. He recently lost his gubernatorial primary election and since then, I want to say that he has gone under because of course, anybody that loses a major political contest; you don’t expect such a one to be dancing azonto on the street.

You have Sebastine Okoh as APC candidate for Ika Federal Constituency, House of Representatives, wanting to contest against a man sponsored by the incumbent that is coming out for a third term. How do you think a new bred politician can upturn a formidable old bred politician who has been there twice? Sebastine Okoh and Victor Nwokolo, what is your take?

My take is this, there is nothing that is impossible in politics and it is a very sincere take sir. Let me illustrate what I mean with facts. In 2015, Goodluck Jonathan had set aside a very large financial wall chest which he intended to use in prosecuting the presidential election and any other elections in that era. As at that time, we witnessed a colossal failure from the presidency down to several other states when he lost the presidential seat, they also lost so many seats at the National Assembly. Was it because he was new in politics? Was it because there were no resources? You see, let me tell you, election is a function of the people and not contender. When the people agree and decide to say we are throwing our weight behind you, that is it. But we must not forget the fact too which you highlighted earlier on the issue of vote buying, which is what somebody like Sebastine Okoh must be on alert to watch against because a financial wall chest that a third term seeking candidate has may not be as the same asthe one who is a green horn may command. I think I have answered your question.

Thank you very much. We wish you success in your political endeavour.

You are welcome. It is a privilege.

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