Our Personality of the week is Hon. Festus Chukwuyem Okoh (a.k.a Chuky Dandy), Member Representing Ika South Constituency in the State House of Assembly. He is the PDP flag bearer for the March 6 election. Hon. Chuky Dandy has in this all important interview revealed that one of the reasons he want to go back for a second tenure in the State House of Assembly is to ensure that Ika Nation is included in DESOPADEC as one of the oil producing communities in the country.
Good day sir, may we know you?
I am Hon. Festus ChukwuyemOkoh (a.k.aChuky Dandy), Member Representing Ika South Constituency in the State House of Assembly, also Chairman, Committee of Commerce and Industry.
My father, Mr. A. E.Okoh was from Ogbeisongban, while my mother, Mrs, Agnes Okoh was from Ogbemudein. Both are late. My father died in 1999, and my mother died in 2013. They were not too rich, neither were they poor. They were able to take good care of us and see us through school before they died.
Did the quest for riches not push you into crime?
Not at all. My parents never taught me that. As a child growing up, I had to learn from my parents. They were never assuming. They were never anxious for wealth. They lived for name and not fame. I had no option other than to do same. One thing they also taught me was that hardwork pays. So, all that I have today are a result of hardwork. What most people fail to understand is that money comes when you do the right thing with determination. So, all those who look for short cuts to make money are only lazy and empty of sound ideas. They also fail to understand, or have chosen to ignore, the fact that ill-gotten wealth comes with a prize, which is very severe.
Are you married?
Yes, I am married with four kids. My wife’s name is Mrs. Faith Okoh, and we have known ourselves for over thirty-one years now.
Where is your family, sir?
My family is in Ireland. My children were all born and brought up there. I have been living there for about 20 years now.
What is your religion?
I am a Christian, a member of the Catholic faith
What were your growing up days like?
My growing up days were perfectly okay. I was born into the family of A E Okoh from Ogbeisongban, Ime-Obi, Agbor. My father worked with customary court and my mother was a trader. I attended Noseri Primary School, thereafter I went to Ika Grammar School. After my secondary school days, I proceeded to Delta State University, Abraka, where I graduated with B.Sc in Economics. I did my Youth Service in 1999, before I travelled out of the country.
When did you return to Nigeria?
I came back in 2009 when I was made Board Member, Federal Mill and Steel. Then, I contested for House of Representatives in 2011 under the DPP. Thereafter, I was made Special Assistant to Ike Ekweremadu, the Deputy Senate President. I resigned in 2014 and contested for the House of Assembly as Member representing Ika South Constituency. I won the election and that is the position I am occupying till date.
After the primaries for this present election, I emerged the flag bearer of the People’s Democratic Party to go to the House the second time.
How long have you been in politics sir?
Well, I was in politics even before I travelled out of the country, and when I came back, I started from where I stopped.
Are you into other things aside politics?
I have Bureau De Change in Dublin, Ireland, I also have African shop there. Here in Nigeria, I have bureau de change as well, and have my business in Lagos.
What do you have to say about the politics in Ika land today?
The politics in Ika land is like what we see in other places. The only difference we have here is that we are not united and we pray that one day the unity we pray for will come, and the love we yearn for will also come.
Does this division in Ika politics have anything to do with the age long rivalry?
Whether we like it or not, as long as the tongue and the teeth live together in the same mouth, they will have issues. Even in our families, siblings from the same parents still have issues. I know that people will be saying that the people of Ika North East are oppressing us. To me, I do not see it that way, because if you make me the governor of this state today, I will do more for my village, Ogbeisongban and my people, than other places in Ika. That does not mean that I do not see others as my people as well. There is always a parable in my place that every individual places wrapper in between his or her own laps.
I, for one, am not a party to the division between Ika North East and Ika South. I schooled in Ika Grammar School in Ika North East, and most of my friends are from Ika North East. The only thing I have discovered is that our people have to learn from them, because the kind of politics they play in Ika North East is not the same with what we see here in Ika South. Take for instance when someone from Ika North East is occupying a key position, he will have an Ika North East person as his PA, who will in turn have another person working wiht him. By so doing, they groom themselves in the game. But, here, instead of having such, we have those who struggle to pull their own people down. The moment someone is in a position, others start fighting to bring him down, this is the politics of bitterness.
So, you find out that we are not growing. We should support whoever that is there, no matter who he or she is, provided he or she is our own. Even if you do not like the person, you should put personal hatred and issues aside, learn to understand that it is not just about the person, it is all about the system, let us grow a system where all of us will benefit. If the people of Ika North East had not supported the governor of Delta State all through, he would not have grown to be the governor that he is today. He grew from Local Government Secretary to Local Government Chairman, to commissioner, to Secretary to State Government, to senate, and then to governor. This is the system I am talking about. They allowed him to grow. So, our people should allow our own to grow also.
Are you practicing such sir?
Yes, I have some young ones in politics who are working with me, that I am bringing up to know and play the game.
In line with this sir, what do you have to say about supporting Nwokolo for a third tenure in office, bearing in mind that the people of Ika South are saying that the governor once promised them that this would be their turn?
Well, if such promise was made, I was not there when it was made, so I would not be wrong if I say that I do not know anything about the promise, because I cannot speak about what I did not witness. But then, what I have to say here is that first, if my party has brought out someone for a position, as a loyal party member, I have to support that person, because he went for primaries and won.
So, if we are saying that it is the turn of Ika South and nobody from Ika South emerges as the flag bearer of my party, I will have to follow the candidate of my party, I do not know how other political parties run theirs.
Second, as regards the idea of this third tenure, it is important we know that the older in the House, the better. A longer stay in the House attracts a lot of advantages and benefits which if well utilized, will better the lives of the constituents.
Third, if I should speak for the benefit of my people, I would say, they should allow Nwokolo to do another four years instead of allowing a new person from Ika North East to go there and do eight years. Here is the logic; if Nwokolo goes again this third tenure, next time, we from Ika South will say that we want to go. But, if another person goes, and still from Ika North East, that person will look for a second tenure, thereby truncating the chances of Ika South going there anytime soon.
Sir, the strongest opposition so far in one of his statements said he will be going for just one tenure, and then let the people of Ika South have their turn. What is your take on that?
It is a fairy tale. Oshiomole said same when he was campaigning for governorship in Edo state the first time, and then after his first tenure, he went for a second. Also, when Buhari was campaigning in 2015, he made a similar statement. But today, he is fighting for a second tenure. So, it is just a campaign strategy.
Sir, how have you fared with your people as their Representative in the State House?
Well, I cannot blow my trumpet, but if you see the things on ground, you will know that I have tried as a first timer in the House, I have tried as a person, and I have tried as Member representing Ika South Constituency. My duty primarily is to make laws, lobby, and perform oversight functions. In terms of lawmaking, I have co-sponsored fifteen bills in the house, including Delta State Centre for Rural and Social Development Studies Bill, Delta State Cancer Control Agency Bill, Delta State Social Protection for Persons Living with Disabilities Bill, Delta State Consumer Right and Control Agency Bill, Delta State Equipment Leasing Regulation Bill, Delta State Administration of Criminal Justice Law Bill amongst others.
I have done my oversight function very well in the sense that there are no abandoned projects in Ika South because when any project comes this way, I go and monitor the work and ensure it is done according to specification. Also, I have moved four motions. Three scaled through but one did not. That one was to include Ika nation in DESOPADEC. That one failed because they asked on which quantum are they going to be giving derivation to the people of Ika nation? Our pipelines have not been linked to Forcados, but I know that once our pipelines are linked to Forcados and our quantum starts reading, we are going to be benefitting, because I will see to that if I go back to the House after the election.
Can you mention some of the projects?
We have constructed some roads in Ika South. For example, Oza-Nogogo road, the road from Dein palace to Oza-Nogogo, Orikeze, Odion street, Odi street, Igumbor, Ewere close, and Ugbewi street. All these ones I have mentioned are in Ime-Obi. Also, we have Olihere Street, which is under construction; we have done Charles Street, Upper Imudia, Whyte Street, and Emefiele. These are all roads done in my time. In Abavo, we have done Central Hospital road, Ring road, and others. I can name about twenty five roads done in my time, my first time in the House. This I must say is a very big development to my people. It had not been like this before in my constituency.
I saw you giving money to financially stranded patients at Central Hospital Agbor, in one of your oversight functions. Is this part of your job as a Member of the State House of Assembly?
No, it is not. I do that because God has blessed me financially, and there is no better way to use riches other than reaching out to those in need. There lies the essence and pleasure of having money. The other time I was at the hospital for an oversight function, I saw a boy that was rushed in, short of blood and in a critical condition. His mother who brought him could not pay the money required for treatment and for the purchase of blood. So, I quickly came in to save the poor boy’s life. I thank God I was at the hospital that particular day and time, if not, the poor boy would have lost his life. Today, he has fully recovered and he was at my house with his mother few days back to thank me. I give God the praise for making me a blessing to that family, and to many others He has been using me to reach out to.
How are you preparing for February election?
Well, I have done my homework and I have equally done my campaign, I commit the rest into God’s hands, because I know that it is God that gives power. I know that by His grace, I will emerge the winner.
Who among your opponents is a threat to you sir?
There is no particular opponent I see as a treat. Anyone who comes out to vie for any political position, comes with the mind of emerging as the winner. With God on my side, I will defeat them all.
Being a friend to Fada Ibude, how does his vying for the same position with you affect your relationship?
Fada Ibude has been my childhood friend. His running for the same position I am vying for does not matter much to me. It is only a contest and whoever wins should give thanks to God.
Those in your party who you defeated in the primaries, are they supporting you now that they have lost out?
Yes, they are. After the primaries, I went to meet them the following day; going from one house to the other, to let them know that we are not fighting, neither are we enemies. We are playing politics, and it is only a contest where only one person must emerge the winner. They are my friends, just like the people contesting with me in other parties.
What is your take on the not too young to run campaign?
It would be nice seeing young people take over the mantle of leadership of this great nation. I am also an advocate of that.
What do you have to say about the other candidates your party is bringing out for February election?
Atiku is a man that I like personally no matter the criticism. He is a man that has established so many businesses in Nigeria, whereas others do take theirs outside the country. By that alone, he is a nice person. People have been accusing him of one fraud or the other, yet no one has come out to prove it. It is only the court that can proof things beyond reasonable doubt.
Talking about the governorship candidate, Okowa is more qualified, he is tested and trusted. I know that even the blind and the deaf will tell you that Okowa is preferable to his opponents.
For the senatorial seat, Nwaboshi is more qualified. He has gone there the first time and has done his bit. We must understand that he is there as an opposition, and there is a limit to what he can do.
As for Victor Nwokolo, he has done a lot of things which I have seen, such as water projects, restructuring schools, and roads which he has influenced. Again, like I said, since voting another Ika North East person will make the people of Ika South to wait for another eight years, it is wise we all cast our votes for Nwokolo.
Elekeokwuri is a colleague in the House. Definitely, I want two of us to go back and complete the work we have started. We have been pushing for Ika to be included in DESOPADEC. There is a law in the House which disallows a Member of the House from continuing with a project another Member left half way. So, if you start a project, you must finish it. If not, someone who is not going back could ask the Member coming in from his constituency to push a bill which he started. This is not allowed. The moment you are out, your halfway bill will die a natural death. So, if the only thing I can achieve when I go back is to ensure Ika is added in DESOPADEC, I will be fulfilled, because Ika people will enjoy it for life.
How do you see Ika politics in ten years to come?
If Ika people will work together, and bring in the young ones to the game, our politics will be perfect.
How has your wife and family been of support to you?
My wife has been so supportive, my children also. If they did not support this course, I would not be here in the first place.
Your parting words sir
The future of Ika rests on the shoulders of the youths. Therefore, they have to tread wisely and be more concerned about the future instead of living for the day. Thank you.
Thank you sir