OKUBOR, CHIEF STRATEGIST TO OKOWA, SPEAKS ON WHY OKOWA WILL EMERGE VICE PRESIDENT COME 2023
…Describes Wike’s Claim On 13% Derivation Arrears as Unfortunate
…Says Okowa Did Not Betray Anybody
From the number of people recently interviewed, it will not be a wrong assertion to say that there are two notable characteristics of Ika people who are in politics or occupy public offices. First, they exhibit traits of well foresighted and quietly influential people. The second reality is that most of them are in government not necessarily for ‘’stomach infrastructure’ as it si called in the nation’s political palace but largely because they want to contribute toward the improvement of the people’s life chances.
The above awareness came to the fore during a recent interview with Dr Festus Okubor, Chief Strategist to Governor Okowa of Delta state at his Agbor Home.
The Interview was conventionally planned to be a mere media parley. But at the end, it became more revealing than envisaged.
Specifically, there are three main reasons why this interview qualifies as a must read. First, Okubor used the platform to puncture the controversial tube of lies surrounding the 13% arrears recently paid by the Federal Government to the Niger Delta states. He set the records straight beyond reasonable doubt.
Secondly, from his eloquence and intelligence which like a billion stars shun all through the interview, the content of the interview will bring a re-orientation and be a source of inspiration to youths that have lost interest in going to institutions of higher learning.
Thirdly and most fundamental, Okubor in that report demonstrated his undying love for the state Governor, Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa and as well as preached why he believes that Okowa is most qualified to emerge as the Nigeria’s Vice President.
The Interview was anchored by Jerome-Mario Utomi, Special Project Officer Ika Weekly Newspaper.
Question; Looking at your towering achievements, you need no introduction. However, at Ika Weekly, we have a tradition whereby we allow our personality for the week briefly introduce his/herself. So, from this standpoint, I ask; who is Festus Okubor?
Answer: Dr. Festus Okubor is Chief strategist to the Delta state Governor, Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa. He is married, he has children. I am from Ika, Ikarumo precisely. I schooled here in Agbor. First, Nigerian Baptist Convention and Igumbor Atikwu. From there, I went to Edo College in 1972. I then went to study medicine in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 1986 and did housemanship at UBTH and proceeded for Youth Service in Borno State, precisely in Biu
Thereafter, I worked in a couple of hospitals including Royal Hospital in Agbor. I went back to Biu and started my first practice. At some point, I decided to relocate to Lagos. After joining the first insurance program in Nigeria, I had the singular honour to present the paper of healthcare financing at the first master summit where health insurance was fully adopted as the way forward for healthcare financing.
I did meet with a couple of interesting personalities including Chief MKO Abiola who did indicate that health insurance was one of the best ways to solve the health care challenge in the country. That necessarily drew me close to him and to lots of other political actors. I was close to him when he won the election and the crisis that followed. From there, I got sucked into politics. I and some others then moved to Grassroots Democratic Movement (GDM) where I became the National Publicity Secretary. After Abacha’s death and passage, we formed the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and that is how I got into politics.
But recently, I registered for Joint Admission And Matriculation Examination (JAMB) and went to Delta State University (DELSU), Abraka from where I graduated last September. I went to study music and came out with a first class in music.
Question: thank you Sir for this insight. Yes, it is said that man is a political animal. But, looking at the tall achievements made in the health sector and coupled with the fact that you spent 6 to 7 years of your life studying medicine, one may be tempted to ask; What could have made you dump that aspect of your life where you have invested so much time, talent and resources for politics that is 99.9% uncertain?
Answer: Well, like I said to you, I left medical practice for healthcare financing and then to healthcare insurance from where I got sucked into politics. Because of politics, I’ve by the grace of God been commissioner for health. So, we are still in the practice of medicine but at different level. Now, we would talk about music. You know there’s what is called music therapy, it is still in the same sector.
Question: Then if I may come in. Health and music; what is the relationship?
Answer: like I told you, there’s what we call music therapy.
Question; is that what prompted your decision?
Answer; that is just what prompted it. There are other issues including interest and you need to set interests for the younger ones, those who say that education is a scam. You have to go back to school for them to know that it is not true and that education is where they get knowledge and also to let many know that age shouldn’t be a deterrent. Now, nobody younger than me has an excuse for not going to school and this will make the society to do better, advance better and develop better. So, I have to make that point through self-sacrifice.
Question: Thank you. Now, we move to the core area of this interview, the 2023 general election. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) primaries both at state and federal levels may have come and gone, yet, its effects have refused to go away. In fact, going by commentaries, the center of the Party appears not to hold anymore
Answer: Going by everything, the centre is holding very fast. First of all, you know that a political party is an amalgamation of people. You have good, bad and you have the ugly. The ability to carry all of them along is what makes you a leader or not. Now, I’m sure that you must be referring to the issues of some governors. The truth is that we are intellectuals, we are patrons. We have many opinions from our members but at the end of the day, we work as a party.
The same thing happened in Delta state. We had congresses and some persons felt unhappy and they went to court. They all took sides. I did recall in a national interview, the two gladiators who went to court. We called them together, we did baptismal ceremony for them, fairly speaking and we changed their names. One to ‘All of you David Edevbie’ and the other one ‘All of you Sheriff Oboriwere’. The wisdom behind that action is that at the end of the day, whoever wins belongs to the PDP as a party.
And as you can see, since the litigation ended, there has been unity. We are moving on as it should be. -Onward to Victory. PDP in the state is united with one gubernatorial candidate. And we’re moving. There’s no issue, no argument. Even before the Supreme Court judgment, there has been peace. We’re moving on. We’re campaigning together. At the national level also, campaigns are going on. We are moving on. Have you heard anyone say he is leaving the PDP?
Question; I have not seen any member leave PDP but I have in recent times but I have seen some members de-market the party. Don’t you think that such a development should be a source of concern to every member of the party?
Answer; Let me tell you something. When you throw a pebble into water, there are ripples. You need to understand what the ripples are singing for you to get worried or not worried. In this instance, the ripples are singing party is supreme. The ripples are singing party is united. The ripples are singing we are not going to quarrel with anybody. In whatever direction we are moving, we resist every distraction.
Question: But Sir, don’t you think it’s time to seek political solution to the situation?
Answer: You look for a political solution when you have a clear divide. Take for instance, when somebody says I am in PDP and the other says I am in PDP, is there any political divides? There is no division in PDP at both state and Federal levels.
Our focus remains on our multitude of followers who have suffered humiliation, who have suffered poverty, who have suffered lack of employment, who have suffered loss of lives, lack of infrastructure, who have witnessed our natural resources being shipped to Niger republic, who have suffered disrespect. Those remain our focus. We know that there will be people interested in distracting our focus but we owe ourselves the responsibility. So, there is no misunderstanding. Everything is very clear. We had the first convention; we produced a candidate. The candidate is working on his manifesto. He was the first person to launch his campaign. We are undistracted.
Question: Thank you so much. But it’s no longer news that within the PDP, we have a group that tagged themselves ‘G5?
Answers: that is their view point to which they are entitled. That is democracy. People must have their say. That’s the interpretation of democracy. We have no problem with that-absolutely no problem. That is my position. Everyone has their opinion. Even, if you go to my village now, you’ll see different groups. They have their opinions.
Question: There is this issue in some quarters that what is happening in PDP is as a result of lack of level playing ground and internal democracy?
Answer: That’s not true. I am in PDP and I am telling you that there is no crisis. If there is no level playing ground, how come we have successful campaigns going on? How come we have successful manifesto launched? How come we have successful nomination of candidates? And we are moving on. Campaigns are flagged off everywhere and you are saying there’s no leveled playground anywhere.
Question: Recently, one of the proponents of G4 movement in PDP, in the person of Governor Nysom Wike, the Executive Governor of Rivers state, opened what analysts referred to as a can of worms over the 13% derivation which the Federal Government paid the Niger Delta States As an insider and a chief strategist, what is the picture?
Answer: The true picture is that the statement made by Governor Wike is the most irresponsible statement I’ve ever heard in my life from an expectedly responsible person. Now, the story is very clear. You can understand why I used these fairly harsh terms.
The federal government had been in default in their payment of several aspects of the 13% derivation which the Commissioners for Finance spotted. And the Commissioner for Finance decided to challenge the Federal Government. They went into dialogue and at the end of the day; the Federal Government agreed that the Commissioner for Finance were correct. These shortfalls did not begin in the life of President Buhari’s administration. The Federal Government agreed that yes, this backlog is correct but given the amount of money, we cannot pay you that money in one threshold and therefore decided to pay this same money installmentally over a period of 5 years. And issued a commitment ‘I owe you this amount of money to be paid over 5 years.
In Delta state, we have roads to build, have salaries to pay, we have youths to empower to be self-employed and contribute to the economic development of the state and we have pension to pay- and we have this amount of money. You cannot have it wait for 5years. In any case, you and I know that under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and APC led Federal Government, the value of the naira devaluates virtually on an everyday basics. So, how do we take advantage of today’s value of the money?
Some states like Rivers approached commercial banks and discounted theirs in full and collected, but Senator Ifeanyi Okowa said he would not want to leave the next administration with a huge debt burden. He resorted to discounting only N150 billion out of the N240 billion expected receivables but later pruned it down to N100 billion. So far, we have got N14.7 billion in three quarterly installments and we have also accessed N30 billion out of the N100 billion we applied for as bridging finance.
Looking at the amount this government has not touched. Senator Governor Ifeanyi Okowa is one of the most astute managers of men and resources this country has ever produced.
Someone like Wike from his own revelation has discounted fully. Which means that he has collected money that is to be paid in 5 years including the life of the next administration; he has collected all of it today.
Maybe he wanted to play politics with that declaration. But God works in a mysterious way. He has just ridiculed himself. Question; Sir, for the sake of clarity, this payment started when?
Answer; it started this year. We have just collected the third quarter,
Question: So, are you saying that there is hope for Deltans in the future, looking at the amount that is left?
Answer: Of course, looking at the amount this government has not touched. Senator Governor Ifeanyi Okowa is one of the most astute managers of men and resources this country has ever produced.
Question: This expression takes us to the next question. In a simple language, has Governor Okowa performed?
Answer: Excellently well.
Question: What are the Key Performance Indicators?
Answer: Human capital development, security and the intangible which I refer to as mutual peace. Go round through the state; you will be proud to say I am a Deltan. Did you listen to him when he had that debate with other presidential candidates? Were you not proud as a Deltan? I was jumping on my chair. I was proud that, that was my governor. I was proud of the Delta he exhibited. That’s who we are, who we ought to be. He is qualified not only to be the vice president but he is qualified to act as president right now.
Question: Back to the day’s business, there is this issue tagged betrayal. As we all know, Nigeria rides on the rail of dichotomy between the north and the south. Part of that example is the Asaba court. Where it was decided that power must shift to the South. But because of the way the primaries went, Okowa accepted the vice presidency. Is that not betrayal? As an insider, what is the true state of things?
Answer: Okowa did not betray anybody and has not betrayed anyone. In Asaba, all the governors said they want a Southern president and they left. Party leaders kept their own views. The PDP that I know parted. Everybody wanted to become a president. Okowa did not come out to say he wants to become president. He did not come out to say he wants to go to Senate or House of Reps. All he desired was to finish office and go and rest after 8 years. He is a medical doctor. He knows the pressure of 8 years. Some governors were even thrown out of PDP because they wanted to be president.
They forced the former chairman to resign and brought the new chairman. It was those that didn’t want South East to produce the President that was the problem in PDP. But in Nigeria, when the followers pick their president, who are you to say no. And so, after a free and fair election, the presidential candidate emerged under the party chairman that was nominated by Wike.
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The next thing is who will be the Vice President? Okowa is a party man. The party has spoken. The presidential candidate of the party was from the North in the person of Atiku and like I said he (Okowa) never aspired to be Senator. And the party members, guided by God selected him. Where did Okowa betray anybody? He did not betray anybody whatsoever.
Is even those shouting betrayal that are the real betrayals. Take as an illustration, Ovie-Omo Agege came into Delta state Government as a Personal Assistant to Governor Ibori. Is he still with that party now? He left the party and went to join Labour Party. From Labour Party to All Progressive Congress (APC). But Okowa has remained faithful to his party
Question: For now, as we speak. There is this issue that 14 out of the 17 PDP governors voting for Wike to be the vice-presidential candidate for PDP while 3 voted Okowa
Answer: My dear, you are a journalist. These are democrat processes. Only the Presidential candidate knows the quality his is looking for. Only he knows the criteria. One thing they don’t know is that when two of you vote in for one person, there might be a reason why that person is not chosen. At the end of the day, did you vote? Yes. Did you give him the result? Yes. In that result, only him knows what he is looking for. So, if 10 of you voted for Mr. John and nobody voted for Mr. Peter. He might decide its Mr. Peter he wants. And you cannot bully him on that. But even with his decision, you can see that Atiku Abubakar is a wise man. He understands the context of being a president. A president is not anybody you push around. A president is someone who can look at everybody in the face and say this is the way I want us to go. That’s why you’re the leader.
Question: So, PDP is on course?
Answer: Very on course and Atiku is very much on course to be the next president of Nigeria with Okowa as the vice president of the federal Republic.
Question: That notwithstanding, what is the current APC chance(s) in the forthcoming gubernatorial election in the state?
Answer: As they say, APC has no chance. No one is voting for them except you don’t know any soldier who has died for this country, except you don’t know anyone who has been widowed because of them, except you don’t know anybody who has been kidnapped, youths who are running away from this country. the truth is that we’re not going to drag with them. We’re not going to argue with them. All we just have for them is that they should just finish their tenure and go. Let us build our country back again.
Question: Is that same fate applicable at the federal level?
Answer: Yes. For the same reason, the APC will have no chance even at the Federal level, State level or even at the local government level.
Question: But yesterday, I watched the visit of Bola Tinubu to Gbaramatu kingdom where he was received by a large crowd?
Answer: Don’t worry. As the saying goes, until you kill a mad man, that when you know he has a family. Is he not the same person that went there and introduced a governorship candidate as the governor of Niger Delta state? Where is Niger Delta state? Yet, he wants to be president. It is democracy.
They have a right to market themselves and say they want to be president. But I can tell you that APC has no chance in becoming the Governor of Delta state and at the same time, at the federal level. Let them just in the next four to five months, finish and go. They have no business talking about succession.
Tinubu said he will continue from where Buhari stopped. Where did Buhari stop? What did they want to continue? How much did you buy dollar recently? All these matters. And all we have to do is to vote and make them go away.
Question: There is another view to this. And that is the idea of obedient Movement. Are you worried about it?
Answer: I am not worried. Why I’m not worried is this. I have said it times without numbers that the phenomenon of Obi would necessarily have to be studied very quickly. It’s a phenomenon for now. You see organizations that are reasonable, take for example Shell, Guinness or British Petroleum or Chevron. if you’re the chairman of the board and you have shareholders authority to fire the Managing Director who is not doing well.
You can take his Deputy, and make him the MD. But you cannot take an Assistant Manager and place him on the position of the Managing Director because he doesn’t have the experience, he doesn’t have the knowledge, he does not know the fire. It’s like people who come out here to see the President or the Governor; they don’t know the intricacies in those offices.
That’s it. Obi is a phenomenon. It is something worth studying but that is where it ends. It will not pass that stage. It is because of the pain we all bear that makes us stick to Obi. Atiku has gone through fire in the hands of Nigerians.
He said no to Obasanjo’s third term. But in the society where we are today, nobody is talking about this courageous man that stood up and marshaled troops to ensure that the third term of Obasanjo did not hold. If not, we might have become a banana republic. But God has a way of befitting the just and I think this is the best time for Atiku.
So, Atiku is the next president of Nigeria. He is the best to serve among the three of them. One of them will require a lot of tutors while the other will require a lot of nurses.
Question: But come to think of it sir, at least for the sake of our teeming readers. A state in Nigeria is a microcosm of a nation. Now, Peter Obi has governed a state, Tinubu has governed a state but Atiku has not governed any state. He has only functioned as the Vice President of the nation. So, what makes him better than Obi and Tinubu?
Answer: Yeah, put it into the right perspective. Atiku won elections to be governor but because of his sterling qualities, he was immediately chosen by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and the PDP hierarchy to be the Vice-Presidential Candidate. He was elected to become a governor. If you will recall also, there was a raging political conversation that a new primary, congress should be done to choose who will replace him as the governor of the state. But his running mate was a Christian. He queued behind his running mate. They went to court. The first judgment was given by the Federal High Court in Lagos. Thereafter to the court of appeal and to the supreme court. And that is how Godwin Haruna, a Christian became governor.
Secondly, today, as our Presidential candidate, his second running mate in the person of Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa , is also a governor. An Excellently performing governor. So, in that ticket you have experience, you have knowledge, you have capacity, you have integrity. You have everything in that ticket. He was first elected governor due to positive considerations; he was made vice president. His running mate is a governor that is applauded everywhere and at all time. You saw the debate between him and the so-called Presidential candidate. So, what are you looking for?
Question: I obviously appreciate your views but is your views on the same page with that of the entire electorates?
Answer: My dear, if I am on the same page with the entire electorates, I must be a criminal. How am I going to be in the same tent with the entire electorates? Am I God? We should go and vote. That’s the only way we can be on the same page with the entire electorates.
Question: Thank you so much. But now back to Ika nation, APC at the Federal level may have performed woefully but some Ika indigenes believe that APC led federal government has done well for Ika nation. Do you believe in that school of thought?
Answer: That is very good. I will commend them but can you drive from Eku to Agbor? Can you drive through any of the Federal roads in Delta state? Can you go to your farm? Are you able to stop the activities of herdsmen? Are you’re not aware of the rate of cultism going on in the communities? Are you able to stop the bribery going on everywhere? Even if they did other things, APC is a disaster. It is a national disaster that must be sent away because when the head is bad, what can the tail do? When the head is dead, you’re telling me the hands are working. How? Buhari with the Omo-Agege led federal government in Nigeria is the worst disaster that has befallen this country and they should just go. That is my message to Nigerians. That we should not allow all the money they have stolen from us as Nigerians go. The only way we can stand our ground as Nigerians is through our PVCs.
Question: Thank you so much. But looking at the degree of economic devastation in the country, do you think PDP have what it takes to revamp the nation’s economy?
Answer: When Obasanjo became president, we were almost at a point like this because the military had messed up everything. But with Atiku beside him, they were able to do many things and Atiku was a chief player. Who is perfect? Nobody. Come on. For instance, when Okowa became Governor of Delta state, there was a time they were calling him ‘Ego aria’ (meaning no money). But he managed it and moved the state from Ego aria to RoadMaster.
Question: Without doubt, he goes by that name Roadmaster to the admiration of many but in some quarters, they believe that he has not succeeded in building quality health sector, Even the roads he constructed are not free of criticism.
Answer: Let me tell you. Like I always tell you, can we be talking about Buhari’s roads? We are talking of Okowa’s roads because he is building roads. Can you say anything about Buhari? It’s better you use the little amount you have to make 7 inches road and it goes round as against making 15 inches without having a widespread across communities and towns in the state. It was a decision to ensure that roads are done all over.
To show you how diligent Governor Okowa is, recently, Warri, Ughelli – Asaba Road was revoked because of lack of performance of the contractor. He believes that even if you put a contractor there, you try to correct him; you try to put him in the right direction, you tell him to get the right equipment. When you have done your part of the deal completely and he fails, you can now fire.
Question: Thank you sir. But people are concerned about his modality. For instance, instead of borrowing, why not go into public private partnership?
Answer: You see there are many doubts and it depends on the eye with which you’re looking at it, the view you’re seeing it through. You can’t say because he has more idea than any of us. He knows the strategies that are most beneficial to Deltans. So, there are many things that informed his decision, I believe it’s the modal of his choice. I can close my eyes and say I’m happy, I elected Okowa anywhere, anytime. I have that level of trust in his capabilities.
Question: What message do you have for him?
Answer: Continue to be who you are. Continue to work as hard as you do. Continue to put your trust and faith in God as you have been doing. Nigeria needs very serious people and there are only few serious-minded Nigerians like you. He has the power to abuse many people but he didn’t. What interests me most is his interest in development. He organized programs for the state. Dr. Okowa continue with your good work.
Question: Message to PDP
Answer: Stay focused. APC, pack and go.
Question: To entire Ika Nation
Answer: Let us be faithful that God will favour this land. Now is the time of salvation. Let’s keep our eyes open in these forthcoming general elections. Let us support our leaders particularly Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa.
Question: From what I read online about you, as part of the preparations for this interview. You at a time, functioned as a Chief of Staff to the immediate past Governor. In applied sense, is there a constitutional provision for chief of staff?
Answer: The position of Chief of Staff was in fact first introduced by the Americans. That is why the constitution does not require for instance, that the chief of staff would declare access and what have you or take oath of allegiance. The Chief of Staff is not just a personal staff but a knowledgeable personal staff that should be able to do the work of the governor. He helps the governor in every way apart from what no man can help another man to do. He is that important. Every governor must listen to his Chief of Staff and every Chief of Staff must be ready to die in the place of his boss. So, because of the nature of his work, he definitely becomes the engine room of the Government House operation.