Chief (Elder) John Ehikwe, The Ukpe Chukwu Muye of Ejeme kingdom, is an elder statesman, a community leader, an accomplished businessman and an astute politician of no mean repute. He is one of the major crusaders of true federalism at the national level, right from the first republic in the early fifties and sixties. Currently he is a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ika South Local Government Area of Delta State. Following the controversies emanating from the just concluded PDP primaries for the Ika Federal Constituency House of Representative position, which has led to the rumour going round the metropolis, that he was among those who betrayed Ika South Local Government Area, with the emergence of Hon. (Barr.) Victor Nwokolo who has gone to the National Assembly for two-term; and now that they feel is the turn of Ika South LGA, Hon. Nwokolo is coming out again for the third tenure.
Based on the aforementioned scenario and the accusation that he attended the consultative meeting of Hon. Victor Nwokolo before the congress, prompted this Special interview to Ika Weekly Newspaper reporter at his office, to clear himself of the accusation and straighten the records on some salient issues that needed to be addressed in order to foster a harmonious political atmosphere in Ika land.
Good Morning Sir,
May we meet you?
I am Chief Elder John Ehikwe, an elder statesman from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) family. I headed the Anioma Welfare Initiative over four years ago when we were agitating for Anioma to produce the governor of the state, having had governors from the Central district which is the Urhobo stalk and South which is made up of Itsekiri, Isoko and Ijaw, along some other groups, we made our points clear to our brothers that it was the turn of Anioma or Delta North to clinch the governorship position our brother Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, got the slot on his merit.
When exactly was the group founded?
The Association was founded in 2013 preparatory to the 2014 election and 2015 general election.
What is your take sir, on the zoning formula where it is being perceived that it is the turn of an Ika South person to go for the position of House of Representative?
I strongly believe in zoning or rotation of offices, especially elective offices that belong to more than one ethnic stalk or more than one local government area, it is very good for brotherly relationship that two brothers have one thing in common, nobody should monopolize it; so I am not against zoning of such office or rotation of the Federal House of Representative Seat. For only one local government to monopolize it does not augur well for us. But the rumours I hear is that the agitators keep saying that the zoning has been agreed upon, but from my own understanding and whatever is going on, there has been no formal agreement or arrangement for zoning, but some people are quoting Dr. Okowa as having said in a town hall meeting that after the last election, it was going to shift to Ika South local government area. Well, that is okay but from my own understanding of politics, that was a political statement. You cannot agree on zoning in a town hall meeting which was not specifically for that purpose, it was just a question that was thrown in and as a politician he just said Hon. Nwokolo is now there, next time it will go to Ika South that is not an agreement, hence nobody could pin anybody down on it. Assuming now that Okowa was not governor from this area or that he has even gone to the All Progressives Congress (APC) are you going to call him back to say come and honour your agreement, so it should be formalized? But that is what my Ika South brothers fail to understand. At the initial stage of this current dispensation when they were saying it is our turn, even when it was late, Nwokolo had already gone far into their aspiration when Ika South brothers started saying it was their turn; I told them, well, it is too late. We should have said this as soon as the last election was over. I normally look ahead. I don’t look at today or yesterday, you start working towards that, don’t assume my stand but if we wanted it we should have started earlier. However, now that it was late we should allow this one to go but immediately after the next election or even after the nomination, we should enter into a proper agreement against the next four years, otherwise we will come back to the same thing.
With the conclusion of the primary election for the House of Representatives position? What is your advice on how to resolve the issue?
Thank you very much for this important question. This is the best time for us to come together at a round table as brothers, be you PDP, APC, Accord, SDP or any party that has a presence in Ika land, we should enter into a proper agreement now against the next four years and against the future. We should come together now, even before the election so that everyone will have the same mind to know that if Ika North East LGA has it for this time making it three times, so if we are now negotiating, we can now establish three term rotational system; then during next election, Ika North East will not present any candidate for election, so that if they are ten or more candidates from all the parties, then at the real election, all the candidates that will contest for election will all be from Ika South Local Government Area. I am praying God and already working towards that; I appeal to my brothers and sisters to team up with me and let us arrive at this, because I do not want any fire brigade approach any more, next three or four years we will begin to shout without properly sitting down to agree, so that is my own recommendation.
On the accusation that you were at the consultative meeting, what is your stand on that?
Some people are saying that if I am an elder statesman who should be neutral, then I should not have attended Hon. Nwokolo’s Consultative meeting. I did not attend Hon. Nwokolo’s consultative meeting as a party chieftain of Ika South or as a PDP active politician from Ika South. If you look at the list of Ika South leaders from the last Ika Weekly Newspaper edition, you will not see my name among the leaders that were given this recognition. I attended because it was a consultative meeting and I did not attend the meeting on the invitation of Ika South PDP, I attended because Hon. Nwokolo requested that I should be there. That I am an elder statesman does not mean that I was there politically, I still have my vote and my family vote, we are going to vote for somebody, so, I don’t see anything wrong in my attending a consultative meeting, in support of my preferred candidate. Chief E.K. Clark is an elder statesman he is still PDP and while in the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), I was one of the people who made him senator of which if he sees me today, he will say this is one of the people who made me senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He was a senator under my executive at the state level, Bendel State at that time, so I don’t see any reason why I should not express or have my own choice of candidate simply because I am an elder statesman, but that does not mean that I cannot support somebody of my own choice.
Just last week, we saw the emergence of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as the Presidential flag bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party in a convention, widely acclaimed to be one of the freest so far in the country, more over it was conducted by His Excellency Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa the governor of Delta State. What is your take on the emergence of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar?
This might be the second time people will be reading me about that because last week in Ika Weekly Newspaper and in the social media, I issued a statement saying that Governor Okowa deserves to take the credit of that convention because all over the country and outside the country, it has been adjudged the freest National Convention of any political party whether PDP or APC or any other party. This is our own son, so if I am not proud and you are not proud, every Ika man is not proud that our son is being glorified as the savior of democracy in Nigeria, then we don’t deserve to be whom we are. I enjoin every Ika person to raise their shoulders high and say Okowa is our brother and he did a good job.
On the issue of Atiku Abubakar coming out as the PDP candidate, I am very, very pleased about it because I have followed the antecedents of all the aspirants for the presidency from PDP, they are good. They would have all made good presidents, but most of them would have been destroyed by APC; but this is a man who can stand against anybody. All the rumours of corruption about Atiku, where are the proof as you cannot just open your mouth and say corruption. The proofs all the people who have been investigated for corruption, are there, their documents are there; I am not saying that Atiku is an angel but at least from his antecedents in business and in politics, I think he can stand and from his pronouncements that he is going to restructure Nigeria, give him a chance, I think we have been agitating for restructuring of Nigeria and here is somebody the loudest among the aspirants that says they are going to restructure Nigeria, we should give him a chance. Buhari is anti-restructuring, he does not want it, are we going to force it on him? Last time they put it in black and white in their manifesto that they are going to restructure Nigeria, immediately after that they said it was not Buhari that said it, that it was APC, who is APC? Who is Buhari? Is it this time that they are going to tell us they are going to restructure or they are going to keep the same unitary system that we have, where everything goes to one family? Whether they are competent or not, this is a democracy, we must pick people on their merits, on their antecedents so that is why I support Atiku’s emergence as the presidential candidate of PDP. Coming to his running mate Dr. Peter Obi, we couldn’t have had someone better, this is a man that I have had direct contact with, personally, I was praying when they were speculating that it was going to the East. I said if it does not go to Peter Obi then we are doomed, and I put it in prayer, I am not saying that it was my prayer that did it; just as I was praying I am sure many Nigerians did the same and God heard our prayers for Atiku to choose him. If you look at his profile both in business and politics, his own crime to the typical Igbo man is that Peter Obi is very stingy because the Igbo man is money conscious, they feel he is not as generous as other persons; you want this man to be dishing out money with what is he going to do his works? The Chris Ubah, that is leading this opposition against Peter Obi, was the one who had a cultist agreement with any person who wants to be Governor of Anambra State, to be sharing Anambra’s State resources into three, he will take one part while the remaining part will be for the whole of Anambra and that was what he was doing it was even what happened to Ngige, that made them to kidnap him (Ngige). So, Peter Obi came and said No, if I give you this money what am I going to use in doing the roads? Hospitals? Creat employment, pay salaries? No, that was his crime against Chris Ubah and other money conscious leaders of Igbo land.
Coming back home to our Ika South Local Government Area, just this last weekend, the PDP Ika South Secretariat was fileld with party faithful coming for reconciliation having finished the conduct of the primaries for the various elective positions. In your own view, how do you see the reconciliatory move?
That is a very good move, normally during election tension is raised high here and there, brothers, vying for one thing, at that time w are divided, we disagree but the good thing about democracy is that after that disagreement we should get back together and agree, so that is the best way to build up the party or else we will not face the general election with one mind. Infact there should be no victor, no vanquish; I commend that move that they should bring everybody together, just like at the national level, Atiku has also done the same thing, all the people who contested against him are the people in his campaign team; Saraki is the director general and all of them are there doing one thing or the other and they have pledged that they will work together which, they have agreed before the convention and they are keeping to it. We are happy that Nigeria democracy is getting ripe.
Using this medium, what is your advice to the electorates towards the 2019 elections?
My advise to the electorates towards the 2019 general election, are at two levels; the first level, is Delta State our government house in Asaba. Please my dear brothers and sisters of Ika extraction, if we lose one vote against Okowa, it’s a vote against ourselves, it’s like my boss is there I go and vote for another person; every Ika person is a candidate because we are the owner of that position that Okowa is contesting because it is the governor’s name that we all are using to contest. I said it last week that if somebody of another tribe is struggling to collect the fish that is in Okowa’s hand, it is from all of us whom Okowa is representing that the person is struggling to remove the fish from. I am therefore passionately pleading with all Ika sons and daughters to come together and voted our beloved brother back to power. We should forget individual differences, mention one thing that Ika land is going to benefit from the administration of Ogboru or from anybody outside Ika compared to what Okowa is doing and what he will do for us. Can Ogboru be able to give us good roads networks across Ika land like what Okowa is currently doing for us? The Urbobo man is not interested on that. I have said it that at the end of Governor Okowa’s second tenure, the face of Ika land will be highly transformed. Where was Oghara? Before Ibori became governor, we never heard of it, go there and see the infrastructures and development on ground, the roads, a university teaching hospital and every other thing. Late Ambrose Ali was a former governor of Bendel State, go and see what he did at Ekpoma, he gave them a university, the bushes that he turned into streets are still there, they are opening up everywhere bringing development to the nooks and crannies of the area, so why is our own different? It should not be different, lets’ support Okowa, because as long as the governorship is shifting that is how development is also going round, if it concentrates in one area, it will hinder the development of the others areas and we don’t want such, hence we should vote massively for Okowa, for Anioma and that is the vote for us all.
Secondly, at the national level, I advise the people that we changed from PDP to APC. It was popular when they were using the change mantra to campaign but we didn’t have the positive change, rather, we had a negative change from bad to worse; so we don’t want that again, we should come back, for if we continue at this rate to vote for Buhari again, we will be roasted before the end of the next four years. So my advice is, vote for Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi and vote for our son and ourselves, with Okowa representing all of us.