Chief Dan Orbih is the newly elected National Vice Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), South-South geo political zone and the immediate past Edo State Chairman of the party. In this interview with CAJETAN MMUTA, he speaks on the recent defection of Governor Godwin Obaseki from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the PDP, the September 19 governorship election and the chances of the party ahead of the polls
Your new position as the National Vice Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party for the South-South ge-political zone is one that comes with enormous responsibilities and changes. How can you describe it?
Well, I feel highly honoured by the party for considering me worthy of that position and I thank God that some of the things we have been able to do in the past are there for the people to see. That is why the party has deemed it necessary that that time I should come on board this time and serve them in the South-South so that we can now start getting ready to ensure that PDP is back to power at the national level.
There is high expectation in Edo State that giving the state of developments, especially, now that incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki is the party’s flag bearer for the governorship contest come September 19, 2020 and that poses another challenge to the party and its leaders. How is prepared is your party for the forthcoming election in the state?
Our primary was exemplary in the sense that there was clear unity among the party leaders and the aspirants before the coming of the governor, who demonstrated that very well at the primary that was held. So, you can see that it was a smooth primary and with the momentum coming from that I can tell you that Edo State is set to embrace a PDP government once again so that they can start enjoying the good things they enjoyed when the PDP was in government.
Are you surprised that Governor Obaseki’s coming into the party came just about 12 years the PDP failed to hold sway in government at the Dennis Osadebay Avenue Government House in Benin City?
I am not surprised because there is time for everything. I think the time has come for the PDP to take over government in Edo State and the decision of the governor to embrace the umbrella has become clearly that it is something that has come to stay through divine intervention and other socio-political issues that brought about this decision which is good for our politics, which is good for the state and which is good for Nigerians. Because we are beginning to witness very interesting trend where people who are in the ruling government, the party in government you see an elected governors, deputy governors and legislators moving from that party to the PDP.
It is a very clear statement that Nigerians are now tired and sick of the failed APC-led government. And they are ready to make sacrifices to identify with the general clamour for a change in government.
How did you look at the drama that played out when the state governor who was before then in the ruling All Progressives Congress suddenly moved to the PDP and Pastor Ize-Iyamu who was in the PDP now joined the APC?
Well, the first person to leave his party to join another one was Pastor Ize-Iyamu and it is interesting that the governor who has seen to need to actually identify that has this appeal which is the PDP. I am not surprised that the governor has moved on, I have always seen him as somebody who is focused and whom we want to identify with the yearnings of his people and that as at today the average person in Edo State feels that we have not fared well under the APC-led Federal Government.
Is it in the area of security or is it in the area of the economy. We are going through very hard times as a result of the politics of the failed APC-led Federal Government. And this has affected the spending power of the people, they no longer afford the basic needs of life and these and other issues have driven the governor to a position where for him to remain focused he must be able to at least assess the feelings of the people and that he has done. He took the right decision to embrace the PDP ass the platform that will give the people the good things of life if voted back to power.
Would you say now that Obaseki has done well in the past three and half years?
The assessment of the governor is coming on September 19, the way Edo people will vote for him will show you clearly that the man has done well. So, there is no point asking too much questions. If he has not done well you will see for yourself; if he has done well you will see too but I can assure you that the programmes are very clear, very soon they will be talking about the power plant which he hopes to commission soon.
How many state governments have been able to go into that area; this is quite unprecedented developmental strides and there is need for him to consolidate on the good works he has started. The average in the street feels that the man will even do far more than what he has done so far, except for the distractions they gave him in the greater part of his tenure. Somebody is settling down to work for the people they started disturbing him with all sorts of issues and I think now that he is in a party that believes in real democracy he will have all the time in the world without distractions to continue to deliver on his promises and it is good for the state.
What are the chances of your party in the coming polls giving the ugly experiences some of the elder and leaders of the APC shared and complained about the attitude and character of the governor in his dealings with them? There is this fear that now that he is in the PDP more people will leave the party and move to the APC where they feel they have enough opportunity to get what they want?
Do you want individual benefit or the benefit for the general good of the society and of the people? Those who want individual financial benefits will certainly have no place in the type government the PDP government will give to the people. We want a government that will be there for the people, that will be able to provide basic things for the people of the state, not a government that will milk the pockets of the individuals who are just thinking of just about themselves and not the general good of the people.
Most Nigerians have expressed shocked that the governor whom his former party, the APC National Working Committee, recently disqualified was granted waiver, accepted into your fold and given the party’s ticket to contest the September 19 governorship election and there is this fear that the governor may have secured the ticket to vie for the second term alongside the Deputy Governor after they must have paid through their noses?
Well, first and foremost our party is a very organised party. I don’t know the process the APC used in coming to their conclusion but I can tell you that before we got to the stage where the governor was cleared to participate in the primaries I want to believe and I do believe that our national leaders, advisers and members of the National Working Committee must have done their homework before coming to the conclusion that he was a fit and proper person to run the election the platform of our party. And what is more, he is a serving governor who has gone through this process before and it is believed that if he could go through this process without blemish in the past he should be able to go through it again but I have taken my time to look at the constitution; what is required is if you can read and write and INEC feels that you are qualified once you can read and write.
The minimum qualification from all I know is primary school leaving certificate and if you listen to the governor and if I guess you will know that the man has far more qualification than the minimum required qualifications. So, these are issues that must not derail from the task of allowing the governor consolidate on his achievements so far and also to expand his focus and idea on how to make Edo State great again.
Going further on the candidacy of the governor, you must have read about the Supreme Court verdict on the then fate of candidate of the Action Alliance Party in Imo State, Chief Uche Nwosu, who left the APC and later the AA. The court ruled that it was wrong for him to have indicated interest to run for the same governorship position under the platform of two different parties. How sure you are that such development won’t affect Governor Obaseki in Edo State?
The Supreme Court verdict was on Imo State and not Edo State. The issues are different and we cannot start importing a judgment given in Imo to decide on issue on ground in Edo. They are two different issues completely.
What is your outlook like now that some sections of the country are making overtures for the Presidency ahead of the year 2023 and I know that your party is not slacking in taking a position looking at the performance of the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari?
The year 2023 is going to be very important for this country as a nation. We have witnessed in the past few years virtually a breakdown in the security architecture of our country. Today, farmers cannot go to their farms without looking at their back; herdsmen have taken a prominent role in our day to day lives, people hear unprintable stories about what happens to those who go to their farms and what they experienced in their farms. And I believe the present government has not done enough to curtail the situation.
You see these are things that will lead to other things. Of course it will affect the output of our agricultural products and of course that will bring about hardship and these things cannot be wished away. When you look at what we are going through today you will agree with me that this government has not been able to address the numerous problems we are faced with here as a nation. We have not been able to manage our economy, exchange rate has reached an all-time high and Nigerian currency is now the lowest in terms of putting a value on it at the international market. And this is the good time at all.
Look at the state of roads, there is hardly anywhere you can travel to under the present government that you will have a smooth ride. We used to have FERMA and it was very effective at least it carried out repair roads with major repairs on the collapsed sections of our roads but now we don’t know whether there is FERMA neither do we know there is an existing functional ministry of works. Anywhere you travel to in this country now you will be faced with the horror of bad roads and this government doesn’t seem to think about it. And that is where we are with abandoned projects that were initiated by the last administration of the PDP federal government. One can easily come to a conclusion that this government has no solution to the problems of this nation. And Nigerians must use the opportunity of 2023 to bring our nation back on track so that we don’t fall into a situation where you can say we are now at the bottom feet as a failed nation.
There is a window to rescue the nation come 2023 and that window is being presented by the PDP because we have been tested and they have seen what the country was like when the PDP was in government. We want to go back again so that this set of people who came with, their only objective of coming to power was to stop Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. So, you have a lot strange fellows coming together at that time. And their mission was to stop the former President but they didn’t have a programme in place to address the problems of the country. That is why we find ourselves where we are now.
What is your stand on the financial autonomy granted local government councils, the judiciary and the state legislatures by President Buhari?
I don’t think there is anything wrong with it.
What is your word for Edo people as they prepare for the governorship forthcoming election?
All I will ask them is that they should vote massively for the PDP at the coming governorship election so that we can take our place of pride in the politics of this nation by calling the South-South as the first zone to have all the states under the control of one political party by the PDP and I think that will place us at a vantage position as we approach 2023.
I want to add my voice to those who are of the view that under the present arrangement South-South are the greatly marginalized under the present government and I think the first step we must take is to put the entire zone under the PDP so that come 2023 when we have a PDP President they will definitely give to us what we rightly deserve in this nation. No doubt, that as a region we contribute so much to the economy of this country but unfortunately what we get in return is total negligence in terms of giving us what is due to us as a people, giving us vague infrastructure in the region.
I think the earlier position of the President was very clear when he said that he would only attempt to give to those who voted for him. This is not the issue, the issue here is that the South-South will continue to play a very serious role in our nation’s economy and they deserve far more than what they are getting at the moment and we should as a zone continue to show our support for the PDP so that when we have a PDP President we will definitely get what we deserve.
How do you see the level of insecurity in the country?
The truth is that what we have experienced in the past few years is enough to start calling for all sorts of response but the bottom line is that our security architecture has failed, so, we need to go back to the drawing board and find ways of putting things in place so that the primary purpose of government of guaranteeing safety of lives and property can be achieved and this issue of state police is one of the suggestions people are making but I think there is more to it. Government should pay more attention on security. There are issues of the police being properly trained, equipped and they should be given incentives so that they can actually do this work well with all their hearts and without necessarily looking for corner or shopping for corners where they can make a little more money at the expense of proving security for the people they are supposed to protect and guard.