Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, until recently, was the Deputy National Chairman of the Ali-Modu-led faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He has since joined the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), where he is seeking the party’s ticket to run for governor in Delta state. In this interview with BODE OLAGOKE, he speaks about his ambition, why APC is better than PDP and real reasons his former boss, Ali-Modu Sheriff, is on sabbatical in politics, among other issues.
There have been reports in the media that you are running for Delta governor in 2019 on APC platform; why do you want to be governor?
In 2007, I contested under the PDP platform at the governorship primary, which was my first attempt. So, people were wondering how I did not later on become the governor. When Udughan was leaving in 2015, I was already the National Vice chairman of the PDP and as the National Vice Chairman of the PDP, there was a concerted effort by the traditional rulers and leaders of Delta North that everybody must make sacrifice that the position of governor come to Delta North and then we all cooperated.
In fact, since I was the national vice chairman, if I resigned to contest that election, that position might not come to Delta North; so, I swallowed my ambition to support Okowa who incidentally, as predicted has no capacity and it has shown that it was a mistake the Delta North leaders made to ever support him to become governor. Other persons that would have done better than him then if we had known he had no capacity – people like my humble self, people like Professor Mohin and so many others that contested that election.
So, to say that I have not been contesting is not true. I am not a desperate person, I am not a desperate politician, I give and take. I am not greedy; I am a soldier of truth. I look at things passionately and I am always on the side of reasoning, common reasoning. Once the common reasoning is satisfactory, then I take my action, so, that was why I didn’t contest in 2015 to make sure that we didn’t divide the house.
How strong is APC in Delta state and why are you sure you can get the tickect?
Let me start with the strength of the party in Delta. You see, the PDP government and Okowa have failed completely! So, Deltans can’t wait to vote them out. When I launched the one man and one vote campaign in
Effurun, Uwhe local government on March 10, we have changed the passion of the people and since then, they have all charged to the registration centres; that they have now seen somebody who can do the job and do it properly. So, talk about its strength, the only party right now in Delta state is the APC. The PDP is non-existent.
So, if you talk about strength, the only party in Delta state is the APC. Now, come to talk of my chances, how sure am I that I would get the ticket? There is nothing that is ever sure in life. I’m not even sure that I will be here tomorrow. Anything can happen, God forbid. So, how can you be sure that you are going to get the ticket? Nobody, I cannot be sure and I’m not sure. However, no venture no success. But I do know also that I am not contesting this election because I am from Delta North or because the governorship position is zoned to Delta North. No!
I am contesting because I know very confidently that I will make not just a difference, but I will transform Delta. I am not saying that I am the only person who can do that. So many other people can do that. On the platform of the APC, there are also very many beautiful and great aspirants. Any of these persons can do the work but if the party decides that I’m the one, I will not disappoint.
However, if I get the ticket, because there is an agreement or a system on ground that every Senatorial District will do eight years, if I get the ticket, I will do only four years. I will not mind sycophants who will come and deceive me… ‘Oh! You are doing very well. You need to complete, you need more years to complete what you have started bla bla… No, no! Four years is enough to lay a good foundation. You lay a foundation that cannot be reversed and that is the essence of governance.
You see, if you are leading a team and you are doing patch patch work like the governor is doing now, he will patch a-10m road and he will carry flag and go and celebrate it and flag it off. There is nothingyou are doing there that is irreversible but if you are a governor for instance and you have a lot of free-flowing rivers in Delta. You take one and dam it at the cost of N30bn, you generate 500 megawatt of electricity; you use it to build a modern city, economic city where you will have factories, where you will have hospitals that will serve the factories, where you will have schools, where you will generate employments for people.
That process is irreversible, if I now as governor, I take the Agbor as habarow and say this is my state, then ‘ten lanes this away and ten lanes this way’ I take the Owara-Warri road, take the Warri-Agbor road, take the way lane as Agbor road, ten lanes this away and ten lanes this way,’ all city links, put holes on them. That is what the Lagos state government has done and what they are doing. These are processes that are irreversible. You will leave a landmark, you will leave a mark on the surface of the earth that people will remember that this was once a governor. Do you know that as we speak, people still remember the works of Ogbemudia as governor of the old mid-Western state. That was a man. Those are the things we are talking about. At this time of our age, we need a governor that has something in his head.
Look at the budget of Delta state for instance, for two years now, the man had no budget. So, when we now discovered that he had no budget, we went on air and announced that he had no budget. He quickly put together a budget. He has no idea how to do a budget. He now said, he’s earning N7bn from Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), of course we know it is a lie because we know that he earns at least N25bn, so, somebody is stealing what he’s not declaring. Now, his monthly federal allocation is about N14bn, if you add the two, it gives you approximately and then multiply by 12; it gives you approximately N290bn, which is his budget point. Is that a governor? Is that what Delta state deserves? No! We have to do better than that.
You talked about four years to transform a state; is it also possible to transform Nigeria within four years?
You see, we must also learn from yesterday, when Yar’Adua died, I was the Senate liaison officer to Mr. President and the onus of confirming Jonathan as the President lied on the National Assembly and that was the main action as at that time. And then the National Assembly agreed that Jonathan be confirmed and he was confirmed and they now said, look, we will confirm you, finish the term of your boss, so that you go back. But when time came for the 2011 elections, Jonathan said well, I have been a governor, I left my position to contest, I have not just been the deputy, I have been a President for just one year, I have in that one year taken a governor for his seat in Kaduna. I mean it is unfair to now tell us not to contest. Everybody reasoned thatwell, these people made sense, they now said, Okay, no problem; do one term. Everybody agreed that Jonathan should do one term. When the end of that one term came, people convinced Jonathan that he must seek another term.
Of course, you know the North, this is unfair, don’t do this, don’t do that, but, of course, you know the power of incumbency, the power of presidency is very huge, so, when it comes to the party, the president has a lot of influence. His influence was able to carry him through the primaries and finally got the ticket but that influence couldn’t win him the election because there was a zoning arrangement on ground, and PDP paid dearly for it. So, these are lessons we must learn.
So, it is like in Delta, if I now come and say I am going to finish the term or do four years and after those four years, people begin to convince me, you know how human beings can be and of course, I don’t belong to those sorts of things. I am straight forward and forthright to my own consideration, I would accept that. But if I made the mistake, the consequences are very there. Of course they will vote you out. So, we already have the history.
Zoning is an issue in Delta state and Delta North is saying it is their turn and leaders of the party like the Great Ogboru, who is from Central, are not accepting zoning. What is your take?
Oh! Perfect! I agree with both sides, and I have explained it in my position. I said I am not contesting because I am from Delta North. I am not saying it is my right because I am a Delta North man; therefore, I must get the ticket, No! I said I am contesting because I feel confident that if I am elected, I will transform the state. I also went further to say I will use only four years, so that, I do not disrupt the zoning arrangement of the camp, I will not abuse it, that is reason I am doing only four years. So, you can see that in everything you do, you must have the voice of reasoning; you must have the ‘milk’ of human. So that when you leave this earth, people would say you were fair. All that is good on earth is to be fair, fair is fair. So, you can understand my position.
Recently, APC NEC approved extension for the NWC and executive at all levels, but people feel the arrangement might not favour the new entrants like you; what is your position?
No, when I was entering the APC, I was asked to go and negotiate position in the party, negotiate on what they are going to give your people following you in Delta state to the party. I said No, I am a politician, I work with whoever I find on ground and so, today, I am very comfortable. I’m working with the people I find on the ground and I am advising anybody who wants to come into the APC, if you are waiting to negotiate so that they can give you party structure, give you everything, you are making a mistake. Go there and work with whoever you have found on the ground because, the people you are bringing, you didn’t manufacture them. You will need this people. You can also go there and groom the people you have met if you are a true leader. You don’t start saying give me 30%, give me 40%, it is wrong, there are human beings on ground there. You can’t just come and displace them, that is my belief and that is an example I have laid for myself. I never asked to be given party structure, even in my ward. No! I am working with the people l found there.
My relationship with my state chairman is very cordial and I am very comfortable with him, I am very comfortable with the state structure.
What the party has said is that they are allowing the structure as it is, to continue for one year in an acting capacity, it is not a tenure elongation and in fact, they also went further in the party constitution to explain what they are talking about. It is all in the party’s constitution where they stated that ‘In the absence of a convention, it is the NEC that runs the party.’ So, the party is a family affair and people must agree and disagree but the party is more democratic, more disciplined than (PDP) where I am coming from and the party is handling right now and I believe that the party will find solution to it. The leaders are working assiduously with the president to make sure that the party handles the issue very well. I can assure you that this issue will stabilise.
APC constitution says the national convention is the highest organ of the party, why is your party shying away from convening a national convention?
No. This constitution says that the national convention is the highest organ of the body. It also says that ‘In the absence of the convention, the NEC runs the party.’
Why is it difficult for APC to hold the national convention?
You see, I am not trying to make excuses for anybody but of course you know that governance is not as easy as you find it. So, to say why can’t the party do convention? It is human factor, you can’t blame God for everything; you can’t blame humans for everything. God created man in his own image. God created man and the creation wasn’t perfect and so, you don’t expect everything to be perfect.
If you look at APC now, you will also see that even governors don’t want to see their counterparts who are senators, members of House of Representatives to even have a say in what goes on in the party structures of their respective states. Look at Kogi, Kaduna, look at Bauchi, etc, are you not bothered that what happened in the PDP will be repeated in the APC?
But you can see the difference between PDP and the APC. When the President, in his wisdom, saw that all is not well, there is something majorly to be done, he brought the great Asiwaju of Africa, the Jagaban Gburugburu, and said ‘look, go and sort out this problem.’ And the Jagaban is working.
Are you confident that Jagaban can achieve success?
The Bible is very clear; O ye human of little faith, why do you doubt what God has done? Be positive! Why are you thinking negative about it? This Jagaban is capable and he’s working.
Are you not worried that legislature and executive feud is affecting governance because the budget has not been passed and Nigerians are worried?
Have you read the Constitution? The constitution is very clear. It says once the President sends the budget to the National Assembly, he has the right to spent 50 per cent of the budget for the first six months.
You mean supplementary budget or the one that has not been approved?
I mean the one that has not been approved. Go and bring the Constitution. That is what the Constitution says. So, as far as the Constitution is concerned, the budget is operational. Go and read it. Whether it is passed or not, once it has been submitted, it is allowed to prick the budget for the first six months. So, if the National Assembly, I pray that they do their work and do it properly because they are receiving their pays, they are receiving their salaries. A labourer is only worthy of his wages. If you are taking your wages and you are not doing your work, and what you are supposed to do, if man cannot ask you, God’s prominence might ask you one day.
Do you think there is discipline in APC? It has the majority in the National Assembly, yet the budget is being delayed. There is also the plan to override the president on the amendment of elections sequence?
As at today, it is not possible, almost 66 senators are with Mr. President; that I can assure you.
It seems the APC mights have only one presidential aspirant in the 2019 general election because the calculation in some quarters is that nobody will contest against the president. What gives the party the assurance that it will coast to victory this time?
That is how democracy is all over the word. If the president of America does well, that is an automatic ticket. We are copying it. It is as simple as that; take America as an example.
Has the goodwill that brought Buhari overwhelming victory in 2015 not been decimated?
Again, this is where I like to also talk. Let me tell you, as with everything in this world, even when you want to build a house, you don’t just take your block and put on the floor, you have to dig down to lay the foundation, and then from the down where you have dug, you will now start to lay the foundation. If you take your money to the bank, the bank charges will be bank charges. If it is N1 million you had taken, once your N1 million enters the bank, it will no longer be N1 million, they have taken money out of it. That is how life is.
Though, Buhari did not expect what he got, what he inherited but today, thanks be to God, we have seen what has not happened in the last 30 years in this country. Number one, as we speak, for the first time in the history of this country, we generate 7.5 megawatts of electricity. For the first time in the last 30 years, the Enugu-Onitsha road, I passed through it, I spent 10 hours; it will be ready in the next three months. The Port Harcourt – Aba Road is now eight lanes road. The East-West road, the road that passes through the home of immediate past President of this country, for six years, we could not complete it, today it is near the completion. In fact, about a month ago, the road that leads to Otueke was commissioned and, of course, former President was very happy.
For ten years now, our foreign reserves have hit $46 billion, it has not happened before. The TSA has close to N7 trillion. The era when you used to enter or get into British Airways into Nigeria, then you will see the first-class flight full. It has stopped, you no longer see it. Parents are now bringing back their children to come and school in Nigeria.
Let me tell you, we now have a direction where we are going. We were directionless before, but under Buhari, there is now a direction. Talk about corruption and anti-corruption, if you like, criticize it how you like but let me tell you, winners don’t protest. It is only losers that protest. The anti-corruption that Buhari is fighting is on course and he’s doing very well. And I am telling you, look, the level of appreciation of Buhari as far as anti-corruption is concerned, it is better appreciated by comments from outside especially InterPol. InterPol has recommended a Nigerian model for other African countries. To God be the glory!
You are a close ally of former Borno state Governor, Ali-Modu Sheriff; Nigerians are asking why his sudden disappearance; has he quit politics?
No. He is still very much relevant politically. Last time, I was with him in Yola when we attended the marriage ceremony of the SGF in Yola, but for now, he’s on sabbatical. But all his foot soldiers and followers, all of us, are now in the APC apart from the few that went to other parties.
Is he also planning to join the APC?
Since he is the leader, he has to make sure that all his followers are settled before he can now take a decision. Myself, I am encouraging him to come to APC. I am one of those persons encouraging him to come to APC.