Elder statesman, James E. Otobo, says the governor has performed
Since 2007, there has been so much acrimony in Delta State. As an elder statesman, are you not worried?
Yes, there is acrimony. I am glad you raised the matter. There are two groups in Delta State. One is government; the other is Delta State Elders, Leaders and Stakeholders’ Forum, those who say PDP did not conduct free and fair primaries, the group belonging to E.K. Clark. He is the one spearheading the support for Ogboru. Funny enough, even though he supported Ogboru during the re-run, PDP still won in all Ijaw areas. But things changed during the last election in April. E.K. Clark and Orubebe obtained permission from Jonathan and the party. So, E. K. Clark fielded one of his siblings on the platform of DPP. Orubebe also fielded somebody on the platform of DPP with the knowledge and consent of Jonathan.
Another group which is there is the Delta State People’s Elders Council, DSPEC. This is the one led by me. We first led a delegation to E.K. Clark’s group at the beginning of this year. We issued a statement then. Again, after the election, on the 14th of June, Uduaghan sent us again to meet E.K. Clark and his group. We met him on the 17th of June. He talked for about one and a half hours or so. He took a definite stand. He said unless there was a town hall meeting called where everybody could speak freely and see how we could put PDP on course, he’s not going to listen. (Unfortunately, one of the persons who was with us, Chief Brume, went to join Ogboru camp. So, there has been a vacancy since then with Delta Central not represented at all). Therefore, Uduaghan asked us if that was what E. K. Clark needed? I said yes. So, he has agreed in principle that a town hall meeting should be convened for this purpose to see whether we can reach some understanding. Everything for the town hall meeting is ready – all the arrangements, including the budget, because he (the governor) said he would finance it. The objective of our own group is to try to facilitate peace between the government and the E.K. Clark/Ogboru group.
Why are you supporting Uduaghan?
Good. Somebody once asked me that question and I said to him, you too, why do you support him? He said, well, he has done so many things, which people can see. I said it is for that reason I support him, too. You see, there are 36 states. Of the 36 states, I can rank Uduaghan among the first five or 10. I can rate him 85 per cent by Nigerian standard.
Senator Francis Okpozo is reported to have said that those supporting Uduaghan are doing so because he is bribing them with government money. How do you react to this, sir?
(Laughs) Uduaghan does not need to give Otobo money. Reason? I was made here. When it comes to the question of stability, character, honesty, and so on, Otobo is a household name. I was in politics for so many years; I didn’t build a single house. It was when I became a contractor that I built a house in Benin. It was later on when I returned from the United Kingdom that I started building this house, (his country house) from 1990 to 1994. It took four years to build and two years to furnish. I went through three different operations, which I paid for myself. In other words, as far as Otobo is concerned, and everybody knows it in Nigeria, including Obasanjo, that Okpozo is not an issue now in Delta politics. I am not saying he’s not a leader. I am on this side and he is the one getting contracts from everywhere. Let me get this clear because you raised the matter. As a leader of the Isoko nation, as somebody who separated the Isoko from Urhobo – you know where Isoko South Local Government is at Oleh – when you get there, you will see James Ekpre Otobo Hall there. That was the first recognition given to me when I was launching my autobiography... By the time I was in politics in 1951, Okpozo wasn’t there. By the time we were creating Delta State, he wasn’t there anyway. He came in during the military regime. E. K Clark admits that I am not his rank, not to talk of Okpozo.
Senator Okpozo said he is not happy with the governor because he has not done anything for his people.
But he (Okpozo) is the one building roads. Did he not get N250 million road contract here from DESOPADEC? If Uduaghan is not doing anything, how come he got that contract?
The various ethnic nationalities have been pursuing their own agenda agitating for creation of more states. Where will Isoko be in the scheme of things?
There are five ethnic groups in Delta State – the Isoko, the Ijaw, the Itsekiri, Urhobo and Anioma. All, apart from the Itsekiri, have submitted memoranda for the creation of their desired states. So, the scenario is this. Anioma submitted memorandum for the creation of Anioma State early this year. Even the Asagba of Asaba followed them there. Urhobo people also submitted for, I think, Ethiope State; the deputy governor followed them. Isoko, we submitted also for the creation of Ado State. Ijaw people, during our consultations, already told us point blank that they wanted their own state. And Itsekiri, they are giving outlandish condition. In the meantime, at the national level, we were told that only two states will be considered. One, Anioma State, in order to correct the anomaly in the previous exercise. So, if an Anioma State goes, it means the rest of this Delta State will remain the true Delta State. On the other hand, they say they don’t mind; there could be an Urhobo State. It means Anioma plus the others will form a state. So, during the last three days, we have been undergoing permutations. We are, however, waiting for the case in the tribunal. Whatever it is, the different groups will know where they are going.