You have been at the forefront of the agitation to impeach the Senate President, Bukola Saraki. How do you feel this will be achieved considering the fact that APC does not have up to 73 members at the Senate to effect his removal?
To begin with, when you say I am at the forefront, I really don’t dignify that except to say that the position that the Senate President should be removed is not a personal position, it is the position of the ruling party, the APC. And this was not a decision we reached lightly, we felt that the only reason Saraki became Senate President was because he was a member of APC. Some people have argued that under section 60(1a) of the Constitution that any senator could be Senate President, that he does not have to be a member of a political party. That is not correct because that is the language of that section of the law but the spirit and intent of that provision is that, that senator has to be a member of the majority party at the Senate. If that was not the case, the day Saraki was elected, I believe June 9, 2015 when he was elected Senate President, the PDP, the opposition party had more members on the floor. Therefore, if it was open to any senator, then PDP could have presented a candidate for Senate President and produce the Senate President. You only had about 12 APC senators on the floor that day because majority of the APC senators were at the convention centre supposedly waiting for a meeting with Mr. President. So if it is true as it is now being canvassed by the opposition that any senator could be Senate President and that Saraki did not get the position because of APC, then the question to ask is why did PDP not present a candidate for Senate President on that day? The reason they did not do that is because they knew it was not proper for the minority party to present a candidate for the office of Senate President.
There is the allegation that the proposed impeachment of the Senate President is being orchestrated by forces within the APC who have induced senators with N50 million each.
Well, I don’t know about senators who are being induced with money to impeach the Senate President, all I do know is that it has been Saraki’s pre-occupation for a very long time to get rid of Mr. President, the only reason he has not succeeded is because of people like us who are hell bent on making sure that he does not succeed.
At the beginning, you had a very good relationship with Saraki, at what point did you fall apart?
I did not fall apart from Saraki, it is not a question of falling apart. My position is this, we are 109 senators in the Senate, all of us are equal, no senator in the Senate is more equal than the other. Saraki as Senate President is just first among equals. He represents a constituency, I represent a constituency. Where I come from, we don’t take very kindly to bully, the people, the Urhobo people I represent don’t take very kindly to bullies and intimidation. To the extent he is trying to do that I have to put him where he belongs, to tell him to cut it out.
You are a very good friend of former Delta governor, James Ibori, how come you are in different camps now, you are in APC, he is in PDP?
Well, people need to understand that ex-governor Ibori was my boss, he remains my boss and also a senior brother. We continue to maintain very close personal relationship irrespective of the political divide, which has not affected my relationship with him. He is the leader of PDP, and I don’t believe that the interest of the Urhobo people is best served by the PDP. He thinks otherwise. Be that as it may, it is just a political difference, he remains my Oga (boss) and my senior brother and I continue to enjoy a very beautiful relationship with him. Actually somebody, I think it was former governor Uduaghan who made a very beautiful distinction few days ago and it is the one I subscribe to, that you have the PDP political family and you also have the Ibori political family, which is different from the PDP political family. I cut my political teeth in the Ibori political family, and to the extent that I continue to enjoy a good personal relationship with him, I don’t believe that I ever left the Ibori political family. Did I leave the PDP political family? Yes I did but Ibori remains my friend, my leader and my boss. And in any event, he is my constituent. Just the way I consult my constituents, I also consult him on any issue of national importance that in one way or the other, impact on our people.
They say birds of the same feather flock together. Are you not wooing him to join you in APC? Will he not add value to the party?
It is not my place to determine which political party Chief Ibori should belong. He knows what will be best for him, it is not in my place to determine where he should be.
What does 2019 portend for the state and the federal level?
To begin with, we have come to a full realization that the interest of the people I serve, and indeed the interest of the people of Delta State is best served with Delta State being properly aligned with the government at the center. We do not want to be in opposition, we want to be in the mainstream of politics. I continue to tell people that most of the benefits that we have received today, the bulk of the changes that we have in this state, talking about significant changes, and by that I am talking about the federal roads, the rails, social investment programme, these are benefits that came to this state because of APC-led Federal Government programmes. We believe that when we key into that Federal Government by having APC also govern this state, we are in a position to get more benefits from the Federal Government. For that reason, we are hell bent, we will do everything within our power, we campaign hard, work very hard to ensure that we kick Governor Okowa out of Government House in 2019 and elect an APC governor.
With the crisis in Delta APC, what role are you playing as a leader to ensure that there is proper harmonization of the various tendencies ahead of the elections?
To begin with, the so-called crisis you mentioned came about as a fall out of the congresses. Congresses have since come and gone, as is customary, we are reaching out, we are having everybody reconciled. People need to understand that the contest was for control or management of the party, we are only talking about 36 people at the state executive committee and few others at the LGAs and the wards. These are very insignificant numbers of people compared to the entire membership of APC. We have moved past that now, we are now at the stage where we determine who will be our flag bearers, once we get it right and we are very confident that we will get it right this time around, we are prepared to get rid of Okowa from Government House.
Do you also subscribe to the opinion of some APC members that the governorship should come from Delta North?
No, I do not subscribe to that. My position is that no senatorial district, no individual should be excluded from the race to the extent that one is constitutionally qualified to run for the office of governor. Once you meet the requirement and you are competent and can deliver as a governor, I don’t think if it matters whether you are from Delta Central, Delta North or Delta South. If you qualify and you are the best material, we should support you. So I don’t believe in discrimination.
Who do you think will win the 2019 presidential election?
Absolutely Muhammadu Buhari will win, he will be re-elected and he will win big. I can tell you as we speak right now, the North-West is secured for us, the South-West is very secured. By the time we are done with the Osun governorship election on September 22, the entire South-West would have been locked up. The North-East as you know is even a surer bet than the North-West. As you know, Buhari served the North- East as former military governor, and for some reasons he is so endeared to the people of that region. If you check the appointments he made, I think the bulk of them are from the North-East geo-political zone of the country as opposed to the North-West, so we are doing very well there, that is an area where no opposition can penetrate notwithstanding that Atiku and others are from Adamawa State in that region. I am very confident that President Buhari will win Adamawa State. You come to the South-South here, we are doing very well. Ordinarily, Mr. President should be looking for 25% from this region but from the way things are going right now, we are going to win Delta State outright for Mr. President. We are going to win Edo State. We are doing very well in Akwa-Ibom State, Mr. President will also win Rivers State. In fact, I can’t see right now any state in the South-South that Mr. President will not win. You go to the South-East, there is a competition but the South-Easterners know the consequences, they understand the consequences of not voting massively for President Buhari in 2019. We are not talking about 25% here, they have to come out and deliver Mr. President in 2019 for them to have the opportunity to present a candidate in 2023. If they don’t, and I know the South-West will deliver massively, you know the implication. When the presidency comes to the south in 2023, we will be looking at where the votes are. There is this joke I always crack. When Robin Hood became armed robber and was robbing banks in the U.S. he was asked why he always robbed banks. Perplexed, he answered that there the money is. So in this case, for the purpose of determining who will present presidential candidate for APC in 2023, we are going to be looking at where the votes are, and who deliver the votes. So for that reason, we expect that the South-Easterners will rise to the occasion, compete with the South-West and deliver massively for President Buhari. The only area where we will have challenges will be a couple of states in the North-Central like Benue but even at that, Mr. President will also win Benue. Is there a likelihood we will get the same number of votes, maybe not but we will have enough to win Benue State outright.
With your popularity in Delta, do you think you have a contest in 2019 in Delta Central?
Well, my position in politics is, it is not over until it is over. And in democracy, everybody has the right to compete. Yes I feel comfortable, I feel good where I stand with my people, I believe that they are comfortable with me, that I have served their interests well as I ought to. I believe that I have lived up to their expectation. For that reason, I am confident that I will be re-elected but I am preparing for the election as if I am running from behind.