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Money privileges bond Nigerian politicians

by Peter Friday
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Prof Leroy Edozien, a specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology, is also a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress in Delta State. In this interview with MATTHEW OCHEI, he says there are no true progressives in Nigeria, not even in the APC

The way to look at unity in this context is to distinguish it from unison. There is a tendency to mix up the two: unison is different from unity, in my concept. Now, if you are moving or acting in unison, you are all doing the same things, moving together. But unity does not necessarily mean that everybody in the APC in Delta is doing the same things or moving in the same direction. It is more about sharing a common vision. That common vision binds you and that bond we refer to as unity.

 Now, if you look at our party, the APC, not just APC, it applies to practically every party in Nigeria, you do not find the concept of shared vision and lofty values. People come together in Nigerian politics for two things: privileges and money.

When there is money, that can bond people together, even if they are in separate parties, they come together because all of them want to share that money.

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Apart from money, the second is the privilege. When there are appointments or other privileges, cabals that are interested in those positions come together to ensure those privileges are given to them, their cronies, and family members. These – money and privileges – are two things that bring people together in Nigerian politics. The concept of unity based on shared lofty visions and values is alien to politics in Nigeria.

 The APC has been in crisis before, during, and after the election and its members are defecting to the PDP, especially during the last election. Does it mean the party cannot manage its crisis?

I think that one problem with Nigeria generally is that we seem to thrive in crises at national, regional, state, local, and even community levels. It is becoming a cultural thing in Nigeria. So, their defecting is not necessarily because of the APC’s inability to manage its crisis.

I will say, on the contrary, the APC has not done badly in the managing crisis; remember during the time of Adams Oshiomhole, which led to the emergence of a caretaker committee. Each time the APC is in crisis, we find a way to stabilise and move on.

 The PDP has won at the tribunal and the Appeal Court. What is your take on that?

We have to respect the judicial process. The Court of Appeal has upheld the tribunal judgment, and our party’s candidate has said he will go to the Supreme Court. We cannot take away the role of the Supreme Court. We have to wait until they make their pronouncement. Meanwhile, we have to respect the law as it stands.

 I think respect for the judiciary is very important. In the same vein, the judiciary should put itself in a position where we are obliged to respect it.

 There is an allegation by the PDP that the APC members in the state are jubilating that the Presidency has promised to hand over Delta to the APC by influencing the Supreme Court. How true is the allegation?

Well, I have not heard the rumour and I have zero tolerance for rumours. These are allegations that politicians can come up with. So, the Presidency was not around when the tribunal gave its judgment and didn’t influence the tribunal and the PDP won? They went to the Court of Appeal, but the Presidency didn’t step in. It is now they want to say that the Presidency will step in. So, when it favours them, the judiciary is doing its job but when it doesn’t favour them, the judiciary is corrupt.

 What is your view on the court becoming the determinant of the winner of elections?

 Two points, I will expand on that. One of them is, that it is the people who should determine the winner of elections, not the judiciary. The second is: that when the judiciary gets involved, they don’t just jump into the arena, they are invited by politicians, so we can’t blame them.

It is the politicians that go to the judiciary and say to the judiciary, ‘Please adjudicate on this matter; I have been treated unfairly, please can you give justice.’

What do you want the judiciary to do? It has to do its job. In doing its job at the invitation of politicians or aggrieved parties, they go by the law.

There is an interesting case of a rescue operation at sea where a rope is dropped from a helicopter and the people who were stuck in a boat at sea climb the rope to reach the rescue helicopter. One person climbs the rope halfway then starts panicking and is unable to continue.

Meanwhile, the other people waiting to be rescued are sinking. As the person who is conducting the rescue operation, what will you do? Will you just drop the person into the sea and then go and rescue the others? Or will you focus on the panic-stricken person while the others sink?

Now, if you drop that person into the water and rescue the others, have you committed murder? Sometimes, this is the type of situation facing the judiciary. If the law said so and so and they applied it, we shouldn’t blame them for giving a ‘technical judgment.’ Instead, we should look at the politicians. Must it be that every time we lose, we go to court? Some of those cases have no merit.

There are two reasons why I came out at that time, the first is my belief in my capability, and my vision. I offer what I call a new PATH; a new Personality, in place of recycling old politicians, a new Approach to politics, not politics of ‘share the money’. Then, new Thinking and finally new Hope.

 The second is that we had a sitting governor from Delta North senatorial district and there was an unwritten rotational arrangement among the three senatorial zones. The Central had gone for eight years, South, eight years and North four years, so the idea was Delta North should complete eight years as others.

In that case, the APC should have opted strategically for a candidate from Delta North and anything other than Delta North, you are shooting yourself in the foot – by implication, it is the party saying they didn’t care about Delta North people.

I believe that Delta North should produce the APC candidate and if Delta North, why not me? I have everything it takes except the billions of naira and dollars, but the party leadership at that time did not see it that way and people with selfish interests came in and scattered the whole thing.

So, if you are from Delta North and came out to support Chief Ogboru’s candidacy, you were like a betrayal to Delta North. The party apparatchiks used all means to shut out Delta North aspirants. At that time, I had two encounters with the party chairman in Abuja and it was clear to me that the party leadership did not subscribe to the Delta North agenda and that my continuing in the race would be a waste of money.

 What do you think the APC leaders need to do to take over power from the PDP in Delta?

First, wait and see what the Supreme Court will say. Yes, if the Supreme Court gives us our mandate, which was taken by the PDP, then it will be in the interest of our party to sit down and think about how we proceed with governance, because as I have been saying, if you cannot run your party properly, you can’t run the state. If the party is run in an autocratic manner, the governance should be autocratic. If there is no internal democracy in the party, there will be no democracy in the state.

So, if the Supreme Court restores our mandate, we still need to sit and look at what went wrong in the past, see how we can nurture unity in diversity, and how we can build a political party as an institution, not just as a band of people who are pursuing their interests, and how to make our government a model of governance.

 If on the other hand, at the Supreme Court, we are not successful, what we should do is the same – we will go back and sit down to know what went wrong and how to rebuild this party.

We must learn how to take care of party members. This is very important.

If you are bringing in new players and ignoring the ones that are there, they will frustrate you. The other point is those that are coming in, are they coming with the same spirit or coming for stomach infrastructure, or are they coming as fifth columnists? Many of them were seen in their true colours in the last election. They were just coming to line their pockets and scatter the party. Some have returned to where they came from, and others have remained, either to reap where they did not sow or to keep the APC down through duplicity.

Six months of the PDP-led administration in Delta, how would rate the governor’s performance?

Well, I am not an insider, I don’t have any friends or close associates in the Delta State PDP. I’m completely detached from the system. I cannot say much about the system, but based on what I’m reading in the newspapers and my feelings, my observation is that Governor Sherrif Oborevweri has been playing it calmly.

He appears to be making quiet progress, unlike many of our politicians, who make noise without making progress. The most important thing for a new governor is early decision-making and a sense of purpose, as shown by the construction of flyovers and bridges in Warri and Effurun. That move shows he can be decisive, and it also means that he is recognizing the area where Senator Okowa failed.

If this man could do it in six months, why couldn’t Okowa do it in six years? Look at the money that accrued to the state. All I will say is, may the governor extend it to other parts of the state.

 Which area do you think the governor should focus on or prioritize?

That is a difficult one because we are seriously deficient in almost every area. We have the resources to do well in more than one area. We are not a poor state.

Well, education is so critical, especially in secondary school; the content of our educational curriculum, and infrastructure, focus on all education. Almost all the heads of service, permanent secretaries, principals, and others in the last few decades were the beneficiaries of the free education policy of the Western region and have brought to bear the benefits of that education. So, for me, education has to come top.

Secondly, health. Delta State has done relatively well in the health insurance scheme, and this should be given a boost to secure better health for all.

The third area of focus should be infrastructure.

Delta State is very poor in infrastructure. The only major road project we had here in Asaba, that is the Koka flyover, was done when the election was approaching.

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