Mr. Fred Obi, is the Delta State Chairman of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) and a factional Chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) in the state.
In this exclusive interview with our correspondent in Asaba, the state capital, he gave insight into the crises that trailed the recently conducted IPAC election in the state. He also bare his mind on other state and national issues.
Ahead of the 2019 general elections in the state, what is your party doing to ensure that it gets recognition? We are presently working so hard to rebuilding the party in the State, within this short period we have traversed the 25 Local Government Areas of the State to educate the people on the manifesto of PPA, and people are beginning to identify with us as the manifestos of the Party is presented to them. Our aim is to reposition the Party before 2019.
I hail from Ndokwa East Local Government, I resigned from one of the biggest construction firm in Africa JBN PLC after about 16 years of Service without blemish which also made me travelled and worked in many States in Nigeria.
I am now into a private business with some business partners where we provide support services to construction companies.
I am happily married and an Alumni of the University of Nigeria Nsukka and a fellow of the Chartered Institute of logistics and transport.
What transpired during the election of IPAC in the state, especially what led to the controversy that trailed the election?
With regards to the issue of the IPAC election in the state. As you may have already been aware, the election was hijacked by the ruling government in the State, using the office of the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to Governor on Inter-Party Relations.
Before the event of that 21st September 2016, it was a cherry news for all members of the opposition political parties in the state that IPAC election was to come up. We all earnestly looked forward to the date and the event which was to usher in an IPAC EXCO that is to work with government but with the intention to sanitize the political space, build inter party harmony and provide a platform for constructive critique of government policies and programmes at all levels as well as providing advice and solutions to some issues when called upon by government.
It was supposed to be a straight fight between me and Chief Frank Igwebuike. However suspicion crept in when in spite of early accreditation of delegates, the actual election lingered on until 4:30pm.
The information coming from the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) Administrative Secretary was that he got the information about the election via email by 4pm on that Wednesday, 21st September 2016 being the date of the election.
We received this information with shock and disbelief. My point was that, how come he been the Administrative Secretary going ahead with other formalities of the election without prior approval or information?
Another issue I raised was the denial of accreditation of two party representatives, APC and ACD, these party representatives were denied accreditation because they were seen to be sympatric to my IPAC leadership.
I raised an objection haven noticed that the representative of PDP was given accreditation and he also did not come with a letter of authority from his Party Chairman.
My argument was that, why must the election officials give accreditation to the PDP man and denying the other party representatives for the same offence the PDP man was guilty of?
Seeing that, I was not ready to bulge, they smuggled in a handwritten letter purported to have been sent in by the PDP State Chairman. I objected because the purported hand written letter was smuggled in few minutes when accreditation for the election had closed.
Seeing all these anomalies, and the heavy presence of some senior government officials including the State Secretary of PDP who ordinarily was not supposed to be around the election since they have gotten one representative as well as some young men which I suspected to be political thugs of the PDP and the continued insistence that the two political parties sympatric to my course be denied accreditation and be disqualified to vote made me and my supporters to boycott the election.
I was so surprised that after our boycott of the election with about 16 political parties, the election officials instead of addressing the issues as was raised by me still went ahead to conduct the election for only Chief Frank Igwebuike group in a kangaroo fashion.
At this stage, I and my supporters were left with no option than to constitute our own executive rather than endure a largely unpopular and tribal based IPAC Executive led by Chief Frank Igwebuike. The list has been sent to the IPAC National body for their blessings.
As I stated before, the truth about this whole saga must be told. It was the SSA to the Governor on Inter-Party Relations that muted the idea for me to contest for the IPAC Chairmanship, I had no intention to come into the contest for I was quietly working so seriously to repositioning my Party in the State.
According to him, he stated that there was need for me to come on board the leadership of IPAC in the State that the few period he has spent and shared ideas with me, that he has seen that I can steer the ship and pleaded with me to come so as to help as there are problem within the IPAC body and that Chief Frank Igwebuike has completely derailed, that Party Chairmen do not respect him because of his leadership style and promised to forward my name to the Governor.
I started sensing some changes when he demanded for some amount of money from me for him to present me before the Governor. I became weary of this demand and seeing that his demand was not forth coming he decided to shift the goal post at the middle of the football match.
He openly confronted me at the squash club government house Asaba that, “You see what I have been telling you since, you don’t want to play along with me. The idea of today’s meeting was the Governor’s idea. He has today released the sum of 2.5Milion Naira to host Party Chairmen so that the Chairmen will vote for Frank. Igwebuike ” he went further to state that ” The Governor has promised to release the sum of 25Million to his office for him to make sure that Chief Frank igwebuikke emerges against his wish, but that he has to carry out the instructions of his boss coupled with the fact that I did not obliged him his request, otherwise that 25million Naira would have been used to support me, he concluded by saying that under this circumstance and seeing that the Governor has earmarked this huge some, there is no way i will emerge as the IPAC Chairman in the State. Gentlemen this was how the fight started, this is why I took it upon myself as a Citizen of Delta State. A man from Ndokwa in the oil producing area of Anioma, why must a Governor treat his own people like this?
That may have been the story told to the Governor by the SSA? Why the governor must chose to pick interest in his kinsman? Is it a crime to have come from the oil producing area of Ndokwa? That if the Governor was to be so interested in the position, why did he not make his private findings? I concluded by saying that I committed two crimes which are no fault of mine because I did not give the amount as so demanded by the SSA to Governor, hence the highest bidder was given the position.
Another of my crime was because am not an Ika North East Man. This was why I stated in my press conference that the Governor is Clannish. Let the Governor be open to Anioma and Ndokwa people and indeed Delta State in general to refute the claim by his SSA on Inter-Party Relations that the claim by his SSA on Inter-Party relations were not true.
I use this opportunity to cry and call on my Ndokwa People, to see this as a challenge, I cry because Governor Okowa and his cohort sees nothing good from Ndokwa people only when it comes to election we all fought our own brother Chief Abanum, the APC Deputy Governorship candidate during the 2015 election and preferred to work and vote Okowa as Governor. Now see what he is doing. I challenge Governor Okowa to tell Ndokwa people what we have done, Ndokwa must speak with one voice against this injustice and unfair treatment.
What then is the way forward? Nigerian politicians should stop the habit of imposition of leaders on their people It create enmity, it leads to communal disaffection and breeds disunity and sentiments which will ultimately leads to underdevelopment due to infighting and bickering.
What is your view on the recent Edo Governorship election? When I see people making some unguarded and misinformed statements about the Edo State governorship election, it confirms or reveals how myopic and bias some people especially the political class views our National issues. The truth is that APC won that election, the vote PDP got were Vote gotten on sympathy to the man involved Pastor Izy Iyamu.
However, the argument may go, PDP is not in any way qualified to comment or cry foul when they themselves are the Chief electoral manipulators. Just take a look at their house, you will see the stuff they are made of. At the National Level two National Chairmen with contradicting orders, in our State here, we have two Party Chairmen as well, and this is what they have brought into Delta State IPAC. This is why I’m saying that they are not qualified to make any statement against the Edo Election for they have seriously destroyed our political system in this country. Again judging by the performance of the outgoing comrade Governor, it was an easy ride for the APC led Government of Comrade Adams Oshiomole to cruise to Victory.
Sir, President Mohammadu Buhari recently announced a Committee on Electoral Reforms, do you think it’s necessary? Electoral reform, the electoral reform committee is a right step in the right direction. The simple truth is that, our constitution is not the people’s constitution there are lots of lacuna that needed to be addressed.
So while trying to amend the constitution that is people based, part of the major area that ought to be addressed is our electoral system especially with regards to the conduct of election.
Now, as to whether it was a right step in the right direction, i will say yes but it has been properly addressed with the Justice Uwaise Committee, so much was captured by that committee this is because very prominent Nigerians were assembled in that committee and virtually issues that relates to our electoral reform were discussed and solutions proffered.
Our electoral system were promptly addressed. I suggest the President should get that report for it will aid his mission with regards to addressing major issues as it relates to the electoral reform. By constituting another committee is a waste of time and scarce resources.