The National Vice-Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, South-South, Chief Dan Orbih, who is also the Chairman of the party in Edo State, in this interview with ADEYINKA ADEDIPE, explains why the party cannot abandon zoning in 2023 among other issues
The River State Governor, Nyesom Wike, seems to have supported the idea that the next presidential candidate of the PDP should come from the North instead of the South-South as being agitated by some party members, what is your take on this?I think we need to get things clear. As a party man, what Wike said is that if the party feels that it will be easier to win the presidential election by picking a good candidate from the North, he will support it. And if the party decides to pick a southern candidate who can win the election, he will also support it. The statement is simple and clear. We are loyal and committed party members; so, we have to support any candidate the party brings up. These things are not decided by one person; the party leaders will meet to analyse the votes that will come from the various sections of the country.Every political party has its strategy and you must keep yours to your heart. It is too early to say that this is where we will pick our candidate from. People are also making so much fuss about the Bala committee’s recommendation to drop zoning. The National Working Committee will still have to look at it and then take a position. As Bala’s committee is making suggestions, other party leaders are also deliberating before taking a position in the interest of the party and the nation.
Is the South-East in contention for the presidential ticket of your party?
Every zone will surely be considered until a decision is taken. We are in a democracy and even when the party says it has zoned the presidency to a certain section, we also have people coming up from other zones to contest. My only point of disagreement with the Bala report is that it suggested the scrapping of zoning, but I can tell you that within the PDP we have some of the best brains who can manage the affairs of the country from all the zones; people who can take the nation out of its present mess brought about by the APC. If merit is also being considered, there are a lot of qualified people from all the zones.
But I think the whole idea of zoning is to ensure that every part of the country has the sense of belonging and have an opportunity to be considered for offices. From 1999, zoning has always been part of the PDP’s consideration for picking candidates. The leadership of the party must be courageous enough to zone the presidency. We have been zoning all along and we cannot now jettison the idea.
You seem to be in favour of probing the water storm project and many others projects by the past administration. Do you think Governor Godwin Obaseki has the moral right to do so considering that he was deeply involved in that government and knowing that you have criticised the same governor when he was on the other side?
If something is wrong, we must be brave enough to say it. But the problem is we want to be very subjective on issues depending on which side you are. My position has nothing to do with whether the governor is now in the PDP. My position is clear and it is in the interest of the people of the state that the government must look into that water storm project. I said it with all sense of responsibility and when the governor heard my position, he responded by admitting that he assisted the state to secure funds for the project, but he never knew that the money would end up in private pockets.
So, I am saying that the government of the state should tackle self-styled crusaders, who line their pockets with money meant for projects. God will not come down and help change the society; so, we must start taking decisions no matter who is involved. I also hope that the money that was misappropriated or went into private hands is recovered and used for the benefit of the Edo people, especially now that we are experiencing dwindling federal allocations.
Insecurity has got to an all-time high in the country, do you think that lives and property are more secured anywhere else in the country?
I think that the failure of the APC Federal Government to address the current security challenge in the country is enough reason for Nigerians to vote them out in the next election. The government has totally failed to address this issue and one is beginning to feel that the country may not survive an attack from any of the neighbouring countries if we can be so terrorised by criminals within the country. Look at what the country has been going through in the hands of bandits in the last few years. It is bad, but unfortunately, the government has not been able to do anything about it. The primary duty of the government is to protect lives and properties, but sadly, the government has failed.
We cannot have meaningful development or attract foreign investors when there is no security. The problem has affected the economy in a very bad way. Since independence, we have never faced this type of economic crisis we are currently going through as a nation. The naira is on a free fall. Looking back to when the government took over from President Goodluck Jonathan and where we are today, the APC government has shown very clearly that it doesn’t have the capacity to manage the economy of this country.
Under President Jonathan, the PDP engaged the best hands to manage this critical sector. Okonjo-Iweala did so well that even when there was a global recession, Nigeria didn’t feel the effects so much. But today, the country is in trouble. Except people want to pretend, the exchange rate is frightening. In a country that imports most of the goods it needs, the problem is that prices of goods will be high and the future is bleak.
What will be your response to those criticising the Edo State Government for not appointing commissioners almost five month into its second term?
From the little I know, this governor is trying to do things differently. He is carrying out a reform in the civil service and he will like to finish that before bringing in political appointees. Until that exercise is concluded, it will be premature to appoint anyone. Let’s have patience just like the governor advised so that things can be done properly.
How has your relationship with the governor changed now that you are in the same party and what should be done to ensure that the APC defectors feel welcomed in the PDP?
We went through the election with the people you are talking about and there was no rancour. We are united. What we have decided is to give the governor support unlike in the APC, where they were breathing down his neck. We want him to succeed so that the people can feel the impact of governance.
What is your take on the non-constitution of the NDDC Board considering that the man expected to lead the board is from Edo State?
These are part of the problems that the APC has created. How do you pick somebody from a state without consulting the government of that state? According to the NDDC Act, nominations should come from the states. These appointments should not be done based on party patronage. The idea behind the NDDC is for the needs of the people to be catered for due to the degradation of the region caused by oil exploration. So, the government thought it wise to set up a commission that will propel development in the region.
In doing that, the governors are supposed to nominate people to represent their states on the commission. Under Governor Adams Oshiomhole, the NDDC nominee was picked by the governor though there was a PDP Federal Government. It is wrong to play politics with the development of the region. The governors know the needs of their people; so, it is expected that whoever they choose will work with them to develop their states. Sadly, it is clear that the APC government is shying away from what the Act stipulates with all sorts of interim management running the affairs of the commission.
They also had a forensic audit without a board and that is why I said that it is an institution of fraud and scandals. On behalf of the South-South states, I am calling on the government to stop the funding of the NDDC and put the fund in an account until the board is constituted.
How did you emerge as the South-South National Vice-Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party?
In the South-South zone, we see ourselves as one big family. There was this understanding among the leaders, governors and party chieftains of the zone, which led to my consensus candidacy. However, going by our constitution, we still had to go to the polls. The former vice-chairman also indicated interest but he was holding a political appointment in Delta State, which is against the party’s constitution, which made my emergence easier than it would have been.
What benefit will your new position bring to you, the zone and Edo State?
My emergence means more jobs for me. At the moment, we are not in government at the federal level. What it means is that every zone must do its best to make sure that we win the next general elections. My task is to ensure that the votes from the South-South will propel the party to victory. That task has also been made easier for me by the good works the governors of the party are doing in the zone.
There is no federal presence in terms of project execution in the zone, but the governors have been able to make up for it through the projects they have executed in their respective states. There are no good roads linking the states in the region, but when you get into the states, you will be amazed by the good jobs the governors are doing. Not too long ago, driving from Benin to Warri would almost take a whole day, but the intervention of the Delta State Government has helped to reduce the stress on that road.
Instead of the Federal Government improving infrastructure in these states, it is busy building railways that will link Nigeria to Niger Republic when you can hardly travel with the South-South region, which shows total neglect of the people of the Niger Delta.