Chief Dan Osi Orbih is the new vice chairman South-South of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview with PATRICK OCHOGA, he speaks on the party’s position on zoning and other national issues.
You emerge the South-South vice chairman at the Port Harcourt congress unopposed, how did it happen?
You know, the South -South is one zone where we see ourselves as one family. There was this understanding among the leaders, governors and party chieftains that they wanted me to take up the position. We didn’t really have any issues at all, it was more of a consensus and unanimous decision but going by our party’s constitution, we still had to go and cast our votes but that is not to say that the former chairman of our party in the zone indicated interest. He actually picked up the form but the party realized that he was still holding a political appointment in Delta State, which is against the position of our party’s constitution so that was how the process was made easy for a unanimous decision.
This means your political career seems to be rising, how does this make you feel as someone representing Edo State?
Well, it is a call for more responsibility and of course at the moment we are not in government at the federal level and what it means is that every zone must do its bid to make sure that they return every vote to win the next presidential election and that is my immediate task to ensure that the votes that come from the South-South states will propel the official candidate of the party to win the presidential election, and my task in the zone has been made easier by the good work the PDP governors are doing. You can see what the governors are doing; no doubt there is no federal presence in the South-South. What the federal government had denied the region in infrastructure the governors have made up for it through their projects. After many years of neglect, today it is almost impossible for an Edo man to travel and arrive in Cross River State the same day because of the dilapidated roads. Most of the roads are in poor state but when you enter the states you will be amazed what the governors are doing internally, there is a lot happening within the PDP states. What we see today is a federal government that is busy building railways from Nigeria to Niger Republic when you can hardly travel from Uyo to Calabar, or Warri to Benin.
What do you make of the reported comment by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State that he may support presidential candidates from the North?
I think we must get it clear. What Wike said is that if the party seats down and feels that it will be easier for us to win the presidential election by picking a good candidate from the North he would support it. Wike is a party man and if the party also decides that it will be easier to pick a southern candidate he will also support it. So that statement is simple and clear. We are all committed and loyal party men, if in its wisdom the party feels that throwing up a candidate in the North will be our winning strategy then any committed loyal party man will support the effort. These things are not decided by one person, party leaders at some points will come together and look at it critically and analyse the votes that are likely to come from the various sections of the country depending on where we pick our candidate from. I think for every political party, we must have our strategy and in most cases you have to keep your strategy close to our chest. It is too early now to say this is where we are picking our candidate from and don’t forget that people are making so much noise about the Bala committee’s recommendation, it was just a mere recommendation, the National Working Committee will look at the report and take a position. As Bala is making suggestions other prominent party leaders are equally making suggestions to the party, the interest of the party and the nation is very important. Don’t forget that we are in democracy; every zone will have an input. I can tell you that within the PDP we have some of the best brains that can manage the affairs of the country from all the zones that can take the nation out of the present mess by the APC. I think the whole idea of zoning is to ensure that every part of the country has this sense of belonging and also want to have an opportunity to be considered in whatever decision the party may want to take. Right from 1999, zoning has always been part of PDP consideration for picking a candidate. I don’t want us to shy away; the leadership of the party must be courageous enough to zone the presidency just like they have always done in the past.
You recently urged Governor Obaseki to probe former governor Adams Oshiomhole’s water storm project and others even when Obaseki played a key role in the projects, what now informs your call for probe?
You see, we must be fair enough to say this is wrong. But we have a problem that we want to be subjective in our views on different issues depending on which side of the divide you are. However, my position has nothing to do, whether the governor is now in PDP or whether he was in APC. My position is very clear. It is in the interest of the state that the government must look into that project. I said it with all sense of responsibility and good enough when the governor heard my position he responded in his speech that he actually assisted in helping the state to raise money for the project but he never knew that the application for the money raised was going to end up in private pockets. It is time for the government to take action against pretentious, self-styled crusaders because it was their pockets that were actually leading. You see, if something is wrong and you sweep it under the carpet and you expect God to come from heaven and help change the society then you are part of the problem. The interest of the people should come first and I feel looking at what happened in Edo concerning that water storm project I think the government must seriously look into it. The money that went into private pockets must be recovered and used for the benefit of Edo people, especially now that we are experiencing dwindling federal allocation.
Insecurity–banditry and kidnapping are at all-time high in the country, what do you think should be done to check this?
I think the failure of the APC federal government to address the current security challenges in the country is enough reason for Nigerians to vote them out at the next election. I also want to join other concerned Nigerians to condemn the recent attempt to assassinate the governor of Benue State, that to me is a very clear sign of what we are facing in terms of national security, if an elected governor with his entire security network can be attacked and an attempt was made on his life in the manner it was done, it tells you that the ordinary man on the street is in trouble. The government has totally failed to address this issue and one is beginning to feel if we can be so terrorised by this same group of people that are within the country, what it means is that if we begin to have issues with any of our neighbouring countries it means they will overrun us, but God forbid. The country has gone through a lot in the hands of bandits and the government has not been able check what is going on. It is really sad and unfortunate because the primary duty of government is to protect lives and property and that they have failed to do. I can tell you that since Nigeria’s independence, we have never had this kind of economic crisis we are presently going through, the naira is on a free fail. Since this government took over from former president Jonathan, where we are now shows that the APC government has shown that they don’t have the capacity to lead this country.
Some of Governor Obaseki’s critics have criticized him for not appointing a cabinet and accused him of being undemocratic, how do you react to this?
It is better to direct this question to the governor but from the little I know, this government is a government that is trying to do things differently from what it inherited from the previous administration and he (Obaseki) has decided to carry out reforms in the civil service and this process is going on. To the governor, it doesn’t make sense to bring these political appointees when there is a lot of restructuring going on, some ministries may be collapsed into one and there could be a lot of changes, and it is until that exercise is completed that they will be appointed. My appeal is that we should exercise some patience.