Former speaker of Delta state house of assembly, Victor Ochei, has given reasons why he is supporting President Muhammadu Buhari for second term if he declares intention to run for the presidency. He speaks with a team of journalists including Emeraldng.com. Excerpts:
Its almost three years now, how would you rate the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration?
Well, so far so good, it depends on the prism you are looking at but in totality he has done well in the circumstance he found himself. One, the finances of the country is largely depended on the sales of crude oil which has dwindled occasioned by the fall in the price of crude oil globally and then our quantum of production has not increased beyond 2.2mbarrel per day and at a point in this country, the same barrel of oil was sold for $147 a barrel and a lot did not improve. We did diversify the economy and then Buhari came in and it fell to as low as $28 a barrel and the quantum was still 2.2million per barrel a day.
What magic do you expect the man to do? So, he is working within the tight rope and for me he is doing very well. One thing is clear, it is no longer business as usual, there is a lot of complaints no doubt but for things to get better, the complaints must come. I liken Nigeria’s problems which Buhari is saddled with fortunately in one breath and unfortunately in another breath to a couple. The only thing that will give a newly married couple joy is that after nine months, they will hear the cry of a baby.
That will bring them extreme joy and happiness but you know no matter how much the man loves his wife and wouldn’t want the wife to go through any hurt or pain, for the wife to bring forth the baby that will give them joy, she has to go through pain. So, whether she goes through safe virginal delivery or through caesarian section to give birth to the child, she must essentially spill blood and that must be painful. Therefore, Nigeria is in the stage where she is pregnant. And whether we like it or not for Nigeria to give birth to a new Nigeria, it has to go through pain. Whether it comes through safe virginal delivery or caesarian section, whichever way you want to turn it around, Nigeria will have to go through pain. And we must tell ourselves the raw truth; some other developed countries in the world today that are giants have gone through the same time that we are going through now.
They did not import foreigners to change the country, it is still the same people that changed it and we must imbibe that right now to be able to change the tomorrow and let us stop playing elitist politics by lying to the populace. Nigerians are resilient, they are willing to take the pains but the elites must lead the way and that is the challenge that we have. The elites do not want to lead the way, they want business as usual where they can put their hands right in the treasury and do whatever they want with it that is not the business as it is today and that has changed from the centre.
That is what Mr President has done. I implore the state governors to do the same and you will see a massive change in this country because I tell you the truth nobody will change Nigeria if we do not want to change Nigeria. So, we either chose to do the right thing and move forward, we may be slow but we are sure we are moving forward than to continue doing the wrong thing and it appears that it is working but by the time we find ourselves in the culs-de-sac, we realize that we can no longer make progress and then we are doomed.
In my opinion bringing back your question, has Mr President done well? Yes, he has, because corruption is no longer the order of the day with impunity. Even if you want to be corrupt, you will ensure you look left, right and all around you to be sure nobody is looking at you before you do what you have to do and you have to cover your tracks. There is no country that is devoid completely of corruption but at least let us stem the tide. The tide in Nigeria before now was crazy; it was like if you were not corrupt, then you were not part of the Nigerian state because you don’t seem to fit in but right now let them come out and show their wealth.
For me if that is the only thing we have been able to achieve, I think he has done very well. I am not bothered about those who shout he is sectional, really? Have they said that they were not guilty? If I am saying that they are holding people who are not guilty that they have done nothing yet they just come and arrest them then I will listen but if at all you have your hands soiled, go clear yourself, the laws of the land are clear.
There is no big deal about it. So, that has put us in check and he has done marvelously well. In terms of security as well, owing to his military background, I think he has done well. I mean relative to what we have before. Yes! There is a massive improvement, security is not cheap and the kind of money you pump into it, global terrorism is a reality today that every nation will rise up to deal with. Unfortunately, we are right there fighting it because we never prepared for it in time. If we prepared for it when we were warned long ago when the Chad Basin and the business around it were drying up that there is going to be crisis, we would have been proactive but we were not proactive as a nation so the resultant effect is what we are seeing today. So, in that light, I think he is also doing well.
Economically, I am glad to know that we are diversifying our economy. As a growing boy I know that I use to write and made A1 in geography and writing geography then in WAEC. We will write about the Nigerian state, we will describe Nigeria as four times the size of the United Kingdom and then, her main stay was agriculture but today, right before our very nose agriculture has suddenly disappeared. Everybody went for the big box but I am glad today that people are going back to agriculture.
The government is diversifying and making sure that we are able to feed ourselves. We became so lazy that we are importing toothpick in this country and burnt the foreign exchange to have it imported. That was how hard working they thought we were but we are actually lazy, importing toothpick that can actually be manufactured here. We were not growing our own food any more, we depended more on what was coming in as imported foods.
The average man who was there and live his life normally and depended on his farm did not have the need to complain that things are rough. It is the elites who no longer see money as they used to see it before that are complaining now so it becomes a national problem. So, for Mr. President’s performance, he has done well in the circumstance. I will score him 60 per cent. He can’t make 100 per cent, no President can ever make a 100 per cent even those who had all the surpluses couldn’t do it then you see a man who is micro-managing and you see that he has done this much and you say he is not trying? Well then let them come and handle it let me see how well they can do.
Would you support President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term?
100 per cent, I will not blink an eyelid if he declares that he is running, he has my 100 per cent support because I know he meant well. If you go outside this country, you will appreciate that we have a President in Mr. Buhari because his integrity speaks volumes. Before now our country was a corrupt nation. You are a Nigeria and you are looked at with disdain because they think you are corrupt, they think you are from a dirty nation where all manner of dirty deals take place but today they know it is not the same so everybody is being very careful and we are respected in the global community.
So, I want to say, for his integrity which has also rubbed off positively on Nigerians for his position on corruption, no doubt Nigeria’s image has been cleaned up abroad and for the fact that he meant well for Nigeria it is not about himself. I know people may say all manner of things but Mr. President is not corrupt. He knew they weren’t speaking the truth. So, his integrity stands, he meant well and I know he will do well given the circumstance so I will support him without blinking an eyelid.
January 6, 2018 is local government election in Delta state. What do you expect especially from your party? Do you see your party clinching some of the local government councils? Or is it going to be the PDP usual way of writing results?
For me, I would rather tell DSIEC that if they know they want to write results, they shouldn’t waste tax payers money in organizing an election because they are not organizing any election but if Delta state has come of age and the present administration believes they are democrats, let them test their will before the people. Let the votes count and let us see where they stand in the state. It will give them a mirror on how they are viewed not the lies they tell themselves.
DSIEC is a creation of the law. I don’t want to go into the violation of the law by dissolving them without a reason which doesn’t make sense. It clearly underscores the intent of putting in a new DSIEC because you think the old one will not do your bidding. If your bidding is pure why are you bothered about changing DSIEC? But be that as it may you have changed it so let us give it to you.
I will only tell DSIEC and their chairman that their integrity is at stake. Whatever they do today, Deltans will hold them for posterity. If they do it right, posterity will judge them right. If they do it wrongly, posterity will judge them wrongly and not about themselves but their children and children’s children to come. So, I will advice them even at the pressure of whatever, they should remember that by law they are an independent body and should maintain independence.
Otherwise, if all the state governors go to write the results what about the federal government also writing its own results? Yes! And write for APC and all the states become APC. Will there be anything wrong with that? Because they seem to glory in it. It is wrong and it is high time we rose up as a people and tell the truth, we don’t care who is involved. If the governor is not doing well, tell him he is not doing well. He is a Deltan, we voted him, he is holding our mandate in trust and if he messes up with the mandate, we throw him out.
Let him know that Deltans want election and develop grass root democracy by allowing people’s votes to count at the grass root. You don’t come and pay lip service to it and talk so much about it and then go to a meeting in Ughelli and say you want to write the whole results like Akwa-Ibom did. It is a shame; it means they are not on ground, that is a clear example of a party that is not on ground. And I want to tell them today, I dare the PDP in Delta state that if they think that they are on ground let them allow a free and fair election, let us see.
Then they will rightly test and see how they are on the ground in Delta but if they go around writing the results like they want to do, which they are already planning for no matter what they want to try to cover up. Put all the billboards they want to put around just to deceive the people, let them go and let the materials get to the field and let them count the real results and let us see how many seat that PDP will clinch. I dare them!. If PDP claims they are on ground in Delta state, let them have a proper election let us see where they stand. That is to Delta state government. Then to DSIEC, if they try to play the master’s tune, well I will not say anything more but my party the APC will take a position and very soon the position will be made public.
Politically, do you have any regret?
Any regret? Not at all. Everything I have done in politics, for me is an investment. I have won so many times and I have also failed but failing is also part of winning because it has also improved and taught me a whole lot of things I did not know and I did not see but I see clearly now. So, I have no regret whatsoever both the ups and downs of politics all add up to make up the fact that you are a very good politician.
You are not the best of politician when you win all the time, you will not know how the other side feels, the man who is defeated, how he feels and how the supporters feel but you will have a lot of learning from it when it happens to you, you become a better politician and I can assure you no regret whatsoever on my side.
How is the unity like in your party in Delta state.?
Well, the unity you saw is the whole tendencies in APC Delta state, we were all together because they came together to honour me right? And it clearly underscores the fact that we are united. We must have our bickering because politics is about interest. So, everybody inside the party has the right to speak and protect their own interest. That doesn’t mean that the party is not united and for me it is also a clear indication and example that the party is democratized.
We are not in a party where they heed down decisions, where impunity is at stake, where people don’t win primary elections but they hand power over to them. It is not done in the APC. The primary of Ondo state clearly underscores that and we all saw it. We know and you know better than I do. So also in Delta state, people in a party have the right to air their views but because it is a democratic setting. But we sit down in the same house to still straighten up issues and work together.
So, we are a very united house contrary to what people think. That was what the PDP thought in 2015, that when APC finished their primary, they will be scattered and the PDP never survived their postulation till today and I assure you they will not even survive it many years to come. Go and write it down, they will not survive it many years to come.
What is your general advice for Deltans and politicians as we approach elections year?
One, we must not play politics of desperation. Let us play politics when you come to tell the people that it is for my people not when you get there it becomes for you and your clan but you come out in the name of Deltans but it became in the name of your clan before any other person and your family. Two, Deltans are wiser and I think my advice to them is shine your eyes, we don’t carry last. Once beaten, twice an idiot. So, we should know better.
If they come again saying we are this, we are that, we are accessible, we are humble and you can talk to me. You know that they are lying because they have tested the humble and accessible persons and they have seen how disappointed they are. They should know that deceitful demeanors have nothing to do with competence. Clearly, we have seen crass incompetence and they know the difference. So, Deltans are wiser, my advice is as they go towards 2019 politically, they should open their eyes and ensure that the person they want to vote in actually has them in mind not the one who deceives them and come in disguise that he is for them and at the end of the day, it is poverty for all Deltans.