Delta 2015: Power must shift -Gen Onyekweli

By The Citizen

Major General Philip Onyekweli (rtd) was chairman of the National Youths Service Corps and a leader in Ndokwa nation. In this interview, Onykweli bares his mind on the controversy surrounding the agitation for power shift in Delta state come 2015 and on other sundry issues. Excerpts:

As a stakeholder, what is the state of Delta politics today? The state of Delta politics is quite interesting, we are looking forward to 2015 and everyone is gearing up to ensure a good person succeeds the outgoing governor, who is doing very very well. Delta State needs somebody who can carry on with the legacies of Uduaghan because Delta is a state that has many ethnic nationalities and so, anyone who must take over must have a large heart to accommodate all of these nationalities. That is what we are after now.

There is this growing agitation for power shift. What is your opinion on the controversy? I do not know why there is controversy because there have never been controversy over shift. It is almost imbedded in the politics of Delta, there must be equity and fair play. Since the time of James Ibori, we have been practising that and Uduaghan has followed that step. If there is anybody saying there is no power shift in Delta, then the person is making an awful mistake. That is not the way Delta originated.

The agitation for power shift started right from the Midwest Region and all the groups in the Midwest  worked together. It started with Osadebey; then we had Delta State and  Ibori became governor. After Ibori, it was argued that power had to shift, let each zone make its contribution. Every part of Delta has good personalities that can run the state.

It was this argument that led to the thinking that the next governor must come from Delta North. It may not be an agreement but it is natural and we understand the need for power shift, though there may not be a written agreement. And so, those against it are only fanning the ember of disharmony.

Do you not see the controversy heating up the state? It may be heating up the state but the governor has been able to stem the tide. Constitutionally everybody has a right to contest as governor, but what I expect those interested in the seat to be doing now is to meet with elders and leaders of the state and sell themselves to them. They must consult and do bridge-building. People have said enough and I think they should take it easy.

Is the Ndokwa agitation for power shift not against the interest of Delta North? No, because Ndokwa is part of Delta North; therefore, if power is going to come to Delta North, all hands must be on deck. I do not see anything wrong with that. We desire to make our own contribution to Delta State and, if we are going to make our own contribution, there is nothing wrong with that.

Ndokwa nation is part of Delta North, so also is Ika, Oshimili. Anybody from those areas can emerge because it is a competition. If you do not make any effort, it means you are not competing and if you are competing, do not blame the other group if they provide the leadership of the state. If anybody is qualified to provide the leadership of the state, let him compete.

Having said this, is the Ndokwa nation backing any particular individual for governorship race? At the moment, I do not think we have reached that stage. As far as I am concerned and as far as the political leaders there are concerned, consolidation seems to be what we are working on now amongst ourselves. We must also consult the other ethnic groups. So, it  is too early to say we have a candidate. It is wrong to say the Ndokwa nation has picked an individual to represent it.

Still on the agitation for power shift, do you think the other senatorial zones in the state will allow power to shift? The other senatorial zones are all in support of power shift. It is the nature of politics in Delta State, power must shift. If anybody is saying that power must not shift, then such a fellow is saying it for his or her selfish interest. It is about fair play.

But do you think the governor is disposed to the idea of power shift? Certainly. The governor is in support of power shift because that is what brought him to power. Why should he go against it? It makes for progress and unity. He is a gentleman and he has shown it by what he has been doing and those he appointed and the development of the state, it cuts across. If anyone would say Uduaghan is not in support of power shift, such a fellow is dreaming because he believes power shift will bring about equity and fair play.

Critics have flayed the governor's performance since assumption of office. What is your assessment of Uduaghan's administration? I do not know where those people are getting their information from. I headed the EK Clark faction of the PDP in the state initially when Uduaghan came on board and I criticized him then but now he has performed beyond our expectation. I can tell you that he has done very well and he is doing the best he can. I was in Delta recently and I saw that he is on course.

With the All Progressives Congress trying to make in road to the state, are you not worried that if the agitation for power shift is not handled properly, the APC might wrest power from the PDP? Of course we expect that such might happen but I can assure you that the PDP will put its house in order to prevent such from happening in Delta State. It is not about Uduaghan doing well but the person that would take over from him must do better. That is what PDP stands for in Delta.