NOW, I KNOW MY FRIENDS -GOV. UDUAGHAN
If the annulment of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan's election at the twilight of re-election campaign shocked people, his victory at the re-run election against all odds, is even more confounding. It was a battle he fought hard to win. However instead of harbouring bitterness against those who swore to bring him down, the governor said it was only an opportunity for him to understand people better. He spoke to editors in Abuja on the lessons of that experience and efforts being made by the president and other governors to reach out and build confidence among their governor-colleagues from the North and the people of the region in general.
Recently, there was a meeting between PDP governors of the South-South, South-East and the APGA governor of Anambra state, Peter Obi. What was the purpose of the meeting?
First of all, the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA does not have a presidential candidate right now, but the PDP has in the person of President Jonathan. A relationship is building up between the two parties and the ultimate is for the supporters of APGA to vote for President Jonathan and that discussion is ongoing.
Does that imply that the discussions are heading towards a sort of merger or alliance?
It is not a sort of merger but an understanding. They (APGA) don't have a Presidential candidate as we (PDP) do. So we are telling them to come and support us deliver our Presidential candidate. Let me put our meeting in proper perspective. President Jonathan has emerged as the PDP Presidential candidate. But the primaries are just a part of the process of making him President beyond May, 29, 2011.
The real process is during the main election in April and we as governors don't just want to sit back and relax because he has emerged as candidate. We need to prepare for the April election. So, that meeting is our first move in trying to prepare for the April election. PDP governors of the South- South; South- East and the APGA governors came together to reappraise what happened at the primaries and to map out our strategies on how to support Jonathan. We are going to make further moves to develop on that relationship beyond the two regions. We are moving to other regions to talk to our colleagues because politics is a game of number; it is about lobbying and convincing people. We need to bring in people in order to vote President Jonathan.
The South-East region has been agitating for power shift. Will you accommodate this in your further discussions?
We have not discussed that and I don't think we are going to discuss it anyway. The issue of power shift or no power shift; the issue of who becomes president after Jonathan, are not things anybody wants to bring on the table for now. What we want to focus on now is how we will deliver President Jonathan come April 2011. We want to limit ourselves to that for now.
What are you doing to reconcile with aggrieved PDP chieftains in Delta, particularly those who were against you before your victory at the re-run election?
I usually have three boxes of reconciliation. I have a box where I put people who will never reconcile no matter what you do. Even if you give them your blood, you will never be able to convince them to be with you-these people are in one box. There is also the middle box where you have people who even when are opposed to you, there is indication that if you talk to them you can bring them to your side. Of course you also have that box of your loyalists; people who always believe in you. At any time one must be focused on these three boxes. But if you focus more on the box of those who will never change, you tend to lose people from the middle box and annoy people from the loyalist box.
If you focus mainly on the box of people who are neither here nor there, you might be ignoring them and they would not be too happy. At that point too you have to keep an eye on the box of those who will never ever change because they are always into one form of mischief or the other. So you need to be monitoring whatever mischief they want to do. So what I am saying in essence is that for that box where people will never change, all I do is just to watch them to find out whatever they want to do. My area of concentration is the middle box where I try to see how we can bring them close as much as possible. At the same time I try to keep the loyalty of those that believe in us by encouraging them to continue to work for us. Now, strategically how are we trying to convince those in the middle box? We are reappraising all the things that happened and of course during the two-month period we were able to assess the situation on ground; assess people; working conditions and relationships with a view to winning their confidence.
What are the lessons you got from your two months of temporarily stepping aside from power?
It gave me the opportunity to understand people better. One thing I also came to know is that there are many fair weather friends around me. When it is good they are around you; but when it is bad it is good bye. Then there are those who feel it is not totally bad yet so they sit and watch. All I would say is that every day you wake up, just pray to God because He is the only one who can protect you. Of course there are those who are trustworthy but there are those who you think are trustworthy but they are really not there for you.
Observers believe that the problems you faced in your state were due to your relationship with the former governor, James Ibori. Does he still have political influence over you?
No! He has his own challenges and I think he has enough in his hands in terms of dealing with his own challenges. I just want to leave it at that.
Does that amount to disowning him?
Not at all! First of all we are related by blood. There is no way I can sit down here and say I want to disown him. He has his personal challenges and we have family challenges. No matter how you see it; whatever is happening to him is a challenge to our family.
What is the PDP governor's forum doing to protect their colleagues in the North who are seemingly being witch-hunted for supporting the aspiration of President Jonathan?
In terms of overall strategy between the president and the party, I know that a lot of consultations are going on at that level between the presidency, the party's working committee and the leadership in the North. Coming down to the level of the PDP Governors' Forum the first move we are making is to move to the North Central, North-West and North-East. We are doing this in order to build some confidence in the governors of these northern states to assure them that we are with them by way of encouragement and then to speak with some influential people around there for their understanding. If you look at the northern part, a leader can speak and make pronouncement. So we will identify such influential persons and talk to them on the need for the Jonathan presidency. There is no doubt that issues and sentiments have been raised and you cannot sweep such issues under the carpet. Unfortunately certain people that raised these issues started in a wrong manner; they made certain pronouncements that are causing the problem today. So we are going to douse the tension.
It has been observed that you won the last election but not out rightly in certain strategic places. For instance, the Urhobo speaking area has about eight local government areas but you only won in one. What are you doing specifically to ensure that you win the forthcoming election, particularly from this critical people?
We are still analysing the results of the last election; it is a very complex election and if anybody tells you that he understands it, such a person doesn't know what is going on in Delta. Why, for instance should I lose in Uye local government? If you talk about spending money, that is one local government we have done a lot of things that people can visibly see. Why should I lose in Asaba where in the last three years I have tried to turn it to a model state capital? These are some of the questions which make me say the result of that election is not very easy to analyse.
Again on the issue of Urhobo factor, again it is unfortunate that I lost the election there. This is because I grew up in Urhobo land and I speak the language very well. In fact I can even boast that there was no candidate of Urhobo extraction in this election that could do better than me and I am challenging them to a debate about this. But then there are a few persons that are trying to influence the generality of the populace on this ethnic factor. When I came in 2007 one of the things I tried to do knowing that one of the reasons for the crisis in Delta was ethnic, was trying to bring these ethnic groups together to make them see why we should live together. But this election has shown that we have not gotten there yet.