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Prof. Pat Utomi
Prof Pat Utomi is one of the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship aspirants in Delta State. In this interview with FELIX IGBEKOYI, he talks about the outcome Delta APC Governorship Primary, factions in the party, zoning and other issues. Excerpts:
Why do you choose to be more vocal politically of recent?
As you all know there have been developments following some really bad examples of democratic practice in our country. The case of the primaries, more importantly, the one I participated in on recently was quite a bit of revulsion. However, it is important that we calm nerves and get people to recognize that justice will be done. The friction should be managed and we do not want an outbreak of anything crisis. We want to assure people that we will give anything it takes to work on a process to ensure justice is done to the people of Delta State. The people of Delta should be calm, not to provoke any disruption of peace and everything is under control.
You mean someone of your calibre can be so abused in Nigeria and you accept such defeat?
When you witness abuse of the nature of which I witnessed during the primary, it is easy to think that a political aspirant or the other may have suffered injuries but that is a limited view of it. It is the people who suffer the injury, it is the process, the Democratic culture that suffers the injury and that is ultimately what leads to lack of progress for the society. Ultimately, there is a legitimacy crisis for those who grab power from means other than the will of the people and that usually makes it difficult for them to focus on more important things like the well-being of the people, welfare of the people and development of infrastructure.
What are those things that are likely to happen after the abuse?
I am confident that justice will be done. At least we will make 100 per cent of the effort to make sure justice gets done. When justice gets done, what we must focus on is how do to rescue the people of Delta. How do we liberate the people from the conditions they have been sentenced to by years of very poor governance? I will drive across the Niger because I have meetings. I do this frequently as I never fail to feel the embarrassment of the comparison. I am sure all of you would recall the 15 to 20 years ago if you were in Onitsha this time, you were considered an endangered species. But now it is the reverse which is very sad for our people which should not be the case. It is particularly painful when you compare the people endowments of both states, when you compare the endowment of Anambra in terms of revenue that accrues to the state. We all know that when Anambra gets N2 billion, Delta gets N17.5 billion, that is the difference. Yet when you are sick in Delta, your first thought is to cross the Niger. There is only one hospital here in Asaba, which is the Federal Medical Centre (FMC). The parish priest in St. Monica, Ibuso just passed away. A strong vibrant priest who has been helpful, He had a small medical challenge, he was brought to Asaba here then taken to St. Joseph Hospital and then from there he was taken to FMC and we lost him. We know how bad the conditions are in terms of healthcare in our state, these things are happening every day. About two weeks ago, I was talking with a Yoruba community and they told me they lost three of their members in accidents that were caused by the state of roads in Delta. If the Yoruba community, as small as they are in Delta can lose three people this year because of accident, just now we were talking about a ripper that fell at Ogbogonogo, we have a responsibility above this grab for power without understanding of the purpose. Those things are as important as we must keep focus on what actually matters rather than petty grabbing and abuse of process. It does significant damage to our institutions
Are you still insisting you were rigged out of the primary that produced Chief Great Ogboru as the Delta APC candidate?
We all know there were no primaries at all, it did not take place. When I saw the Chairman of the party saying how they must follow the rules. That means that if we go by what he was saying on television, there were no primaries in Delta as no rules were followed at all. There were no delegates list made available, I have a video recording of my engagement with the panel. Even at that moment while the primaries where about to start, I asked Onoja, Where is the list? He answers that we are a family, let us just go to the field. We know that even the PDP gives list out with the form days before, so technically those cannot hold. There is also a tendency to want to abuse process; we must realize that everything done with all the petitions on ground show it was illegal. It is clearly something the process would determine but there were no primaries in Delta.
Have you been able to reach the National Chairman on the issue of the primaries?
Unfortunately, I have not spoken to him, but I feel his duty is to reach me as he knows something went wrong. He has the obligation as a father, as a leader to say something went wrong. So far he has not called yet.
It was alleged that Ogboru called you after the primaries?
Nobody has called at all, it is my understanding that what happened here is just abuse of process. It was high treason; it was a coup against the people. I think this is the kind of thing that should be prosecuted. The problem with our country is that when a serious damage is done to the common good, it is done to our laws, it is done to our constitution and we just laugh about it. Then people do it again and again, I was reminded of how the genocide in Rwanda started just like this. If you look clearly you will see elements of fascism and what we tend to do are behave like Chamberlain when Hitler was rising. We must for the sake of our children save our institutions by ensuring people abuse process with the level of impunity that I experienced during the primary be made to account for their conduct.
What has Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan done to make peace about this?
I have not had a chance to talk to him, one the very sad things that happened in this process is the abuse of the process in the system to tell people they were disqualified and screened out. I understand that one of the candidates was told he was disqualified when he was not. I understand that such has happened to several Senatorial candidates who were told that they were disqualified, this is abuse of process and we must save the system of certain things.
As an intellectual you believe justice has to prevail. In Nigeria it is different, looking at the scenario. What if at the end of the day justice is delayed?
There are ways to work towards justice. Buhari kept going to court until justice was down to him. It is not really the Buhari way but you must prevent people from profiting from impunity. Our system cannot allow people from profiting from impunity, there was a former politician who used to say “Do not worry, we do not care about the law, make sure they announce you”. I do not think we must continue to accept that and when people do that, there must be consequence.
In this struggle for justice, you seem to be alone. Has that assignment been given to you?
I do not know about any assignment, I know about my right and that if those I campaign to know we can change this state and most of them looking up to me to provide leadership, I have an obligation to.
If you referred to what happened during the primary as a coup, How would you describe what happened during the Governorship election in Osun state?
Unfortunately, I was not in Osun, I do not really know what happened. I do not have the figures; I have not tried to find out as I have enough of my own issues to deal with. What I know is that all the rules were flouted and as someone who respects himself l decided there was no point in going to that field because you do not have to be genius to know what is going to happen.
There was this news about, Senator Omo-Agege not been suspended contradicting early information of his suspension? What do you think the crisis of the party in Delta State entails for the party in 2019?
I am not going to speculate about anything, what I know is that the executive committee led by Jones Erue has effectively been part of the campaign organization of one of the aspirants. If we follow what happened in Adamawa, we have to dissolve that as it is incompetent to continue as an executive committee.
At a point, you threatened to quit the party if justice does not come. Are you still maintaining that stand?
I am a person of my word, on the 25th of July I sent a text message to the Chairman of the party. In that text I said to him, there are rumours going around that the Jones people are carrying on telling people that you are behind them in what they are doing. I told him I pray and hope that is not true and if it is true, my reaction would be to quietly resign from the party if that is the case. As it would have violated everything l know about. I made that a stand that I took way back then and I still stands by that. If it is found that there was conspiracy to deny my rights and there is no willingness to apologise for it, I think the only reasonable thing to do in that circumstance is to leave. It is not rocket science to find out that he is a friend of mine, even though someone said to me yesterday “the kind of friends you have, I hate to see what your enemies would be like”.
Can we to say that the factions in the party are still there and if has been resolved which is the authentic?
I have never believed in factions, as you can see, the thing that I have done the most is to make sure we unite people in Delta. Which is why the so called faction keep accusing me or belonging to the other side. We cannot win if we are not united, so I try to bring everyone together and I think that this is the duty of any true leader.
One of the Governorship aspirants proclaimed that APC would pay dearly for neglecting Delta North?
Well I think that in everyday permutations of politics, emotions run very high especially when they perceive a grave injustice has been done to them. The people have the freedom to speculate on outcomes, if you look at Delta, nine local governments belong to the Delta North. If people feel offended enough by the way this injustice has been meted on them, you can expect that the nine local governments would be lost to the party if things went a certain way. It is not just those nine local governments; there are many people in the South, who are very sympathetic to the idea of a Delta North Candidate so much so that the APC South Senatorial District months ago took out a full page advertisement supporting a Delta North Candidate. If they went that far back then and you also know the typical dynamics, you would expect that the party use much more than those nine local governments if current games continue to be played.
• Source: Daily Independent