BY HENRY UMORU
Rt. Hon Victor Onyekachi Ochei, an engineer, hails from Onicha Olona in Aniocha Local Government Area of Delta State. In 2003, he contested for a seat in the Delta State House of Assembly on the platform of the defunct United Nigerian Peoples Party, UNDP, won the election, and subsequently became the Deputy Minority Leader of the House, the position he held till 2006.
He contested for the second time, this time under the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, got elected to the Delta House of Assembly and was made the Chairman, House Committee on Education till the end of the 4th Assembly.
Again, he contested in April 2011 and was re-elected into the House of Assembly for the third time. This time, he became the Speaker, but later resigned from the position.
Ochei, in this interview, bares his mind on why he wants to be the next governor of Delta, former Governor Ibori, Gov. Emmanuel Uduaghan, Delta politics, his tenure as Speaker, his resignation, relationship with Chief Edwin Clark, the economy of Delta, his blueprint for the state, among others.
Why do you want to be the governor of Delta State?
I am in the race because I want to offer my service to the people of Delta based on track record, building a generation of Delta that is yet unborn and planning for them. I want to be governor, based on the pan-Delta approach where, at the end of the day, our diversities will turn out to become our strength. That is my first consideration.
Delta is a blessed state and very strategic in the nation. Definitely, there is quite a lot that is also expected of her and that very much lies in its leadership and what it has to offer. And I bring a leadership that will foster greater unity, a leadership that will bridge the gap between the old and the young. I bring a leadership that will bring us in tune with the realities of tomorrow. I bring a leadership that will make every Deltan proud.
I often describe myself as wanting to build on the foundation of the forbearers of Delta State, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, who was the first PDP governor.
And, of course, at the effusion of time, came a successor who is the incumbent governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, who, I believe, has also filled the foundation and done what you call the solid concrete German floor, which has prepared the state now, the foundation to carry up a solid building. I am coming to put up a super structure.
You are coming from an arm, going to another arm of government. How do you marry that? Has the legislative arm equipped you to function well in the executive arm?
Well, it is part of it because the legislature is an arm and I have been privileged to head the legislative arm as Speaker which gives me the opportunity to handle both administrative and political issues at the same time. At the risk of sounding immodest, a lot of people said I performed well, as Speaker. And having done well, I have no doubt that in the executive arm, I will be excellent.
I believe it has prepared me and I come with an offer to ensure that, at the end of the day, the experience I have through the legislative process is enough to be a good governor It is the laws that you make that you use to run the administration.
I am deep in the legislature area; now, coming into an area where you have to implement the laws, there will be a synergy in which you cannot imagine in the sense of experience bringing to bear that which you know and putting it into the realm of governance. I believe that gives me an edge of competence, performing maximally.
You come from Delta North. How much of consultations have you carried out to woo your brothers and sisters from the South and Central?
Consultations are on-going. Delta is on a tripod of the North, the South and the Central and no one senatorial district can go it alone. And for you to win, you must definitely reach out. For you to rule Delta, you must be somebody that is acceptable across board and that is where I come in.
Having been Speaker, it gives me the opportunity to see Delta as my platform and I have been able to reach out to all stakeholders both in the South, the North and the Central. I am still consulting, meeting our people, and I can tell you that there is a lot of support from the South and the Central. The North is where I come from and I have no doubt as well that, at the end of the day, I will get the support of the North.
We learnt that the governorship in 2015 has be zoned to Delta North, but there are insinuations that the governor has anointed a candidate. How do you react to this?
PDP zoning principle favours Delta North because Delta Central has produced the governor; Delta South produced the incumbent governor, it is only fair and equitable that Delta North produces the next governor, which is an advantage comparatively even though you have other persons who are from other senatorial districts in the race. You don’t have to push out anybody, but, basically, the party has taken a position that its candidate will come from the North, so be it.
That the governor has a candidate, it makes it better; it makes the battle defined. That does not mean other candidates cannot run. It makes it easier for me because I now know who I will be contesting with. It is a contest, it is not a selection process and because it is a contest, I will come from that position.
The turning point that people seem to see in the governorship race in Delta is the issue you just raised about the supposed anointed candidate by the governor. You were close to the governor and there were speculations that you were the anointed candidate of the governor. Are you disturbed at this trend that a new person has now been supposedly anointed as the candidate of the governor to slug it out with you?
Not at all. It is a contest. I wasn’t going to run for the office of the governor of Delta because I am close to the governor. That will not be what Deltans want to vote for. Deltans want to vote for somebody who can deliver dividends of democracy, who can take them to the next level and beyond.
I am close to the governor. The fact that he has an anointed candidate like you said, he has told me. But he has the right as a Deltan to have someone he wants to support and it doesn’t has to be me.
But that does not take away the fact that we are close and we are still friends and we respect our relationship. I will respect his choice the same way he will respect mine. That doesn’t make us fall apart and it doesn’t mean that because the governor has a candidate, others will not be in the race. I am still in the race and very much so. At least I know if like you say he has an anointed candidate, fine, it means he will support his anointed and I also have other Deltans who will support me.
What is your blueprint for the people of Delta State?
The blueprint definitely is that Delta governance has many sectors. It has the economic sector, the social sector and all of that. So if I am going to give you the blueprint, I am going to start from describing a bulky document. But I can give you an overview of what I think.
In the past administrations, Delta was more like a virgin place and a lot has been done to put in place. But what we lack is the synergy to bring all of the agencies that we have or created to bring them into a sink so that we begin to derive the benefits therefore. Now, this is one of the key things I intend to do, put them together so that Deltans will begin to benefit from this massive development that has taken place.
How do I do that? I intend to have an all integrated Delta development master plan. Now if you have a master plan for development, wherever you start from, even if the development does not get to the end today, you will have hope that there is a tomorrow following that master plan, your own area will be taken care of and keeping at it, you are very sure that you are going to get things done.
But when there is no development master plan, it means you will be developing on needs basis. Someone says I need this and you do it, someone says I need that and it is done, so there is no synergy. So you have money to spend, but you cannot harvest the projects that are beneficial to people, that are accruable to people as development projects. So people just say we have not developed, but there is a lot that has happened, a lot has taken place, but you need to put them together and sync them. That is one major thing that I need to do.
And talking sectorally, we must begin to look at areas that are the strengths as a state and areas that are weaknesses. Now areas that are strengths today, we are an oil producing state, we are also a gas producing state and, at the same time, there is an initiative by the incumbent governor, the Delta Beyond Oil initiative, it is an initiative where you need to look beyond the resources of oil and gas that you have today and begin to develop those non-oil sectors so that, at the end of the day, those massive infrastructure that you have been able to put together on the ground for the oil resources.
If tomorrow oil depletes, can we sustain those infrastructures? What one needs to do is to have derivable resources from the non-oil sectors. And now we must begin to develop them with the oil resources that we have so that they can now complement each other.
We have agriculture which is a massive industry which, before the advent of oil, was responsible for over 70% of the Nigerian income. What happened to it, where did it go to? There are still countries today that are in agriculture and make money from it. Why can’t we do the same? So we can begin to develop all of these from the small microcosm of Nigeria to Delta and to showcase that to the world and that is what we have to export.
There is a whole lot on the blueprint that I come to the table with and begin to open the frontiers of the state. You must begin to learn to do business not as usual because, unconsciously in Nigeria, and Delta is not an exception; we have begun to see the abnormal become the norm. So when you try to even introduce the normal things to be done, people begin to look at you as, why are you doing this, “na you wan repair the place?”and all of that.
Some people believe that your resignation as Speaker was as a result of 2015.
My resignation as Speaker is all political. Maybe 2015 is part of it. It is only natural that sometimes you become a threat to certain persons or people as it were and they just want to ensure that you are not there because your presence there becomes too much of an influence for them to deal with.
Meaning you were forced to resign?
I was not forced. I resigned in the interest of the state, because I have the capacity to also forment trouble and would get into a situation that, at the end of the day, it would be as if you have a certain interest. And if you are Speaker, you are just first among equals, you are serving the state. It must be made known that the trouble did not emanate from the House because there was no problem with the House, it was an external influence and that’s not the problem. And to forestall the breakdown of law and order, I resigned.