Mr. Peter Okocha, a renowned businessman, contested the 2007 governorship election in Delta State on the platform of Action Congress (AC) as it was then called. This was after he dumped the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) where he was not successful in the primaries. While in court contesting the declaration of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan of the PDP as winner of the election, his deputy abandoned him which resulted in his being knocked out on technical grounds.
Now, as the 2015 election inches closer, Okocha is back in the race as one of the aspirants on the PDP’s platform from Delta North where the candidate is favoured to come from. He is very confident that he remains the best material for Government House, Asaba during an interview with a select team of journalists at Ibusa in Oshimili North Local Government Area of the state. Okocha was very audacious that he would win the party’s primary as well as the general election. He spoke to PAUL OSUYI.
Why I am in 2015 governorship race
It is the passion for service. As you are aware, seven years ago, I was one of those, apart from Obielum that started our quest for aspiration as the next governor of Delta State to take over from James Ibori. Fortunately and unfortunately, Emmanuel won and his tenure would expire in 2015. After due consultation with my friends and associates, I decided to declare and offer myself as also one of the candidates or aspirants or whatever nomenclature you think for the position of the governor of Delta State. Right now, as you are aware, INEC has not lifted the ban on politics, so what we are doing now is consultation and I have been meeting with various stakeholders and opinion leaders repositioning myself with what I stand for which is what I called my road map to Government House in order that they will best judge among others who is the right person to lead Delta State beyond oil in 2015 or whenever the whistle is blown for the electioneering to start. In a nutshell, that is the reason.
My passion for service having not worked for government or for anybody and believing that only the best is good for Delta State made me to throw myself into the murky waters of politics. Most people would say politics is dirty and not good but politics is the only avenue that you can reach your people and make their lives better. My concern generally is simple, that I am 62 and in eight years time I will become probably one of the oldest men around and looking back with the life that we had lived, what would we say we have bequeathed to our children. With this rising insurgency due to unemployment, youth restiveness, if we turn 90 or 100 where would we be? Where most of you are better than me is that my children carry three passports – British, Nigerian and American – and if we don’t do things right and make this place attractive enough for them, they have the right and privilege to port out. They can go to another country and survive with the kind of education and life I have been able to give to them.
If that happens that means I will be a lonely old man. But if we make this place comfortable enough and give them the best that life can provide, they will stay. We have the resources; our eco-system is not different from that of Florida. We can transform the system just like what happened in Florida and many other places. I believe that we will probably not need security vote if we make the lives of our children secured because they would be busy and at the end of the day they would be so tired and would not have time for trouble. I have worked all my life and I am glad to say that at the end of the day I would leave the money, the property for my children whom I have given good education but then their neighbours don’t have money, they don’t have education, they are not as privileged as my children. That is to say whatever you leave for them, whatever legacy you have bequeathed to them to make them comfortable would still keep them uncomfortable until the man next door is also comfortable. That is my passion that is my concern. Let me say that out of selfishness for my four children, I want my next door neighbour to be able to stay in an air-conditioned house just like my children that is what brought me into politics.
Power shift to Delta north
I am not offering myself because I from Delta North (Anioma nation). I am running for the governor because I believe I have the capacity to succeed the incumbent but people say that there is understanding. That understanding should be looked into. If providence and destiny made it such that somebody from central emerged for eight years and after that providence and destiny made somebody from south to emerge as governor, I am asking also that the same providence and destiny should also make it possible for somebody in the north to emerge in 2015. But outside equity and fair play, I believe that this state should be ruled by the best. First of all let that providence play it role and after that let it be thrown open and the best should emerge because that is the only way we can grow a healthy state.
Let individuals come forward and tell us what they can do and not just shouting the party slogan and manifesto. It is healthy that we have over 15 aspirants but journalists should scrutinise us so that before the primaries the number would reduce to about three. Let me emphasise that I am not running because I am from Delta north, much as I believe that we have some understanding that whatever process made it possible for James to emerge in Delta central and for Emma to emerge in Delta south, I think it is only fair that whatever process that made it possible should also make it possible for anybody from Delta north to emerge. However, let me make it clear that I am not an ardent advocate that power must shift because it is the turn of the north. I believe that the north has the best and the brightest that would give this state the best leadership that it deserves.
Return to PDP
In 2007 I was screened out. They said I was corrupt but I have never worked for anybody but that is what I called the antics of politics of elimination of good people through what I call unorthodox means, through things that cannot be proven and they say party is supreme. Of course, I got angry and went to Action Congress (AC), as it was then called, where my deputy resigned and part of the judgment was that I had no deputy. So after two or three of court sessions, I lost the case and I decided to go back to business that is what happened. Here I am again after seven years throwing myself again into politics. I came back to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
I came back about three years ago. I would run on PDP and win the primary under PDP and I will contest the general election under PDP and I will govern for eight years under PDP. Those that may be aggrieved can port to other parties because we are the foundation members. I think we have passed through a process of evolution in the party either for good or not so good. Except something is tested, you cannot condemn it. I believe that the party has learnt and in about 15 or 16 years in our rebranding that we have moved from point A to point B for better, so I think that whatever happens would be a better process than what happened many years back.
Atiku and I
I was never a political godson to Atiku Abubakar, he is my personal friend. I was already a multi-millionaire when I met Atiku, then he was in Customs. I already owned a vessel when I met Atiku in 1982. So, how can a government official be my godfather? I don’t have any godfather. Those I would probably call my godfathers are E.K. Clark and Sam Ogbemudia because when I came back to this state as an orphan, they gave me scholarship when they never knew me at the time. That is the kind of empowerment that I would subscribe to and not the one of buying bikes and rice to people like our legislators do. They educated my mind and that made me what I am today. Atiku is my friend today, tomorrow and next tomorrow, he had never been my godfather and I have never been his godson, politically, economically or otherwise. We have mutual respect for each other and we love each other. The fact that he is in APC and I am in PDP does not mean that we are enemies, we just have different political views. He left PDP because he subscribes to a different political ideology but PDP’s ideology suits me. It does not mean that we are not Nigerians. I remain in PDP while he has moved to the APC and we are friends.
Governance and business
Business has levels, you have to know that. Now two of my managing directors are my sons, I probably would not have given politics full time about 10 years ago because I had no business successors. I studied business, I have never worked for anybody, I had no father to work for. I live and breathe business, I built my own house with my own bare hands, I built my business. Ask those that were governors what they did before becoming governor; I am sure the answer is blowing in the wind. It is easy to declare in your code of conduct bureau certificate that you have N9 billion because you anticipate to steal N9 billion. If I declare N9 billion it is N9 billion because I can show for it. If I declare N100 billion it is N100 billion because I have something to show it. And they are physical and not imaginary. Mine are real, you can feel, you can touch and you can value.
After eight years I will not be poor but I would have retired because I am on my way to retirement. I am 62, in three years time I will be 65, technically I would have retired. So the business I had run for 34 years, which my children have inherited, should pension me. Besides, sometimes I bring them business ideas and ask them to pay me as consultant. When a manager does not manage well, his resources dwindle. I am a manager and I manage well. Our biggest problem is that 90 per cent of our politicians do not have employment outside politics and in the era of uncertainty, they are thrown out. That is not life, any politician who cannot leave office on Friday and resume in his personal office on Monday and be earning a living is not qualified to be in politics. When that is done, it will attract the best in politics; it will not be a do-or-die affair. It is a do-or-die affair because your breakfast, lunch and dinner are in politics. You never had a car until you became a political office holder; you never built a house until you became a political office holder; you never married until you became a political office holder. So, you are living in the past and by the time you get to the present, the four years are over and you will end up not serving the people because you used the period to resurrect yourself economically. That is why antecedent matters a lot in this governorship race. I always classify myself as a manager of resources and not like the typical politician who had no other job.