-Ogboru Has Himself To Blame, Dined With Political Foes
-Exonerates Presidency From Ogboru’s Defeat
-Says Okowa Worked Hard To Win, UPU Ready To Work With Him
-Blames Ibori For The Political Fall Of Urhobo Tribe
Chief Joe Omene is the President General of Urhobo Progress Union, UPU, Worldwide.
Oasis Magazine (OM) crew had an exclusive interview with him in Mosogar recently.
Baring his mind on the just concluded gubernatorial election in Delta State, Omene x-rayed what he believes are responsible for Ogboru’s defeat at the polls. In this context, the outspoken leader expressed that James Ibori and a cabal in PDP made up of Urhobo ethnic nationalities were to blame for the political travails experienced by the Urhobos in the State. He believes that PDP members of Urhobo ethnic nationality have failed to defend and protect Urhobo’s interest.
While affirming that Okowa deserved to win because he worked very hard during the campaigns prior to the elections, he promised to work with the PDP-led government in the State to move Delta forward. Read on!
What is the position of UPU on the just concluded 2019 gubernatorial election in Delta State?
Well, what is the position of UPU other than election has been held and somebody won the election? We are formally going to meet to access the election. If we consider it to be free and fair, we will congratulate the winner but if it was not, we will also bare our mind.
But sir, on a personal note, so far, with the feelers that have been coming in, can you say as an individual that the election was free and fair?
As an individual, the election was not free and fair, but the winner deserved to win. Okowa deserved to win the election because he worked very hard for it. That’s the truth. He touched every nook and cranny of Delta State to campaign. They even came to me, just that I declined to have a meeting with him. So, I declined which is not his fault anyway because he did not select people that he will campaign to. He campaigned to both friends and foes and he worked very hard. He was everywhere; that is how you know someone who works hard for a position. I am for Ogboru but Okowa worked harder than Ogboru. Maybe Ogboru was relying on federal might. In his previous elections, Ogboru campaigned very well, he met with the people, but not in this election. Okowa deserved to win it.
Where does Okowa’s victory place Urhobo in the political equation of the State?
You see…it is what you feed into the computer that the computer will give you back in return. It is the clothes you took to the river side to wash that the river will wash for you. So, if Urhobo felt that Okowa is better for them than their son, Ogboru and Okowa is maltreating them, it is what they deserve. For me, if Okowa does not give me face as the PG of UPU, I will not blame him because I did not work for him. But if Urhobo worked or voted for him and he turns around to maltreat them, to those Urhobos who voted for him, I will never shed my tears for them if Urhobo is being maltreated by him.
Why are you taking that position?
You know sometimes in Urhobo, you see…this is my son goes to the battle. When he is in the battle I don’t go to cheer the other opponent, but my son. If my son wins, good! If my son fails to win, I will take it like that. You see, before the election, I rang it loud and clear to Urhobo people that, “look they are using the zoning to deceive you people”. Now, what is happening today? Ijaw says it is their turn and now ethnic arrangement, not senatorial as it has been. So, who are you going to blame? The political travail Urhobo is going through today is caused by James Ibori and his PDP Urhobo co-travelers. Ordinarily, they brought about this gang up against me by first of all weakening Urhobo to make sure that Urhobo is not well-focused. That’s the problem Urhobo is going through today. Whatever Urhobo is going through today politically is caused by James Ibori and his Urhobo co-travelers in PDP.
What is their agenda and what do they intend to achieve?
Personal interest is what they are fighting for. They will tell the common Urhobo man that party is supreme… I mean this people I am telling you about. When they fail their primary, they go and vote the other opposition and tell their followers to go and vote opposition. Is that party supreme? When it comes to the interest of Urhobo, when people say you have to vote the interest of the Urhobo, they will oppose it… they will vote their party because their party is supreme. When it comes to their personal interest because they lost primary, they did not preach party is supreme again and went against their party. Ibori by supporting Okowa or putting all these people in place, has been communicating to his kinsmen that it was a fight between him and Ogboru. He knows why and we all know why. I don’t want to go into that fully. It is just for personal enrichment. Pure! When they say how he enriched himself personally at the expense of Urhobo nation, I can say it. But at this point, I don’t want to say anything further, but he knows.
As it stands, is there no way out of this mess Urhobo has found herself?
Well…people were captured into slavery and sent from their community to slavery like Joseph. Later, he became powerful and was set free. No matter the dirt under the tunnel, with the tide flowing, all those dirt will still flow out. You see, the way out and the quickest way out would have been the voting out of all Urhobo politicians in PDP and then a new system comes up because as long as they are there, they are not fighting for the interest of our people but they are fighting for their personal interest. When they want this interest, they will use Urhobo name after getting what they want, they will negotiate Urhobo out.
Something happened during the election. Okowa got good votes from Ethiope East where Ogboru is from and in other parts of Urhobo land, even from Omo-Agege’s place too. What do you think made this possible?
Well…it was possible for some reasons…First is hard work. You have to market yourself. Don’t just conclude that ohhh I am a popular person and whenever I come out people will always hail me. You see… the devil has a way of taking something from you… devil will first give you one thing to entice you and will take it from you the other way. With the kind of popularity Ogboru has, if he had worked hard and with the federal might behind him, he would have won. Okowa wasn’t a popular person, but he had enough money at his disposal and you don’t have that kind of money, know what to do with it and still lost. Ogboru did not work hard enough, did not campaign. There’s a difference between campaign and you just go to one place and people will just be hailing you…that’s not campaign. That is one reason. Reason number 2 is that he’s not a good crisis manager. There was crisis in his party. He came to the party later, he met people. Then, Ogboru and distinguished Senator Omo-Agege went hijacking the party from the people they met there and the people were crying which one is our own. We don’t have chairman of party, we don’t have secretary of party, we don’t have the governorship candidate, we don’t have senatorial candidate. Won’t they be aggrieved? And when people like that are aggrieved what should you do? You mend fences and beg them continuously. You don’t say… well I went to beg them. The fact that you went to meet them once is not enough. Apart from that, they had very nasty primaries that were not free and fair. But, PDP did theirs. PDP conducted all their primaries neatly. For example, look at what happened in Urhobo land; did they conduct primaries in APC? No! Federal House of Reps… you and Ogboru… you are meant for Ethiope East and West. Ogboru…you are from Ethiope East…you are the governorship candidate. What is wrong to compromise and you cede the other one to Ethiope West…you still refused… you took that one…grabbed it to yourself. If you have even subjected them to primary and your man won the primary, the other people will know that they lost. You did not. You made them pay money, went to the venue for the primary on two occasions only for that man not to show up. All of a sudden… he said he is the candidate. Are the other people fools? And you say you are planning to win? You can’t win. I learnt that even the aggrieved one now took the pain to go and meet him in Abuja and wanted to have audience with him and he didn’t grant them audience. And you expect this people to still come and vote for you. If he amends after getting the ticket of the governorship and senatorial…what is wrong if you continue to beg? A deal was struck by the Vice President. Implement, he said no and he said until after election. So, the other people were feeling who are you going to fool?… OK let’s do the party own not the sharing of portfolios after winning…let’s do the one of the party… you also declined. That’s another one. Another reason…I am giving you reasons why he failed. You see, throwing away those who have been working with you; ignoring those who have been faithful and working with you. He didn’t know that Uduaghan was there for a purpose. Suddenly, Uduaghan became his Chief Adviser believing that he will be there to give him money. How can Uduaghan mean well that he will come to APC as a former governor and came alone? How can you say he came alone? Did it not occur to him that that is a game plan between Uduaghan and James Ibori…All of a sudden, Igbuya came in just to go and get form? Fela will say ‘Army arrangement’…you just came and say…well…this is…Am contesting and I want to get House of Reps. So, other people like Gbinije and Baro in Uvwie who have worked hard to deliver a place like Uvwie and other places for him, he just bypassed them and went to bring somebody that has been sanctioned by UPU sometime. Which result was he expecting? All of a sudden, those who have been fighting you…been rigging you out, now became your best friend and they vowed vehemently that they will never allow him win. Ibori did not mince words… he told me personally. Also, he told Oghara youths when he assembled them that anybody can win, but not Ogboru and you see… this is Ibori, this is Uduaghan. And you think Uduaghan will go and work for somebody…after he has been put in place as Governor by Chief James Ibori. It is not possible. We warned him; I talked to him even in my bedroom. I said be careful of some people. I mentioned their names to him. I told him to just be careful that the people you see smiling with you now are just smiling for a reason oh. He said he knows what he is doing and that everything is fine. I said ok! How is it now? And you see… one painful thing…very painful…very very painful. It is still paining some of my exco members and the youths of UPU. We have been fought for the past four years because we supported him that time. We endorsed him. People want to beg us with anything possible, but we said no. We still stood by him. They used the kings to fight us. They used the kings of Urhobo to destabilize Urhobo. The Ivies never liked him. Who did he go to campaign for? Who did he go to meet? He went to meet the Ivies and gave them 5 Million Naira to wage kolanut. Has he come to UPU and waged kolanut with One Naira? Because of that endorsement, a top member of the UPU at the national level resigned. I don’t want to mention anybody’s name. He resigned and said why should we endorse him? If we must endorse any person it must not be Buhari, Omo-Agege or Ogboru. We still talk though and he is a very fine gentle man and we respect him for that. He did not cause crisis because he doesn’t like that. He said he is still in UPU but he resigned his position. We can hardly find people like that in the political field. But that’s what happened. So when you look at the whole thing from what people say that after fighting for him, he will abandon you, that after losing he will not talk to you again and he will not call you. You can equally ask me… has he even called UPU one moment? No! You see it. So when you look at it, he was planning to fail. Because if you have put your house right and know those who have been working with you then you should have worked with them. If you took advice from people, were campaigning everywhere and you were pacifying those who failed primaries, he would have succeeded. Also, reaching out to people like Otega Emerhor who were in the party before you would have been good. But all the time, he was working to fail. So that is it.
Will UPU work with Governor Ifeanyi Okowa if he extends his hands of fellowship?
Even if he does not extend his hands of fellowship to us, anybody in a position is there because God allows him to be there. Don’t fight him. If Okowa did not fight us when he was in government this past four years… he was the one fighting us. UPU did not fight him. UPU even stretched an olive branch to him after that election. And even Okowa on his own would not have fought us. It is the same Urhobo cabal of PDP that was telling him that, “look oh we have to make sure that Omene is not there because if he is there he will fight you”. Under severe pressure he caved in. We will work with him not because we want to make demands from him oh…we can work with him because he is the governor of the State. And as the governor of the State, if he has the conducive atmosphere, he can govern the State. If he’s distracted by say OK…cause confusion here and there… there will be distraction and that is not the best for the State, Urhobo land and even UPU.
Do you have any advice for the governor?
In politics….we have two periods. When you are campaigning to win, you become very aggressive. When you have campaigned and won…are you still going to be aggressive? You become embracing. You become all embracing because you have campaigned and won. He has won. If he continues to fight people…what will he be fighting them for? It means he does not appreciate what God has done for him. Also, there is no way anybody can hijack the UPU and give it to an Ijaw man. A hundred of them cannot do it. Increase the number of traditional rulers to 1, 000, they still cannot do it. UPU has come to stay because God is on the side of UPU. I will not go to government to say I want to eat. During his first term, I didn’t go to Government House and say come and give me money to feed. Am not like all those pigs that can go to any level for any reason. I am not a rich man but I can feed myself. So, if you want to come to me for anything, it shouldn’t be based on money. If it is convincing then I can say let us work towards it for free. If I want to work for money, I will work for the government. I will work with Okowa; I will not work for Ogboru. Ogboru does not have a dime to give me. Every payment I made, how many newspapers advertorial…ask if they have contributed one kobo? Nobody contributed one kobo. We did it. The only one is AIT and NTA publication of their endorsement. That’s what someone paid for. I don’t want to be provoked to talk. Without mentioning anyone’s name, that is what was paid for. Whatever thing I did was because of my conviction and the interest of Urhobo nation. Because when you go by the constitution of the UPU, we are to protect and defend the interest of Urhobo.
Can you say the presidency failed Urhobo nation?
You see….the presidency did not fail Urhobo nation. Urhobo failed itself. I don’t want to go into what people are alleging because if I go into that I will be destroying Urhobo nation. I am a father. If something like that happened, I am to unify them. So that is it. Because if I decide to go into that, maybe what he could have been privileged to bring to Urhobo will not be there. That’s why I will remain silent on that side. Otherwise, the presidency did not fail us. I will say they failed Urhobo if having one or two local government and giving him the required vote that made him get 25% more this time now. What do you expect the presidency to do after winning their elections? Osibanjo also came here to give the party a moral boost. So what else do you expect the presidency to do?
So, you wouldn’t want to react to the allegations that Omo-Agege betrayed Ogboru?
Omo-Agege or no Omo-Agege, Ogboru has himself to blame. If it is true, like I told you, I don’t want to comment on that side. Because I don’t want to destroy Urhobo further. If Urhobo is quarrelling and fighting itself like this, the enemies will be rejoicing. The Urhobo cabal leadership in PDP who make sure that Urhobo does not get anything will be happy. I said that this zoning something the Urhobo is propagating is scam! When the time comes I said they have even penciled down Ijaw that a member of Ijaw nation in the national assembly has been penciled down to be the next governor, did anybody believe me? Now IYC has come out to say so. Who do you blame? When the wall of the house collapses, small goat will just climb. When the wall was standing, the goat cannot climb it. The fall of Urhobo today politically was caused by James Ibori and his cabal in PDP. Is it not evil, an insult for IYC to come up so early to say it is now their turn and the PDP Urhobo members has come to say it is not possible that they should forget that dream. No one! Now this is one of the reasons why they tried to install an ijaw man as President General of Urhobo. Can Taiga come out now to oppose IYC?
But as it stands now, will UPU stand up to see that Urhobo gets the governorship in 2023?
When the time comes let us see how it goes.
No definite word from UPU?
There is no way UPU will not defend its people. Whether I am there as the President General or not, UPU will defend the interest of Urhobo. I am not Urhobo and Urhobo is not me. Urhobo has over 2 million people and about 90% are even better qualified than me to be President General. So, it is not because I am President General…It is by providence.
If Ogboru comes out in 2023, will UPU still support him?
Everybody has right to vote. It depends on who is contesting with him. And we see that ok, this one can deliver. But I tell you that people are angry with him because it is lose and run. If I were in his shoes, I can pick the phone and call some few people and say well it has happened like this but how am I going to further do this so he can get some advice. Or as the President General of UPU he can call to thank us for the efforts. The interest of Urhobo supersedes my personal interest. One day Urhobo will get there no matter what.
Is there any role UPU can play to tackle the disunity in Urhobo?
If the present crops of Urhobo are still there in power this thing will continue. And those who would have been able to remove it have failed Urhobo. So in other not to cause more division what did I tell you, I said OK I am not going to comment on that. Because I wasn’t there and even if it happened, UPU will not castigate publicly. A good father can resolve matters behind closed doors, not in public. So, the issue of Urhobo coming together again will happen. A new crop of people will come up. If not at the state…after all, there are some new crops of Urhobo coming up at the federal level that is not through PDP. They are there on their own..they walked their way there. After all somebody like Festus Keyamo is doing very well in the presidency. He is our pride. He is not in PDP. So, one day if he becomes more powerful, Urhobo can still look up to people like that and say maybe this can be our saviour. Not the handpicked one. The handpicked one by godfather…don’t expect anything from that one.
What is your word to Urhobo nation?
They should have faith in God. With God everything is possible. We know our pains. But, today we cannot solve that pain because of some people who want the pain to persist. The pain will go miraculously.