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Solution To Nigeria’s Problems Not Secession – Orbih

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The National Vice Chairman, South-south, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Dan Orbih, is the immediate Chairman of PDP in Edo State. In this interview with South-south Bureau Chief, Bisi Olaniyi, he expresses optimism that his party will produce Nigeria’s president in 2023 and that the crude oil and gas-rich Niger Delta region deserves more developmental projects from the Federal Government, among other issues. Excerpts

 

What is your reaction to the March 29, 2021 dismissal of the four remaining petitions against Governor Godwin Obaseki of the PDP, by the Justice Yunusa Musa-led three-member governorship election petitions tribunal in Benin, for lacking merit, not minding the moves by the petitioners to proceed to the Court of Appeal?

For us in PDP, it is a welcome development. The governorship election in Edo State took place on September 19, 2020, which is an aspect of our democracy.

The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides for aggrieved parties to seek redress at the election petitions tribunal, Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court.

The election is over and the judges of the tribunal have given their verdicts. It is time for Edo people to come together and work in the interest of the state.

It is also time for Governor Godwin Obaseki of PDP to reach out to every person to come on board to develop the state. There is no need for us to be distracted by appeals and challenges at this time.

Have you forgotten that APC and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu were joined as 4th and 5th respondents respectively in the petition by Action Democratic Party (ADP) and its governorship candidate, Iboi Emmanuel, but the two respondents were first struck out on March 29, when the judgment was delivered?

APC and Ize-Iyamu were joined as busybodies, not as genuine respondents in the petition by ADP and its governorship candidate. That’s why the unnecessary respondents were first struck out by the eminent judges of the tribunal. It is so obvious that PDP won the governorship election in Edo State with a landslide, across the 18 local government areas and the three senatorial districts of the South-south state.

APC was only interested in the technical aspect of the alleged perjury and forgery of the University of Ibadan’s (UI’s) first degree certificate of Governor Obaseki, which have been put to rest by the judgments of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on January 9, 2021 and the Court of Appeal, Abuja on March 18, 2021.

Are you not aware that APC and one of its chieftains, Edobor Williams, are challenging, at the Supreme Court, the verdict of the appellate court in the alleged perjury and forgery suit against Obaseki?

I am not aware, but we will wait for the pronouncement of the justices of the apex court on the matter.

The Imo State experience through the Supreme Court, where the last suddenly became the first, is not likely to happen in Edo State.

For two terms, you were the Chairman of PDP in Edo State, before your recent unopposed election in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, during PDP’s zonal congress. How was the experience, especially being in the main opposition party (PDP), before Obaseki, then of the APC, defected to your party on June 19, 2020, ahead of the September 19, 2020 governorship election, following his disqualification by APC’s screening committee in Abuja, when Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was the National Chairman?

It was a very interesting and quite challenging experience. Parties that are in the opposition, either at the state or federal level, should learn lessons from our experience in Edo State. If you are focused and you are up to it, it may take a little while, but you will get there. Power will not just fall on your laps; you have to work for it.

In 2016, PDP filed a suit against Obaseki, then of APC, on his UI’s certificate saga, but the same Obaseki is now in the PDP and he has suddenly become a saint. Is that not double standard?

When Obaseki was in APC, the suit against him by PDP in 2016 was not entirely about the UI’s certificate. Although there was an aspect of the suit on the UI’s certificate, the major issue, which I am going to speak on for the first time, was that there was a constitutional issue that we (PDP leaders) were challenging.

If not for the fourth amendment to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, only God knows what would have been the outcome of that case.

In the INEC’s form, there is a place where the governorship candidate is asked if he/she has ever been a member of a secret cult. In 2016 the then governorship candidate of APC, Godwin Obaseki, did not fill the particular column and it is not optional. It is a constitutional requirement and if you admit that you have been a member of a secret society, you are automatically disqualified from contesting.

So, it was assumed in 2016, by our (PDP leaders’) estimation, that maybe Godwin Obaseki was a member of a secret society, but he did not want to state it there. In 2020, Obaseki corrected it by declaring that he was not a member of a secret society.

If the case against Obaseki in 2016 was decided on merit, probably, it might have gone the other way. But the fourth constitutional amendment caught up with the case. So, the case was not decided within the specified period of time within which the judge should give the verdict. Eventually, we withdrew from the case and it was struck out.

The suit against Obaseki was not all about the alleged forgery and perjury involving the UI’s certificate of the then governorship candidate of APC, but the certificate matter was also an issue in the filed suit in 2016. When you go to court, lawyers will definitely put in a lot of issues. Secretly, our major case against Obaseki was the secret society matter, while the outside world thought PDP leaders in 2016 were pursuing the issue of UI’s certificate.

I would like to call on members of the National Assembly to revisit the issue of the minimum qualification to contest elections in Nigeria.

The minimum qualification to contest election in Nigeria should be secondary school leaving certificate.

While Obaseki was in APC, you were very critical of his administration, as the then Edo Chairman of PDP, with the videos still on YouTube, but you are now singing his praises. What has suddenly changed?

If Obaseki is still in APC and I am the Edo Chairman of PDP, I will not do anything different from the roles that I earlier played and the constructive criticisms.

As the state chairman of the party, I had the responsibility to win back the Edo government for PDP. All I was doing was to ensure that we won back the government. I was only doing my duties as the state chairman of the then main opposition party (PDP), thereby convincing Edo people of the need to give PDP a chance to win again and govern the Niger Delta state much better.

On March 23 this year, the Government Reservation Area (GRA) houses, near Government House, Benin of three associates of the immediate National Chairman of the APC, Comrade  Adams Oshiomhole, who is a former Edo Governor: Dr. Pius Odubu, the deputy to Oshiomhole for eight years; the member representing Owan Constituency in the House of Representatives, Prof. Julius Ihonvbere, who is a former Secretary to Edo State Government (SSG), and a sports enthusiast, Mr. Mike Itemuagbon were demolished by officials of Edo State Government, on the orders of Obaseki, after the December 21, 2020 revocation of the Certificates of Occupancy (C of Os). Are the demolitions not politically motivated?

The three APC chieftains, whose houses were demolished in GRA, Benin City, are all my friends. We are all Edo people. So, politics should not prevent us from being friends. I do not play politics with bitterness. The government that took the demolition decision is a government that contested the September 19, 2020 governorship election in Edo State and won, under the PDP. I was in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, when the demolitions took place.

As somebody who is watching events closely, as a matter of fact, this is not the first time that a government in Edo State will have reasons to demolish houses on plots of land that belong to the state government.

Houses of the staff of the University of Benin (UNIBEN) in the same GRA, Benin City were demolished by Oshiomhole’s administration.

The current demolitions by Obaseki’s administration are generating so much noise, because politicians are involved.

Recently, Governor Nyesom Wike said as one of the leaders of PDP, he would support the presidential candidate of the party in 2023, and that if his benefactor, the former President Goodluck Jonathan, defects to APC, as is being speculated, he would not support him. Is Wike still completely loyal to his former boss, Dr. Jonathan?

How do you expect Wike to support an aspirant or candidate in another political party? Such a decision will amount to anti-party activity.

Wike is a committed member, frontline leader and respected governor of PDP. He made a statement expected of a loyal member of a political party.

It will be unfortunate for former President Jonathan of PDP to vie in 2023 on APC’s platform. I do not think he will make such a political blunder at this crucial period.

As of today, no member of PDP has publicly declared to contest for president in 2023.

We must get it right in Nigeria in 2023 by electing a better president on PDP’s platform because we are already in a mess, as Buhari’s government has failed, particularly because of insecurity. The primary purpose of government is the protection of lives and property of the citizens. If Nigerians are no longer safe, along with their property, don’t you know that the Federal Government of Nigeria has failed?

The future of Nigeria depends on the youths, but the students are being regularly kidnapped and moved into the forests, with huge ransoms demanded and collected by the fully-armed criminals, especially kidnappers, bandits and terrorists.

Is insecurity in Edo State, with a PDP government, not worse as kidnappers now turn the strategic Benin-Ekpoma-Auchi-Abuja road into a no-go route?

Security is not a state’s function, but the responsibility of the Federal Government, which has failed abysmally to secure the lives and property of Nigerians. Insecurity is all over Nigeria. Do not isolate the kidnappings on Benin-Ekpoma-Auchi-Abuja road. Kidnappings happen across Nigeria on a daily basis, while Buhari’s government has not been able to address the challenge.

Quite unfortunately, officials of the government are now negotiating ransoms with bandits, kidnappers, terrorists and other criminals.

Most Southeasterners are continuing with the secession agitations to have Biafra Republic, not minding the civil war of 1967 to 1970, which led to huge loss of lives and property of many innocent people. Also, agitations to secede are now louder in the Southwestern part of Nigeria, with the clamour for Oduduwa Republic. What do these secession agitations portend for the nation, which the founding fathers prefer to remain united?

The solution to Nigeria’s problems is not secession by people of the Southeast and Southwest zones.

We need to quickly go back to the drawing board and address the problems facing Nigerians, who are opting for agitations to secede.

The secession agitations that are getting louder actually arose from Nigerians’ sincere assessment of Buhari’s government, which they insist has failed to address the nation’s problems and refusing to fulfill the 2015 and 2019 campaign promises.

Nigerians can stay together in one indivisible nation if we have the right leadership that is not clannish in appointments, thereby making all Nigerians to have a sense of belonging.

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