Chief O’tega Emerhor, the Delta state leader of the All Progressives Congress spoke to Segun James on the crisis rocking the party in the state
During the last national convention of the APC, Delta state delegates were involved in a show of shame that resulted in fisticuffs. How did things get so bad?
What happened during the convention in Abuja was unfortunate. As the leader of the mainstream APC in Delta state, I am traumatised. We have since tendered our apologies to the President and the leadership of the party.
There are two factions of the APC in Delta state. We are the mainstream; the Great Ogboru and Ovie Omo-Agege faction have refused to integrate with us since they joined the party midstream. I welcomed them to the APC in 2016. That is the truth.
But during the last congresses held in the state, they refused to work with us; instead they did their own parallel congress. But we worked with the committee that was sent by the national working committee to conduct the congress; and our congresses were approved and our chairman, Chief Cyril Ogodo was sworn in by the National Working Committee led by Chief John Oyegun; that was the situation before the convention.
It was this NWC that conducted the national congress and the state delegates were supposed to come from us, but situation changed when Senator Omo-Agege was made the secretary of the accreditation committee. He seized that opportunity to abuse his powers by bringing in other people to the convention from his parallel congress to supplant us.
The crisis at the convention actually started outside the venue where we were attacked and some of our delegates were injured. These people who were not delegates, were moved into the venue by Omo-Agege, but we managed to get the intervention of the organisers of the convention who had the list of the authentic delegates; finally, we came in. But there was one pavilion per state, so as we approached the Delta state pavilion, we found that they were already seated. As soon as they saw us, because they were already seated, eating and drinking, they started stoning us with those objects; that was what caused the commotion. It was very embarrassing and did not portray the state in good light.
What followed after that?
They went to the national leadership of the party to accuse us of causing the commotion. They said that we brought thugs to the convention ground, which is not true; they even wrote a petition against us to the party and the presidency to say we started the fight which is also not true because we comported ourselves. After the fight was settled, our people were given another area to sit; eventually, they ran away because they were not the proper delegates to the convention. This happened after the Governor of Kogi state announced that all those who are not accredited should leave the venue. Eventually we voted as the authentic delegation.
But since then, they have been fomenting crisis here and there. They even went to the court to obtain a consent judgment. While a consent judgment is supposed to involve all parties in the dispute, they somehow got a judgment through the legal department of the APC which agreed with them that their congress was the correct one.
We protested. Chief Oyegun who was the chairman at that period was angry at their action. In fact he came to the court to dispute their claim because he was the one who swore in Ogodo and other state chairmen; but after the convention and the new chairman resumed, the settled situation was resurrected. That is the confusion that we now have.
A consent judgment that was disowned by the NWC is now being recognised. Only last week, they swore in a supposed new party executive in the state even though the one that was sworn in by the last NWC is still subsisting. Now we have two parallel excos in Delta state which we pointed out was wrong and will not augur well for the party. Following the confusion, the national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has called on both sides to come to Abuja to discuss the issues and find a solution. We look forward to this settlement.
The truth is, if we don’t come together, there is no way we can win the state. Before the crisis, we opened our doors to the Ogboru/Omo-Agege group to come in and work together with us. But when they joined us, they decided to stay outside; they refused to integrate into the mainstream. The truth is that they needed to take the party structure from us if Ogboru is to realise his ambition of becoming the governor. But you don’t need to take the structure before you can compete; after all, there is going to be a primary in which everybody that is interested will participate including him.
Can the party compete with the PDP in the state if elections are held now?
Whatever is happening now in the Delta APC is temporary. The national chairman and the NWC have taken the initiative, this whole thing is going to be resolved and we are all going to come together.
But the truth is that some of us believe that since there is a zoning structure, we have to be pragmatic in dealing with any situation if we must win. Both the Delta central and the Delta south senatorial districts have done eight years each in governing the state. Some of us believe that it would make it easier for the party to win if we get our governorship candidate from the north like the PDP where Governor Ifeayi Okowa has only done four years. You know that the governorship is rotated among the three senatorial zones. But the Ogburu group believes they are entitled to contest the governorship even though he is from the central which took the first shot with Governor James Ibori. We know that he is entitled to contest since the contest is open to everyone; but we still need a strategy to win.
He believes he is popular in the state –zoning or not. To me, we will be having a level playing field for everyone to compete just as it was done in the Osun state APC primaries. Let every party member vote and if it is Ogboru that wins, we will all support him; but if it is somebody from the north, we hope he will support that person. When we do that, PDP will not have any chance at all in the 2019 election.
But maybe he believes that you are interestrf in competing for the governorship yourself
I have excused myself from competing in the 2019 governorship election in view of the scenario I painted for you. I do not honestly believe a Delta central candidate has the best chance to win the state in 2019; and that is where I come from. This is because the Delta north people will insist that they complete their own eight years. If a candidate from central is competing, it is like allowing the whole Delta north to go. You know that there are nine local government areas in the north; we cannot allow such a number to go. Look at it; we have eight LGAs each in central and the south while the north has nine. Now, the PDP deputy governor is from the south which comprises the Ijaw, Isoko and the Itsekiri, so the central alone cannot win the election even though we have the population.
I have done my own calculations, and I think it is best to choose from the north. That is why I have excused myself from the race; if we must win. But Ogburu and Omo-Agege think otherwise. Whatever happens, we just have to work together in the interest of the party.
Talking about Omo-Agege, would you say that his opposition to you may have stemmed from your supposed senatorial ambition; a move that may scuttle his ambition for a second term as senator?
Anybody is entitled to his ambition. I have never said to him or anyone that I am interested in contesting for the senate, it is however my right to do so if I so wish; just as it is his own right to contest if he so desires. Everybody who is interested has the right to contest and whosoever wins, we will rally around that person in the interest of the party.
What we are interested in is to ensure that come 2019, we, the APC, take over government in Delta state in the interest of the people. We know that the APC can do better than the PDP is doing right now; that is our ambition. That is what we must work together to achieve.
Recently, there were reports that former governor of the state, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan may decamp from the PDP to the APC, how true is this?
We heard so, but he has yet come to us. If he does, it would be a great deal for the party. He will be most welcome. Uduaghan’s coming to the APC will boost our presence greatly, especially in Delta South area. To me, he is a great asset and we will welcome him with open arms. Uduaghan is very popular in the state; APC will be richly blessed by his membership.