Olorogun Jaro Egbo is a chieftain of the APC in Delta State, in this interview with Onitsha Shedrack, he spoke on a number of issues, stressing that by the time APC is fully on ground in Delta, PDP will become a carcass of its old self. He also maintains that the Niger Delta Avengers are nothing, but mere criminals who should be dealt with as such; adding that what we have is Ijaw Avengers and not Niger Delta Avengers. Excerpts:
Prominent politicians in Delta are defecting to the APC, do you think the party has the capacity to manage the big-weight that are joining the party
I can assure you that the Delta APC under the leadership of the state chairman, Prophet Jones Eruh has the capacity to receive and manage the influx of prominent politicians and other new entrants to the party on a daily basis. As a party we have a clear blueprint on how to receive them into the party. You will recall that on June 28, 2016, the APC leadership in the state presented Olorogun Great Ogboru and Hon. Victor Ochei and their supporters from Labour, Accord Party, some members of SDP and PDP to the National Working Committee, NWC led by the party national Chairman, Chief John Oyegun, Deputy National chairman south, Engr. Segun Oni and other members of the NWC were all on hand to receive them.
When we left Abuja, we came back to Delta held a meeting and the charge was that we should all go back to our local government and wards to mobilise new members for registration into the party, and by next week Monday (Today), we are going to start massive registration of new entrants. In Delta APC we all have agreed that there is no old or new member.
No doubt the PDP has been around in Delta in the past 16 years or more, however, the Delta APC is capable not only to manage its success, but will upstage PDP in the next election. I can assure you that by the time we are done with repositioning of the APC in Delta State, PDP will become a carcass of its old self. Why do I say so, this is because those leaving the Delta PDP are the people that made it great; today all the PDP war generals are leaving the party to the APC. These political war Generals are teaming up with the people’s General, Chief Great Ogboru’s mass grassroots structure to rescue Delta. Today what you now have as Delta APC is a coat of many colour neatly sowed together, and with that synergy we will boot PDP out of Delta in 2019.
The influx of some PDP into the APC is creating tension in the PDP, today the party is going around begging some of their members that have defected; do you think the APC can hold its member back with lack the of appointment form federal level?
Let’s put this in proper perspective, the APC government came on board just a year ago, and they met a house that was ruined by the PDP 16years of misrule. So, they first have to clear the rots and lay a new foundation to build a new solid and sustainable structure. This is what President Muhammadu Buhari have being doing in the past one year. He has also started with a massive job creation to reduce the high level of youth unemployment like the recruitment of 10,000 policemen, and another 500,000 teachers; these have never happened before.
Though the votes in the south-south were very low, the president gave us very strategic appointment. Look at the Calabar-Lagos rail project, when completed, is going to boast the economy of the region.
You will recall also that recently the federal government released N300billion to road contractors; I believe it’s the rain that is holding them back. And don’t forget that this is our first budget and by the time we are through with the implementation of this year’s budget, Nigerians will know that the APC change mantra is not a joke, because they would have felt the impact of the government policies and programmes.
Coming back to Delta state, what is happening in the state in the past one year? This is a government that claims that the state has no money, yet it’s covering looters, who looted the state treasury, even when it can’t pay staff salaries. Look at most of the projects in the state, of what benefits are they to Deltans?
The government is not prioritizing its projects. Take Asaba for instance, when it rains for ten minutes the entire town is submerged by flood. So, of what use is the proposed mono-rail project in Asaba. The radius of Asaba can be cycled within 10-20 minutes drive. So, what are you doing with a mono-rail; if not for corruption? Why not effectively construct drainage’s to channel the flood to the River Niger and make the people leave in a better environment, then think of expanding the internal road network to handle the growing traffic. When this is done, and there is need to mono-rail, you can now think about such project.
These lacks of vision and sense of direction by the successive government in Delta state is what is now endearing people to the APC in the state and across the country; because they have realized that the change mantra is real. You should also know that what we are suffering now is as a result of PDP misrule, they stole the nation blind.
Today, Delta state government is complaining that it does not have money, yet it refuses to recover our money from those contractors who collected money and abandoned the jobs. Those who looted the treasury through failed contract and who just collected money and did nothing are walking freely in the state, because they are friends of the Governor, therefore he is not questioning or asking them to return our money for jobs not done. The government of Delta State can be best described by late Fala’s song as; ‘paddy, paddy government.’ The APC government at the federal level is recovering a lot of looted funds, part of which is currently been used as bailout to states. If Delta fails to do same, it should stop complaining that it has no money. Is it not foolishness to see a man holding your money and you watch the man and do nothing; yet you are dying of hunger?
Look at Edo state for instance, though not as rich as Delta but because of the proper management, the state is running very well. Look at the infrastructure in the state, compared to the huge revenue profile of Delta state. While Delta cannot pay their staff salaries, owing teachers and local government workers about 10 months’ salary arrears, Edo state is paying with their recent increase in minimum wage. This is template the APC is bringing to Delta state, since PDP has failed in the past 16years, the only viable alternative is the APC.
Anambra State without the 13% derivation fund is not owing staff salary, Delta is ranked amongst state with huge IGR, yet it cannot pay workers; do you think the case of Delta is shortfall in revenue or misapplication of fund?
I will put it down to leadership. Governance is all about leadership and effective application of scarce resources. When you have a good leader he will take decisions on the basis of what will benefit majority of the people and not few crones. All of us know the economic situation in the country; therefore a good leader will not sew his coat according to his size, but according to his cloth; because if you want to sew your coat according to your size, there will be problem if you don’t have enough cloth. This is the problem Delta state is facing at the moment. The state ought to prioritize by cutting down the cost of governance, but this is not the case. The state governor have over 400 aides parading the street doing nothing, is that how to cut down cost? Get me right, I am not against the government appointing some aides but it should be manageable size that will add value to the state, considering the dwindling revenue profile of the state.
What is your take on the state rejection of TSA implementation?
Taking about TSA, the Delta state Governor Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, in an interview recently said that the TSA is working against the interest of commercial banks, and that is why he would not want to implement it. The question one will want to ask is when the interest of banks has become more paramount than that of Deltans in the governance of the state.
Though recently I read that the state government is in the process of implementing the TSA, it is no longer a matter of choice, because the federal government has made it one of the conditions for access bailout funds in the future, so, Okowa has no option since he needed another N14.1billion as bailout.
I believe a state like Delta should be in the forefront in promoting transparency in governance, after all we spent billion of Naira preaching to the entire world of Delta Beyond Oil, now is the time to walk the talk, let leave without oil revenue. If a state like Lagos with its IGR could go to Ogun and other states to acquire land for farming, what are we doing in Delta that has arable land laying fallow?
For instance take from Abraka to Agbor, we have million of hectares of land laying fallow that the government can encourage young people to farm on, but that is not the case; rather in their self deceit, it gave 200-300birds to some youths in the name of farming, of what value is that to the economy of the state. If we are serious in this state, we need to go back to farming, Nigeria can become a net producer cassava, palm produce and other crops because will have arable land which can support it. This is what the APC government will bring to Delta when elected. We will ensure that people are empowered; there will food security in the state, because we will encourage genuine farmers to go into large scale production.
Is the Niger Delta Avengers criminals or freedom fighters?
I will continue to maintain that there is nothing like the Niger Delta Avenger, but the Ijaw avengers. Why do I say so, the Urhobos, Isokos, Itsekiris, Ndokwas, Ibibos, Ikweres, Ogoins and other tribes in the region are not part of this criminality, but only an enclave of the Ijaws. Here in Delta state we have five major oil producing ethnic groups Urhobo, Isoko, Itsekiri, Ndokwa and Ijaw. Why it that is only the Ijaws is are always fighting? Come to think of it, what are they avenging? They are avenging their loss of patronage and free bills they were getting from the former president Goodluck Jonathan which they cannot longer get for now, that is what they are fighting for, so their actions is purely criminal.
Do you think the Delta state government has done enough to curtail the action of the militants operating in the state?
To be candid we all agree that the state government has not done enough to address this issue headlong when it started. They also failed to act, until they realized that the more the bombing of pipelines in Delta, the more the revenue of the state will dwindles. So, that is why the state government is now appealing to them to stop the blowing up of pipelines. At a stakeholders meeting held recently at Asaba, the governor stated that the bombing in the Delta the state is affecting the revenue of the state and may not be able to meet up with its obligations to Deltans and pay workers salaries.
Though the state government has step-up committees to interface with host community and the state Deputy Governor as the chairman of one of the committee; nevertheless, they have to do more. The government has to work with the security agencies to expose those behind this criminality. The government has condemn the actions of the avengers and other militant groups in a strong term, by calling their activities criminal act, this the government has not done.
Some of these boys were giving amnesty by the past administration, they were giving opportunities to develop the region, but rather developing the region most of them were building and buying houses at Lagos and Abuja. How many of them have a house in their communities? So, they should be treated as criminal and not be allowed to hold the country hostage, because if the government continues to succumbed to their threat, those of us who are peaceful and being protecting oil installations can also start blowing them up, if that is what the government appreciate.
So, the government of the day must act and speak up decisively and make them understand that they cannot get away with criminality. If it is about the issue of underdevelopment of the region, it can be handled without blowing up the pipelines. We can make representations to the Mr. President, and I think as the father of the nation, he will listen. We all know that whatever we see in the Niger Delta is not commensurate with our contributions to the sustenance of the nation; but that is not enough reasons to blow up pipelines.