BEVERLY HILLS, April 26, (THEWILL) – Chief Dan Orbih is the National Vice Chairman, South–South, of the Peoples Democratic Party. In this interview with AYO ESAN, he speaks on issues relating to the party, the South-South region and the nation at large. Excerpts:
Congratulations on your recent election as the National Vice Chairman, South – South of the Peoples Democratic Party. How was the contest?
Well first of all, I want to thank Almighty God and the leaders of the party in the South – South for considering me worthy of the position and for believing and having confidence in me to represent the interest of the South-South in the party.
You were formerly the State Chairman of the PDP in Edo State. How does it feel like to be the leader of the party in the South –South?
It is one that the party leaders entrusted to me and I believe that I will live to justify that trust which they have bestowed on me by ensuring that we return the maximum votes in support of our party in the next general elections.
Recently, the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege and other All Progressive Congress leaders in the South- South region boasted that they would ensure the APC defeats the PDP in the six South – South states, come 2023. How do you see their threat?
It is an empty threat. The people of the South – South are aware that since independence no government has ever shown this level of neglect to the people of the region like the Muhammadu Buhari government. You can hardly travel on the roads in the region from one state to another. I give you an example; it is a nightmare to travel from here in Edo State to Delta State. At a stage, the governor of Delta State had to carry out emergence repairs on some failed portions of the road . The roads are totally neglected. Talk of Cross Rivers, Akwa Ibom and other states in the region. The level of neglect is not only in appointments at federal level, but also in terms of infrastructure, which gives cause for concern.
One institution that was set up by the Federal Government to develop the South –South, in terms of infrastructural development, is the Niger Delta Development Commission. Are you not embarrassed by the level of corruption in the Commission as was exposed at the National Assembly last year during its probe?
The corruption in the NDDC like you have rightly highlighted is alarming. The NDDC under this administration has become an institution of fraud and scandals. The Government itself has not helped the situation by its refusal to set up a functional board as it is in the Act that established the NDDC. Instead, they have been appointing different management committees, caretaker committee, and forensic audit committee and so on. In fact, you cannot run that body with handpicked party members and in clear negation of the provisions of the Act setting up the body . In actual facts, the states are to send their nominees to the Federal Government who will now appoint others and constitute the board. But as it is today, for reasons best known to this government, it has refused to put in place a board. We are either having a committee probing the activities of the former caretaker committee or one thing or the other. That is also contributing to the fraud in that body. And like I suggested in my earlier interviews, the Federal Government should stop making available all allocations to the NDDC until we have a board in place. Whatever is due to them now should be paid into an escrow account until a proper board is constituted. The new board will be in a better place to use the money to see to the development of the region. What we have now is totally unacceptable.
The security situation across the country is generally bad, but how do you see the insecurity in the South – South region as a major stakeholder?
Insecurity is not something that is limited to the South – South . There is insecurity all over the country at the moment and you will agree with me that the primary duty of any government is to protect lives and property of the populace. But in this instance, the Federal Government has failed woefully. Every day you read in the newspapers about people being kidnapped, attacked and killed. So it is obvious that the way we are going, we have actually reached a situation where you can now describe the country as one in which there is total breakdown of law and order. It is no longer something that happens once in a while. Like I said earlier, it seems the government has totally run out of ideas on how to combat the security challenges the country is facing.
The South-West and South-East have individually established regional security outfits. Don’t you think the South – South should also consider such idea of having its own regional outfit?
When government fails in its duty to protect the people, what you have is that people will resort to self-help to protect themselves. But you know ideally that is not what it should be. We have a constitution and the roles of the various tiers of government are well defined. But arising from the failure of this government, you can see that there is serious agitation from certain sections of the country calling for secession. But I think I will lend my voice to those who are calling for restructuring. Let’s go back to the drawing board and look at some of these things. Restructuring can go by way of some fundamental constitutional amendments, especially as regards the issue of security. You need to actually give some foundation to whatever you are trying to do by way of security . One, you will be able to empower the states by amending the present constitution, so that we can have state police. We can have a bit of community policing. But as it is now, we have a situation under the constitution where you say the state governors are the chief security officers of their states, but the security agencies don’t take orders from them. They take their orders from superior officers outside the states. So the state governors are chief security officers of their states in theory, not in practice. They are at the mercy of those they should control to ensure they provide security for their citizens.
So it is not just enough to say that people are now setting up regional security outfits, some of these outfits may not be in a position to legally carry arms, which they will definitely need in the course of providing security for their people. So, we need to go back and let us give constitutional backing to whatever we are putting in place.
Like I said earlier, since the Federal Government has failed to instill confidence in the people that they can protect them from these incessant attacks, a lot of people have resorted to self help. And I have made the point that the right in setting up regional security outfits is as a result of the people’s feelings that the government cannot give them protection. But self help, I mean has its own limitation. These bodies, can they go about carrying arms? May be no because they are not covered by our laws.
These are areas that we need to look at if eventually we decide to sit down again to look at this issue of restructuring. We know the problems facing us as a people and in the past, attempts were made at looking at these problems and providing solutions to them. I feel strongly that the present government should take a second look at the report of the conference that was put together by the Gooluck Jonathan administration in 2014. We can start from there and start addressing these problems from there. These were decisions reached by people from different parts of the country under a peaceful atmosphere. People peacefully came together, looked at these issues and proffered solutions. I think that document, should not be jettisoned.
Some Nigerians are now hoping that your party, the PDP, could correct the mistakes made by the present government How prepared is PDP for 2023?
PDP is ready to take over government, come 2023, through the ballot box and the good thing is that Nigerians have experienced a PDP government in the past; they have also experienced APC government. By 2023, they would have experienced an APC for eight years and they are in a better position to judge for themselves whether they are better off now than they were when PDP was in government.
It is obvious to every right thinking Nigerian that the APC has no solution to the problems bedeviling us today.
Look at the economy for example; the naira is on a free fall. Just recently Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State raised alarm, saying that the Federal Government last month had to print N60bn extra in order to meet up with the allocation to the various tiers of government. That is frightening and I must say that I commend the courage of the governor for alerting public to the impending economic doom that this nation is about to witness. Rather than applaud him and bringing together experts to help put together a policy that can avert this looming danger, the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, came out and was making statements like a politician. I want to use this opportunity to call on the Governor of the Central Bank to leave politics for politicians and save his energy for the enormous task of regulating our economy in such a manner that can avert the looming economic disaster that is about to happen.
In fact, the revelation by Governor Obaseki brings to mind the sad past of Uganda under Idi Amin . And I don’t think Nigeria at this stage should slide towards the direction of uncontrolled economic policies as witnessed under Idi Amin in Uganda. Of course, we all know what happened to the Uganda economy as a result of Amin’s faulty policies.
So I hope this APC government will not copy the Idi Amin model in the management of Nigeria’s economy.
Now that you mentioned Governor Obaseki, we heard that some PDP leaders in the state who worked for Obaseki’s victory as governor last year are not happy because the governor has not constituted his cabinet and so they don’t have nominees as commissioners five months after he was sworn in for a second term. How would you react to this?
You need to go back and find out who those PDP leaders are. You can then ask them this question. I am totally not aware of what you have just said. You better identify those PDP leaders who contributed to the governor’s emergence and are not happy. Me, Dan Orbih, I am not one of those leaders you are talking about. They are in a better position to answer you.