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Former Delta State House of Assembly Speaker Hon. Victor Ochei is a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship aspirant. He spoke with reporters in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on his ambition, zoning and preparations for primaries.  Assistant Editor GBADE OGUNWALE was there:

What is your position on the zoning of the governorship to Ndokwa Aresa, Delta North District?

Delta North is one entity and you cannot excise a part of it and say they cannot run for governor. For whatever reason, why do you want to do that? Why would you say we are zoning to the North, but this part will not benefit from it? Are they from another part of the state? Are they third-class citizens in the senatorial zone where they come from? It doesn’t make sense and I can tell you that Governor Uduaghan will never say that.

Are you saying people are dropping his name?

I want to believe so because he hasn’t made that statement anywhere. I believe he is ruling a Delta that is united and he wouldn’t use his own hands, his own instrument of office, to divide it.

Why are you contesting for governor?

I am in the race because I want to offer service to the people of Delta State; service based on proven track record, service based on building a generation of Deltans that are yet unborn and planning for them. Service based on a pan-Delta approach where, at the end of the day, our diversities would turn out to become our strength. It would soon be obvious that no one really cares where you come from, but how much of work you have done and what you have been able to do for Delta. That’s my first consideration for wanting to run for the  governor.

I bring the leadership that will foster greater unity; leadership that would bridge a generation of the old and the young. I bring the leadership that would bring us in tune with the realities of tomorrow; I bring the leadership that will make all Deltans proud to say, I am part and parcel of the success story of Delta. I also describe myself as wanting to build on the foundations of the fore-bearers of Delta State.

Would you say your experience as the Speaker has prepared you for this role?

Well, it is part of it because the legislature is a strategic arm of government and I have been privileged to have headed the legislative arm as the Speaker, which gave me the opportunity to become both the administrative and political head at the same time. Well, it is at the risk of sounding immodest; a lot of people said I have performed well. Having done well, I have no doubt that in the executive arm, I will be excellent. I believe in putting my all in everything I do and bringing out the best of any situation that I meet. So, I believe that it has prepared me. I come with an offer to ensure that at the end of the day, the experience I have gathered through the legislative process makes the difference. If you go through the constitution, for instance, the legislature is the first arm of government; it is the laws that you make that you use to run the administration. I am seasoned in that area. Coming into the area where you come to implement the laws, there will be a synergy, which you cannot buy in terms of experience. Bringing that to mind, I believe it gives me an edge of competence and skill to perform maximally.

 What have you done to galvanize support from stakeholders from South and Central Senatorial zones?

Consultations are still on-going, because coincidentally, Delta State is on a tripod of the North, the South and the Central and no senatorial district can do it alone. That’s how God has made us. And for you to win, you definitely will reach out. For you to rule Delta, you must be someone that is acceptable across the board and that is where I come in. Having been Speaker of Delta State, it gives me the opportunity to see Delta State as my platform.

There is this insinuation that the governor has already anointed a candidate…

The PDP’s rotation and zoning principles favour Delta North because Delta Central has produced a governor. Delta South produced one, the incumbent governor. It is only fair and equitable that the North produces the next governor, which is an advantage, comparatively. Even though you have other persons who are from other senatorial districts who are in the race, you don’t have to push anybody out. But, basically, if the party takes a position that its candidate is going to come from the North, so be it. That the governor has a candidate makes it better. It makes the battle defined that you know, okay, the governor has a candidate. But, that doesn’t foreclose that other candidates cannot run. It makes it easier for me, because I now know who I will be contesting with. It is a contest, it isn’t a selection process.

You were close to the governor. Are you disturbed by the turn of events?

Not at all; it is a contest. I wasn’t going to run for the office of governor of Delta State because I was close to the governor. That wouldn’t be what Deltans want to vote for. Deltans want to vote for somebody who can deliver the dividends of democracy to them; somebody who can take them to the very next level and beyond.  That’s what they are looking forward to.  So, I am close to the governor, no doubt and we are still very close. The fact that he has an anointed candidate like you said, not because he has told me. I am not aware because he hasn’t come out to say, he has a candidate. If he has, he has a right as a Deltan to have someone to support and it doesn’t have to be me. But, that doesn’t take away the fact that we are close and we are still friends and we respect our relationship. I will respect his choice, the same way he will respect mine. That doesn’t make us fall apart and it doesn’t mean that because the governor has a candidate, others will not be in the race. He will support his anointed and I will also have other Deltans who will support me and we do it that way.

The Asagba of Asaba set up a committee to set criteria for the selection of a candidate from the North

I was there and the process was quite laudable. The committee was made up of credible sons and daughters of Delta North and headed by the Asagba. I subscribed to it because I submitted my documents to them and I eventually had a chat with them. The process might not be entirely fool proof, just like any other process put in place by humans. But, they did a good job, taking their time to sit down and interact with us without rancour. Everybody has the right to say they want to be governor. But, at the end of the day, only one person will become governor. That does not suggest that the process was exhaustive. But, I least we made an inroad; they were able to reduce the number through the process. But, that does not suggest that it is final because you cannot force it down anybody’s throat.

The PDP National Vice Chairman, (South South) is from Delta North. Is that not a minus for the aspiration of people from the zone?

It’s a plus and not a minus. The former National Vice chairman was from Delta Central before he got appointed as a minister and another one has been appointed from the North. It is good because it swells the number of appointees from the zone. He is working for the whole South-south region. So, we are lucky to have produced him.

What are the challenges you have envisaged before joining the race?

Of course, it is not going to be easy. As a matter of fact, I have never run any easy election in my whole political life. I have won three elections and they were not easy. However, one significant denominator is that at the end of the day God always shows up for me and I will stand out.

What is your selling point, which  may give you a competitive edge?

My unique selling point is that I have a pan-Delta approach and acceptance across board. I have been a Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly and that has given me the experience to have served the state across board. I have handled issues involving people from different parts of the state; from the north, south and central because Delta State is a mini Nigeria. I understand the complexities of Delta State. When these complexities are well managed, they become a source of massive strength to be used for the development of the people. It takes vision to turn these complexities into strength for the development of the state. Age also gives me a competitive edge. I am like a role model to many of our youths who have nothing doing. I always say that it takes young people to take the kind of development risk that is required to succeed. At a certain age, one becomes careful in taking certain risks. I believe I am a bridge between the young and the old. I relate with the young as one of them; just as I relate with the old and understand their temperaments. Put together, it is a comparative advantage for me.

Why were you not at the meeting of aspirants convened by Chief Edwin Clark?

Chief Edwin Clark is a father to all of us, not only in Delta State, but the entire country. So, we all go to him from all parts of the globe because we seek his fatherly blessing. I have consulted with him privately and I will also go to him to pay homage. My visit to him will not be a consultation. I can see him in his county home in Kaigbodo or in his house in Abuja. I enjoy a cordial relationship with him. I am going to get his blessing as a father. The fact that I was not there when others went there does not mean that I don’t enjoy a cordial relationship with him. My relationship with him has always been cordial.

 

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