A few days back, Chief Great Ogboru was announced as the Delta APC governorship candidate allegedly beating other aspirants to it at the Delta APC primaries. One of the aspirants who edged out of the primaries was Professor Pat Utomi who complained bitterly how flawed the whole process was, from the aspirants not seeing the delegates list, to how all the complaints of aspirants were ignored, to how the process was skewed in favour of the man who was eventually announced the winner.
Right now Prof. Utomi is angry and he had petitioned the electoral tribunal set up by the party. So determined is he to get justice done that he has threatened to go to court if his complaints are treated with kid gloves.
Last week, Tuesday, Prof. Pat Utomi spoke to City People Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE about his ordeal in Delta State. Below are excerpts of the interview.
You just got back from Delta APC primaries, and since it took place one has been reading all sorts in the social media about what happened or didn’t happen there. Please share with us your experience?
It was a most interesting engagement with the nature of our political process. One thing that is clear is that you can easily summarise the process as a farce, the total process was farcical. And this is not one of those kinds of general statements or talk. It bothered me. It horrified me because it delegitimized the Nigerian political system. When there is a loss of legitimacy of this nature, it portends serious, serious trouble.
The issues are very simple. At the run-up to the primaries, saw the APC deciding with 2 different approaches. I don’t know why a party should go for Direct Primaries and Indirect Primaries at the same time, across the country. But for whatever convenient reasons, they chose to go for Direct Primaries here, Indirect Primaries there. That is the first institution of confusion.
Then, in Delta, when we started out, we were 7 aspirants, then, in the end, we were 4 after people paid the N22.5 million for the acquisition of the forms involved.
So the process essentially was that 6 out of the 7 aspirants at a time supported Direct Primaries. One was ambivalent. He first supported Indirect but later he said he was Direct. That was Great Ogboru.
But in the main, his major collaborator, Ovie Omoagege went for Indirect primaries. I supported Direct, like all the others, except Great. This is because direct is a truer test of your popularity. You go to the people and get people to vote for you. What has happened was that in one of those strange developments, which is still in the courts, the party handed the party structure to Great Ogboru.
First of all, there were these congresses that were parallel. One of the congresses produced Cyril Ogodo as Chairman. Another one produced Jones Irue as Chairman. The former Chairman of the party who was incumbent at the time swore in the structure headed by Cyril Ogodo.
A couple of days later, Adams Oshiomhole became the Chairman of APC. In the run-up to the elections or the congresses, those who were in the Cyril Ogodo faction had not shown support for Adams Oshiomhole’s candidacy, as Chairman. So, obviously, there was bad blood there. Shortly after Adams Oshiomhole became Chairman, we saw some legal fiction called Consent Judgement.
The earlier decision was rescinded and Adams swore Jones in. By some complete accident, I showed up to see him the day this was happening. Somehow, I was ushered in and the swearing-in took place in my presence.
He then said to Jones, look its just because there should be no vacuum, that’s why I am swearing you in as Chairman. It is not your executive, it’s just you, I am swearing in. We would now find a way of bringing everybody into this thing. In the weeks that followed, I was in at least 5 different meetings chaired by the Chairman of the party, at which we were to find ways of ensuring that we bring in some balance. Somehow, he had given it to Ogboru who now decided that he will give out 30% to the others.
All those who know about the activities of the APC in Delta know that Great Ogboru had not actively participated.
Ogboru has not seriously participated in the party. Since he joined the party from Labour, he stayed in one corner. The party had been dominated by the group that the Cyril Ogodor faction was leading. So, it was the group that was on ground in Delta and majority of the people in APC belong to that group. Ogboru now decided that okay, because you guys are troubling me, I will give you 30% of the structure. You see. How can you give people who are obviously 80% or more of the party on the ground, 30% of the structure.
At one of those meetings, Oshiomhole said okay, former Delta governor, Udughan, who has just joined the APC from PDP, make things happen. You go and harmonise this thing. Remove this person, put that person…So, we were looking at him. Till today, that has not been done. And then you wake up one morning and say you are going to use indirect primaries on the structure that one man controls. Even an idiot knows that you are trying to give the whole thing to the man. So the mindset is both inequitable, unfair, and bias abinitio. To then compound matters, you say, where most people prefer direct primaries, that you want indirect primaries. Okay. Sure. You are God. You have decided. But at least God uses rules.
And there are rules that go with indirect primaries, everywhere. Even the PDP adheres to those rules, which is that when you adopt indirect primaries you provide the delegates list to aspirants because in truth, whereas he had given the structure to Ogboru, but as we know in this business, structure is valuable for 2 weeks, because Ogboru does not know these people, Ogboru just collected names and so if he canvasses those people they can take them away from him. So, give the list to the people so that aspirants can go and canvass the people, even though its loaded against those people he didn’t give the structure. If the aspirants can canvass their positions to those people then they can get the chance of taking an active part in the process even though you have tied their one hand in their backs, they can try to at least swim.
One week to the event, I wrote a letter formally to the Chairman requesting the delegates list. 3 days before the elections I flew into Abuja to try and see Oshiomhole. Seeing him was a problem.
Kachikwu and I were trying to see him, no way. What is going on? Then, almost by accident, I ran into him, on Thursday before the elections. And I said to him what is going on Mr Chairman? He said what is the problem Prof? You mean Uduaghan has not done that thing? Okay, hen, hen, hen. I have lost touch with the situation there. I would do something about it.
So, I went back to Delta. The following day was a Friday. I went to meet with the Chairman of the party in the state. I said to him: Mr Chairman, where is the delegates list? Where are the guidelines for the primaries? Where is the primaries? He said it is with them in Abuja. I don’t know anything. I knew it was all a game. On Saturday morning, I formally write him that it is less than 24 hours to the primaries, I have no guidelines for how the primaries were going to take place, I have no delegates list.
Indeed, as at this morning, the venue was not certain. I had found out that night, or far into the morning, in speaking to Dr. Uduaghan, that the leadership of the party had decided to move the venue to Udi, somewhere near Warri (2 hours drive from the state capital) Uduaghan told me that when he heard it he spoke to the State Chairman, Jones Irue. And he told him he has been Chief Executive in this state for 8 years. If you announce that, not only will your secretariat go on fire, even you may be born.
He said, the man was shaken so much that he could hear his shaking on the phone that even his wife was saying to him, I have warned you. I have told you. They quickly begged Uduaghan to help them with an Asaba venue. Earlier, he had helped them find a venue before in Asaba, but they found an excuse to say the venue was not available. So, he called back the Provost of the place and he said the place is still available.
That is how they brought the venue of the primaries back to Asaba on the eve of the elections. So, I wrote the Chairman a letter that Saturday and I said by 1 O’clock you have to give me these things otherwise this process won’t make any sense.
The State Chairman, Jones Irue replies by talking about their things. On the day of the primaries, on Sunday, just before noon I got a phone call from him he says the panel is here and they want to meet stakeholders.
So, I go off to the venue. The other aspirants arrive, the Chairman of the group, Gen Lawrence Onoja gives the usual speech, everybody should be of good behaviour, let us conduct this thing well. Then, I asked him, Chairman, I have been asking for the delegates list. I am supposed to have had this in advance. But we have not had it. Do we have it now? Lets even see it. Let’s have it. He looks right. He looks left. And he said you see. They gave it to us last night at 7.30pm in Abuja. Okay. But where is it, we asked. He said you know we are a family.
Let us go to the field and get this thing over with. That came from a retired Major-General of the Nigerian Army. I felt so bad. It’s sad that we allow ourselves to come this low. Fortunately for me, I have a video recording of the entire thing.
So, I brought out a copy of a letter I had written in anticipation of what was going to happen and the letter formally calls for a postponement of the elections. Let us get the delegates list and go and do the needful and we can have it 48 hours later.
Chairman takes a deep breath and says, Prof., this is not America. I looked at myself in shock. Is this a movie? How can this kind of thing be happening in a serious political party in Nigeria? All the aspirants, Oche, Ojuwo, and the Minister echoed my point of view, let us postpone this. And in most states, it was postponed. The only person who said no was Ovie Omo Agege who was not supposed to be there because he is not a gubernatorial aspirant but obviously he was one of those behind the whole issue and Great Ogboru who even threatened anybody who misbehaves. He said you people should have seen the list. It’s laziness that is your problem. You should have known that this delegate list has been available since March.
At that point, I thought I should not dignify the process any further. I stood up and left and I gave a press briefing downstairs and headed back to my hotel. That is my story. It is very laughable. I don’t know where social media found me looking for the venue. (Laughs). That is why I am worried about social media, how the guys in the social media just reduce serious issues to trivialities. That is my real problem with the Nigerian Middle Class. Everything for them is just some joke. But do you realise our life is at stake?
We live in the most miserable place on earth. The evidence is there. Brooking Institution just published it, that we have the biggest concentration of the absolute poor in the world in Nigeria. Bill Gates Foundation just published it that in the next couple of years, 40% of the most miserable people on the planet will live in Nigeria and the Congo Democratic Republic. That is why I am worried that people who went to school in Nigeria think all these things are internet jokes, rather than think that they are about to live in a country that is on the road to Somalia. At least, History will indicate that I did my bit.