Elections would not have been free, fair if it was conducted February 14 and 28-Chief Emami

*Says performing Ogidigben EPZ (Delta Gas City) Ground Breaking early March will enhance Jonathan’s re-election campaign


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Elections would not have been free, fair if it was conducted February 14 and 28-Chief Emami
Chief Ayirimi Emami

Chief Ayirimi Emami, Ajuwaoyiboyanmi A.K.A. Akulagba of Warri Kingdom does not need much introduction. In this interview he granted in Warri, Delta State, the PDP Chieftain, Itsekiri rights’ activist, hotelier, oil magnet and business tycoon, spoke on political developments in the country, particularly as it affects the forthcoming Presidential election, the Delta South Senatorial seat and the much awaited performance of the Ground Breaking Ceremony of Ogidigben EPZ cum Delta Gas City.

Excerpt:

Barely a week to the February general elections, INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega told the Press after a long wait that the polls have been shifted for six weeks over alleged insecurity in the North East after earlier assurances, what are your thoughts on that?

I’m not surprised that the elections was postponed, I was only surprise to hear that the reason for the postponement was insecurity in the North-Eastern parts of the country. INEC was not ready for the polls, in terms of preparation. They used to train adhoc staff for elections, particularly in our riverine areas, but there was nothing on ground to suggest anything of such. The PVCs have not been collected by majority of Nigerians and that might be an excuse for some persons to say they were disenfranchised if the polls had held February 14 and 28.

Going by your postulation and that of the APC that rather than blame the postponement on lack of preparation, INEC said the elections were postponed based on insecurity in 14 local government areas in the North-East, don’t you think there is more to the six-week postponement of the polls?

Jega played into the hands of the opposition, which I would want to get into. Maybe Jega was ready on air, but not on ground. There was no way the elections would have been free and fair if it held on February 14 and 28, because INEC was not ready and the excuse of insecurity in 14 local government areas in the North-East is not enough as far as I’m concerned.

The APC has joined in a suit filed by the PDP against INEC, praying that temporary voter card, TVC be used for the up-coming polls. The APC views PDP move as panic measure to rig the polls should INEC accede to the request for TVC to be used for conduct of the March 28 and April 11 polls, what is your take on that?

I don’t believe that PDP will lose the election, I speak from the experience of my local government, Warri South-West local government in Delta State. We are set and good to go as PDP, there are some places that my party appears not to be ready. Though I must also mention here that I’m first an Itsekiri man before being a member of PDP. The politics they play these days is ethnic and regional. My first constituency is Itsekiri, second Delta and thirdly PDP, because if I am not an Itsekiri man, I would not have been a Nigerian.

How would you react to insinuations that the ruling PDP wants INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega out of office before the conduct of the polls?

Maybe it is the opposition that wants Jega out, the PDP is not bothered whether Jega remains in the saddle or not, I believe the elections will be credible as it was in 2011 and the PDP will emerge victorious.

There is the general believe that General Muhammadu Buhari of the APC is more popular than President Goodluck Jonathan, how confident are you that your party’s Presidential candidate will win the March 28 polls?

One of the problems we have in the PDP is that we help to glorify the opposition Presidential candidate. We should focus more on our campaigns as PDP and forget whatever the opposition is doing, because I’m of the opinion that no political party has the spread and network of the PDP in the country. Some of us condemned militancy in the past, that it cannot be used to attain power, but I must stress once again that sentiment is very germane in our politics of today, hence I’m very optimistic President Goodluck Jonathan will win the election. Events in the North have political under-tone and that has strengthened my support for President Jonathan’s re-election, apart from being a PDP stalwart.

Let’s come down home, you have often mentioned that you are first an Itsekiri before being a PDP man and your party has gone ahead to pick Senator James Manager to run for Delta South senatorial constituency seat for the fourth time against the single tenure rotational agreement between the Ijaw, Itsekiri and Isoko of Delta South, what is your position on this development?

I will not support my party’s candidate as far as the Delta South Senatorial seat is concerned. It does not matter whatever interpretation that will be given to it. The Itsekiri has two candidates from other political parties contesting the position and I will want to advise the Itsekiris, Isokos and Ijaws who really believe in truth, fairness and justice to support Itsekiri candidacy based on the single tenure rotational principle.

Won’t this your position be viewed as anti party (i.e. against PDP position)?

I don’t know what you mean by anti party, because without Itsekiri I won’t be in PDP and my party is founded on the principle of rotation, equity and fairness.

There was an incidence that happened in Burutu, where an Itsekiri man eyeing the Delta South Senatorial seat, alongside his supporters were held hostage, what is your take on that?

The issue is that I’m angry as an Itsekiri man, for the second time, an Itsekiri man has been held hostage in an Ijaw community for carrying out his constitutional right, even though I have my reservation that his name (the aspirant) was not published by INEC as his party’s flag bearer. I condemn the action of those that took him hostage, because James Manager has been campaigning in Itsekiri communities with the help of some of my kinsmen, yet nobody has harassed him. I must state that nobody or group has the monopoly or right of violence. Nobody has the right to step on toes of any Itsekiri, no matter the political party he or she belongs.

With incidences like what happened in Burutu and a few other parts of the country, coupled with threats of war by some ex-militants and the leadership of APC in the build-up to the forthcoming elections, don’t you think we are likely to experience violence during and after the elections?

My answer is that the Niger Delta is not made up of one ethnic group. There are other tribes in Niger Delta like Urhobo, Ikweres, Calabar, Binis, Itsekiris, Esan and Isoko etc. If we must protest, it must be a collective effort and no individual or ethnic group has the right to speak on behalf of other ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta.

Despite your disposition towards the Presidency, there are speculations that you are not supporting President Jonathan’s re-election bid and gubernatorial ambition of Delta State PDP Governorship candidate, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, what are your thoughts on this?

My answer to that is simple, I have never discussed that with anybody before. I act on directives and such directives come from the State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan. The governor has directed me to canvass support for President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election, the governorship ambition of Senator Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa as well as the fourth term bid of Delta South PDP Senatorial candidate, James Manager. I have decided to give my support to the re-election of President Goodluck Jonathan and the gubernatorial ambition of Dr. Ifeanyo Okowa.

Distinguished Senator Okowa, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan and my political father, Chief James Onanefe Ibori have been in the same political family which I belong and have faithfully served over the years right from inception till date. The fundamental issue I have with Senator James Manager is his attitude. He has been short changing the Itsekiri and Isoko of Delta South Senatorial district with his resolve to cling unto the Senatorial seat agreed in principle to be rotated for a single tenure each among Itsekiri, Ijaw and Isoko. That is why I will not give him my support or campaign for his re-election.

What is your advice to Nigerians as the elections inch closer?

I want free, fair as well as non-violent elections, the primaries are over and it should be the collective effort of every Nigerian to ensure that the elections are conducted in a free, fair credible and peaceful atmosphere.

I want to use this medium to beg Mr. President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to come and perform the Ground Breaking Ceremony of the EPZ early March as he promised the Olu of Warri in the presence of members of Warri Council of Chiefs, when he came to Warri on a private visit recently. The shifting of the poll has served as ample opportunity for the President to perform the EPZ Ground Breaking so that people like us can use it as a veritable tool to intensify our campaign for Mr. President’s re-election.


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