AN OPEN LETTER TO DR. CAIRO OJOUGBOH
THE STATE OF THE PEOPLES DEMOCRATIC PARTY (PDP) IN IKA SOUTH LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA
It has taken me since January this year to think whether or not to communicate with you in an open letter. The reason it has taken me this long is because I have had to weigh the public perception on my action especially reading ulterior motive to it. On the other hand, I have given a serious thought to my perpetually keeping quiet and not only letting the fortunes of the PDP in the L.G.A. to continue to dwindle but also, and more importantly, watching the helpless people of Ika South going without the dividends of democracy, year after year. During this period, I made several attempts (directly and indirectly), by phone and face to face, to try and discuss the issues on ground with you but to no avail. The reason you gave me was that you rarely spend time at home (Agbor) because of your travelling from place to place, representing Chief E. K. Clark, Chief Tony Anenih and President Jonathan at functions.
The last time that this issue came up was in February this year when you briefly called at my house with Hon Isaac Ulebor. On that day, I proposed that we should set up an Elders Advisory Council to be made up of respected senior party leaders from all the wards. This council was to deliberate on issues on ground and advise the party leadership since you are not very much around. You actually gave your approval to this proposal and asked Hon. Ulebor to meet me immediately for us to finalise the list of the membership of the council. Hon. Isaac Ulebor did not come to me despite repeated reminders. Suspecting that you would be at home the weekend that late Hon. H.C. Iwerebor was buried, I called you to request for a meeting with you. As usual, you said that you would not have the time for any meeting and so, I seized that opportunity to inform you that up to that date, in March, Hon Ulebor had not come to me. Again, as usual, you expressed your anger and disappointment on Hon. Ulebor. I knew that would be the end of the matter because up till now, Hon Ulebor has still not come to me and you have not checked from me if he has.
THE NEED FOR THIS OPEN LETTER
Since 1st January this year, not only that I have been telling you and Hon. Isaac Ulebor that all is not well with Ika South PDP, I have also cried out to Chief (Barr.) Peter Nwaoboshi, (State Chairman of PDP) and some Leaders and stakeholders of Ika South PDP who promised to make you sit down and discuss with other leaders and stakeholders of Ika South PDP. Yet, nothing seems to be happening.
Time and tide, as they say, waits for no one and we are now approaching the local government elections and the 2015 general elections. On the surface, nothing is happening because of the usual political exclusiveness practiced in Ika South while we keep hearing that you have already anointed aspirants of your choice on behalf of Ika South, at all levels from Governorship, Senatorial, Federal House of Representatives, State House of Assembly, Chairman of the Council and even Councillorship. It is now an open secret that you have assured your candidates, of their success at the congresses because the Ika South PDP structure belongs to you and Hon. Ulebor alone and you are already secretly presenting them (your candidates) to the power that be, at Asaba. I have therefore decided to make these observations public because if I present them privately like I have done in the past, you will treat them with levity and wave them off while you continue with your surprises.
This time around, I want to tell you that no amount of scheming or threat will deter leaders and stakeholders from taking back the power that belongs to them.
LOOKING BACK AT IKA SOUTH POLITICAL JOURNEY
My dear brother, Let us look back at Ika South political journey so far under your leadership.
1. Your taking over the leadership of Ika South politics gave you the leverage to represent Ika Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives. Ika Southerners were happy with that achievement because we had hoped that, that position would provide the spring board for you and other Ika southerners into political relevance not only in Delta State but in Nigeria at large. Unfortunately, this has not been the case. At this point therefore, I will like you to please try and make a list of the people and sections of Ika South that benefited from your tenure. You may have done well for yourself but looking back, don’t you think that you could have done better if you had played your card well?
2. You prevented Hon. Martins Okonta from providing the dividends of democracy for the people of Ika South for the past nearly twelve years because you single-handedly imposed him on the people in a deal that made him to direct the funds meant for constituency projects to you. In responding to accusations of non-performance, Hon. Okonta has publicly stated that for nearly eight years he was diverting all the money meant for the development of Ika South to you. Since Hon. Okonta fought for and got his freedom from you, he has refused to be answerable to the people because they did not play any part in nominating him. It is therefore not surprising that Martins Okonta has never opened a constituency office, neither has he ever organised or attended a town-hall meeting with his "constituents" to present his scorecard. Since he got his freedom from you, he has been empowering himself and himself alone. THE LOSERS ARE THE ENTIRE PEOPLE OF IKA SOUTH.
3. You made Hon. Sunny Ogwu your conduit pipe as chairman of the council. Hon. Sunny Ogwu’s loyalty as council chairman only went to you because you single-handedly made him chairman. During his tenure, as long as he met your demands, any left over belonged to him and for settlement in the Nigerian way.
I am sure you have not forgotten how your relationship with Sunny Ogwu ended when he also bitterly fought for his independence. WHO WERE THE LOSERS? OF COURSE, THE PEOPLE OF IKA SOUTH ARE THE LOSERS.
4. Before Hilary Ibude (Fada Ibude) became the council chairman, there was a serious attempt by the political leaders to have a consensus candidate. At the last minute, Hilary Ibude came from only God-knows-where and became the chairman. You will not say that you had no hand in that saga of snatching the people’s power to decide who represented them. The disaster of Hon. Hilary Ibude’s tenure will still be fresh in your memory as it was characterised with petitions and petitions by some councillors that resulted in his suspension by the state House of Assembly, his re-call by the same Body and servicing of the EFCC. Did the money used for these games not belong to Ika South? Could it not have been used to develop the area? THE LOSERS ARE THE ENTIRE PEOPLE OF IKA SOUTH.
5. Your latest disastrous exploit is bringing Engr. Andrew Obiazi through the back-door as Ika South Transition Committee Chairman. Like your other political fronts, Andrew Obiazi came in with the mindset of first and foremost, building himself up in all ramifications and then attending to your demands on him. This he succeeded very well in doing. He took off as a dictatorial Sole Administrator – taking all the decisions with the connivance of his tiny kitchen cabinet among the transition committee members, whom he has been taking care of, to their satisfaction. He merely announces his decisions to the transition committee members who only grumble or kick against Obiazi’s style of leadership and the matter dies there.
Andrew Obiazi’s handling of the SURE-P fund and the over N20m spent on the 2013 Christmas gifts without consultation, clearly showed that Andrew Obiazi does not recognise any other political leader in Ika South outside you. Again, like his predecessors, his greed earned him a threatened suspension by the State House of Assembly and of course a pardon, after a lot of water had passed under the bridge. Obiazi is soldiering on in his second year as Transition Committee Chairman with nothing to show for it, either in the maintenance of the markets, pot-hole repairs, broken curvet replacement, grading of rural roads, etc. However, Andrew Obiazi has done very well for himself, having achieved what he could not and could never have achieved in his life but for your handing over our commonwealth to him. He is now very comfortable and I am sure he will remain comfortable even when he leaves office if he manages his loot well. OBIAZI’S GAIN IS THE COLLECTIVE LOSS OF THE PEOPLE OF IKA SOUTH. If you have been applying one solution to solve a problem over and over without getting the desired result, it is natural that you should find an alternative way. In your own case, it is not so because I am sure that what Ika South has been losing/missing is your personal desired result and that is, self satisfaction.
6. Your political leadership style has brought no advancement to any person in the L.G.A. or to the Local Government Area. After so many years of your being the political leader of Ika South:-
(i) You are the only Ika Southerner holding a part-time chairmanship of a Federal Board. No other person is holding a meaningful state or federal political position. Compare this situation with what obtains in Ika North-east.
(ii) The numerous political leaders in Ika North-east use their positions to advance themselves, advance one another and promote identified credible upcoming stakeholders. In Ika South, rather than promote anybody outside yourself, you suppress and block the chances of people who would have been able to make it to any level if given the chance and necessary support.
(iii) Today, Ika North-east can boast of at least ten politicians who can aspire to be governor or minister as against none in Ika South. This is because Ika North-easterners hold the ladder to assist others to climb up but in Ika South, we knock down and destroy such ladders for fear of competition. WE INTEND TO FORGET THAT A TREE DOES NOT MAKE A FOREST.
(iv) Today, at least three Ika North-east politicians are aspiring to be governor of Delta State with many others scheming for other plume state or federal positions. In Ika South, the political leaders are struggling to identify with one "foreign" aspirant or the other in order to remain politically relevant while you are using the Ika South political structure to negotiate your personal future benefits with gubernatorial, senatorial and House of Representatives aspirants. Ika South politicians have been confined to paying homage to you for you to use our collective structure to nominate them for House of Representatives, State House of Assembly, Council Chairmanship and Councillorship positions. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why is it that no Ika South politician is aspiring to be governor, senator, minister ambassador, federal board chairman/member, state board chairman, etc? THIS IS BECAUSE YOUR LEADERSHIP STYLE OVER THE YEARS HAS IMPOVERISED EVERYBODY UNDER THE DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE INSTEAD OF UPLIFTING THEM.
(v) When you aspired to be governor, most well-to-do Ika South indigenes, particularly Agbor elites, gave you maximum financial and moral support. Since then, neither you nor any other person has been able to aspire. Even if you want to aspire now, I bet you, you will not get 10% of the kind of support you got before. Even if we can fish out a most credible, most qualified Ika South indigene, he or she will not come out for the fear that you will not only destroy his credibility but that you will scare away people from giving him or her the required financial and moral support.
(Vi) Your leadership has engraved disunity and disrespect in Ika South Local Government Area. There is no political or community forum where the people can freely engage in discussing issues of political representation or attracting development projects. The situation has degenerated to the point that neither you nor your political Boys (Fronts), Engr. Andrew Obiazi and Hon. Isaac Ulebor deem it necessary to identify with notable indigenes who have devoted their time and resources in building the area, at their joyful or mournful occasions. However, you have enough time to represent Chief E.K. Clark, Chief Tony Anenih and President Jonathan in such occasions all over the country except in Ika South. Ika Southerners have become your conquered group who do not deserve any respect or recognition from the three of you.
SEARCH FOR UNITY IN IKA SOUTH PDP.
The search for unity in the party started after the 2011 general elections with the setting up of the Reconciliation Committee of which I was the chairman. The committee’s terms of reference were:-
(i) To meet all the factional leaders and their followers, convince them to return to one united PDP after their grievances will have been looked into and to make recommendations for the attainment of unity.
(ii) To create the atmosphere for proper harmonisation and reconciliation of the L.G.A. and Ward executive committees.
The initial problem of the Reconciliation Committee was that most of the factional leaders were not willing to participate in the reconciliation exercise because the committee had been set up by you (the cause of the division). However, they were persuaded to co-operate with the committee because it was chaired by me, believing therefore that the committee would be objective.
– The committee started by identifying all prominent L.G.A. and Ward leaders to be visited, including your good-self and you were to be visited last.
– The committee visited the identified leaders and their followers including Col. G. Eboma (rtd), Hon. Doris Uboh Ogunkoya, Rt. Hon. Martins Okonta, Prof. J. Alika, Queen Victoria Ikenchukwu, Hon. Chuks Emuebie, Mr. Jude Onya and most of the Ward leaders.
– The committee mandated Hon. Isaac Ulebor (Committee secretary and L.G.A. party Chairman) to obtain a suitable date to meet with you before retiring to write our report which would contain the committee’s recommendations.
– Hon. Isaac Ulebor did not arrange the meeting with you but you went ahead to carry out a one-sided harmonisation exercise of the Ward executives which you used your position to obtain its approval at the state level.
– Since then, I have been on the firing line of the aggrieved leaders; some saying that I had betrayed them and others saying that you had conned me to deceive them. I have taken all the bullets in my own stride and I have been pleading for calm, knowing that all I did was done in good faith.
– Up to as recent as when you came to my house in February this year, I still stressed that there was need to complete the abandoned reconciliation and harmonisation exercise.
– You repeated your usual excuse of having no time because of the many masters you were serving.
WHAT THIS MEANS TO IKA SOUTH.
This stalemate means that:-
(i) Ika South PDP lost the opportunity for the leaders to negotiate their positions in relation to their wards and collectively in the L.G.A. and therefore lost the opportunity to unite.
(ii) You and Hon Isaac Ulebor carried on as usual making decisions without consulting ward leaders. An example of this is when both of you and Hon. Doris Uboh Ogunkoya nominated the Chairman, Secretary and all the ward representatives on the Transition Committee without the knowledge of ward leaders.
(iii) This impunity gave room for the imposition of unsuitable transition committee members on ward leaders and in three cases, appointing transition committee members from neighbouring wards to represent the wards that they do not belong to.
(iv) This action of yours led to protests to the state government and as a result of which three of them were not sworn in. One case was later resolved and up till date you, Hon. Ulebor and Hon. Doris Uboh Ogunkoya refused to allow the will of the people to prevail in Ekuku-Agbor and Abavo areas.
(v) After nearly 18 months of the life of the transition committee, Ika South is the only L.G.A. that has two wards, one of which is Ward 7 (Alidinma/Obi-Agbor), not represented on the Committee.
(vi) Following your footstep, Engr. Andrew Obiazi does not recognise ward and community leaders in Ika South. Many leaders will confirm that he does not have the courtesy of answering or returning their calls. In the same way, almost all your transition committee members have assumed the leadership position of their wards, looking down on everybody.
IMPLICATIONS OF THE STATUS-QUO
If the PDP leadership in the state and Ika South carry on like this and pretending that all is well, Ika South PDP will be heading for ugly surprises in any future election which will be worse than the 2011 general elections. I personally will not like to suffer the humiliation of another poor showing.
– If genuine negotiations and reconciliation/harmonisation are not carried out now, there will be no unity before the next elections.
– If there is no unity you will take the advantage of that situation to impose unpopular and unacceptable candidates on us again.
– If there is no consensus on the choice of candidates or transparent nomination congresses, aggrieved leaders will engage in protest voting as they did in 2011.
– If history is allowed to repeat itself again and aggrieved leaders/stakeholders unite under ZAP Party (not even APC) which I am sure they will unite, PDP will not be pleased with the result of any future election in Ika South.
The party structure which you are manipulating will only help you at the nomination congress but not in the election. The surprise will be more obvious when the Nigerian Constitution provides for independent candidacy.
– This is the position on ground and something must be done quickly by lovers of PDP to avoid any impending humiliation.
WHAT WE INTEND TO FORGET.
What we intend to forget, in Ika South, is that politics in Nigeria is fast changing from violent grabbing of power to politics of consensus, from politics of rigging to politics of one man/woman, one vote, from politics of winner takes all to politics of power sharing/live & lets live and from politics of dictatorship to politics of negotiation. This is why His Excellency, Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, the executive governor of Delta State, in a leaders/stakeholders meeting at Asaba before Christmas, gave us as a recipe for peace and unity, the following:-
(i) Respect ward boundaries and recognise ward leaders in their respective wards.
(ii) Negotiate positions with leaders in their wards and with leaders in the other wards to reach consensus agreements on issues for the general good of the constituents.
(iii) Honour negotiated agreements to achieve/maintain permanent peace and unity.
The governor went further to give an example with himself in his ward and local government. He said that despite being the governor of the State and leader of PDP in Delta State, he recognised some people as his ward and L.G.A. leaders and that he negotiated what he wanted with them rather than imposing it on them because he is the governor.
We can learn a lesson from the governor’s recipe. We can also learn a lesson from our neighbouring local government (Ika North-east L.G.A.). Before the 2011 general elections, the disunity in Ika North-east PDP was deeper than in Ika South because of the large number of political heavy weights in the L.G.A. However, they were more sensible and luckier than Ika South because they all committed themselves to a round table negotiation meeting where they agreed to recognise ward leaders in their wards. They also agreed not to interfere with the leadership of other ward leaders or undermine ward leaders by sidelining them and dealing directly with their followers. They used this agreement to organise the 2011 ward, L.G.A. and state congresses and that was why they did very well at the 2011 general elections. They also used it to set up the Ika North-east Transition Committee and that was why it was hitch-free.
We should learn from Ika North-east instead of accusing them of sponsoring opposition in Ika South. They did not stop us from reaching an honest agreement that would have united us. The law of nature does not permit vacuum and since there is no effective and acceptable leadership in Ika South, anybody who has the clout can claim to be leader and so it is up to outsiders to deal with whom they believe to be leader or a leader in Ika South.
MOMENT OF TRUTH:
Nwene onye agwaa nezee neshi, meaning that it is only one’s relation that can tell him or her that he or she has mouth odour.
My brother, let me tell you the honest truth as the way forward to solve Ika South Political problems. In doing so, I want to assure you that I have no interest in occupying the driving seat of Ika South politics at this age. I am satisfied remaining at the back seat as political grandee, watching the younger ones at the driving seat and making sure that they are not making fatal mistakes.
As we are now entering into an election year, if Ika South PDP does not unite immediately:-
(a) Ika South will end up with another disastrous council chairman on the platform of PDP in the next few months unless the aggrieved leaders are able to unite and produce a quality chairman through another party platform in the absence of unity in the PDP.
(b) The constituents will not be able to use their collective votes to negotiate social contracts with aspirants/candidates from presidential to councillorship positions and we definitely need commitments from whomsoever we are going to give our votes. Henceforth, our votes will not go for pea-nuts but for the development of Ika South.
THE WAY FORWARD
In my candid opinion, you have one of the following three choices to make after a thorough digestion of this letter:-
1. If you are truly convinced that:
– Ika South has lost out completely since the beginning of the present democratic dispensation fifteen years ago,
– Your chosen representatives have woefully failed the people,
– Your leadership style has shut out quality prospective politicians,
– You have unjustifiably seized the people’s power for such a long time,
– You are now ready to open up the political space and give political power back to the owners (residents of Ika South), then let us arrange an enlarged town-hall meeting where you will apologize to the people for failing them and then set up the machinery for a collective political leadership of Ika South.
2. If however you think that:-
– You CANNOT share political power with other leaders/stakeholders,
– You want to concentrate on your personal pursuits in Abuja,
– You cannot do better for the people as leader because you have done your best,
– You want to honourably leave the stage (vacate the driving seat) when the ovation is loudest, then let us arrange an enlarged town-hall meeting where people will extol you for the successes achieved and you apologise for your shortcomings.
3. On the other hand, if neither of the above options is acceptable to you, then tell the people, loud and clear that it is business as usual.
If I were you, I will take the second option (STEP ASIDE) if you really love Ika South and yourself. The reasons for this are:-
(i) You are not a good team player.
(ii) You are not democratic in nature.
(iii) Your tiny selfish followers will not allow you to blend with other leaders and this will lead to another round of factionalization.
The truth is bitter but it must be said and it can only be said by a person who loves you. I know that your first reaction is to be angry with me but if you read this letter over and over again, you will realise the favour I have done you. Your fans who have been picking crumbs from you all these years will never find any fault in you and they will urge you to fight me. You cannot fight me because I am not speaking for myself but for the people. Fighting me therefore means fighting the people to whom power belongs.
My dear brother, if you do not believe that Ika South is now a shadow of itself, having lost its past political and developmental glory, then you are not being sincere to yourself.
– Can you count five Ika South politicians of relevance any where in Nigeria today?
– Can you count five Ika Southerners who have been empowered through your political machinery in state and federal corporate bodies?
– Can you count three state and federal projects sited in Ika South as dividends of democracy under your leadership?
These are simple questions for local government areas that were created only a few years ago. What are we then in politics for? Is it for our individual pockets only? Ika South that produced famous politicians like Eboigbodi, Isedeh, Mariere, Sylvester Akpenyi, John Akpenyi, Vincent West Egbarin and others when most of today’s local government areas were sleeping/not created, has unfortunately gone under. Is it not a shame that the first has become the last in your time?
Today, I cannot name one single Ika South politician who has been groomed to take the mantle of leadership in case of any eventuality because credible people who should have been groomed have been intimidated out of contention. Do you think that one person can live and remain relevant for ever?
Let us be humble enough and admit that we have made mistakes and let us start all over again by:-
(i) Willingly effecting a change of leadership, a change which is bound to happen whether we like it or not.
(ii) Opening up the political space so that credible, able and willing young men and women can volunteer to serve their people
(iii) Striving to enhance the commonwealth of the people rather than accumulating unnecessary wealth for our children who will squander such wealth as soon as we are buried.
(iv) Allowing the people to choose who represents them and who will be answerable to the people as against choosing the people’s representatives in our living rooms because the loyalty of such representatives will go to individuals instead of the people they represent.
Finally, let me apologise once again for making this letter public. I think this is how God wants to help us solve our problem because all my past efforts to appeal to your conscience have met with a brick wall. I very much hope that in no distant time you will appreciate me better than you will appreciate your so-called friends who shied away from telling you the truth.
Chief (Elder) John Ehikwe
23 May 2014
(1) His Excellency, the Executive Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan
(2) The PDP State Chairman, Chief (Barr.) Peter Nwaoboshi
(3) Senator representing Delta North, Sen. Ifeanyi Okowa
(4) Rep. of Ika Fed. Constituency, Hon. Victor Nwokolo
(5) The PDP Delta North Chairman, Chief Obodo-Uku Anigala .
PLUS: Key Political Leaders in Ika South –
Above for your information and urgent necessary action, please.