‘If I Don’t Run, Our People Will Boycott the 2019 Elections’

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PAUL ODILI

The All Progressives Congress candidate for the Ndokwa/Ukwuani Federal Constituency, Delta State, Mr. Paul Odili, a former Manager of Communications to former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan justifies his current political aspiration in this interaction with Ugo Aliogo

How has it been as a politician?

Politics is service to humanity. Since I accepted to serve Delta in 2007, it has been a deep learning curve. I joined government as a technocrat, burning with the zeal to be a positive influence on the thinking of colleagues and the people. My hunger was to influence policy and drive development—that fire is still therre. In doing that I learnt that it demands a give and take. You have to understand the act of negotiation, you have to know how to lobby. It is the life blood of getting things done. As a politician you have to present a perspective to the people and you have to persuade them to your side of thinking and from that build followership and support base. You may then want to be given the chance by offering yourself to the people to vote for you, to bring to reality what you have been telling them. You want your people to accept that you can selflessly advance and defend their interests. In my view your ability to serve selflessly is what makes you a good politician. I want to show that I am a good politician.

You were Communication Adviser to former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan for eight years. How did you use your position to impact on Deltans?

Governor Uduaghan was willing to listen and accept suggestions. When we came on board we knew Delta had a message and image problem. Militancy, kidnapping, pipeline vandalisation and we’re rife. The state needed to be put together. How you do that is to communicate sincerity, trust and inclusiveness.

That administration had a vision which needed to be implemented. Delta needed to be rebranded, especially if you needed investors and investments. The administration vision’s was first christened three-point agenda of peace and security, infrastructure and human capital development. There was clarity of purpose, but unless you sell it, Deltans might not work with you and ensure that what you are proposing has inherent benefits.

If Deltans were hesitant, outsiders won’t even touch you. For the message to get across, we simply had to engage with the people. We used every available tool of public communication to advance our agenda.

Townhall meetings, direct phone lines, short message service (SMS) that allowed Deltans to directly communicate with the governor and other top government functionaries and we made sure there was constant exchange of information. All these came before the advent of social media. We created and hosted local and international events, conferences and seminars. We knew that if you want many successful Delta entrepreneurs and business leaders to be part of the Delta story you have to craft the right message and you have to create an important platform for meeting of minds. We evolved our vision from three-point agenda to Delta Beyond Oil, which I crafted. As our message developed, many Deltans and other Nigerians began to take notice and they began to identify with the Delta story because we were telling it in a compelling way. You can recall that at regular intervals major national and international events were happening in Delta state. Some of these events were not funded by government but simply the initiative of those involved while some events happened with government as co-host at minimal cost and that is because our partners wanted to be part of the Delta story.

We were also engaging with the international community. We understood that climate change was a big issue, so we cleverly affiliated with international organisations, like R20, UNIDO and UNDP. Through these engagements, the Delta story was told internationally. We had twin city agreements with Pennsylvania, California and cities. You know I was the Climate Change/Green Economy Project Lead. I led Delta delegations in some of these talks and I anchored and drove these initiatives.

Had it been sustained, we would have seen physical manifestation of these initiatives in terms of investments, capacity building, skill transfer and employment generation. From experience, I know serious investments don’t just happen. There is a process which includes building a relationship and it takes time but we were very close before our tenure expired.

You are running for the Ndokwa/Ukwuani Federal Constituency on the platform of the APC. What informed your decision to run?

Poor representation by the person we had mistakenly sent to represent us. His scorecard has been abysmal to say the least. We would have been better off not sending anybody to Abuja. At least, we could say we did not send anyone. We deserve far better than what we have received. By running, I want to show that we can do better and that we can change the story and situation on the ground. If you tour Ndokwa/Ukwuani federal constituency you will weep. There is complete absence of federal government in the area. We are an oil and gas producing area, yet we cannot attract federal presence. And every day we hear tall tales by our representative. The reality is that our people have woken up. They are tired of deceit, of selfishness, of incompetence, of lies. The people want a change.

The truth is that if I were not running, and if no one bothered to come out, our people are so fed up they would have boycotted that election. We would have gone on record as boycotting a general election. This is no joke. I am serious. It is that bad. I am here to win and to show that it can actually be done. APC has a manifesto and I am going to make sure that our people benefit from it. We are going to bring federal presence in terms of infrastructure, economic and social programme. We are going to Abuja to tell our story and to give quality representation.