Chief Favour Izoukumor is the Coordinator of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s re-election committee in Warri Southwest local government area of Delta state and the Ijaw Commissioner on the board of DESOPADEC. He boasts to Sylvester Idowu that the Peoples Democratic Party candidate would easily defeat the All Progressives Congress candidate, Chief Great Ogboru.
The governorship election is barely three weeks away, do you think Governor Okowa has done enough to deserve re-election?
He certainly has performed beyond expectations, considering the situation he met on May 29, 2015. He has done a lot in terms of infrastructure, construction of roads that cuts across all 25 local government areas of Delta state. He has also done well in the aspect of human capital development, in the entrepreneurship and training of youths. He has worked magic in the agriculture sector, and this is helped by the fact his road constructions were not limited to urban areas, it was extended to the riverine communities and these have resulted in all round development of the state.
Before the election, the governor was accused of focusing only on his Ika area to the detriment of other parts of the state….
These are mere allegations that are unjustifiable. The developments cut across all three senatorial districts, and in all 25 local government areas of the state, you will see the developmental strides of the governor. This is a political period and a lot of propaganda will arise. They are doing it for all reasons but the truth. It is totally false.
Is it not true that the government left major roads in Warri, Effurun abandoned until the election season; isn’t this a political gimmick to score votes in these areas?
I don’t think there is a political gimmick in this issue. Resources is the strength of every government. You will recall that when this government came into power, it was faced with economic recession, in the whole of the federation, which partly affected the resources and the economy. You will remember that the Niger Delta states had to deal with the Forcados trunk line destruction, and this took about a year to be repaired. The daily production on that line was over 400,000 and for that period of almost a year, Delta state was receiving almost zero percent allocation on the 13percent oil revenue. For individuals, corporate or government, you must take a reasonable time to save, and I believe that he has been saving and that was why even during this period there was enough.
This terrain of parts of the state is riverine and you can only do most of the construction works in the dry season. It is unreasonable to say that because the governor was waiting for the best time to construct road it is political. And moreover, you will recall that late 2017 and 2018, the governor commissioned some completed projects in Warri, Delta south senatorial and some of the riverine areas.
DESOPADEC has been in existence for about 12 years now, what has it achieved?
The former boards tried their best, especially at the time when the current deputy governor was a commissioner; a lot of projects were witnessed at the oil producing areas. So, I will say that they did their best, and that is the essence of continuity in government. When Okowa took over, he consolidated on the achievements of the past government and he has made giant strides. Before now, the oil producing areas, especially the riverine communities, which is predominantly dominated by Ijaws and Itsekiris, didn’t get centralized projects from the past regimes. The Okowa government focused on centralized projects and he not just allocated, but awarded contracts in the oil producing communities and also those projects were completed and commissioned.
There were up to 47 or 49 projects awarded, and as we are talking more than 80% of those projects have been completed and 60 to 70% are commissioned. All these were achieved despite the economic challenges and militants’ destructions of oil facilities and attendant paucity of funds that the government inherited. So I believe that the governor has done very well in terms of capital development in the oil producing communities.
Another aspect that he has done well is among the ethnic nationality and security management to ensure safe and secured environment for business to thrive. He has been empowering youths from oil producing communities to reduce restiveness, pipeline vandalism and also to retrain them to see that they become watchmen to the facilities in order to reduce oil facilities destruction. There are stipends that even past government were paying, but this government did it in a way that it got across to the grassroots. As a commissioner representing the Ijaw people, I can tell you that Okowa has done a lot for the oil producing communities, including in road construction.
What are the achievements of DESOPADEC that you can bank on to campaign for his reelection?
In our (Ijaw) area, there is a concrete foot bridge of over 800m was constructed with extensions and access roads and has been completed at Egbema; in Gbaramatu, there is a multimillion naira housing project completed and delivered, and the sand-filling of Ijansa community of Warri South West council – it is a star project – constructed, completed and commissioned as well. There is a brand new slipway project that is so important and dear to the entire Ogbe-Ijoh kingdom. This project includes construction of access road, and it has been completed and awaiting commissioning by His Excellency, Governor Okowa.
Similar projects are either completed or near completion in other parts of the state, including Isoko, where an ultra-modern town hall was built and fully furnitured. In Itsekiri areas, roads are constructed and commissioned, along with dozens of other projects. Also in Oghara and the Urhobo axis, lot of road networks have been constructed. I also know that there is skill acquisition training for youths, and empowerments that goes with the trainings all in the aspect of entrepreneurial skill acquisition initiated by the present administration. There are so much more.
There was an allegation that the governor was withholding statutory funds from the commission…
This it is not true at all. I am aware that every month and even in some cases before the end of the month depending on when funds are released by FAAC, the commission is funded on monthly basis. I can’t remember any month for any reason that there was no allocation released.
How was it possible for us to achieve these mega projects in this short period of time, if funds are not released? All our star projects that were completed and commissioned are fully paid for. Even in ethnic nationalities’ project, people wonder how the contractor completed jobs within the stipulated time having considered the difficulty of our terrain. They were motivated by the 25percent mobilization fund that the governor approved for them.
Then something is wrong somewhere because I know for certain that contractors are murmuring about the huge debts they are owed.
I said that the star projects and centralized projects and those ones that take big chunk of money and have been paid for. I stand by it. The ethnic nationality contractors also told me that the present government has done very well in terms of mobilisation. It is the mobilisation that motivates them, and kudos needs to be given to them because they were hardworking and had a lot of integrity. Some of them have gone beyond the expected project stage because of that motivation and that is why you hear complaints about debt.
I know that there are some projects of the ethnic nationalities that have not been fully paid and the government is defraying the outstanding bills on monthly basis. And you have to understand too that the issue of payment is not only in Delta state but a universal thing; payment is made when there is fund.
Judging from the funds that come into this commission and what was achieved with it, the government has done very well. The reason why some of them are not fully paid is that when we came for over a year, we were paying debts that we inherited and that is the essence of continuity of government. So even though 100% fund have not being paid to the ethnic nationality, a reasonable amount have been paid and I am optimistic that before May 29, most of the balance of the ethnic nationality contracts will be paid.
What is your advice to Deltans as they go to the poll next month?
I want Deltans to reward Governor Okowa by voting massively to renew his mandate. They should also not be deceived by the opposition party, APC; they should not listen to them. Deltans should believe in the Okowa-led government and they should showcase all the praises they have been singing acknowledging all the good works of the governor at the polls on the 16th of February and the 2nd of March believing that they will re-elect our smartest governor to consolidate all the good works he has done within this short period despite all the challenges.
I believe that if we give him and all other PDP candidates the chance, Delta state will be among the most in Nigeria. I want to also thank them for believing in the government and standing by the Okowa led administration.
The APC is fielding a formidable candidate in Chief Great Ogboru, and is expected to give the ruling PDP a fight, do you think you stand a chance?
No one is undermining the popularity of Great Ogboru, the APC flagbearer, but you would agree with me that in a democracy victory is determined by the electorates, with whom the power lies. The people of Delta have spoken that the incumbent governor, Senator Okowa, has done very well and they will reelect him – it is very clear.
Besides, Delta state has a power sharing agreement, howbeit unwritten, and Delta Central, from where Great Ogboru hails has enjoyed power for eight years through Chief James Ibori. Delta South has also enjoyed it through Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan and it is only just and right for the Delta North to have their full term. This arrangement is on moral grounds and it is working positively for the sitting governor. Ogboru is from Delta central and all Deltans feel that since the other two senatorial districts have enjoyed this arrangement, it is germane for the Delta North to have the same feel, particularly with a man who has done very well. Let’s not forget that this arrangement has brought understanding between the three senatorial districts, and all these are working positively for PDP. It is not good to break a working arrangement just because some people are desperate for power.
Secondly, you can only win election with a political structure and PDP is very much on ground – from the state to the LGAs to the wards to every unit in the state. I wonder how the APC can fly without viable platform and base. They also have to deal with the fact that APC at the center has woefully failed Nigerians. Buhari is the face of the APC and with his glaring failures; even APC’s stalwarts are canvasing a need to “change the change”.
There are a lot of APC members working with us, we don’t want to expose them, because in politics you must have your ace, you joker. Our (PDP) presidential candidate and the Senate President came from APC, they realized that the party of strange bedfellows has failed Nigerians, and the only party that can make Nigeria work again is the PDP and they defected to make it work through the PDP.
You will agree with me that with all these analysis there is no way APC will not fail, not only in Delta state but in other parts of the Niger Delta.
PDP members are also leaving for APC, and in your state, your district, the past governor, Dr Uduaghan is now with APC and he is seen as a game changer…
Uduaghan, was a respected leader of the PDP, but unfortunately he has left and we cannot undermine his influence and all that, but as far as PDP is concerned, his departure means little to nothing. The weight of his departure was not felt because even his much-touted followers that would follow him to the APC did not materialize. This is because everyone agrees that the Okowa administration is performing very well. Uduaghan is a past governor and he is backing the opposition APC, that is sad and although it’s a challenge, we will not dwell on that.
Some people feel that the PDP in Delta state mostly used its influence at the centre to win past election and now they will face the federal might of the APC
We have always heard of federal might, but democracy is not about war and the Niger Delta is not fighting either. We expect the election to be conducted by INEC and APC-led government to be free and fair. It is not a war, so I don’t see why the federal government led by the APC will deploy their federal might to intimidate us.
If the federal government tries their ‘might’ they will fail because it is democracy and the people are in the position to make the decisions on who rules. I believe that by the position of the electorates in Delta state, the federal might will not come to play and even if it will, the people will resist it in a civil manner, they will vote against it.
We have a lot of strategies in place for the purposes of this election and I may not like to divulge the choice information at this critical time. But I think the people have spoken in all the campaigns and the beauty of democracy is that the people know their choice and with all the feedback at our disposal, PDP will win convincingly at all levels.