Sylvester Idowu in Warri
Delta State Government has chided Labour Party (LP) chieftain, Prof. Pat Utomi, over what it termed as the false and misleading claims that the government denied the party venue for its presidential campaign in the state.
The Commissioner for Information, Mr. Charles Aniagwu, at a news conference yesterday, in Asaba, said Utomi, a Professor of many years, should not resort to telling lies and blackmail to curry sympathy for his party.
He said there was no record that the LP wrote to the state government for a venue for campaign and was denied, and challenged it to present the letter and the response from the state, denying them the use of a venue.
Aniagwu said, “The LP creates an impression that it is being oppressed across the length and breadth of this country in order to attract sympathy.
“The LP did not write to us as a government that it was going to have a rally in Delta. Somebody as highly placed as Prof. Pat Utomi went to town to allege that they have been prevented from campaigning in Delta.
“I challenge them to show any application letter sent to the Secretary to the State Government and let them also show the reply from the SSG.
“Somebody representing Prof. Utomi called me on Sunday morning ahead of their rally on Monday morning and I asked what were the issues?
“He said he would be glad if I could give them the Arcade for their campaign and, I said, you are having a campaign on Monday and you are making phone call to demand for a venue on Sunday?”
The commissioner said the state government granted permission to the party for the rally and waived payment for the venue to demonstrate its democratic credentials.
“We asked the LP not to pay for the venue that we would take the responsibility for even the cleaning of the place after the event.
“In spite of doing that, Prof. Pat Utomi, wanting to tell a lie, went to the media stations and the social media and alleged that we have prevented them from using public venue.
“So, the idea of Prof. Utomi lying to Nigerians is not what we need as a country at this point in time. Every political party should be free to campaign wherever they want to campaign, provided that they are not infringing on the rights of other persons.
“And Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa and Atiku Abubakar believe that every party should be free to campaign whereever they want. You can see that, that is what we are doing in Delta.
“The closest campaign offices to the Government House are those of the opposition parties and we never made any law or took any step to stop them from using those infrastructure,” he said.
According to him, in a democracy, people should be free to exercise their rights as long as they are not infringing on the rights of other Nigerians.
“So, we needed to make this clarifications because it is very bad for Prof. Pat Utomi to lie about the issue, thinking that we would fall into that trap.
“I challenge him to show us any letter of application for venue and let him also deny that it was not on Sunday morning that they spoke to me that they needed to campaign in Delta.
“In fact, they even need to write a letter to commend us. If we prevented them, how did they now have access to use the Arcade?
“Prof. Utomi should know that our desire to rebuild Nigeria should not be on the basis of lies and blackmail. Our desire to rebuild Nigeria must be based on truth. If they claim that they have character, then it should start with telling truth to Nigerians,” Aniagwu added.
He explained that the state government allowed everybody to campaign because PDP in Delta was strongly on ground in the state and could not be threatened.
“The reason we allow everyone to come here and campaign is that we are very much on ground. We are on ground because one, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa has performed.
“Two, he has been in touch with the people. Three, we are on ground because even long before now, PDP has been an indigene of Delta and it’s not in a hurry to leave this state.
“So, even if they want to come back tomorrow to campaign in front of Government House, let them come. Every other party will have a chance to campaign in Delta once the venue is available,” he stated.
On his part, the Chief Press Secretary, Olisa Ifeajika said Utomi was alien to the politics of the state as he neither visited home nor knew his polling unit and ward.
He said the APC, the main opposition party in the state, flagged off its campaign at the Warri Township Stadium few weeks ago.
“If the state government is not allowing other parties access to venues, how come APC, the main opposition in this state used our stadium in Warri without hindrance and without restrictions.
“Since after that flag off, their candidates have been going round Delta campaigning unrestrained in our schools and everywhere, and Utomi was somewhere telling lies.
“The truth is that Utomi is an alien to Delta politics and for him to be lying shows that he doesn’t come home and doesn’t know what is happening in Delta.
“Everyone in Delta and Nigeria know the type of man Senator Ifeanyi Okowa is. His personage is infectious; everybody knows that his other name is humility, and he is very tolerant.
“Democracy is large in Delta, everybody is allowed a space. So, it was obvious that Utomi meant to lie to Nigerians, and it’s quite unfortunate. He should be told to come home and see what is happening at home, and see how democracy thrives here.
“Utomi should stop lying, he is too big to lie. But if he continues to live in Lagos, he should leave politics because he is not a politician.
“In his Ibusa community, he does not know his Polling Unit, let alone his Ward or members of his party there. He is so alien to his people and Delta that when he came to run for governorship under APC in 2019, he couldn’t trace his unit and ward and didn’t even know the delegates.
“The worst was that he, as aspirant, didn’t know the time and venue of his party’s primary election. He was in the vicinity but couldn’t locate the place, and didn’t participate. That’s the type of politician Prof. Utomi is.
“He should leave politics for politicians and remain the television analyst he is in Lagos. He should also shun blackmail and lie. It doesn’t tell well of him, ” Ifeajika said.
He advised Utomi to join the teeming Deltans and Nigerians, who are supporting Governor Okowa because of his acknowledged stellar performance and pedigree, saying “Utomi knows Okowa’s rating and worth and has no reason to vilify him and his administration. Governor Okowa deserves respect from Utomi.”