Former Speaker of Delta State House of Assembly, Rt, Honourable Victor Onyekaci Ochei, is a frontline governorship aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party,(PDP).
He is one man who exudes confidence and candour which his political opponents capitalise on to assail his character. In this no holds-barred interactive session with journalists, Ochei, throws more light into his his vision, issues and intrigues surrounding the struggle to clinch the governorship ticket of the ruling the PDP in the state.
What is your view of the concept of Delta Beyond Oil of the present administration and how do you intend to improve on the Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, in the state?
The initiative is an initiative of someone who is thinking ahead. He anticipated that a day like this will come when oil prices will dwindle, like what is happening now in the global oil business.
The initiative is therefore is a good thing as it aims to use the oil resources that we receive today, to develop the non oil sectors with a view to ensuring that if tomorrow comes and we have crisis in the global oil sales, we would have been prepared for such eventuality. Delta State is a massive agrarian state and we also have strings of other sectors which are in the non oil sector.
Our duty will be to harness them for maximum benefits. We need to divest some of our earnings from oil revenue today to those other areas. When we ensure that the non oil sector begins to perform, our internally generated revenue will also grow because government business is done through taxation. If I am elected as governor, I will follow the initiative because I believe very much in it.
There are so many sectors in the state that has a lot of potentialities. We need to bring in investors and secure their businesses. We will also ensure that whatever businesses they are bringing would have some level of local content in order to create wealth for our people. I can assure you that if we follow the initiative through, Delta should come second after Lagos in the area of internally generated revenue. Therefore, I will further expand Delta Beyond Oil to ensure that our internally generated revenue becomes a reference point.
What is your vision of Delta state as an aspirant for the office of governor?
At the risk of sounding immodest, I want to say that Delta State under my leadership will see transformation unimaginable by the grace of God. That depends on the economic fortunes of the state, it is one thing to plan, it is another for funds to be available to make your plans work.
Even if the funds are not there, there are other means of raising the funds and I want to see a state where our infrastructure is massively improved upon. People complain that Delta today is not experiencing development and that nothing is being done, it is not true because there are a lot of projects across the state but because we do not have that synergy that puts them together, it looks like nothing has been done.
One of the first thing I intend to do is to string all the projects together and harness the benefits of those projects. In doing so, you must take cognizance of the fact that Delta State is a multi city state unlike some other states. Take Edo state for example, you talk of Benin, Auchi, Uromi or Ubiaja. In Akwa Ibom, you will be talking of Ikot-Ekpene, Uyo, Eket. But in Delta state, we have Asaba, Agbor, Kwale, Sapele, Ughelli, Oleh, Warri, Effurun among others.
When you begin to count them like that, you will discover that they are more than seven. So you need to deplore a system where you must develop the state and the cities on city based development, that will stem the drive of rural-urban drift and you must have classes of development. We have the urban, the semi urban and rural. You should categorize the state into that and you sectionalize development in that charter, you will have the place for everybody to belong to. And in each of these charters that you have created, ensure that everybody living there can afford the style of living. You cannot live with the same man staying in state capital paying rents, therefore the rent in the rural areas should reflect the rural areas, the rent in semi urban should reflect same.
Our ability to string them together will make people know you have done quite a lot. You must also turn some cities to urban renewal areas, it makes the taxes expensive but Deltans will enjoy good living and you will see at the end of the day, the positive change desired is there for all to see.
When I go to campaigns, I tell people that Delta state is blessed with the PDP government since 1999 when James Ibori came as governor. for me he laid the foundation for Delta State.
Then after him is Governor Uduaghan, who has come to fill that foundation or casting the German floor. it still does not give the picture of the state you are looking for but that does not mean work is not in progress, serious massive work is in progress. What I am coming to do is to give the super structure because its when you see the super structure that you begin to see the beauty of the house that you have been building. That is when you will know whether it is a skyscraper, duplex or bungalow. That is my own idea and there is no way you will put the super structure without testing the foundation. And by 2019, you will see a super structure that shows the beauty of Delta state that has been built from foundation by my fore-bearers.
How would you describe your tenure as the Speaker and throw more light into how you became known as speaker emeritus?
In the history of Deltas State, I remain the only Speaker who resigned and it was read on the floor of the House. Every other speaker was either impeached or finished his tenure. I remain the only speaker, who resigned voluntarily. I gave my reasons for resigning and the reasons were accepted. I gave way for a new leadership to emerge having contributed my quota. I feel a bit immodest to say I performed, but those who followed my era would attest to the kind of innovation I brought to the House. Today Delta State House of Assembly can rank among the best in the country and can compete with any other legislative house globally. We have had the opportunity of hosting African parliamentary leaders conference and the participants attested to the quality of the House. They were marvelled at what they saw. Some even asked if the chambers was a national legislative building.
What lesson did you learn from your exit as the Speaker?
At a time, I was truly a foremost aspirant and as at that time, I was the speaker of the House and I was under pressure to run but I had not said I was running then but the attacks kept coming because as Speaker, I was doing well. This our forum of aspirants believed then that I will be used to silence them, so I was prone to attacks unfortunately. I had not even declared my intention then.
I was foremost because being a speaker, I have a lot of constituencies under me and my colleagues are fully supporting me, it was a formidable aspirant you were looking in a speaker then, so you cannot take it for granted. Ever since I left office, yes it has not been the same because some now felt because am out of office, he has fallen from grace, the Governor removed him from office, will he want him as Governor.
Those are insinuations here and there but also, while that is being done, some other people now said after-all he is not the governoríís candidate, then we will support him. For me, there are a lot of lessons that came from it. What happened has made me learn a lot of lessons, seeing people in their real nature and seeing how people react in the face of the good, the bad and the ugly.
But they are all lessons that we must learn in life and it has strengthened me and reshaped my focus as a person. The Bible says that by no strength should a man boasts, it is true, and it also says once has God spoken and twice power belongs to God, that is also true and that is why I donít even regard that power belongs to anybody. Power belongs to God. In all of this, there is no animosity within me. I have nothing against anybody, it is human nature.
Even the bible says the heart of man is desperately wicked and deceitful and I know it. It is just human nature. So you begin to see it and appreciate it that it can really happen to you. For those who are jumping today, if anything happens to President Jonathan today, you will be shocked about the kind of reverse people will take. But that is human nature.
For me, I have gotten my own fair share and I have learnt and it has helped me get back on my feet. Like Mandela said, it is not the number of times that human falls, but the number of times you can pick up yourself and bounce back. I have fallen from grace, I have gotten to the ground and I have also taken that leap of faith to where I am. I say today that no aspirant will go through the tribulation that I go through and will still come out as a fore-runner.
Can you respond to this allegation that you diverted the electricity supply to some communities in your constituency to your steel company on the Benin- Asaba Express way
It will surprise you that prior to coming to office my own village was not on the national grid now every community in Aniocha North is one the national grid.
I have said if that question was not asked, I will put it forward myself because it is a current decimal that people has begun to say its true. It all started during the 2011 elections when some people start saying the company on the Delta express, I was accused of being the owner. I donít know who owns the Iron company and on my honour, I donít know who owns the company and I donít have any interest in the company.
I dare say let them bring evidence if I have anything to do with the company, I am ready to resign if the company has anything to do with me. It was easy for them to say I diverted from power from there to my constituency, but I dare to say even Ogwashi-Uku where the finance Minister is from, for two years they have not had power.
So, how will Ochei divert power for his own personal use, that is what people donít understand but if they understand these things very well, they will know Ochei has no business with it. I have not allowed it to bother me as a person but when people begin to talk about it, you have to educate them to let them know you have no business about it. So I hope the people will understand the dynamics of power and that I have no business whatsoever with it. They need to understand I donít even control 1megawatt, so that they know the whole thing is misconstrued, a misconception and misinterpreted.
Can you educate us on your role on the Delta IPP project, Oghara
One thing that must be made clear is the fact that my company then Davnotch Nigeria Limited and Victor Ochei as the Honourable member of DTHA are two distinct . They are not in any way interrelated I stand as Victor Ochei and Davnotch stands as Davnotch Nigeria Limited so if there are issues and controversies it should be directed to the person that the contract was awarded to.
The corporate person is Davnotch Nigeria Limited, that should be the issue. Whether money was given to Davnotch Nigeria Limited such monies were never paid to Victor Ochei as a person. There is no where in the history of Delta State accounting that monies were paid to me as a person save for the feud that I earn salaries and allowances as a member of State House of Assembly. I have no business with funding or Delta State funds.No one has come into my pocket, because a lot of people, misunderstand a lot of things in this country and the press should help to educate people when you do, people will learn to see less of rancour and controversies, there is really no controversy.
The IPP Project that you are talking about let me give you an insight as someone who was at the helm of affairs when the contract was awarded. But one point I must make clear as at June 3, 2011, before I became the speaker, I resigned my position in the company and divested my interest completely I donít have any interest in Davnotch anymore and they way that it is run. So, anything that has to do with Davnotch Nigeria Limited should be directed to the company I donít have the latest information on the company but I can tell you what it was before now.
But I can tell you the situation before I left the company was awarded the IPP project it was quite innovative because I hail courage of the governor then. We went through the normal process then we had a presentation and it was done, it was given to Davnotch Nigeria Limited because of its presentation and its technical partners being Rolls Royce in the UK.
The governor took his time to visit the company in the UK to see where they were doing some of the turbines Delta state intended to use. We had similar visits to Dubai but there were refurbished turbines but the governor was not interested in refurbished turbines local company that was started from the scratch in this country and being given such an opportunity perhaps it was a blue chip company from abroad, nobody will be talking but because Victor Ochei is part of this company, it has become an issue of why will he get that kind of money, believing that the money came to me so, it is about the volume of money and you being a public officer that is what is in contention, no because the company lacks competence not because it lacks technical capacity but because the funding that is involved, they are scared that may be I have that fund to use it on them at the election or something like that. I think that is the major issue.
But as for the project, as at the last time I know it the project is going on very well in Ogharaeki.. As at the time when it was awarded, power was going for about $1 million.
Do you think there is a level playing field in this race?
What we are asking for is that should be a level playing field. But it is not the Governor that should provide the level playing field. It is the responsibility of the Party. Of course there are agitations from people, who want a level playing field because they fear if they give the party structure to the governors they will, have their way. But that does not say that what we did so far in the state with regards to the delegates election did not carry everyone along. It was such that everybody participated. What we only ask for is that the integrity of what we have done is maintained and not tampered with. We should be allow to do the politicking. And that is the beauty of politics.
At the end of the day, we will be glad that we did all the politicking that is required in politics. We will all support whoever emerges as the partyís candidate. The support of all the senatorial zones is needed by any body who emerges. Without general support, whoever gets the ticket will not do well in the elections. Delta is known for that. As a party we need to be careful not to play into the hands of the opposition parties that are in the wings
waiting for us. This is the time that opposition parties cash in on any fault to make their presence known.
The DPP did that last time and it was not because it was a known party in the state. Rather members of the PDP played into their hands. We have to be careful so that we donít make such mistake.
That was why we had a good arrangement for the emergence of delegates. I am very outspoken in warning the party. If we make the mistakes, we stand the risk of allowing the opposition to have a field day. For me, I only ask that the party provides a level playing field for everyone to participate. Whether the governor is supporting anyone, I will say that as a Deltan, he has the right to support any candidate of is choice.
As governor his influence is huge. But Deltans will still decide who the governor will be. Delta is a place where people are very expressive and things are not always what it seem. He has the right to support anyone but that does not foreclose the right of Deltans to make their choice.
What is your opinion on the over 18 Delta North aspirants vying for the governorship in Delta state?
Why you have the array of contestants coming from Delta North is because by convention, Delta Central has governed the state through James Ibori who ruled the state for 8years, also Delta South under Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan would have done 8years by 2015, if PDP is the party that believes in rotation, it should be that power will rotate to Delta North. It is an unwritten conventional agreement that is trending even in some Senatorial contest. Governor Uduaghan is also running for a senate seat and it is conventional that it runs between the Itsekiri, Ijaw and Isoko. These are the reasons why you have several contestants coming from Delta North.
For me, if you go by that convention, you cannot have Delta South person finishing in office and another Delta South person taking over from him. Delta central has more aspirants running for this governorship as well. This is to also that if this rotation will be anything to go by, there are ire of stars and materials from Delta North to run for governor and everybody is coming out to showcase themselves to Deltans to see if they can fit into whom Delta state is looking for. There is nothing wrong with that and it is good because in democracy, everybody has a right to participate and express themselves.
The only thing that makes anybody a bonafide citizen of the state is the fact that he can aspire to the highest seat in that state. For me, it is a competition whether South, Central or Delta North, we will show our best and let the best take the day. That is my take. The competition is good and healthy for our democracy.