Hon. Benjamin Umoru Oguche is a former Labour Party candidate for Olamaboro Federal Constituency in the 2015 general elections in Kogi State, has predicted the crash of the ruling party by 2019.
In this interview from NAIJ.com’s Austin Oyibode in Port Harcourt during the botched PDP convention.
Excerpts: What is your view on the hard stance of Ali Modu Sheriff over PDP chairmanship?
AU: The tussle for the PDP chairmanship is not a good one. Sheriff is supposed to allow a level playing ground for all politicians to contest the party’s chairmanship. It is wrong for him to impose himself as the only chairmanship candidate of the party. He should give everybody the opportunity to contest.
NAIJ: From the challenges facing the party so far, do you think the PDP has chance in the 2019 general elections?
AU: As a politician, you can’t say one party is better than the other. Politics is like a contest where two people meet, it is on the day of the contest that’s when you know who wins. You cannot, at this time, begin to say this party will win or not. But so far, PDP has a good chance, following the present trend in Nigeria.
The many sins of Jonathan and Tompolo against the Niger Delta Economically, Nigeria is having problems, people are even starving. Very soon we will get to austerity measures like what we had in 1983. In fact as I’m talking to you now, people are hungry. Most people have not received salaries for the past five to six months. The people that have salaries now are security agents because of the high risk of their jobs and the security problem of the country. And so, with the failure of the government of APC, if PDP leaders build the party very well, they have a chance of success in 2019.
Naij: How do you conclude that the APC has failed Nigerians?
We are in the second year of the party that won election in 2015, and the country is not improving, rather it’s declining and failing economically. Nothing is working. The economy is going down and down. How can you say such government is succeeding? You cannot say the government is succeeding. So, parties that come up now like the PDP, if they are well built at the top hierarchy and come down to the states and local government levels, they have a chance of winning in 2019.
Hon. Benjamin Umoru Oguche You are a member of Labour Party. For now, are you still in the party?
AU: I contested for the Federal House of Representatives under the Labour Party to represent the Olamaboro Federal Constituency of Kogi State but originally, I am of the PDP. I have been in the PDP for more than eight years. But that notwithstanding, I’m a politician. I have seen politics in that level.
Naij: So for now what are you doing?
After I lost my election in 2015, I joined my colleagues to Abuja, while we were in Abuja, I got an appointment with Dangote Group where I was appointed the Managing Director of Umoru Benjo Enterprises to distribute Dangote Cement in the 36 states, operating from the three plants, Obajana in Kogi, Ibese in Ogun State and Gboko in Benue State. Last month I added flour to distribute in the 36 states. So, I’m enjoying my business but I still have eyes for politics because I’m a politician.
Naij: Now looking at Dangote, it’s like he is the owner of Nigeria because anywhere you go in the country is Dangote. What is the secret behind the success of Dangote?
AU: Dangote is the richest man so far in Africa today. His business is spanning more than expectation because he has experience and he concentrates on his business. He controls the economy of his business. I think that is the secret of his success. He is a wise business man who knows how to make money and he has got the money.
Naij: Now, looking at the economy of Nigeria, do you think the economy is making progress?
AU: We are not progressing economically in Nigeria. Nigeria’s economy is declining. As a businessman which I am today, at every day’s end, you balance your account. If you are making progress you will know, if you are failing, you will know. As an entrepreneur and politician in this country, I’m also balancing the economy of this country as I go around. Nigeria has failed. I have travelled round because of my business with Dangote, I have gone to the North, East, South and West. Everywhere I go I see that Nigeria’s economy is declining compared to what we used to know. Nigeria is not improving. A child that is growing is supposed to be improving, not declining. So, if you are declining, then you have failed.
Naij: So, what do you advise?
We cried for change in 2015 but we’ve got a wrong change. We should look for positive change. When we change our economy, it will affect the environment, the human being in the environment and the physical and other aspects of the economy. The country and individuals will grow. Everything around us will improve. So, if we can change the people at the top hierarchy of decision making in this country, then the country will make progress. It’s like the managing director of this company is not doing well and the board now says let us do a change and bring somebody that has more experience to take over that place. If you back to that company in the next year, you will see changes because the man will bring all his expertise and ideas together and change the company.
So, that’s what Nigeria needs today. The people at the hierarchy at the federal and states are not experienced, if we can take a decision we Nigerians the electorates, to change the people now, not minding the party, then Nigeria will grow.
Naij: Looking at the politics of Nigeria, don’t you think some politicians are seeing politics as business centre, just to satisfy their whims and caprices at the detriment of the common Nigerian?
Some Nigerians see politics to be enterprise. Politics is not an enterprise. It’s not a business. Politicians are meant to lead the people and not to amass wealth. They look for ways to better the livelihoods of the people they are leading. But many look at politics as enterprises. That is why we are getting it wrong in this country. Like when I contested my election, I know how much I spent. If I take it as an enterprise and if I had won, I will list all the money I spent and when I get there I will first of all recover my money and get the profit before I think of what to do for people, that is wrong. If you take politics like that you are getting it wrong. And that is our problem in this country. Even with what they have, they will still be thinking of gathering what they will use to contest in the next election.
Naij: Let me take you to the Niger Delta, I know you are not from that area. What is your view on the crisis rocking the region?
My brother you said I’m not from the Niger Delta, I grew up in Niger Delta, even though I’m from Kogi State, I grew up in Rivers State. I was two years when I came to Rivers State. I have a military background. My parents are military. So, I have seen the Niger Delta. I schooled in the University of Calabar for my first degree. So, I can say much about the Niger Delta. The problem in the region is caused by the leaders of the region.
Naij: Hon. Oguche Let’s look back to when Jonathan was the president of this country, were there issues in the Niger Delta?
Issues were resolved, the militants were settled, many were sent for education, some to South Africa, United States and others. They laid down their arms, amnesty was granted, but this government came in and refused to pay their allowances. The allowances that were agreed to pay to the militants that came out of the creeks and laid down their arms. They refused to pay them. It’s a government agreement, which the new government breached. So, whatever comes from the breach of the agreement you should be able to take it. That is the major cause of the ongoing militancy. That is why they are blowing up all the pipelines. Sending military men to the creeks is an exposure, you are exposing them to attack because these young boys know the terrain more than the soldiers. You sent them to be divers in China, America and others, you have trained them, they will be under the water and you think you are sending the navy to deal with them, they are killing the navy.
NAIJ: What you do think can be done to bring lasting solution?
My advice to government which I have done to one of the advisers to the president is let them go into negotiations with the militants. The militants are into factions, every village and community has its own militant group, but the best thing the government of the day should do is to come down, invite them, bring them into one, talk with them, we are in democracy. Come down to their level and solve their problems. The militants are human beings like us that you can talk to, find out their problems and do what they say you should do for them and peace will reign. This is no military regime where you carry arms and start fighting. We are in democracy where people talk and solve problems through dialogue.