By Faith Olatide
Barrister Andrew Oru, a senior lawyer and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in Delta State came to national limelight as one of two lawyers that raised the issue of the alleged conviction of a former governor of the state. Oru who had initially aspired for the 2015 governorship ticket of the PDP subsequently became a senior adviser of one of the major aspirants, Mr. David Edevbie, a fellow Urhobo.
Oru who is also the national president of the University of Nigeria Alumni Association in this interview, defends the relevance of the Urhobo Progress Union, UPU despite the failure of its political project to place an Urhobo as the governorship ticket, the alleged harassment of President Goodluck Jonathan by entrenched ethnic interests and the proclamations of the respected Catholic priest, Father Ejike Mbaka among other issues.
Given the developments that shadowed the PDP governorship primaries, do you agree with some that the UPU is now irrelevant?
I do not agree that the UPU is irrelevant. If it were irrelevant, nobody will be talking about it today. If not for the last minute manoeuvre, the UPU candidate was on the way to victory. Let me tell you what happened because I was involved.
The reason I didn’t contest for that ticket. Sometime in February last year, I was already preparing for the governorship race, when David Edevbie came to meet me in my house. He booked an appointment to see me, and he came to tell me that he wanted to run for governor and that he needed my support and he needed me to be the one to drive the crusade for him. He is like a younger brother to me, we are from the same town, Ughelli, and we have related quite closely.
So I told him, you beat me to it, I was also planning to run, but since you are the first to approach me, I would encourage you and not discourage you.
I met the rest of the candidates and we struck an accord. although I was not the one running, I was still able to reach out to all of them.
Through the instrumentality of the UPU, one can get the president to realise that the Urhobos, if you lose them, you might lose the presidency.
The president saw this clearly.
So realising that he didn’t want to risk losing a million votes, so that was why the governor, just two days to the time, dumped Obuh. Unfortunately, a day before the primaries, UPU called a meeting of everybody at the Ughelli Town Hall to unveil David Edevbie as the candidate of the UPU, unfortunately, instead of the governor to allow that process to go on , he collapsed Obuh’s campaign organization directly and openly into Edevbie’s campaign.
Immediately Uduaghan put his seal on Edevbie 24 hours to the time, openly, every other person just went behind and said, okay, you are the new imposition and you know that kind of thing, and there was no time to explain.
What I am saying is this, the UPU is in no way irrelevant in the scheme of things because now we are going into general elections, general elections have nothing to do with local government areas, or how many delegates we have.
So, how do you stand on the governorship election?
First and foremost, I wear two caps, as it stands. First as an Urhobo man, and second, as a PDP chieftain. If I am to speak as an Urhobo man, I think clearly, I will not vote for Okowa but as a PDP man, I have an obligation to support the party’s candidate.
I am now at a crossroad, and I am watching the two candidates as we speak, whether of APC or PDP; I can tell you one thing, I look more upon individual candidacy than party candidacy even though I am of the PDP.
Okowa is a good person but certain persons around him will try to make a mess of his governorship. I don’t want to mention names because I don’t want to libel anybody.
My moral burden is this; I don’t believe that Urhobos have been marginalized in the scheme of things in terms of the governorship race anymore. In any event, before I became a PDP man, I was first an Urhobo man so I am waiting now because even the UPU’s stand was that if the Urhobos did not get the slot, they were not going to support Mr. President.
That is against my personal conviction because I intend to support Jonathan to the last. And secondly I do not think there is any reason now for the Urhobos to refuse supporting Jonathan.
Are you not talking like an ethnic chauvinist?
I am not an ethnic chauvinist. That will be wrong, every person who is in politics has a constituency.
Everybody coming out is doing so to represent the interests of his constituency, so I am not doing anything different. In the first place, someone like Mohammadu Buhari, his emergence was largely because of the call purportedly for power to return to the north. What do you call that?
And all the Northerners are queuing up behind him. The Yorubas are supporting Buhari because as far as they are concerned they cannot wait to become president again after eight years. Because if it goes to the North, eight years after according to their own plan, it will come back to the south and if it comes back, this time it is going to the Yorubas because that is where it started from. That is the game plan.
So it is also a regional issue and I will be stupid not to align with a person from my own region especially because we are being short-changed. Jonathan has been there for only one term! The question of whether he was sworn in two times or three times, is just an excuse to harass him out. And thirdly, I believe that Jonathan is being harassed out of power, in this sense, the issues being raised against him are not his own making. You talk about insecurity; from the beginning of his tenure, it was made clear by some persons in the north that they will make this country ungovernable for him.
And some people like Father Mbaka, one or two weeks before he made this latest push, he was there praying for Mrs. Jonathan that they should have a second tenure and all of that. Only for him to suddenly turn around and start to castigate Jonathan. Only somebody who has a mental problem has the capacity to say yes and no almost at the same time. Father Mbaka, I can tell you, I am a catholic, but he is not the catholic priest that we know. He is doing what he is doing on behalf of a ministry, not on behalf of the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, people around here are gullible; Father Mbaka is not the man of God that he professes to be, himself and Bakare are the President and Vice president of papal wing of APC and they should be seen as such.
Father Mbaka is an ordained priest of the Catholic Church but the instruments of discipline against him, I believe the Catholic Church will soon wield it because he has clearly gone overboard. The canon law does not permit him to behave the way he is behaving, he is completely out of order, and I think they will call him to order soon.
Are you comfortable with the allegation that the Jonathan government cannot deal with corruption?
I have been one of the critics of President Jonathan on the level of corruption prevalent under his administration. I don’t accept it. It is unwise for him to condone corruption and allow it to this extent. But has anybody been able to come out and say that President Jonathan himself is corrupt? The answer is no. The way to fight corruption in this country, the way I know it, is the way Nuhu Ribadu and others were fighting it initially, which Nigerians cried out against. Meanwhile, today, every person is saying Buhari has an anti-corruption posture, they are forgetting to analyse who he truly was when he was military president. Under Buhari, he made a rule that during the course of changing Nigeria’s currency, nobody should be allowed to come in or out with currency. Yet he opened the door wide for Jokolo to come in with 53 suitcases. What else is that?
As far as I am concerned, a man like Buhari, should still be arrested and tried for the 1983 coup because the mere fact that the coup succeeded does not remove the fact that he committed an offense. And in criminal law, there is no time limitation. These are some of the things that Jonathan should be doing as a leader. And because he is not doing some of these things people consider him weak. If I were the president, I will take that bold step of arresting Buhari and all of those who are still around and prosecute them on those cases and then let anybody come out tomorrow and call me a weak leader and let me show them my credentials in that regard.
So why do you really support the president?
I am from the South-South, we have a right to govern this country as well like every other section in this country. It is the northerners who have been shouting rotation. If they are the champions of rotation, why do they find it unacceptable for a southerner to govern this nation even if it is two terms plus one year. When they started fighting Jonathan, it was not because of incompetence or insecurity because it did not exist at that time. They were simply talking of power rotation.
They then sat down and brought forth allegations of insecurity after creating those insecurities just to harass the man out of office. As far as I am concerned, we in the South-south believe that this country does not want us. They want to continue to treat us as second class citizens, as hewers of firewood and fetchers of water, and we reject that and as I speak I speak on behalf of the Urhobos and every other aggrieved persons of the south-south region. And I can tell you something as it were. If Jega and the west and the North connive to push the South-south out of office, certainly, we are going to opt out of Nigeria.
You agitate that you do not want the North to cheat you of your right to govern the nation, but why do you, as an Urhobo, insist that Delta North should not govern Delta State?
I have not said I want to deprive the people of Delta North the governorship. Certainly not. People of Delta North have a right to govern Delta State, but when you keep talking of your own right and make it feel like the others are oppressing you, then we have to go to the records. I have done my own cross checking and found out that it is actually the Urhobos that have been marginalized in Delta State.
Personally, I believe in meritocracy. Let the best man govern. Let them remove all these ideas of Delta North or Delta South or Urhobo. The fact that they conspired against the Urhobo candidate is painful enough for an Urhobo man. It was a clear case of imposing delegates, it was not a contest. There was no level playing field.