FIERY Lagos Lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo is disturbed by what he perceives as the slow pace of development in his native Delta State and has established a group, Delta Forces United, DFU, to rally the grassroots for a change, which he says he is willing to champion as governor.
In this interview, he speaks on the politics of Delta State and why he is leaving the comfort zone for the murky waters of politics. Excerpts:
What motivated you to establish Delta Forces United?
Well my motivation is not far-fetched. I am a freeborn of DeltaState. My early life was all about DeltaState. My childhood classmates, friends, acquaintances and even childhood antagonists are all from DeltaState. I have my early impressions of how DeltaState was. I also grew up full of ideas as to how to improve my state.
Even though I hail from Effurun in Uvwie Local Government Area, I was born in a crowded compound (what we call today, face-me-I-face-you) along Post Office Road in Ughelli. I first went to an ‘akara school’ somewhere around Afiesere, and then proceeded to OharisiPrimary School, Ughelli. Thereafter I went to GovernmentCollege, Ughelli, where I did my O’Levels and Advanced Levels.
I then proceeded to the then BendelStateUniversity, Ekpoma, to read law. It was only after my university education that I went to Lagos for my LawSchool programme. Thereafter, I began my career with late Chief Gani Fawehinmi. I therefore have an umbilical cord connected to my roots in DeltaState that I cannot sever.
However, because of the pursuit of livelihood since I graduated more than 20 years ago, I did not participate actively in the political process.
Some self-serving, narrow-minded people have decided to divide the state into ethnic groups and to share power and resources along ethnic lines instead of addressing the real issues affecting the development of the state.
I have decided therefore that I will not fold my arms and watch professional politicians destroy my state because of ethnicity.
Therefore, Delta Forces United is a political platform that will, sooner or later, find a political party that shares the same progressive ideologies and work together with it.
Do you have the financial capacity to pursue these objectives?
No single private individual has the financial capacity alone anywhere in the world to run a huge political campaign, except the money is stolen money. Even as rich as Mitt Romney in the US general elections, he had to go cap in hand to raise funds. So, running a political campaign is all about urging people to believe in you, your party and your programmes and urging them to make useful contributions to the cause.
Did you establish DFU to pursue your governorship ambition?
What is wrong in pursuing a healthy ambition? Is the Governorship seat the exclusive preserve of a few well-known corrupt politicians? Why can’t we encourage people who have done well in their chosen fields to come and manage public resources? Anyway, like I said before, the DFU will seek to collaborate with any political party that shares our goals and if within that arrangement I am chosen to lead the party in the governorship election, I will readily oblige.
How do you hope to undo the PDP machine in Delta?
There is nothing to undo at all. There is nothing called the “PDP political machine” in DeltaState. There is no machine at all. All you have is just a small clique hanging unto power at all cost. People don’t want these characters who call themselves PDP political leaders. How they hang unto power is by sheer brigandage. Therefore, our job is to mobilize the people to resist this brigandage.
How do you react to claims that the governorship should be zoned to Delta North?
Delta North is that area of the state that has a collection of different ethnic groups that speak some different languages close to the Ibo language. They have some of the most intelligent and friendly people among them. And on a lighter note I married from that part of the State. So my first son is partly Urhobo and partly Ibusa. First of all, I have never heard in my life that the Asaba man sees the Kwale or Obiaruku person as one and the same with him. I have never heard that the Agbor man sees the person from Onicha-Ugbo as his brother over these years. So all of a sudden, because of political expediency certain so-called political leaders from that region are seeking to deceive the ordinary people on the streets by preaching that they are all one; only for them to grab political power and dump that platform.
But to answer your question frontally, whatever power sharing arrangement certain persons had must have been an internal PDP arrangement. I am not PDP. DeltaState is not synonymous with PDP. But even the President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, said that there is nothing like zoning within the PDP. He explained it to mean that when the position of the Chief Executive either in the State or National level is determined by competence, then the other positions below are zoned. Are they now contradicting their President? To take the argument further, if Delta North are saying it is “their turn”, they can only be saying it is their turn to pick the PDP ticket since it is a PDP arrangement. So PDP can give them their ticket if it likes. I know that they have very competent people from that zone that can fly the PDP flag.
And so do other zones have extremely qualified people too who can fly the flags of other parties. But a PDP ticket holder does not translate into a governor automatically. You still have to face the electorate. A PDP ticket holder cannot climb the rostrum and tell people to vote for him because he is from Delta North.
Talking about what is just and fair, so how just and fair is it to deprive other political parties and the teeming masses of Delta State who were never part of the PDP arrangement from fielding competent candidates whose programmes may be superior to that of the PDP ticket holder? And to put the nail on the coffin, it is said that one good turn deserves another. If indeed there was an agreement to shift power from one zone to the other in 1999, how come aspirants from Delta North have always contested for the gubernatorial elections without stepping down for anyone?
For example, since 1999 till 2011 several persons from Delta North actively participated in the gubernatorial primaries of various parties and the general elections. So how come they are asking others to step down for them now?
What is your assessment of the PDP government since 1999 and Governor Uduaghan’s performance so far?
Let me tell you one thing you may not know, my governor, Dr. Uduaghan as a human being is a complete gentleman. You can easily see that he is an accidental politician, not a conventional one. Essentially, he is just a professional in his chosen field of medicine. But as a politician I can’t say how well he has handled it. Because I feel at times he is overwhelmed by the negative political trends in the State and that affects his judgment in many areas. And I also think that the State, under the leadership of the PDP, has performed far below what is expected of it. This might be as a result of misplaced priorities, mismanagement of resources or outright stealing. But when we get there we shall look at the books and correct whatever has retarded the progress of our State.
How do you hope to snatch power from numerous money bags dotting Delta’s political landscape?
The mistake some people make is that they always equate political power with the richest. That is their warped thinking. Some people never equate it with the most sellable candidate with a track record. Of what use is your money if people decide not to vote for you? Except you are saying that we should all resign to fate that elections would always be rigged by money bags. Of course we need money to campaign and sell our programmes, but we will mobilize the people to resist the influence of money bags who have stolen their money. We will tell them to take their money but to come and follow us.
How can we improve governance in DeltaState?
There are two key areas to which any incoming government in DeltaState must pay attention: The first is security which will open the doors to so many investments in the State. Without a secure environment, no State can develop. The second is to boost small and medium scale industries by direct government intervention to take many of the jobless boys off the streets and reduce the crime rate. Of course, the State also needs massive infrastructural development here and there. We will look at all these.
What is your take on NJC’s decision retiring two justices and asking for Thalba’s probe?
Fantastic! I commented that same day, praising the NJC. We also need to flush out more bad eggs from the judiciary.
Could you comment on Supreme Court’s ruling saying that Wabara and Fabian Osuji should be tried?
The only comment I have to make here is that it took too long for the case to travel all the way to the Supreme Court. That is why some days ago I sent my proposal to the National Assembly to amend the constitution to eliminate delays in criminal trials, especially corruption cases. And basically I am telling them to outlaw stay of proceedings in criminal cases.
What is your view on the formation of the All Progressive Congress, APC and its chances at the 2015 polls?
I listened to General Buhari last week when he said, the only way to defeat the PDP is by a grand alliance of opposition parties and I agree with him totally. It is important that the country has an opposition party nearly as big as the PDP so that we can have a true alternative to the misrule of PDP.
Is your group likely to work with APC?
They are not out with their manifesto and constitution yet. We are looking for a platform with progressive ideas, and if they come out with something near to this, we may work with them.
What is the legal position of lawmakers elected on ACN, CPC, ANPP platforms? Can they transfer their mandate to APC without raising legal scruples since their original parties are not in crisis?
The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has already taken care of that situation. Those who cross to other political parties as a result of merger arrangements do not lose their seats.
100 years after amalgamation does Nigeria have cause for celebration?
The only cause we have to mark the event is that we are still together as a nation but I do not subscribe to any lavish celebration. I will not waste tax payers’ money on such an event when we have a lot to do.
What is your take on clamour for national conference and autonomy for Local councils? What is the way forward for the country?
To get a truly people’s constitution, we need a national conference sooner or later. We cannot run away from this. And we also need full political and fiscal autonomy for the Local councils, but with very effective anti-corruption bodies to checkmate their activities because corruption at that level of government is very humungous.