Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Constitution Amendment Must Allow Popular Will, Says Eyinne

interview

Dr Roland Eyinne, is an optometrist, and a PDP chieftain with extensive experience as administrator in public and private sector, having served on the board of many Federal Government agencies, and was once president of Nigeria optometry association. Having acquitted himself in those other capacities, he now wants to be governor of Delta state in 2007, a decision he likens to executing a project. He explains in this chat why he thinks seeking an office is a project rather than an ambition. Dr Eyinne, is, however, worried about the factionalisation of PDP, and warns that unless there is harmonisation, the party runs the risk of losing the state if they go into election divided the way they are. He believes that amending the 1999 Constitution is not in itself a bad idea, but, believes that it is up to Nigerians to decide whether the President should have another term in office.

Excerpts:

Why do you want to be governor of Delta state?

It is not as if I woke and decided one morning to be governor, my entrance to be governorship of Delta state is a project not an ambition. When people say they are nursing a governorship ambition I would prefer to say governorship project.

What is the difference?

The difference is that an ambition is what you have been dreaming of, and then a project is a vision. I have been born in Delta and for some reason I can call myself a local breed, because, my primary school and secondary school were all in Delta state. Then I went to the University of Benin, which was in mid-west at that time; all my experiences from birth ranging from missed opportunities through environmental degradation all happened before my very eyes. And of course having by the grace of God traveled very widely, there is no continent on this earth that I have not been to, and I have always been worried about the living standards of my people in Delta state, starting from my own people in Ndokwa land my federal constituency. And of course as an average Deltan, I have been showing concerns in debates, until it dawned on me in my spirit person that I can play a role. And so all I did was to decide to make my self available to my people in Delta. I feel that I have so much to contribute to make for better living standards for my people in Delta state.

Why do you think you are qualified?

First and foremost the Constitution says that for you to contest the governorship of a particular state you are supposed to be up to 30 years; you are supposed to have a minimum of school certificate, and then of course you have to be a Nigerian. So, to that extent I am qualified. But in terms of qualification what do you do when you get there, of course I can only tell you about what I can do and how I can do that. But it is in the place of those who know me to say yes let us give him a chance based on his antecedence. It may interest you to know some of the reasons that I would advance that make me feel I would do well. If you remember I began by saying that I am home grown; secondly, I have reached the highest level of my profession in optometry. I hold what you call PHD equivalent in optometry, and other than that I have functioned as national president of Nigeria optometry association, in fact I am the immediate past president of African council of optometry, and I am on the governing board of world council of optometry. I am on the national committee on health. I have functioned as board member Nnamdi Azikwe University. I have functioned as board member federal medical centre Yola, amongst many federal establishments. In terms of public safety, I have functioned as the chief executive of optometrist board, and as federal public servant I served to the highest level 17. So, I have experience in management in the public service and in private practice.

How long have you been working on this your governorship project, and what has been reception to the idea?

I started consultation late 2004, and I am still doing consultation; but I made a formal declaration on the 1st of January 2006, on the occasion of my 50th birthday. I have been in PDP since 2000, and on the question of acceptance, I will answer based on the feedback from the consultation I have had and it has been tremendous. You know in politics one cannot bank on what you hear from people directly, because I am here being granted an interview, I have read your papers and I know a few of governorship aspirants that have spoken about their intention. And so what I tell you may not be what it is supposed to be, so I am answering you from the feedback. And so during my 50th birthday I chose to celebrate in Kwale, I am a native of Utagba Ogbe, where I come from and for the fact that the thing was done on a new year day, when people should be receiving visitors in their homes, to my greatest surprise Utagba Ogbe was overflowing with men and women from all works of life, from all the senatorial districts of Delta.

The chairman of that occasion was Prof Edozien, the Asagba of Asaba, the minister of state for defence was the special guest of honour, the political adviser to Delta state governor, Chief Ighoyota Amori was the guest of honour, and then of course Dr S.O. Ogbemudia was represented by his first son, Samuel Ogbemudia junior. If these are people I have consulted and they left their homes to honour my 50th birthday, it gives me a signal that not only am I accepted by my people in Ndokwa federal constituency, but that I have friends from across the divide of Delta, and that has encouraged me to move ahead.

What do you consider to be the most important challenge before Delta state?

The most important challenge in Delta state is enthronement of peace.

How will you go about doing that?

First and foremost Delta state is not in isolation of the rest of Nigeria; there is hunger everywhere including Delta state. And to wipe out hunger there is what is called empowerment of the citizens of the state in question. And empowerment is not restricted to financial empowerment. It is a wholistic thing, and so we are talking about empowerment in occupational disposition, in exercise of right and one's talent. Without peace you cannot come about this. In Delta state with all the plans and programmes of our governor, Chief James Ibori, the crisis in Delta state, especially the Warri area definitely slowed down some developmental projects. For instance, even in the area of revenue generation, most of the companies that were paying taxes into Delta state coffers, moved to Rivers state, because there was no peace in the place. So to that extent the main thing is to remove that mutual suspicion amongst the people. In fact, that brings me back to the issue of qualification, an d one of it is that I come from the Ndokwa area, and we are the balancing place to come from in Delta state today.

The Ndokwa nation speak a brand of Igbo, and that qualifies them to be called Anioma people, and I am sure that it is by that language affinity that it is created into Delta north. Otherwise, during the provincial dispensation, the Ndokwa nation was in Warri, that later became Delta province; the other areas that later became Delta north-Ika, Oshimili and Aniocha were then in the Benin province. And the problem in Delta state is that the people in Delta central and south believe that because there is capital in Delta north that it would be unfair for anybody in Delta North to want to become governor at the same time. They believe that the headquarters should be enough for them, and power should be reserved for them in Delta Central and South. But if looked at critically you would find out that whereas the Ndokwa nation hitherto belong to delta province and the other parts of Delta North belong to Benin province, the distribution of amenities have eluded the Ndokwa nation. The other parts of Delta North believe that the Ndokwa nation is not a true Igbo, and so whenever anything comes to Delta North they grab it. For instance, it is only in Ndokwa federal constituency out of other federal constituency that does not have a federal polytechnic, college of education, a school of nursing, school of agriculture, school of health technology, and does not have any campus of other institutions. But the people of the other senatorial zones would say despite this marginalization that they have taken care of Delta North, meanwhile the Ndokwa federal constituency happens to produce oil and gas in the entire Delta north.

And that is why I tell you an Ndokwa person has the capacity to tell the people in South and Central zones, and say we have been brothers right from the beginning, and we cannot afford being brothers at this moment because of the political divide of belonging to Warri province and delta province all along. And even in terms of contribution to national wealth, we are just like you people. And we can look at the other side and say we have language affinity, and therefore brothers, you have the capital, we contribute oil and gas and by that remove the stigma of those who say Delta North does not contribute anything, and if that is the case why not concede this governorship position to a qualified Ndokwa person.

What is your relationship with the leadership of Delta North Leaders Forum, led by Senator Nosike Ikpo?

Incidentally, I know Chief Nosike Ikpo, and I know about the leadership forum. But you see Delta north unfortunately has a lot of hurdles to cross before it can unite the people of the zone for obvious reasons. I do know that forum exists like a number of other fora. I do not have any particular relationship with them, because they have not reached out to me. But I do know that all occasions where Delta North traditional forum had invited governorship aspirants from Delta North, I have always been invited, and I have always been there.

PDP in Delta is polarised, one faction led by Emmanuel Ogidi, the other by Dr Mallam-Obi, so the question is which one this faction do you belong to?

Before I answer this question, I need to address one particular question which arose from a statement I was quoted to have made, and it has to do with your correspondent who misrepresented my position. On that occasion I was asked if I am not afraid of the Urhobos with their large numbers coming out of Delta North to say I want to be governor. My answer was that if I had to be afraid of anyone at all, the Urhobos should be the last people I should be afraid of, because, we have been together with them in Warri province and later Delta province for so long; the people that we started doing something very recently are my brothers in Delta North. I then said I do not like tribal factionalism when it comes to politics, that there is no way any body can come to the leadership of Delta State on the basis of single tribe. I said I am sure that in this era where most of the tribes belong to PDP, it is a family affair. And since PDP operates a rotational policy, or powershift policy, that my Urhobo brothers would be even easier to convince to let power go to Delta North, and selfishly to Ndokwa nation since I am from there. And that the Urhobos are not straight jacketed not to accept a reasonable discussion. But what Vanguard published was that the governorship was not the birth right of Urhobos, but other newspapers published the same story there was nothing like that in their stories. So I am using this medium to complain about that story.

To answer your question, just like I told you about tribal factionalism, I am not a sticker to factions. I do not belong to any faction, I belong to PDP. And as far I am concerned what is happening in Delta State is a family affair. It is something that will be resolved before primaries, and it is not in my place to make statements to which faction I belong since my primary goal is peace making. And supposing I tell you I belong to one faction and tomorrow the thing is harmonised, how do you think the other faction will look at me. Instead, as a PDP person, I am concerned about the need for peace; whereas every other PDP state has harmonised their positions, Delta state is yet to do that. But as a true party man I work with whatever PDP national endorses, but that is not to say I belong to a faction. But, if the PDP national endorses a position and that position is not popular in the state I am craving to administer, I should worried, and I should be stupid to jump into an un popular train because it favours me. Rather, it will pay me better to see that nerves are calmed, and a more cordial family thing is arrived at, so that at the end of the day we in PDP do not give Delta state to another party. It happened in Lagos state during the SDP- NRC days of Ibrahim Babangida transition. NRC that had no business winning Lagos state won. I will not support promoting faction, instead it is important to harmonise factions, so we can go into the elections as one united party and retain the power we already have. Because it is dangerous to believe that Delta state is the birth right of the PDP, whether we are organised or not.

The process of Constitutional review is heating up the polity with the question of third term a particular sore point, what makes you think there would be a 2007?

Whether there is election in 2007 or not we have come with documents telling Deltans what can happen in the areas of their lives that can make things better. If that is the only thing that I gained from the project, it is worth the while. But other than that we are optimists, I am a born again Christian a believer in the move of the Holy Spirit; and the project is confirmed in me by the Holy Spirit, and God will not allow me step out if there would be 2007. And so on this issue of third term, I am an optimist and I believe as it is written in Roman 28, that says all things work for good to those who love God. And I do not think that there is an nation that love God more than Nigerians. If it is the popular will of Nigerians that there would be elongation of terms for governors and the president. But if it is not the wish of Nigerians I can assure that it cannot be manipulated.

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