Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State is the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP National Convention Committee, NCC with the broad task of ensuring that tomorrow's elective convention comes out successful. His job has not been made easier by the boisterous expression of party members for a return of the party to its grassroots as seen in the about 87 persons contesting for 21 available offices.
How the Okowa led NCC manages proceedings on the convention floor would inevitably determine the party's preparedness for the ultimate goal of regaining power in Abuja in 2019. Ahead of the convention, the governor spoke in a live interview session on AIT. Excerpts:
How do you react to claims that the governors are trying to foist a list of candidates on the party?
No. If we allow manipulation it will lead to the death of the PDP. The party is not bullying anybody to step down, and that is why you find a lot of people coming up to contest the election. So, we are confident that the process will go on smoothly, though challenging. Challenging, because of the time and because of the energy that has to be put in to deliver several elections all at a time.
It is not like the presidential convention when you are dealing with one particular election, but this one you have to deal with 21 different elections and therefore, it is going to be time-consuming. But we are confident that it is going to be well.
It is alleged that PDP governors are backing a particular candidate. Are you aware or are you part of this?
For the PDP governors, they are all delegates to the convention and therefore have the right to vote.
Can I now particularly say that because Gabriel Suswam is a former governor and another former governor is in the race and that therefore Suswam is going to back a former colleague who is in the race?
Things don't just work that way. People may have different views, but for H.E. Suswam, he knows that even if he were to be a delegate, it would not be possible for him to cast his vote.
As a governor, I am a delegate, but because I have accepted to act in this position, I cannot cast my vote. I cannot. And that is why we asked in the electoral committee, that every delegate who is in that committee had to step down.
It was with a lot of thought that we took that decision that it would not be fair for a delegate who is going to cast his vote to be part of that committee. By the grace of God, we would try to deliver an election that is credible.
The governors alone can't even decide for the entire nation; we have only 11 PDP governors; that means that you have other 25 states that do not have PDP governors, and those 25 states have leaders.
Leaders in such places may be former governors, may be former ministers and may be some of our natural leaders that have been there from the beginning. So, these other people have a lot of influence.
So, it is not just a question of governors because if it were governors, it would be 11 governors against 25 other persons.
So, things don't work like that. It is not mathematics when it comes to the politics of Saturday because a governor may hold a view and some leaders in that particular state may not have that view and some other local governments where former governors hold sway, some other leaders in that state may not agree with them.
In some states former ministers, former senators are in charge of the structure, but there are still people who will not listen to a command from any one of them.
How is this convention going to be funded?
We had a convention in August, and we want to thank our party members; they came to that convention on their own and went back on their own.
It is no longer a time when people believe that they must be funded to do things and that is the same situation going on at the moment.
The thing is that there are critical areas in which the party has to spend - printing, publicity. People have made contributions, leaders have made contributions, and some of the governors have also made contributions.
Will those people not tie such contributions to demands on the convention floor?
Obviously no. I don't think anybody has made such a large donation to think of that.
There is the speculation that a particular governor is underwriting the cost of the convention and that his list of candidates should be adopted, is that true?
Would you expect that to happen? That would be an insult to the rest of the governors and an insult to the rest of the leadership of the party.
The party did raise quite some funds from the sale of forms, and as at yesterday, 87 persons who collected forms have returned same, and some others who collected have not returned. So, a lot of money has been raised through that process, and you are aware that chairmanship candidates paid as much as N3 million per form.
So, obviously, the party has raised a reasonable amount of money from that process. Persons have made donations though we don't have any huge donation from anybody, but we can manage.
There is a national reconciliation committee?
Yes, these are processes put in place, and I must be thankful to our leaders who are contesting for the chairmanship position because they have all accepted to enter into a memorandum of understanding that they will accept the outcome of the polls.
They have shown a lot of leadership, and for anybody aspiring to lead the PDP as chairman, I think that is what is expected of them to do. So, to that extent, we are happy with our leaders who are contesting for the chairmanship position, and we hope that every other person contesting for other positions would key into the process of accepting the polls; because the polls definitely would be credible.
Is there anything you envisage that would be a challenge before Saturday?
We are working hard, and we must thank the security agencies since they are cooperating very well with us.
What of court orders?
We will obey all court orders. You will hear that today, that former governors and former deputy governors are not going to be part of the convention and that is because of a court decision that the process of amendment that brought them in as statutory delegates in 2012 was not properly done.
So, unfortunately, they will not be part of this convention, but we are hoping that that amendment will be properly done this time so that as leaders of the party they would also be statutory delegates.
My emergence as governor, my emergence as senator, went through very difficult elections, but they were credible, and to that extent, I will not be part of any process that will create incredibility.