‘Money politics no longer fashionable in Nigeria’
In this interview with NIYI BELLO (Political Editor) and SEYE OLUMIDE, newbreed politician, Dr. Leroy Chuma Edozien, a medico-legal expert with higher degrees in Medicine and Law, spoke about his foray into Nigerian politics and wish to govern his native Delta State on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Why did you prefer APC despite the talk in town that the party has failed?
Firstly, if we were to situate Nigerian political parties in a spectrum, APC will always be to the left of the other party, PDP. Some will argue that there are very little ideological differences between the two parties but it is granted that the APC is a little bit to the left of the PDP. From when I was a child to the time I started following politics in the newspapers, my leaning has always been to the left side, I will say left of centre as opposed to extreme left. So it was only natural that I will gravitate towards the progressive party. And I wont be the first in my family to do so. My grandfather was a strong member of the defunct Action Group in the 1950s at a time when our hometown, Asaba, was under the Old Western region before the Midwest was created. So that would be in a nutshell reason I have chosen APC.
And then you asked why APC despite all that have been happening and so on in respect to failures. Well, those failures are historical. They didn’t just start with the creation of the APC or when the party came into power. The PDP itself has a long history of failures in power since the return of democracy in 1999. I think we have to give credit to APC for what it has managed to achieve in difficult circumstance over the last three years given all the problems we have economically and globally. It is a party I am proud to be associated with.
Delta State is under the control of PDP how do you hope to break even there and what is the strength of the APC in the state?
The strength of the APC can be looked at alongside the weaknesses of the PDP in Delta. The PDP has been governing Delta for the past 19 years and it has got nothing to show in the state for those years. Look at the infrastructural state of affairs in Delta State. Look at that alongside the state being so rich in resources. Is that a record to be proud of? So if anything, it should be quite easy to defeat the PDP in Delta State and to remove it from power simply by demonstrating the failure of governance in that state and the failure to ensure anything to be proud of after 19 years of rule.
I think that it is not just a question of the strength of the APC because that will manifest during the campaign. That will come up in our manifestoes with our ideas, our personality and strength to win the trust and confidence of the people. The people in Delta know that the quality of lives vis-à-vis their contributions to the national cake are really poor. There is a divergence and that must be corrected as soon as the APC wins the state under my leadership as the governor.
You are from the northern senatorial district where the incumbent comes from. How will you handle the agitation that power should shift south after Ifeanyi Okowa?
I hesitate to use the word zoning because that has some connotation associated with persons with less than satisfactory competence in position because they come from a particular zone. I have reservations about the use of the term. What I would say is that I subscribe to rotational leadership so that all components of a particular state would have a sense of belonging and have that assurance that at some stage, the opportunity would come to them to lead the state. Now we have someone from Delta North who is currently in position and I want to say today that it is a good idea for Delta North to continue in office not with the current governor but a replacement from the same district to complete the tenure of eight years. I subscribe to rotational leadership.
Does that means if you become governor you will spend only one term?
There is nothing wrong with that. The point I keep making is this it is not about me. It is not my personal project. It is about the state, the people and the party. I think that when we have the situation where Delta Central and South have had the governorship of eight years each and then Delta North has had it for eight years, you complete a full cycle. It therefore becomes institutionalized. That is one of the weaknesses in our governance in this nation. We don’t build institution. The institution is not just about physical structures; when you have a complete rotation, it becomes an institution. It is now easy to continue that as a tradition and everybody buys into it until such a time when another generation comes and there is political maturity of a system when people realise that it doesn’t matter where you come from as far as you are a competent person and a good leader that would take care of the entire state. We haven’t reached that level of maturity yet so it is important that all of us should subscribe to this concept of rotational leadership.
What is your relationship with APC leaders in Delta and how do you hope to compete with the ‘money bags’ including the incumbent governor who is also seeking reelection?
That’s a beautiful thing about democracy. We must not dissuade anybody from contesting. The beauty of democracy is that it is open, anybody can come out whether you are rich or poor, from the North, South or Central, educated or not, it is open for all. So all comers are welcome. It is a testimony to the strength of the party if it has many and different colours coming out to say we want to be the party’s flag bearer. We should not discourage them.
My point is how can you stand side by side with those billionaires who are showing interest to run on the APC platform in Delta State?
That speaks about the maturity of the political system. The political system in Nigeria is maturing and part of that maturity is that people are beginning to understand that it is not just about money. It doesn’t help us and I can tell you from my experience, the grassroots people are now looking for individuals. They are not even looking for party manifestoes and all that, but they are looking for people they can trust. They are looking for individuals that can deliver services, the ones that can deliver and apply the resources of the state to the benefit of the general good. That is what people are feeling in Delta State. When you go to the discussion forums, the youths and elders are saying that it is not about money? They have realised the fact that money politics has not been of help to them.
It is true that election requires money either in Nigeria or in advanced nations or elsewhere. It costs money to run an election, logistics, communication, security and so on. It is an expensive business. But what we don’t want is the belief that by doling out money to people, you will get their votes. Our people are more enlightened than that. If anybody goes down distributing money they will collect it from him or her but they will not vote for you because they collected your money. That will not define who is going to win election. Our people are more matured now and they also know what they are looking for. Our confidence is that money is not going to be the fulcrum of the election.
How do you dream to bring Delta out of the woods?
We’ve got to start from the basics. Delta State before oil money was a rich state. When it was part of the Western Region it had rich agriculture success. It was part of the agricultural success of the region in terms of Rubber, Oil Palms and others. It has even greater potentials not only to revive the agro-industry but also for promoting modern technology for agro-business. Those areas will be my cardinal focus. We will create more jobs and empower the women and halt the drift to urban centres. I also hope to build on infrastructure.