Rt. Hon Sheriff Francis Orohwedor Oborevwori is the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Peoples Democratic Party governorship candidate for the 2023 general election and National Deputy Chairman of the Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures of Nigeria. In this interview with select newsmen, he talks on his vision and mission for the state, if elected the next Governor of the state. He says his chances of winning the governorship election are very bright.
Your victory in the 2022 gubernatorial primary election of your party, the Peoples Democratic Party, was a resounding one. What would you say accounted for the overwhelming support you enjoyed from your party’s delegates?
First is God factor. Then hard work, pedigree and overwhelming party support. Party primaries, especially in the PDP, is a team work. Therefore, even though the contest may be very intense, the objective remains one, which is the emergence of the most acceptable party’s flag bearer. The process involves building confidence, trust and hope among the party’s delegates. Your past records speaks volumes and it was not a surprise that I picked up the ticket at the end of the day. My special thanks to all those who went into the Governorship Primary with me. It was a healthy competition and only one winner was expected to emerge. We thank God for everything.
The campaigns are almost being done with and the state is already set for the main elections. What are your chances of winning the 2023 Delta State governorship election?
We have worked and still working very hard/smart, with eyes on the ball as we approach the zero hour. We believe without any iota of doubt that our chances are very high even as the PDP flag continues to fly higher. The truth also, is that while the PDP is focused on issued-based campaigns, the APC has refused to purge itself from campaign of calumny, insults, barefaced lies and sheer mudslinging which is their customary stock in trade. Ironically, it has helped to brighten our chances since the APC has nothing to tell Deltans. My chances of winning the Delta State Governorship election are very bright. We embarked on Ward to Ward campaigns as well as local government campaigns. We have met with our people across the state on the need to vote for the candidates of the PDP based on track record. By the grace of God, we shall win the Governorship race.
Most Nigerian politicians are accused of lacking political focus, ideology and philosophy. As a politician, what’s your personal political philosophy and ideology?
Nigeria is practising participatory democracy which puts power in the hands of the people. I am a Democrat with the firm belief and full submission to ideals of democratic governance. In other words, since I started active political activities at the local government level, I have remained a servant of the people. Personally, I belong to the school of thought that sees political office holders as bearers of trust for the people and should be accountable to the people. After all, you are being employed by the people to work with their resources for their full benefits, that is what social contract is all about.
Every political party primary election throws up grievances and misunderstandings amongst contestants and party members alike. What are you doing to resolve pending issues in your party in this regard (if any) in order to forge a common front as you get into the 2023 elections proper?
Yes, as I said earlier, the contest can be very fierce during the party primaries. However, it is all geared towards a common front for one person to fly the flag of the party. It is also true that during the primaries, grievances may arise from bruised egos but more importantly and especially in the PDP, we try to mitigate those misunderstandings after the contest. As a family, we have internal mechanisms for the resolution of whatever differences that may have occurred. At the end, it becomes healthy again with everyone working together for the victory of the party and success of the candidate. It is never total but true party members will be re-united.
There are several other political parties with candidates, like you, jostling for the top job. What specific message do you have for the electorate to convince them to support you and your party instead of other candidates and their political parties?
As someone seeking the mandate of the people, it is the desire/needs of the people that determines our roadmap to the service delivery they want me to provide. Therefore, my campaigns across the state are not taken for granted as fanfare or roadshows. So, we engage, listen and collate their desires/needs. In other words, we allow the people to own the process by identifying and prioritising their needs which we are expected to provide within available resources when we assume office. This, I believe is the fulcrum of democracy because it is about the people and must be people focused.
“Expect More” is one of your campaign slogan. Kindly throw more light on what you mean by the slogan and what Deltans stand to gain from it, if they give you their votes during the forthcoming election?
Ok, just as the phrase implies: “Expect M.O.R.E” is a positive march towards the deepening of democratic gains, aggregating and reawakening those excellent milestone achievements of PDP governance in Delta state from 1999 to the present day, breaking new frontiers in the process, raising the bar and consolidating on people driven initiatives for the overall benefit of Deltans. M. O. R. E. stands for Meaningful Development, Opportunities For All, Realistic Reforms And Enhanced Peace And Security. We will keep to the M. O. R. E. agenda when elected Governor in the March 11, 2023 governorship election.
The outgoing Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa-led administration has recorded milestone achievements. Tell us what you intend to do differently for Deltans to “Expect More” from you, particularly in line with your “Advancing Delta” campaign mantra?
Well, this is related to what I have explained above. But, in specific terms: “Advancing Delta” is a progressive train envisioned to string PDP’s achievements in the state together and pulling the state to greater heights, holistically. I will accelerate development in physical infrastructure, economic growth, social prosperity, environmental sustainability and security of lives and properties of Deltans.
What specific socio-economic initiatives and empowerment programmes should Deltans expect from your administration should you emerge Governor of Delta State in the forthcoming governorship Election in the State?
Our socio-economic initiatives shall be all inclusive with emphasis on a robust private sector partnerships especially in huge commercial ventures in agro-allied and manufacturing. We believe that opportunities available in the private sector have not been adequately explored. So we are going to get involved and reap the benefits for the people of Delta state. We shall advance the skill acquisition programmes to engage our teeming youths in productive ventures, uphold and protect the dignity of our people.
A major issue of concern for Deltans and the state civil servants in particular is that of pensions and gratuities. What message do you have for Delta State civil servants in view of their expectations, should you emerge Governor of the state after the 2023 elections?
As you may be aware, available records have shown that the issue of unpaid pension and gratuities resides largely within the local government councils. Senator Okowa is currently doing a lot, including exploring refinancing the outstanding. Therefore, one of the first things we are going to do is to align with the initiative and collaborate with the council authorities with a view to clearing up all arrears relating to pensions and gratuities.
Women empowerment and girl-child development are core facets of good governance as you already know. What programmes do you have for these two sub-sets of Delta State citizens and residents of the state?
We are not unaware of the position of the affirmative action on women and the girl child. We are going to be very intentional in the pursuit of this agenda and ensuring that relevant opportunities are deliberately targeted at young and vibrant women as well as girls to develop and harness their potentials.
Delta State is blessed with a large, variedly-gifted youth population as you already know. What specific programmes do you have for Delta State youths to aid the release of their potentials and the maximisation of their talents, towards their overall personal development?
We are conscious and remain very proud of the achievements of our youths who have given expression to their innate gifts in different endeavours such as music and entertainment in general. I am delighted to say that Governor Okowa administration is already laying the foundation with the development of the Asaba film village. As a PDP government, we shall take our bearing from that project and continue to provide the enabling infrastructure, support the development and harnessing the potentials of our youth population in several ways.
Talent discovery is a cardinal aspect of the outgoing Okowa-led administration. What are your own programmes for the continuation and expansion of this good governance initiative?
Again, this is quite related to what I have just said. To us, talent discovery is a goldmine and be rest assured that the state ministry of youths and sports will be given the specific mandate to grow and nurture this laudable initiative by His Excellency, Governor Okowa.
Delta State has enjoyed considerable peace and security over the years. What security programmes and initiatives do you have to consolidate on the gains gotten so far and to further expand on it?
Surely, there can’t be development in the absence of peace and security. We are going to therefore sustain what we have now and improve where necessary on the present strategy for peace and security by the state government. Specifically, we will collaborate with traditional rulers and chiefs in the security architecture of the State.
Health and Education are very important elements of good governance and social development. What are your specific programmes for these two very important sectors of Delta state’s economy?
The twin sectors of health and education are very vital to the development and well being of any society. We are going to prioritise both sectors as much as possible, ensuring that access to quality primary health care and basic education are not only available in good quality but also affordable to all Deltans and residents of the state.
There are serious concerns over lack of employment opportunities in the state; what will your administration do to create jobs and employment opportunities for the teeming population of the state?
As a democrat, truth is my guiding principle and absolute truth remains that, there is no government anywhere in the world that can employ everybody. However, it is the responsibility of government to provide the enabling environment for businesses to grow and thrive. And when businesses thrive, job opportunities are automatically created due to expansion by the businesses. I have also said that we are going to explore private sector participation to tap into some of these opportunities for our people. Our priority will be geared towards enhancing the capacity of Deltans to be entrepreneurs and employers themselves.
You are from the Delta Central Senatorial District of the state and we understand that there are a few dissenting voices within the camp. What do you have to say to the electorate in your Senatorial District who are yet to fully subscribe to your candidacy for the 2023 governorship election?
True, but I am not relenting in my efforts in reaching out to within and outside the Delta Central Senatorial District to support my mandate for the attainment of “Advancing Delta”. Sometimes, it has not been easy but I will continue to humbly extend the olive branch. We remain brothers and sisters and I know that love will always prevail in a family at the end of it all, regardless.But, beyond my reaching out, we also have the Success Pull Syndrome as a factor working in our favour. A lot of my folks are also moving from the other divide to identify with our success train. On the whole, I remain very grateful to God and pray that things can only get better for the sake of our dear state.
The 2023 general elections is a crucial one in the history of our dear country, Nigeria and there are speculations of possible chaos and unrest that may accompany the elections. What’s your message to Nigerians regarding this all-important elections?
We will continue to fervently appeal to everyone to exercise restraint and shun violence before, during and after the elections. Election is a democratic exercise and not war. After all, no one stays in power forever. So, if your preferred candidate is not chosen this time, be rest assured that there is time for everyone just as there will always be another time.
The outgoing Governor of the state, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, is your party’s vice presidential candidate for the 2023 presidential election. Are you in full support of his ambition and what message do you have for Deltans and indeed the Nigerian electorate in this regard?
Yes, there couldn’t have been a better pair at this time in our nation. We actually need the exemplary experience in the Atiku/Okowa ticket to rescue and reset Nigeria. Virtually, every aspect of decent human living is being threatened in today’s Nigeria. I believe that Nigeria can be great again under the leadership of Atiku and Okowa Presidency. Both of them will get our nation out of the woods and we will be happy citizens again.
The governorship election is few weeks away from now. What do you have to say to opposition politicians and their political parties as you move into the election proper?
My message is simple: Delta State deserves to move forward and not to take a step backwards. We can not afford to start afresh. Verifiable and impactful democratic gains had been delivered by the PDP over the years and it will only make democratic and socio economic sense to continue to build our state from the winning team. Certainly, no true Deltan will want to introduce the termite that is destroying Nigeria from the Federal level just within 8 years, into Delta state. That will be suicidal.