SAHARA TV INTERVIEW WITH COMRADE FRANK UFUOMA ESANUBI, DELTA STATE GOVERNORSHIP ASPIRANT

Comrade Frank Ufouma Esanubi

Interviewer: Let me start by asking you this. Why should Deltans or Delta people pick you as governor, what makes you the best candidate?

Frank: Yeah, so I might not say I am the best candidate because we have not seen the entire array of aspirants that are coming out at this point in time, but I will say that I offer a very credible alternative to the people of Delta state. If we see what we have gone through as a state for the last 19 years, it is not a direction that we would want to continue going into the next dispensation. The people who we have in charge at the point in time, the recruitment process is, I would say, faulty because you have a situation where people graduate through thuggery, people graduate through hooliganism, people graduate by displaying one social vice or the other and they grow through the ranks into different political offices, that is something we do not need to encourage going forward because that will not bring development and so I think looking at my background, looking at where I am coming from, I offer a very credible alternative for the people of Delta state to consider their next governor

Interviewer: Considering the fact that your party, a lot of people are actually concerned that you do not have a serious party structure in the state and the fact that you do not have the financial well withal like the APC and the PDP – current ruling government in the state – as well as the fact that the pedigree of your candidature. What distinguishes you?

Frank: Okay, So I would take them one at a time, the issue around the party, the Action Democratic Party (ADP). Earlier this month, we celebrated across the nation, our one-year anniversary. The party was set up on June 7th – finally got approval from INEC June 7, 2017 – and within the space of one year, we actually have our presence in all 36 states of the federation including Abuja. In fact, many analysts have concluded that the ADP is the fastest growing political party in Nigeria based on our growth within the last one year. Financially, I would also agree with you that we do not have access to state funds as the current participants do right now, where the people in PDP and APC put their hands into state resources as if it were part of party funds and that is what they use to fund their electoral pursuits. What we are doing differently is that we are relying more on the people, we run a campaign where people actually contribute towards it. As an individual, I wouldn’t say I am a money bag, I am an employee, I am a worker and so people of like minds, people that are in the middle class, just like myself are putting resources together to say, “No we cannot allow these people to continue the mess which we are seeing at this point in time”. And on the final analysis, talking about my own profile and my own candidacy, I think I have all that it takes, I am more than qualified to be the governor of the state. Constitutionally, the expectation is that you should have a school certificate minimum before you can be governor. I have two Bachelor’s degrees, I have two Master’s degrees, I am a fellow of three professional institutes; ICAN, ACCA, and The Chattered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria. And beyond this, I have over fifteen years work experience in Multinational companies both in and outside Nigeria and in terms of exposure and training, I think I have what it takes. It may also interest you to know that at the moment, I also serve as the deputy president of PENGASSAN nationwide, defending the interest of over twenty thousand Nigerian workers in the oil and gas industry. So, putting all this together, I think I am more than qualified, competent and ready for the task ahead.

Interviewer: Some of the electorates in Delta State whom we have cause to talk to say that, talking about your candidature, some are of the opinion that you do not have the experience in terms of governance, some are of the opinion that why doesn’t he start from probably local government chairman or something else. What do you have to say to these?

Frank: What I have told people at times is that I have been married for 12 years and now I am blessed with two kids (and a) beautiful wife. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any marriage experience before I got married but then, I have had a very successful marriage to date and what that tells me is that experience is as good as knowledge. If you go to the Catholic church for instance, the Rev. Fathers are not allowed to get married but they have a lot of experience because they interact with people, they know what happens and they can even give counsel, advise people who are married. I have had the opportunity to have gone through various leadership positions and in all these I have developed myself, I have also gone through different learning opportunities both locally and outside the country and I don’t think it is rocket science to run a state. If experience we are talking about is the experience that the current political class are… is what we are experiencing for the current political class, then it is an experience we need to do without because if there is any experience I see them having now, they are very experienced in looting, they are very experienced in abuse of office, they are very experienced in aggrandizement of self and so on and so forth. I don’t think we need that kind of experience moving forward. The type of experience needed, I think I have developed that through other means.

Interviewer: There’s been a lot of concern in terms of issues from Delta arising from attack on Oil facilities, oil spill including the Fulani herdsmen crisis, what are your programs about these?

Frank: I will start with the last one, you talk about Fulani herdsmen and I have told people that I do not think the profession of rearing cows is the exclusive preserve of a particular ethnic group and I actually say… I tend to look inward when I try to look for solutions to problems. Who says that we should not have cattle ranches in Delta state that are owned by Delta people; Who says that government cannot encourage private business men in Delta state who want to go into rearing of cattle/providing some of the stuffs they need and going into productive partnership for the state, so for me I think the sustainable solution is to empower our people to see that there is actually a business opportunity in that line and to see how our people will get involved and by the time we get involved, it reduces your dependence on a particular source of getting beef as at now. So that will address it long term, we would definitely work toward having cattle ranches in Delta State, where Delta state people are really involved in the process. I support states who have also passed the Anti Open Grazing Bill, we are in the 21st century, we need to move forward as a country, we are not going to say something is our culture, is our tradition and then even in the light of superior argument we still want to retain those old habits. We need to find a way to stop open grazing. Is there is a better way to do the people management side of it, probably (yes), with my experience in the trade unionism circle where we do a lot of engagement, we do a lot of collaboration, I think we would be able to do those engagements to get all of that sorted out, but definitely, we would be looking in the direction of ending open grazing in Delta state, we will be looking in the direction of having cattle ranches that are run by people of Delta state in Delta state. And coming to the other issue of pipeline vandalism and so on and so forth, the truth is , we need to do more of educating our people, we cannot defecate or urinate in the same place where we drink from and the issue of insecurity generally which translates to even the issue of pipeline vandalism and all of it, it has driven investment out of Delta State, the major oil companies, the last of which was Shell that relocated not long ago and we have a few other companies that have relocated over time and it is not helping us so it will require us…

Interviewer: (Cuts in) Shell for example, Shell had divested its interest in Delta state but there was a report that they didn’t totally go away, they still have some interests in Delta state.

Frank: There are, the way business works for instance is you have operational locations where you probably have the oil fields or the gas processing facilities or stuff like that, you would have probably 40-50% of your staff in those operational locations and then you also have what we call administrative locations, those people who provide support services to the main business, those people would also account for about 50% of your staff. That is where you get the accounting functions, the HR functions, you get procurement functions, those people are not in the field specifically. So with the operations of Shell, using that as an example now, they had a very massive administrative complex in Delta state – Ogunu in Warri – where a large number of staff were working there and doing all sorts of things, you close that down, it’s a lot of people that have gone out of the society, those people will be requiring plumbers, those people would be requiring carpenters, those are activities that would have built up the state, artisans would have work to do but when the middle class are no longer in the society what would be the fate of those below the hierarchy of society?

Interviewer: So how do you intend to reverse that trend because there seems to also be moribund industries in Delta state, how do you intend to reverse the trend?

Frank: So, on the side of government the first thing we would do when we come on board is to create a fairly safe security architecture, you are not going to have people come to invest in your society if they don’t feel safe. We are conducting this interview in Lagos now and I can tell you that fair enough I can drive myself around, I can move around, if you go to Warri for instance or you go to any town in Delta state, it is probably going to be difficult to say you just move around without some form of additional security. It’s a problem that we have caused for ourselves, I was in another Niger Delta State barely two weeks ago and for every 5 meters you move you see a lot of … every person moving is moving with an entourage of 6-7 mobile policemen, you create a militarized society. No investor would come and invest under that kind of atmosphere. So our first job is to see that we address the issue of insecurity and the experiences in recent times have demonstrated that the insecurity we suffer as a county and as individual states in the country are actually perpetuated by the political class, it is the thugs who are used during election and for the next 3-4 years they have nothing to fall back on then they resort to other social vices and then make the place unsecure for everybody but with reorientation we believe that we will change that and we also make sure that we bring to book those who refuse to conform to normal social norms.

Interviewer: There is also the issue of gross environmental pollution and degradation of farmlands in the state, how do you intend to address this?

Frank: I will say we need to do more. For all the oil producing companies for instance, there is always an expectation that is called Asset Retirement Obligation, so you make sure that you return the environment to the state you met it as at when you started your operations. It is not something that is being implemented, in fairness to some of these oil companies, they provide one or two services to the host communities but our society have been so monetized that at times people prefer to take some cash out than see that the right things are done

Interviewer: So how do you intend to now change or reorient a monetized people who believes in cashing out just like you said, what are you providing for them as an alternative?

Frank: The first we would do, we cannot solve all the problems overnight, I would be as practical as I can with you, we cannot solve all the problems overnight. Even in this political struggle for instance, the political space is also monetized, and so if you go to the conventional people who will say these are stakeholders., you begin to see unnecessary demands in the area of finance before they can do things and so the finance doesn’t really get to the ordinary people. So, what we have done as a political struggle for instance now is to cut off those so-called middlemen, deal directly with the ordinary people and say this is about us, and that is where we are beginning to get our support to say this is the direction we are going, we are not going after money, we are not doing this. And so, when we also come to the issues of environmental degradation and cleaning our environment, we cut of those middlemen we go to the ordinary people; If you go to the village and you call a community meeting and explain to the people, the people will appreciate it, it is the leadership within all these structures who have always done the engagement with government or done the engagement with oil companies that have always short-changed the general society. So, if we go to ordinary people, we do the explanation and there is sincerity of purpose on our own side, those middlemen will be left hanging and it is either they comply with what is happening or they face the music.

Interviewer: There has been alleged gross marginalization and deliberate short-changing on some of the oil producing ethnic nationalities in the state, how do you intend to address this marginalization agitation?

Frank: So, I am aspiring to be governor of the whole of Delta state but I am not unconscious of the fact that even the resources that are coming to Delta state is mainly due to the operations of the oil companies and the oil produced in the state and not all the communities actually produce in similar quantum. I have a particular interest in those oil producing communities. Today I will be honest with you, they do not benefit whatsoever from the oil exploration that is taking place in those communities. Before now in the 70’s, 80’s or probably in the early 90’s, the communities still benefitted a little from the operations because what happens – I was explaining to you – is that you that we have oil operating facilities in this location, we take maybe a particular town in Delta state, say Forcados and Escravos where you have an oil operation activity in that town, the workers that come there work during the day, in the evening they go out into the town and when they go out into the town even expatriates and Nigerians alike they go out into the town, they have some drinks, interact with the community, there are economic activities and they get some benefits out of all that. Now because of insecurity, many of these companies have turned their operational bases to closed camps and what does close camps entail, you use a helicopter, you fly your employees directly to that place, they stay in a place without coming out for two weeks or for one month, finish their jobs and you take helicopter again you take them out, the entire community around it has no benefit whatsoever. Some of these communities are also cut off from the inland, we have the mainland and they are like the riverine side, there are no bridges linking them, I will tell you the example of Escravos for instance, Escravos has been supporting oil production activities for more than 40 years and to date you cannot drive from Warri to Escravos, it’s unfortunate you can imagine how many millions have come out those place and with just that road, you would have opened a whole lot of economic activities over there. They are right to complain of marginalization, the same thing with the Ukwuani axis, they are right to complain of marginalization an apart of our primary focus is to make sure that we link those oil producing communities back to the mainland and who says, some of us can decide to stay in those places, it’s because it not linked today we are not able to stay there

Interviewer: Let me take a preview of your economic blueprint for the state if you eventually become governor, there’s been an alarm that was raised sometimes ago by the present governor of inheriting 600 billion from debts from the former governor Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan and he himself has actually increased the debt burden to about 60 billion, how do you intend to reverse the trend of this debt burden?

Frank: I was telling a few people some time ago that if I am elected governor I can presumably estimate what would be the federal allocation that would come from revenue allocation at the end of the month, I can reasonably estimate what is the current internally generated revenue but what is most difficult to estimate as we speak is how much debt is being owed and how much debt is paid on a monthly basis. I will be honest with you I am working with the assumption that when we come onboard there is actually nothing to work with and that is for us to not to be taken unawares and begin to complain from the word go. The major source of revenue to a state are as follows; you get the federal allocation which is sharing resources that belongs to all tiers of government and then the internally generated revenue of the state actually comes from personal income tax, the tax that the people in the state actually pay and that should be on the average about 20% of the income of anybody that is employed in that state. The target and my economic blueprint is built on making sure that we get people to get jobs in Delta state because the more people get jobs in Delta state, the more the state would generate internal revenue

Interviewer: What is your view about the rotational arrangement that subsist or exist in the state?

Frank: Some people call it zoning, some people call it power rotation, I don’t know if we can add federal character or state character to it (laughter). What I tell people is that poverty has no local government of origin. The current governor of the state is from Ika and I am from Okpe Local Government and I can tell you that the suffering that is taking place in Aghalokpe, that is in my village, is not different from the suffering taking place if Boji-Boji Owa which is in Ika South LGA. If somebody is dying, it doesn’t matter if the person is killed by a brother or an enemy and if you are also sick and you find yourself in the hospital, nobody asks if it is my brother that is treating him or is he from the other senatorial zone, the first thing you think of please come and perform this surgical operation and rescue my brother to be alive. We are at a point of life or death, I think where people come from is the least important factor for us to consider at this point in time, we should think of getting the job done

Interviewer: So how conscious are the Delta state people as far as this agenda is concerned because many still believe in this so called zoning or rotational arrangement, how conscious, how strategically placed are you in other to gain the confidence of the people to shelve this idea of rotational arrangement or zoning arranging that has been put in place by the entrenched government

Frank: What you actually see is that it is the existing political parties that use that formula to create some form of peace and harmony between them because it is like a cabal and the only way that they can enjoy relative peace in what they are doing is to say that okay after my turn it is going to be your turn so allow me to go and do what I am doing when I am done you go and do yours…

Interviewer: (Cuts in) …But that has been in place for the last 18 years in Delta state, Governor Ibori left and his other lieutenant Uduaghan came in and thereafter Okowa Ifeanyi, the present governor. These people still belong to the same hegemony how do you intend to break that egg?

Frank: We are going to the people, in this struggle we started, we are going straight to the ordinary people, letting them to appreciate the severity of the issues at hand, I can also tell you that the reception we have been receiving is overwhelming. We are not using the current structures because the current structures have failed us, it is for deliberate reason that we selected the ADP as the platform to drive this process. One thing that the ADP offers for instance is the fact that we are going to have direct primaries, option A4 type of primaries where every member of the party is a delegate for selecting who is the eventual flagbearer. What that has cut off, it has cut off political racketeering that you need to go and settle some political gladiators before you can get the ticket of the party, this time around I need to go and meet the ordinary people who will be the delegates which is what we are doing. The same way, when we talked about power rotation and whatever, the ordinary man that is in Okpanam, the ordinary man that is in Obiaruku, the ordinary man that is in Oleh or Gbaramatu or in Koko, that ordinary man does not care who the governor of Delta state is, what that man is after is am I getting value for service, am I feeling the impact of the government. Two of us we are waiting for budget to be signed but how many Nigerians are really bothered, how does the budget translate into our daily lives? People can’t see how it ties and so that it has delayed for 6 months, whose business is it? It is all about them sharing among themselves, I think until when people realize that some if these things are tied to us and they now believe that somebody is now coming with a message to say we are talking about the people and less about the political process, I think it’s part of our strategy.

Interviewer: Finally, Deltans have over the years suffered from maladministration and they are very desirous of a real change in governance in the state, how do you intend to bring this to the fall

Frank: The first thing, I will tell you, is sincerity of purpose. And after you’ve gotten sincerity of purpose, it is also important how you get into office. Now if one major political financier comes to me today and tells me Frank this election is going to costs you, INEC allows you to spend up to N200 million in a governorship race so I am going to give you the N200 million, go and run this election. You know what I have done, I am no more the governor of the state, I have mortgaged the leadership of the state to the whims and caprices of the man that sponsored that election and it is for that reason that I have deliberately refused to approach anybody as project financier. Instead, I have opened it up, (that) as ordinary people we need to choose to say we want to rescue our state and we need to contribute what we call in local parlance “Esusu” or whatever. Let’s all contribute, it would cost us money as a people but we all contribute money and we would get this done, at the end of the day I become indebted to the people that have placed me there in the first place and for me that is my model and that is what is required. If you go with the current structure where people come and pick you and do this, we would never get a messiah from the current structure, that is the unfortunate reality.

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