Former Minister of State for Niger Delta, Sam Ode, is piqued by controversies arising from his governorship ambition. In this interview with CORRESPONDENT, TOR TERKURA VANDE-ACKA, he speaks on on issues surrounding the process to prune governorship aspirants on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) platform in Benue State, which has suddenly turned controversial. Ode also speaks on the fear being nurtured by other aspirants that he may emerge candidate of the party, hence the campaign that he be dropped. He discusses other issues.
It is being claimed that after the meeting that was held at KK Resort, the Benue South Senatorial district (Zone “C”), PDP caucus, unanimously endorsed Senate President, David Mark, to go for another term at the upper legislative house of the National Assembly. We also gathered that governorship aspirants from the zone also held a meeting and trimmed down the number of aspirants. How true is this?
I like to state the facts as they are and I stand to be corrected. On 27 September, 2014, stakeholders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were invited to a meeting and I was one of those invited to that meeting. We went to the meeting and it was a one agenda meeting to endorse our son, the President of the Senate, Senator David Mark. It was unanimously agreed that he should be encouraged to return to the upper chambers of the National Assembly a record fifth time. At that meeting, he was represented by the Minister for Interior, Comrade Abba Moro, who accepted the endorsement of the stakeholders that he should run for another four terms at the National Assembly. Before the Chairman of PDP caucus in Zone C, Major General Geoffrey Ejiga, (retired) had extended an invitation to five other aspirants from the zone to meet with him at 6pm. So, I want to say these were two different meetings. At the 6pm meeting, we engaged in strategies to enable us clinch the governorship seat of the State and this was devoid of rancour. The meeting was presided over by the caucus chairman with the zonal chairman in attendance. Other prominent members of the caucus, like Dr. Jerry Agada (former minister of state for education), were in attendance. It was agreed that we, the aspirants should meet and fashion out a strategy to achieve that objective. I was the first of the aspirants to respond and I thanked the caucus chairman for giving the aspirant the opportunity to agree amongst themselves (on who to fly the flag in the zone) and the meeting came to a close. As soon as we stepped out of the meeting, the state deputy governor Chief Steven Lawani suggested that we should meet on Tuesday 30th September, 2014. However, the state deputy governor later called me to say that the meeting cannot hold because one of us, Paul Harris Ogbole, was supposed to have a court sitting at Abuja. So, we picked another date (3rd October, 2014) Again, the meeting could not hold because Paul Harris Ogbole lost his father, Late Justice Ogbole and for us, it was a moment of depression. We collectively decided to honor our brother (Ogbole); besides, the late Justice was a notable Idoma, a fine jurist who served the state meritoriously. So the deputy governor suggested that we should adjourn but I told him that we should meet because of the importance of the assignment where the whole of Benue was anxiously waiting to know what will happen. So, we met at the deputy governor’s guest house and during the meeting, on behalf of the aspirants, I called and condoled with Harris (Ogbole) on the death of his father. We also called General Ejiga and told him that because of the circumstances, we could not report to him. Then I travelled to the UK on a Saturday after taking permission from the deputy governor since I did not want to miss any of the meetings. I arrived the United Kingdom on Sunday and on that day, it was already in the media space that the caucus met and the former minister (Sam Ode) and Dr. Mathias Oyeyiga were asked to step down and the people left were Paul Harris Ogbole, Roseline Ada Chenge and the deputy Governor. The caucus never met. For it to meet, it is not a one day affair because people would have to come from Abuja and other parts. I landed in Abuja on Thursday and read in the Guardian Newspapers that the caucus chairman declaimed the publication as untrue. Suffice to say that the publication caused me so much trauma and embarrassment. People called me from different parts of the world while my supporters who had put their hopes on my aspiration were traumatized. It is the lowest thing that anyone aspiring to the position of governor of the state can go in distorting fact to gain cheap advantage. I want to believe that none of the five aspirants from the zone directed that such should be put in the media space. But for the purpose of this situation, they are both beneficiaries and losers. So, I am calling on those who benefited from this falsehood to take the honorable path and place a disclaimer and until they do that, I will no longer have confidence in the process that has been put in place to prune spirants from Benue South district. This is my stand.
What do you think is the fear of the people spreading this false information?
Their fear is obvious. I was the target of that false information because the stories read clearly that former minister of State, Niger Delta had been dropped. So, I was the subject and object of the story to create fear and a crisis of confidence in my supporters and the minds of Benue people about my aspiration and the question I have asked is, “Who is afraid of Sam Ode,” in the race for governorship of the State?
Since this false story came out, have you been in touch with the other aspirants, especially the Deputy Governor, to feel their reaction?
At the time the false story came out, we were like accused persons and so, I felt that it was not necessary to ask any of the other aspirants but I must state here that Dr. Oyigeya called me and I commend him for that. I have reported the matter to the State chairman of PDP Mr. Emmanuel Agbo. In any case the issue of endorsement of any aspirant has been put to rest by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party who has banned the endorsement of aspirants by state chapters or even party caucuses.
Many believe that you were not in the race. How do you react to this?
I am in the race. I have never dropped my ambition by one atom. It is going on high speed. We have 50 days to the primaries and people are threatened that if they do not use some conventional means to stop Sam Ode, he may win the primaries.
How has your acceptance been in view of the agitation by the MINDA that the governorship seat been zoned to them?
I can tell you with every level of confidence that I received high commendations and acceptance across the length and breadth of Benue. But you know, in politics, there must be audience to tell you what you want to hear. I have worked hard and consulted with Benue people in the diaspora, America, Europe, UK, Lagos, Port Harcourt, name it. I came back home and traversed the nook and crannies of the State. I am ready for the primaries. I have no iota of doubt that I will emerge as candidate of the party come 29th November, 2014.