The Young Democratic Party (YDP) was registered in 2016 and recently held her state congress in Delta State were Barrister Festus Ofume emerged the state chairman. In this interview with Godwin Utuedoye in Asaba, he reveals some of the the party’s manifesto, vision and ideologies to the public. He spoke on the poor state and under development in Delta State attributing it to bad leadership of the PDP in the past 18 years. He also touched some salient developmental policies of the Delta State PDP led government which he claimed are not favourable to the masses.
Read excerpts from the interview.
>>>Delta State is 26 years old and looking at the development so far, and considering the 18 years of PDP leadership and the enormous resources that come to the state, how would you asses the development on ground?
Barr. Ofume: Well, if we have to give a pass mark of fail and pass, you will agree with me that you wouldn’t record a pass mark for a state that is 26 years old up till now. You will actually agree with me that we have not seen what is expected of the developmental growth of 26 years old state. So in my own humble opinion, I will not say Delta State have live up to the developmental recognition of a 26 years old state. If we look at what is going on currently in Delta State, you will agree with me that if compared to other states for instance Lagos State where we have seen how development come in both area of infrastructure and both human capital development, you will agree with me that Delta State have not done any thing, and I will attribute this to no other person but to what we call bad and poor leadership of the administration that has been holding powers in Delta State.
>>>You are the Delta State chairman of the Young Democratic Party, YDP. what do your party have to offer?
Barr. Ofume: Yes, the party like I said earlier has been registered since 2016 and we are on ground everywhere. It is a party that is giving power to the people. A party that believes that every party member is as important as the chairman. So what my party say and what we are doing is that the younger generations who have succeeded and excelled in various means of their life and who have been captains of industries in various aspect of life, and has proved that yes, we have what it takes to excel and succeed. So we are advocating that these youths should be given the power and the opportunity to step into that governance position, that leadership position where we will be able to steer the activities of the state to an expected direction. We have young ones, we have people who are vibrant and honest, people who believe and understand what political party is and what governance is. People who believe that if voted in come 2019 and even in the upcoming local government election, we are going to make change. We are not going to see governance as a means of vengeance to those who do not vote for you, or see governance as means to marginalize a certain group. YDP is saying no, that time has changed; that all around the world, we have seen what the young ones and the youths are doing. That we are capable and that we want to hold the power this time. That is what we stand for and that is the new thing we are offering.
>>>As a continuation, you said Delta State have not live up to expectation. What are those factors you feel are hindering the development of the State?
Barr. Ofume: The factor is the lack of proper administration and proper government. For instance, if you look at what is happening in Asaba, when it rains, you see what happens everywhere. For a state that is 26 years, it should be able to boast of at least a city that should be reckoned with. Asaba has been the state capital from inception, and I tell you if you go round the city you will weep. You don’t have anything to show that this place is a state capital. Look at the roads, how erosion is driving people around and away from their homes. What do you think is causing that? It is because the present and past administration does not know and understand what governance means. Governance is all about continuity, a situation whereby you will see a government or a governor that come into office and will not continue with the policies and works of the past administration. It is absurd. We have had situations where roads like Infant Jesus, DLA and Marian Babangida roads have been abandoned. And when you ask why, you will be told that this contracts was awarded by the past administration. Yes, awarded by the past administration and the money has been embezzled, but there is continuity in government, you review and if the need arises that such roads should be constructed, you re-award it because the mischief aim of awarding this contract of developmental projects is to alleviate the suffering of the masses, and if we continue to think that past administration has embezzled money and didn’t do the work expected of them as of when the contract was awarded (it was seen as a priority project done by the state), then the new administration should review and re-award such project when the need arises. So when you look at this things, you begin to see that yes, the administration in Delta State do not actually understand what is government. And it has been the PDP led government up to this very moment. In time past, we use to hear things like Delta Line, and this was one of the strongest transport system in the South South but today, where is Delta Line today? It is grounded, resources are not properly allocated. Like the newly established Delta State Traffic Management Authority, DESTMA, I see them every where, they sit under the umbrella tree doing nothing, what are you doing with them? What where they really set up to do? I think the major aim of setting up the scheme is to administer traffic flow but rather than doing that, they sit somewhere disguising in their uniform so that they can lure innocent Deltans to commit traffic offence so that they can extort money from them. We are looking at an administration, that if policies are put in place, it is not just implementing it but it have to be guided, nurtured until it becomes properly implemented. That is the stand of the YDP and when we come into government, we must change that.
>>>Just as the party name implies, Young Democratic Party, it insinuate youths calling for power. But recently power was given to a youth in Kogi State, and most Nigerians are criticising some of his policies. Don’t you think it will be disastrous to live power in the hands of the youths considering the complexity of the Nigerian State?
Barr. Ofume: Thank you very much. You see, I am a lawyer and in law it is said, “you cannot place nothing on something and expect it to stand”. It will definitely collapse. The governor of Kogi state is actually a young man and we expect that he should perform above average, but today he is not doing up to what is expected of him. What is responsible for that is because of where he is coming from. The kind of grooming he had from his political party or platform. The political platform that he belong to does not actually understand what politics is all about. You cannot do politics in isolation. Party belongs to the people and you as a governor must reflect the manifesto, the mission and the ideology of the political party you represent. And again, whatever you did not work for or struggle to get you don’t appreciate. He never expected to be where he is today but came in there by chance, but in YDP what we are saying is, for the younger generation to be in power, that is why we have started working. We have started preparing ourselves and looking at these individuals that will come up to contest for offices. We are looking at individuals that every party member will dome out and vote for. In YDP, we believe that every party member is a delegate. We vote and the majority winner will carry the day and bear the party flag. Governance belong to the party, and so we will bring back governance to the party. We will not allow a governor to become the “The Alter Ego” or become god. You report to the party and look at the party manifesto vis-à-vis whatever governance policy you want to implement. That is what we believe we in YDP and that what is currently lacking in the APC and that is why the Kogi State Governor don’t appreciate the importance of the opportunity given to him.
>>> As a political party, you did not score the PDP led administration any mark and this is understandable. Any moment from now, local government election will take place in Delta State. What has your party the YDP put on ground to compete favourably with the PDP, APC and all other well established parties? Do you have the resources and wherewithal to confront them head on and thirdly where is the place of the elders in your party?
Barr. Ofume: We just concluded our state congress last month which was a huge success. Currently we are going around all the senatorial districts, local governments and wards to make sure that by next month, YDP Delta State will inaugurate all the LGA Exco’s and down to the wards. The party was registered just 2016 and if look at the quantum of work we have done, the successes we have achieved or recorded, you will agree with me that the speed at which we are working, before the first quarter of 2018 when we expect the local government election to hold, YDP will become a household name in Delta State. So we are doing everything we can to make sure the up coming local government election YDP features its candidate at all level of the 25 local government and hopefully win convincingly. Then people keep asking where is the place for elders in YDP? We keep telling them that when we came together to form this party, the name; “Young Democratic Party”, was actually picked to represent a new idea, a new birth of young ideas that is fresh and innovative. We know that people are going to fight old ideas, so it is a name that represent the idea not just saying the party belong to the younger ones as people. So if you look at our party logo, it is Tractor with light and our slogan is the ‘Light has come’. What we are telling the older ones who have been in politics is that the light will shine and beam of the light will shine to the direction of where the youths are going. We are not telling them that we are retiring them or don’t want them to be in politics, no. They are welcome and we are working with them. What we are saying is that elective positions or executive positions, we need the younger ones to be given a fair opportunity to compete. The legislative positions, yes the older ones can go in there and become a life time legislature, it is okay but for executive positions, we are looking at where the young ones will dominate, where they will begin to take their destinies by themselves.
>>>Since you said Delta State is a write off in terms of not being developed for the past 26 years, if the YDP has been in power, what would you had done and how better do you think you would have perform?
Barr. Ofume: Well if you look at the constitution and the manifesto or the vision of the YDP, it is to bring governance. With the idea the YDP currently possess, if we had been in government for those years, implementing these ideas, there would have been a tremendous change in Delta State. You see when people say continuity, it makes me sometimes give kudos to people like Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu for the vision he has for Lagos State. He has taken Lagos State as a project and you can see that the successors of his administration has been improving in developmental projects if Lagos State. That is what we expect and continuity is our watchword as a political party. If we had been in government, the government of the day that will be succeeding the previous government will do well to understand that the project that has not been completed by the previous government is a project of the people and not for an individual, it is not a project for a clan and it is not a project set up for victimization. So we will look at what need to be done properly and do it rightly. YDP believes that governance will be discussed at the party level, and at the party level, office allocations will be made, budgets will be looked into and also at the office, constituency projects that are fair enough that should be done, represent and reflect the yearnings of the people in the constituency will be carried out and because it is a collective effort and yearnings of the people, even if the project is not completed before the expiration of the current tenure, the new tenure will do well to continue with it because it was an idea that was brought originally from the party and at the party level.
>>>Now tell us one thing you know that have not been done well in the state and how it should be done?
Barr. Ofume: Like I said, continuity of government projects. Continuity of government policies is a key factor to developmental project in any state. Because the time that are allocated for governance, like tenure ship of elected positions may sometime not be enough to complete what you have started, projects or policies. Now if you understand the idea of continuity that itself will solve all the problem. Like I said, when you look at the DLA road, Marian Babangida road, Okpanam road and other roads at Agbor and other areas, all these are as result of non-continuity of government project where each administration feels that it is better for them to start or begin a new one and complete so the glory will be given to them, no. Glory should be given to the party not an individual.
>>>The state government said it has expended the 10 billion naira Paris club refund. Are you satisfied with the breakdown and how do you react to this?
Barr. Ofume: Well to that I will not speak much because we have three arms of government. We are suppose to have legislative arms of the government that will serve as a check to the executive in their excesses. Office of the Auditor General is also and expected to audit the activities of the executive arm of the government. I don’t want to preempt whatever will happen, but I believe that the right action would have been for the state government to come out with a pure blueprint on how they have expended the said amount. And then, it is the citizens to first accept and look at how they have allocated this money and give a little time to begin to see if actually the fund has been ejected into the state and see if they will yield the expected fruit. So the government of today have come up to tell us that they have expended the money judiciously and accordingly, and if it is a decision that was taken by the right people that are suppose to do so, am not going to fight them. I think that is what they have told us but if in any reasonable time, we do not see the effect of the money driven down to the last person, you and I will know too well that what they told us was not actually true.
>>>If given the chance, will you lend your support to local government autonomy?
Barr. Ofume: Definitely yes. Local government is the third tier of government and until they are given full autonomy, our local government will continue to be a mess, a caricature of itself. In the western world, the municipal government which is the local government here, are very powerful arm of government. They have their own resources, they sit at the local council level with the communities because they are closer to the community. They discuss what need to be done directly and at that point, it will be properly implemented and why are they doing this? Because they have the constitutional authority to act as the third arm of government. But a situation where you do not have the authority to act, its actually a misplaced priority. So yes, I have always advocated for this and will continue to advocate for the autonomy of the local government.
>>>How would you score the federal government as a whole?
Barr. Ofume: Well let me narrow it to the government of the day and a little bit of the past PDP administration. The government of the day, we all know that they came up with a change mantra and for some persons, they have not been able to give us that change. The change that Nigerians voted for was not a change in the name but a change in manner and way at which things were done. But if you look at what is happening today you will see that what we all voted for is not coming forth. Nigeria as a country with the huge resources that we have, we are still were we are today. So the federal government have not actually given to the Nigerian citizens what they believe they voted for. So there are policies that the federal government have enacted which would have been very good, but one thing is to enact and another to implement. However, I will also state it clearly that if the PDP administration has won the federal election, I mean the presidency, with what we have seen, the amount of money and seizures of properties, diversion of federal resources by persons who occupies positions at the federal level would have continue and by now, Nigeria would have crumbled. So to an extent, I think if the APC government were sincere with the anti-corruption fight and along with developmental policies, it would have been a perfect one for Nigeria. But what APC didn’t understand is that, government cannot be run in a waterfall methodology where you have to finish one project and get into another. In governance, you run a concurrent policy where different projects can continue. As the anti-corruption is going on, other infrastructural developmental policies to alleviate and improve governance. That is where the current administration of the APC run government is getting it wrong.
>>>In a democratic system the masses have a place. How will you rate Deltans playing their role in the past 26 years especially in pressuring those in power to doing the needful?
Barr. Ofume: I will say Deltans are yet to play this role because one of the greatest problem we have is a problem of sycophancy. It is a problem where whenever a government is voted in, the people or organisations and NGO’s who are suppose to stand up firmly and call the government to order fail to live to expectation. This is because of selfish gains they hope to make, as such they visit government houses to pay lip service and are given peanuts thereafter go back home to sleep over their rights. To that extent, Deltans need to do more. Stand up and ask the current state governor to utilize the state allocation and Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) properly. Deltans need to stand up to review the activities of their representatives in the state and at the federal level. It should no longer be business as usual. Bag of rice, branding machine or motorcycles are no longer empowerment. We need to ask for more, demand more and meaningful empowerment should be given, empowerment that will go down memory lane, that can sustain the individual. Not empowerment that will only give life and happiness to you for an interim. By the time we start doing this, looking and reviewing their activities, making them to understand that we are not satisfied with what they are giving to us, then it is either they live up to expectation or the masses say, come next election we are going to remove you. Therefore, I can and will say Deltans have not done enough. We need to tell our representatives that we voted for them not to be our masters but our servants so that they can project our own goals and yearnings from the local Level.
>>>Do you think the YDP can stop sycophancy if voted into power?
Barr. Ofume: No. You cannot eliminate it 100% but when we begin to check the menace, you find out that it will come to an end gradually.