Ahead of the 2023 general election, Hon. Farah Dagogo, the member resenting Bonny/Degema Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, in this interview, explains that the Peoples Democratic Party’s choice of presidential candidate would determine the party’s impact in the presidential election. He sees former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as the only one with the capacity to defeat the All Progressives Congress, APC.
With 2023 just around the corner, what are the chances of your party, the PDP, especially, in the Presidential Election?
As a country, Nigeria is at a critical juncture. We have never had it this bad, it is a most unfortunate situation. The downturn in virtually all sectors and lives of the people is alarming and not welcomed at all. This is an all time low in the history of governance in our dear country. Instead of us competing with the best in the world, this present administration has lowered the bar, and placed us at par with the very worst of the worst.
We must and should be saluting the resilience of Nigerians, to have survived and stomached the about seven years of this mal-administration tell a lot about the Nigerian spirit of never giving up. However, Nigeria and the Nigerians’ spirit should not be tested on the survivability of anguish, pains, suffering, poverty-stricken and other worse scenarios this present administration has been dishing out non-stop for almost seven years now.
Nigerians are in concord that we need a shift, a clear compass, a paradigm that would take us out of this upheaval. Nigerians are counting and relying on the PDP for succour and a good direction. Nigerians have now handed over the responsibilities of bringing back hope and salvaging our better tomorrow to the PDP.
Your State Governor and other Governors of the PDP, particularly from the South, are clamouring for a shift of power from the North to the South, how do you now justify your position?
I have said it before and I am restating it. As at now, and as it relates to the exigencies of the behemoth of problems, Atiku is the biblical Moses with the magic wand to begin the move of taking Nigerians and Nigeria to a greater height. There is also the peculiar situation PDP as a Party found itself in. This is a battle of immense proportion. We are in the opposition and if we are desirous of taking over power, which I believe is the case, then we have to go with our best arsenal. This is not a time to be sentimental, we need our emotions to be put in check, detached. It shouldn’t be about North versus the South but about the future of Nigeria and Nigerians. It is not a matter of convenience, but the talk of zoning should be jettisoned for now. In the history of our democracy, Presidential elections have always been contested by aspirants and candidates from both the South and North at the same time, be it at the primaries or general elections.
The country is counting on the PDP to lead, we are on the precipice, any wrong calculation can spell doom. In the 2015 Presidential election, the calculation and timing to put forward President Buhari as a candidate of the main opposition were right and with other factors, he defeated an incumbent. In Rivers State, in that same 2015, the present Governor took advantage of the then circumstances to become a Governor even though he was from the same Ikwerre speaking tribe as his predecessor who was governor for eight years. Despite the overflow of emotions, the Governor by next year would have completed a 16 years uninterrupted Governorship by the Ikwerre ethnic nationality. It worked eventually even though the crisis that arose from Rivers State was the genesis of our losing the centre. In all, we sacrificed the Presidency to get back Rivers State. All those are in the past and if emotions did not work then, it shouldn’t be a factor now. The party took that decision because it wanted to wrestle power from the ruling APC in Rivers State then, and it paid off. The same scenario is before the party now and speaking objectively and looking at the indices and permutations, Atiku is a strong factor, a winnable option. Even my Governor has said it several times that the party is determined to field the right candidate, we are all in the same boat.
The governors of the PDP, particularly from the South are also in the know for a while now that the best bet of getting Nigeria out of this gamut of a mess is Atiku Abubakar. He is the best solution for Nigerians today. The PDP is lucky to have him in its fold. Like most observers, the Governors from the South on the platform of our party know that an Atiku candidate will guarantee victory for the PDP in the 2023 Presidential elections.
That’s my basis and justification for supporting the candidature of Atiku. He knows what he wants and he came prepared.
In this situation however, Atiku should be very circumspect because of the Judas amongst us. The same people that sabotaged and worked against his victory at the 2019 polls are still holding sway. He knows them, they are treacherous and slippery, he shouldn’t allow himself to be bitten twice.
What is your relationship with your State Governor considering your position might be at variance with his political ambition?
Because you asked, I will tell you the way it is; I don’t have any personal issues with him. We might have our disagreements, but such disagreements are strictly on principles. Also, there have been lots of unfounded allegations that I am no longer a member of the PDP, how those that are peddling these lies, right from when I was at the State Assembly, sleep at night amaze me. I am an independent minded individual. Whatever ambition he has, he is free to pursue it just as I am at liberty to mine. I don’t mix governance with administration nor politics. Representing the interests of the people is a serious business. Those of us holding the mandates of the masses in trust understood the huge responsibilities handed to us and we dare not fail. When you are fully abreast with this, you prioritize your engagements to sync with that which will be beneficial to your people and not some jamboree procession to prove loyalty where all sorts of uncouth languages glossed with insults are dished out. People of high calibre, both in and outside the government, ridiculed and the misguided laughed at such unfortunate scenarios, I can’t be a part of such. That is not governance.
This support for Atiku, is it a gateway to shore up your support base in your state vis-a-vis your political aspirations for 2023?
In 2023, by the Special Grace of God, I would have completed eight years in the legislative arm of government. Four years at the State Assembly and further four at the House of Representatives. If you look at the trajectories, I always make progress by His Special Grace and with support of colleagues, constituents and other human elements, we made inroads on our way with legacies in lawmaking.
Having distinguished that, I will not be seeking re-election to the House of Representatives. On my next political move, I have been consulting widely. In fact, I started my consultation with God from the first of January this year and I prayed earnestly…
(Cuts in) What are the prayer points and is it related to your 2023 aspirations since you just revealed you will not be seeking re-election to the House of Representatives?
I prayed God Almighty to grant me, my family, friends, supporters, followers the serenity to accept things we cannot do anything about and the courage to do the things we can, alongside the wisdom to distinguish the differences. On the second day, I went to Church and surrendered everything to Him to direct my path, consultation and future endeavours.
At the fullest of time, I will make my intention known, but to wet your appetite, know that I am the potential Governorship candidate of the PDP for Rivers State in the 2023 elections. My support for Atiku is based on the genuine love and interest he has shown and demonstrated for the country. I have related with him and realized we shared the same vision aimed at improving and bettering lives, as well as taking our economy out of its doldrums. Yes, our interests for our people aligned and on that basis, I am supporting him to bring an end to the suffering, deprivation, hunger, unemployment and other never palatable treatments being experienced by Nigerians.
Don’t you consider yourself an underdog considering the list of other aspirants?
If you are referencing my age, I might be the youngest. If you are talking of who is well prepared, I am at the forefront. If you want to know who has the wherewithal, support base, reach, pedigree and what have you, you have me. If the above yardsticks form your basis for an ‘underdog’, then, you have your answer. Be aware that political power in Rivers State is never given. Owing to its peculiarity, power is always taken…
(Cuts in) You said politics in Rivers is peculiar, power is not given but taken, can you explain this?
Like I said earlier, I could be the youngest, which counts strongly for me considering that the youths constitute over 55% of our country’s population, and I have their support. My aspiration will be a massive youth movement never witnessed in the political history of Rivers State. It is a movement that will reverberate through the Niger Delta. That time is now.
Popularity; I’m well-loved and very popular with the people. I have the temperament to bridge the gap between the younger and older population in the State.
Mind you, I am not waiting for an endorsement. I have never depended on endorsements in my political journeys and I will not start now. That is why I told you, I am the ‘potential PDP candidate in Rivers State’.
Nevertheless, there is still a dark storm circling over Rivers State hatched by men who consider our State as their personal estate. Men who had a secret pact to continue to undermine the people of Rivers State and the State…
(Cuts in) Men who had a secret pact to continue to undermine the people of Rivers State and the State. These are very serious allegations, please elucidate on that?
Sometime between 2006 and 2007, four Nigerians and one Ghanaian lawyer hatched a plan to make Rivers State their personal estate. That devious meeting was held in far away Accra, Ghana. Three of the Nigerians are from Rivers State, with the fourth a prominent lawyer from the South West. They agreed that power in Rivers State will rotate amongst them.
This is an insult to Rivers people, an insult to all the tribes that make up the State, and that chain will be unchained in the coming elections. Rivers State belongs to us all and we all will agree on how it will be governed, it is not a fiefdom and it will never be.
You were a major actor in the Niger Delta struggle, is it true as claimed by some persons that proceeds of the struggle were for a few to the detriment of the region?
I am an agitator. I am still an agitator, a revered and respected product of the struggle to emancipate the people of the Niger Delta. I fought sincerely for the good of the Niger Delta and for about a decade, I lived in the creeks. I said I fought ‘sincerely’ and my choice of word was deliberate. At the height of the Amnesty in 2009, late former President Musa Yar’adua, May Almighty Allah grant him Aljanah Firdaus, had a meeting with the Aaron Team to broker long-lasting peace in the Niger Delta. I was a part of the Aaron team that was led by Noble Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, that also included former Chief of General Staff, Vice Admiral Okhai Mike Akhigbe (rtd) and Major General Luke Kakadu Aprezi (rtd), among others. Mr. Segun Adeniyi, the Spokesman to the President was also in attendance.
President Yar’adua was very passionate about the development of the region. In demonstrating his commitment, he offered me four oil blocks as a sign of his genuineness and bid to entrench peace in the region. However, in the presence of the late President and the aforementioned persons, I turned it down and politely told the President that speaking for myself, the reason for the agitation was not for personal enrichment. I told the stunned President the way forward was for true federalism and policies and programmes that would improve the living conditions of the people of the region. I urged him to use the proceeds of the oil wells ( that would have been given to me) and other developmental policies to develop our depraved Niger Delta. At that point, Prof Soyinka concurred with my position and restated my stance to the President that the Niger Delta struggle was not for personal aggrandizement. The noble scholar was so wowed by my disposition that he took a picture with me, with a promise to enlarge and keep in his living room for future Niger Deltans visitors to behold a rare being. My turning down that offer definitely would be given different interpretations by most persons, but because I was sincere about the Niger Delta cause, it was a no brainer for me. Going contrary to that would have been a betrayal to the cause. Anyways, for those that truly know me, that is who I am made of, it is the representation of me.
At another meeting with the late President, which had the former Governor of Rivers State, now Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, in attendance, the President still asked me to make any demand to which I told him I want to further my education and improve myself. I set a target to get Phds in five different fields of learning and I am working assiduously towards achieving that.
This is the first time I am making this public. I revealed all of those so you can have a fitting response to your question. I am one politician that has integrity, and that has been one of my hallmarks. I abhor injustice and I always side with the people. I remain an agitator and I will remain so for the cause I listed above.
For days, protesting women barricaded the main entrance to the National Assembly over the rejection of the female gender bills. What is the way out of this seeming impasse?
This is the beauty of democracy. I like it that the women have now seen reasons to take their destinies into their hands. Their actions and inactions have forced the hands of the Green Chambers of the National Assembly. Those gender bills are having a second look by the House and that alone tells a lot.
However, the women should man up and take responsibility for the second-fiddle roles they are playing. Let me give you an instance; in the 2011 PDP Presidential primary election, Sarah Jibril, a woman, contested against then President Goodluck Jonathan and other aspirants. She was the only woman in the race. Before the commencement, Sarah Jibril gave a rousing address, she made a very strong case for her gender. Unfortunately, when votes were counted, she got just a vote, her vote! This was in spite of the huge number of female delegates at the Convention, including the then First Lady who was also a strong advocate for women in power. And all these happened at the height of the very strong agitation for 35% affirmation action for women. So you see the issue, are the women willing to support themselves for any position?
I have satisfied my conscience and that of major stakeholders in Rivers State, including my constituents. I believe women should be saddled with more leadership roles. I voted in support of the various gender rights bills for women. But the women need to do better. The women folk have the numbers, they can do better than allowing anyone to reduce their value and competence.
The women should be encouraged to compete. The National Assembly has approved independent candidates. They should channel that protest strength to that area. If the women believe that Party A or B will not accommodate their interests, they can present independent female candidates for all positions and use their numerical strengths to vote them into positions of authority. Through that, they have taken the bull by the horn and activated the radical feminist theory. They are already doing well in their various stratum in life. The ball is on their court, they can be President, Vice President, Senate President and so much more. Like I said, they have the numbers, and how they use it will determine the role they will play in the scheme of things. In countries where democracies are practiced like the US, Canada, Australia, England and others, percentages are never allocated to women. The much touted Feminist Theory also did not say women should be allocated percentages, rather it advocates for competition. The women just need to capitalize on their numerical strength.