Hon. Henry Ofongo is no doubt President Goodluck Jonathan’s man friday. He represents Southern Ijaw Federal Constituency of Bayelsa State, the home country of the President. In this interview, he told Saturday Vanguard that the PDP still leads the National Assembly.
With the defection of the 5 Governors from your political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to All Progressive Congress (APC), many now believe that PDP is in disarray.
PDP as far as I am concerned is not a party in disarray. It is intact. In a party people can have misunderstanding. It is normal in politics that when you come as a union of people from different background, different ethnicity, different religions, it’s normal that misunderstanding will occur but the major thing is how you people understand yourself, how you handle what ever misunderstanding, you come together and work as a team.
Talking about understanding, it appears that President Goodluck Jonathan and the Governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Ameachi did not understand themselves?
The truth is that, I will not say that the president is at logger head with the governor of Rivers State. They are brothers so to say. Balyesa and Rivers are one and so long as am concerned it’s only the governor of River State, Governor Amaechi that says he has problem with the President, but the President has never said he has problems with governor Amaechi.
So to that extent, I know the president does not have problems with him; maybe he has problem with the President. I don’t know. In his interview, he was saying he is defecting to APC in order to protect Rivers State and he was making reference to oil wells. Well, I don’t know. Those are things that only the courts that can decide when there are issues like that. If the court has not decided I don’t think that is good enough reason why you are leaving the party to another. May be there are other things in his mind.
Do you agree that the G5 Government is threatening the present structure of leadership in the House?
I don’t agree to that because up till this minute, as we speak, I know the PDP is in majority. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Aminu Tambuwal is still a PDP member. The Leader of the House is still a PDP member. So long as I am concerned, as it stands now, there is no member of the national assembly who is of the PDP platform that has come out to say he is defecting to any other party. Until that happens before we will be able to asses whether PDP is in majority or in minority.
Do you see that happening?PDP members in the House recently formed a group called Unity Forum? It is understood that is main objective is to give the President a leverage over the opposition party. How true is that?
Well, I am a member of Unity Forum. The Forum was not formed just to support Mr. President. It is formed in the House to make sure that, one : the House is united irrespective of party affiliations. Two: we want stability in the body polity of this country because what holds democracy is the national assembly. During military era, you can see that the Executive is there, the Judiciary is there. Whether they form Tribunal or not, it doesn’t matter.
What symbolizes democracy so long as I am concerned is the Legislature. So, if anything is happening in this country and we say we want to stabilize the unity of this country, we must make sure that support the unity of the country; support the government of this country.
When I say the government, the president is only the Head of government heading the Executive Arm, then you have the legislature and the judiciary, that’s what make up government. So if we say we want unity, we want stability in all areas, we will support every leadership at every level including the president.
Will you support President Jonathan in 2015?
Of course, if he declares, if President Jonathan says he wants to contest in 2015. I will support him.
I will support him because he has been trying. We all know where we are coming from in this country. We all know how this country has been bastardized. We have gone through a long period of military rule primarily to stabilize our democracy.
I think with his transformation agenda, he has done a lot. I cannot enumerate them; too many things. You can see the transformation in the Agricultural sector, in infrastructure. It is just that most people fly by air.
We all know the state of roads, they were all in comatose but now, so many of these things are coming back. Our railways were bastardized. They were not functional, but now he is trying to bring it up. Go to our Airport, for the past 30 years, not even a paint has been done on them. But today you can see there is serious work going on there.
You had a PDP caucus meeting on Thursday. Can you tell us what transpired?
No, it for the members of the party. I am If they wanted the press, they would have called you.
But basically what was top on the agenda?
We discussed the unity of the party.
Unity of the party? But you countered it earlier when I said that PDP is in disarray?
No, PDP is not in disarray. Anybody can leave the party and others will come. Let me tell you what happened recently. Some people came and said they wanted to join the party. People who want to leave are free to leave. Like I said there are misunderstanding but the party is not in disarray. Other parties have been in disarray.
PDP is the only party that when it was formed in 1998 has continue to maintain the same name, slogan, the same acronym. Up till now, it is same Peoples Democratic Party, we have not changed. Other parties have been in disarray, changing from one name to another, from one logo to another. So, how can you say a party that has been in existence since then till now without changing name, logo, acronym or anything is in disarray. Simple misunderstanding does not mean that the party is in disarray.
If President Jonathan has ambition to run again in 2015 and has lost Sokoto, Kano with its number of voters, Rivers State, Niger State, Jigawa State, Kwara and Adamawa state as it stands now, do you not envisage any danger?
Well, when you say that President Jonathan has lost Sokoto, Kano State, Rivers States etc, I don’t know what you mean by saying he has lost them. The governors of those states defecting to another party does not mean that everybody in that party will follow the governors.
So, you can’t say he has lost them. It is only in an election period that you can know that somebody actually lost in those states or that the person didn’t lose. As it stands now, the mere defection of Governors or individuals to this party does not mean that someone has lost those places. We all know our strong holds. PDP knows its strong holds.
I am telling you that there is no right thinking PDP man who really belongs to the PDP from origin that will agree, after forming a party, making a party formidable and then because of misunderstanding, he will decide to leave. If there are misunderstandings, time heals. So, I believe that the President has not lost anything. It is only the election that will determine. I will encourage him to contest. If I have my way, I will tell President Goodluck, contest election come 2015.
Do you believe that PDP has lost the majority in the House of Reps as it stands now especially with the supposedly imminent exodus of the members of the New PDP?
The truth is that there is nothing like the nPDP. We have PDP. When people are aggrieved and they feel like they want to form a splinter group which they did and the court has said there is nothing like nPDP. I think that takes care of that that there is nothing like the nPDP.
Let us take it that some aggrieved members of the PDP who felt maybe the way they want things to go, if it didn’t go that way, they are leaving the party.
That doesn’t affect the party in any way and it does not affect the House in any way. Until such persons come out to say they are no more members of the PDP, they are defecting to other party, then that’s when we begin to know the strength and weaknesses by way of number in the House. So, that’s what I will say for now.
Would you swim and sink with PDP even if everyone leaves?
Well, swim and sink with PDP; I now PDP is not going to sink. Like I said since 1998 PDP was formed, it has always been strong and it will grow stronger. I was pioneer Secretary of PDP in my Local Government, Southern Ijaw when it was formed in 1998.
Then I became assistant organizing secretary, the first Administrative secretary in the state, youth leader of the party in the state. So, I have served as a party man before I was elected as an Honorable member. Let’s face it, PDP is the only party in this country that has that national coverage. Is not a regional party. It is not an ethnic party. It is the only national party that takes care of every Nigerian irrespective of your religion, region or ethnicity. So, PDP will not sink. I am assuring you of that.