Archbishop Jonathan Arhavwarien is the General Overseer of St Lazarus Christ Church Intl.  He spoke to Jon Egie on a postmortem of the governorship election in Delta state and pointed out reasons why the APC candidate failed and factors that favoured the re-election of Governor Okowa and advised the APC candidate, Chief Great Ogboru to give peace a chance till 2023 to try again assuring that there could be a chance for him then.

Excerpts

 

Archbishop Jonathan Arhavwarien

The much expected governorship election is come and gone and Okowa has been declared the winner of the March 9 governorship election in Delta state, how will you give a post mortem of the election?

Well, the election of March 9 was peaceful and people came out to their vote choice and my joy is that people were allowed to vote even though in some places there were reports of violence but in my area it was peaceful. We give God the glory because people thought after the Presidential and National Assembly election Nigeria will tear into pieces but today we are still together as one and we will be together till 2023 and beyond.

Before the election majority of Deltans were of the opinion that Gov Okowa will not be returned to office but at the end of the election he was declared the winner, what do you think was responsible for his victory?

The factors that were responsible for his victory are one, he has trust in God, two, the rotation of power arrangement to the effect that power has been resident in Delta central, moved to Delta south and it was the turn of Delta north to complete their two terms in office so that power would come back to Delta central in 2023. This understanding went deep into the mind of people-the true Deltans, those who love equity and justice and those who want fairness as children of God and desired that the north should have their second term. This is the major factor that worked in favour of Okowa. It was meant to bring peace to Delta state.

A few weeks before the election, Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, endorsed Okowa. Some of us who witnessed the occasion at the Public Field in Ughelli sneered at Archbishop God-do-well Avwomakpa when he presented Gov Okowa as CAN’s candidate before God saying that they were not ashamed of their decision and prayed that God should not put CAN to shame. Is it possible that if a whole community takes a decision such a decision could be wrong in the face of God? The question is necessary because a majority of Deltans were not ready to vote Okowa back to office but CAN chose him as their candidate and pleaded with God not to put them to shame and here we are, they have not been put to shame. Is it possible…?

Yes, it is possible because the Bible says the voice of men is the voice God and when the Bible says men, it does not mean ordinary men, it means the voice of men of God. When the prophet speaks heaven responds. In Delta state it is the church that holds the highest number of the population, so if the church fathers give a command; for instance, I have about 65,000 followers in Delta state and I am their leader and I have said Okowa is my choice; it is difficult for them who are my followers to say no, even though some will rebel but be rest assured that at least 65 per cent of them will listen to my voice as their leader. One of the factors that helped Okowa is that he is a Christian and among the contestants he was the only one we knew as a Christian. Others may be Christians but they were not made known to us and they did not come to us. He was the only one who came to CAN to ask for help and prayers. Chief Great Ogboru did not deem it fit to seek the face of God by meeting Urhobo Ministers to say pray for me. He didn’t. May be he had his hope somewhere else and anyone who puts his hope in God will not be disappointed. So, to answer your question, God has power to change the decision of the generality of a community, a prayer of only one man can change it not to talk of the prayer of about 95 per cent of all the bishops in Delta state endorsing Okowa and saying, this is our choice because of equity and justice. We said we do not want anything that would disrupt the peace and democratic process of Delta state and now that he has won, he should be allowed to do his second term. All litigations should be dropped and any candidate from Delta central including Ogboru and any other should wait for 2023. At that time, we will look to the Urhobo people who will chose for us and the church will also take a decision…let me tell you, our decisions are not partisan, look at Revd Waive who won on the platform of the APC, he was the only House of Reps candidate who came to CAN to say I need your help and the church prayed for him. This is to tell anybody who wants to contest election in Delta state, you must go to CAN otherwise you fail.

What do you think went wrong in the camp of Ogboru that he performed so dismally?

One of the factors that worked against Ogboru is the rotation of power order and two, the APC as a group, those key players after they have won their elections went home to relax so that the battle was left for Ogboru alone, unlike the PDP that put its house in order, all the contestants, those who lost and those who won joined hands to tackle the governorship election. You know the same situation affected PDP and that is why they lost Delta central to Ovie Omo-Agege because some of the people who lost primary at the senate level refused to put their support behind Evelyn Oboro and that is why PDP lost to APC. So, it is the same thing that happened to PDP in the Presidential and National Assembly election that also happened to the APC in the Governorship and House of Assembly election because, those who won and lost went back home to relax and so Ogboru became a lone soldier standing to face the fight in the 25 local government areas and the victory became impossible for him. It was not that people hate him but only one man couldn’t have done it. The role the APC played in the Presidential and National Assembly election, if they repeated it, although Ogboru would not have won but he would have had more votes than he scored.

You are a leader of the church and so many market women, tomato sellers, garri sellers, the peasants, artisans and the common people are members of your church, how do you feel their pulse after the result of the election, do you see them disappointed that Ogboru did not win?

Well, that is more to Delta central, to the Urhobo people, some of them. I have APC and PDP members in my church and I won’t kill one for the other. The Urhobo people, some of them were disturbed but what they are complaining is that there was no cooperation, the kind of cooperation that they put in during the Presidential and National Assembly election was not there for Ogboru. The other thing they are saying is that those of us who are close to Okowa should tell Okowa to carry everybody along and improve on the system of governance.

That takes us to a step further, what are the expectations of Deltans from Okowa’s second term and what do you expect Okowa to do in his second term?

For Okowa’s second term we are looking at a better and stronger Delta state. That is why I said we should put litigations aside because by the time you take him to court and he spends a lot of resources of the state in prosecuting the case, it will slow down the speed of development. Let us give peace a chance, Ogboru should wait for 2023. We are all alive; when it comes to Delta central we can give him support. So, he should join hands with Okowa to build a strong Delta state. Buhari should play his role, Okowa should play his role so that there will be food on the table of people because; the expectations are not from Okowa alone. We are also looking to the presidency which also has a role to play. We are expecting a strong Delta state from Okowa, he promised us the Church that he will do more in employment, skills acquisition by establishing one technical college in each of the 25 local government areas across the state so that we can have enough skilled personnel and not just paper graduates without a job. Now that he has won a second term, we are here to advise him, we will advise him and I know Okowa is a man with listening ears to leaders of the church and traditional rulers. He will listen to us.

Yes, he listens a lot to you people and I remember once the Bishop of the Anglican diocese of Ughelli, Bishop Odutemu, told him that one of the pains of the church was the payment of retirees, he is already paying council workers and primary school teachers; now as he listens to you people will you still harp on that message and encourage him to pay the gratuities of retirees?

Yes, there was a time the church met him when he was not paying council workers, we told him and he said he was not responsible for their payment but we told him even if he was not responsible if they died before his election who would vote for him and now he has paid council workers. In the same vein, just wait, after May 29 when he has been sworn in for a second term that will be the next word we will tell him. We will tell him, now you have taken over for your second term, please pay all retirees so that they do not die before their pensions. That is what we are going to do. We will advise him and we believe God that he will listen.

I don’t know whether it is possible for you to give a piece of advice to Chief Great Ogboru following the outcome of the March 9 governorship election. At a press conference he rejected the results of the election and his party said they were going to litigate, what would you advise him?

My advice to Chief Great Ogboru who is my brother from Delta central and an Urhobo son is that he should give peace a chance and join hands with Okowa to build a strong Delta state so that in 2023, when it will be turn of Delta central then the Urhobo people will show him the love they profess for him and pick him as sole candidate for 2023.

Do you think by that time he would not have expired politically?

Human beings do not expire, Buhari had the pills, and he can win in 2023. So, I advise him not to go to court because if he goes to court and the case lingers on and at the end of the day the case is struck out it would amount to nothing. He should do what Jonathan did by congratulating Okowa and say I will join hands to support you and by 2023 I assure you there could be hope for him.

Most times your prophecies come to pass; prophetically do you see Ogboru winning at the election tribunal?

No, he cannot win in the tribunal because we put this structure in place that Okowa should go for equity. So, if we pray now that he should win in tribunal then that will disrupt the rotation arrangement. So, the same church which prayed that Okowa should win are still praying that let this case die.

Thank you Sir.