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“Ibori: I have learnt not to trust human beings – Uduaghan” – Vanguard

Governor of Delta State, Emmanuel Uduaghan

One matter that evoked considerable infatuation at the just ended 2nd South-South Economic Summit, held at Asaba, capital of Delta State, was the issue of power and, indeed, it formed a critical part of the communiqué by the governors. During the summit, Rivers state governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, expressed disillusionment that after generating power to meet the needs of his people, it could not be distributed because the federal government was playing Ostrich with license to transmit and distribute same.

He was flabbergasted that the federal government, all these years, could not generate enough power to meet the expectations of Nigerians and submitted that if the federal government does not get the power sector right, the country would not be industrialised.

Though, one of the guest speakers, Prof Graciana Castilo, faulted Amaechi’s argument that once there was power, industrialisation would follow, maintaining that industrialisation required an integrated approach and not necessarily availability of power, the Vice President, Architect Namadi Sambo, tried to diffuse tension with his explanation that the delay in the issuance of power license to Rivers State does not mean denial, as the state’s application was only undergoing normal bureaucratic process.

The sermon, however, by the Minister of Power that the Sapele power plant had been completed and the Edo power plant was nearing completion, and so, the power situation in the country would soon improve with the various things being by the federal government, did not cut any ice with the people.
Sunday Vanguard spoke with the host governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, shortly after the summit ended and he threw more light on the position of the South-South governors. He also appraised the summit and said with what happened, the region was on the march to greater heights. Excerpt.

What is your appraisal of the just ended 2nd South-South Economic Summit, which was hosted by Delta state?
Well, I want to say that we thank God the summit has ended and from the feelers I am getting, it has been quite a successful summit, we set out to see how we can develop our regional integration to be able to build our economy in our individual states, the region and of course, Nigeria.

And I think to a great extent, the summit has come out with the fact that such a move is very important, such a move is very necessary in moving Nigeria forward, so to that extent, the summit has been very successful and secondly, from the communiqué that we released, there are some critical things that have to be done for the economy to move, for the region to be able to do things as it is supposed to do for the overall improvement of the economy.

As you would have observed in that communiqué, we talked about regulations on gas and power, if some of these regulations are reexamined to ensure that states actively participate in these sectors – gas and power – it will be better for the nation, because the region has the ability to produce enough power to serve the whole of Nigeria, but that will only happen if we do not leave to the Federal Government alone to handle it.

The states should be allowed to come in actively and participate in generation, transmission and distribution, which most states are willing to do; this will improve the power situation in the country significantly in addition to allowing the private sector to come in. In that sense, the summit was successful and in other areas, non oil and non gas sector of the economy, which the summit also emphasized, especially the areas of agriculture and tourism- strategies are being drawn by the BRACED Commission to see how we can integrate our various states into this programme.

Would you day the South south is ready for the world?
For me as a person and as governor of Delta State, the summit has also exposed our state to the world and some facilities we have in being able to hold this kind of summit, so for us, it has also been successful and also a test to look at some few areas where we have challenges in the course of the summit and I believe that if Delta State has the opportunity to host the world again, we would have blocked those loopholes and do better, we are ready, we are ready as a state for the world.

The governors met in 2009 and now 2012 on issues of economy of the region, it is obviously not the sirens that that the people want to hear, what they want is visible improvement in economy of the region, so what should they be expecting from you people, governors, collectively, henceforth?

Well, the first thing, and I think the most critical thing is regional unity, which is very paramount, we have shown that we are united as a region, now, our future engagement would be to look at common areas of infrastructure and be able to build such infrastructure and when we are talking about infrastructure, we are looking at the areas of power, that is why I said that government should take a second look at the regulations on power so that we can together for instance, as states in the South-South and say okay, we want to do three power plants with funds put together, but that is only possible if we transmit and distribute them and the only way this can be done if some of these regulations that hinder us at the moment are removed.

Also, regional transportation is a vital area we are looking at – rail, road, etc – and fortunately, most of the states now have one form of airport or the other and one of the first things that may happen – I am underlining may, because we will talk about it as a joint board – is that it may be possible for flights to move from one state to the other, may be three states in the region might be linked with flight, that will make for easier movement in the region and we are of course going to look at the area of agriculture. Agriculture involves production and processing. Every state does not have to own its own processing facility, especially if you do not have the fund to do it.

The governors talked about restructuring, unbundling, more funds to states and local governments and lots more, exactly what are they pushing for?

Well, we believe as state governments that first, the states require more funds, so the challenges are many, challenges of payment of salaries, which is the highest in S-South states, payment of money for infrastructure development, we believe that more money should be channeled to the states and of course, local government areas, which are heavily burdened by teachers’ salary today.

Most local government councils are barely surviving because a lot of the money accruing to them is used for the payment of teachers’ salaries. Secondly, we also believe that the laws of the land should be looked into to reassess the responsibility.

We do not see for instance why the federal government should be talking about primary health care centre or talking about primary school and secondary school, we believe that these should be left entirely to the local and state governments, but now we have some arms of federal government, which are involved in primary health centre and primary schools, we think it should not be happening, give the responsibility to the state, give them adequate funding, then, you now think of some critical responsibility like security.

Even on security, we are even saying that states should have its own police. As governors, we are addressed as chief security officers, that is just by name, if something is happening somewhere now, you cannot direct the Commissioner of Police to go and handle it, if you direct him, he is doing it, not because it is compulsory that he would do it based on my directive, he has to take directive from his Inspector General of Police in Abuja, and if, on the other hand, he fails to comply with your directive, there is nothing I can do about that as a governor and chief security officer of my state.
So, those are the things we saying, the federal government should shed some of its responsibilities and give to states, first of all, it will improve distribution and it will improve efficiency.

The President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, was not able to attend the summit personally despite the entire publicity blitz to that effect and even the 17th Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, United States, Admiral Mike Mullen, and former Mayor of New York city, Mr. Rudy Guiliani, who had already landed Abuja for the summit were stopped from coming to Asaba by the American Embassy, how do you feel about this?

Naturally, I will not feel good, I was not happy that they could not come, but every disappointment, an adage has it, is a blessing. Like my colleague in Edo State said right in the hall, there were top Americans, the managing director of Chevron Nigeria Limited, CNL, for instance is an American, he was there, there were other speakers from America who were there and I believe that whoever stopped them was just being mischievous because in terms of security, it is not worse than the countries that they go to. It is not worse than what is happening in America or South Africa. It is just that ours, somehow, has been poorly assessed and I read some mischief behind it.

Sorry, I have to take you back to power, there was this power cut three or four times during the summit and it was reported that you roared at your officials. Certainly, it was a kind of embarrassment, even the vice president, minister of power, and governor of Edo State, spoke about it, what actually happened? is that you failed in the simple task of power for a summit?

No, it was only a technical problem (laughs). You see, nobody is perfect, we are humans, there is no way we can be perfect as humans, sometimes, you do all the arrangements, all the planning, etc, we had three generators in that place for the summit, the three just decided to give problem at a very critical time, it was a technical problem and no matter how expert you think you are, you might still have some hitches, you know, that is why even those launching rockets, it is not easy, there was a problem in one instance and everybody died.

The truth of what happened is that there was a technical problem and it is unfortunate it happened that time. But I did not really go out roaring, I don’t roar at persons, I was only asking questions and what happened did not stop anything about the conference.

National Security Adviser to the President, General Owoye Azazi (rtd) made comments concerning your party, PDP, being partly responsible for the security crises the country is facing, including the raging Boko Haram issue, because of its zoning formula that says Mr. A can rule, Mr. B cannot rule at a period in time. You were right there in the hall when Azazi spoke, what is your understanding of what he said and what do you really make of his verbiage?

Well, I don’t know whether I want to stretch the matter further, I think he had said what he said, people are reacting, I think the best thing is to allow those who were not there to speak. Some are saying he should not have said it, even if it is true, some are also saying what he said is not true, so it is neither here nor there. He is the National Security Adviser. He has more information than many of us.

What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
(Laughs) It is disappointment from those that you trusted, watch your back, by the time you turn your back, you find out that those you thought were friends were those backstabbing you.

Can you narrow it down to specifics?
No, no, I don’t want to be specific.

Now, when you think of your predecessor, former governor, Chief James Ibori, formally jailed and serving prison term in Britain, what lesson does it teach you?

(Paused for a very long time) Obviously, there are lessons to be learnt in every situation (murmurs some words).
I think one of the lessons eh, eh, is… eh, eh, first of all, one of the lessons is to be careful as human beings. Eh, eh, I believe it is only God that will not disappoint you, human beings can disappoint you, no matter how much love you think the person has for you, and human beings can disappoint you.

Okay, since you became governor of Delta State, what has life taught you generally?
(Laughs) You find out that your previous question and this one is interwoven, but what I can say is that life has taught me not to depend on human beings.

How often do you and your greatest political rival, Chief Great Ogboru of the Democratic People Party, DPP, talk or speak to yourselves as at now?
You call him my greatest political rival?

Yes, I see him as your greatest political rival because in the race for the governorship of the state, which is the greatest political battle you had fought, he has being the closest challenger and always hot on your heels?

Let me put Ogboru’s matter like this, eh, we don’t talk often but we are not enemies. If we meet, I greet him, one or two times, we had cause to talk on the phone, there are no quarrels, I think between the two of us, we have tried not to make it personal, you know, though, sometimes, when he is interviewed, he says certain things that drag into personal issues, but I have restrained myself from responding to such comments.

I just believe that two of us have a role to play in Delta State and I hope he understands that he has a role to play in the development of the state and I also hope that he will choose the path of playing that role that will be of benefit, not just to himself, but the generality of people of the state. So, to that extent, I regard whatever, he does, particularly his going to court as his right, particularly when there is election and I will not quarrel with him for going to court.

In terms of political craftsmanship, can you give it to Ogboru?
Let me put this way, you go for an election and you are declared the winner and he goes to court (laughs), he is stretching his court case to the maximum. I don’t regard that as political craftsmanship, I just take it as somebody pursing what he believes in. In politics, you don’t fight to finish, if you fight to finish, you will have a problem in getting what you want, in politics, you always give room for engagement because even if you don’t get it today, you might get it tomorrow.

Are you talking of one fighting, running away to fight another day?
No, it is not running away, it is about assessing where you are and re-strategize. Let me give you an example, I think it will be difficult for anybody to wake and just push away somebody who was a Commissioner for four years, Secretary to the State Government, SSG, for almost four years and a governor now for five years and by God’s grace… I think it will be difficult to just push that person away, that is to say that the person is not relevant in any electoral process in the state.

I think that any person who thinks like that must have little understanding of politics. The political situation in the state has built up certain persons that are of relevance such that if you want to get anything from the state and you think such persons are not relevant, it may not be me as a governor, but there are certain persons and you think they are not relevant, eh, I think you are making an expensive mistake.

At a time, few months ago, it was thought that the newly brokered peace between you and First Republic Minister of Information, Chief Edwin Clark, would collapse because of the hoopla over the congress of your party, PDP, but somehow, Clark returned from London and attended the 2nd South-South Economic Summit on your invitation, recently, without grudge. You have not told us the story of how you pulled this seemingly difficult reconciliation with Clark?

(Long laughter) You know that he was away and I know that one or two persons might have given him some wrong information and of course, as soon as I noticed it, I also called him and we spoke once or twice and I gave him the correct information. And I want to believe that by the time he came back, he was hearing the two sides of the story, hearing from me, hearing from the Minister of Niger-Delta, Elder Godsday Orubebe on one side and other people on the other side. Of course, he is an elderly man and a rational mind. He also has experience in law to be able to balance the things he has heard and I think hearing from both sides, he was able to balance the matter.

So, I think that it is the interaction and honesty of purpose that did it and you know some people had already made publications that time that he said that negotiations had broken down; there was no time that he said that. Am very serious about running a united PDP and he is also very serious about it and the minister is also serious about it and so, if you have serious key players like us, there is no doubt that there will be challenges, problems along the way, but it is not because you meet an obstacle, then, we will scatter all what we have done. It takes a few minutes to scatter but it takes quite some time to build. We are careful to build now and I don’t think any of us want to tread the road of scattering.

2 Responses to ““Ibori: I have learnt not to trust human beings – Uduaghan” – Vanguard”

  1. olumayowa says:

    Good interview by Delta governor. But, am surprised that Uduaghan is still liviving in self denial of himself and his fellow crook in governor’s office. Someone had been involving himself in all shades of atrocities and crimes ( Ibori had scammed since late 80′s and early 90′s in UK, he had stolen his company’s stocks when working for them. he fraudulently became the Delta state gov by cocealing his atrocitites and continue unabated in stealing the state blind) And, his cousin is trying very hard hear to tell us, it was people around him that are untrust worthy. Pls, Uduaghan, how much TRUST, does James Ibori trusted himself? You too better start correct all mistakes made against your people in governance, or else, you may join your cousin in prison.

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