By Emmanuel Aziken, Abuja
Dr. Cairo Ojugboh , a medical doctor turned businessman and politician has in his ten year political career built a reputation that compares with his towering physical frame.
Dr. Ojugboh sharpened his political teeth as Special Assistant to Chief Tony Anenih , the formerÂ Minister of Works and was subsequently elected to represent Ika Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives where he served as chairman of the House committee on Petroleum Resources between 2003 and 2007.
Dr. Ojugboh is presently the Presidential Laison Officer to the Senate.
In this interview with Saturday Vanguard, he articulates issues concerning President Umaru Yarâ€˜Aduaâ€™s relationship with the National Assembly, showcases what he describes as the laudable achievements of the President even as he recommends a second term for Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State.
What are your duties as presidential liaison officer to the senate?
My job is simple and interesting. I am an aide to the president in the National Assembly especially the senate in liaison capacity, it means that the President sends me on errands.
The senate can also pass messages through us to Mr. president and Mr. president passes messages through us to the senate it is as simple as that. That is our job.
Two years after, how can you assess the administration?
I have been in government before as a member of the National Assembly, I have equally served as a special assistant to a minister for four years in the first four years of the Obasanjo administration and so I am in a position to compare what is happening now to what was before.
This is a man who is very calm and he is a man who is very sincere. He is a good man, he is God fearing and he loves his country. He has this principle of being slow and steady and you know slow and steady wins the race.
He is not in hurry to make mistakes. In the last two years the President has sat down put a lot of things in various sectors of the economy, done a lot of research and has found ways of going into implementation. He has promised that by December we will produce 6000megawatts in the power sector, he is also working seriously on distribution.
You will notice that this is the first time that we have leadership in this country that went through the four walls of a university as at when due and that is a sort of maturity and civilization that he has brought to bear.
He is a very civilized human being, and he takes everything in his stride and calmly. This is the sort of thing that we need for the development of this country. That is why you see that people love him, Nigerians love him.
They trust him that and that is why he has no alternative, he has no choice but to perform, and he is performing.
But your assessment of his performance is not in tune with that of the general public?
That is the problem with most Nigerians they want fire brigade approach solutions and they wonâ€™t be patient. All they require is just patience and you canâ€™t rush this government the government will perform and is performing.
Sir in what sector can you say this government has performed?
Take the petroleum industry, look at the bills he has sent to the National Assembly how he is reforming the industry, take the power sector where a lot of contracts have now been awarded for engineering, procuring, construction they take time they are not overnight affairs.
Take the innovation that is been now brought in the education sector.
The government has taken a serious look and is improving the standard of the unity schools, the universities are now been properly equipped, the equipping of the teaching hospitals is now continuing and so many others.
But the universities are grounded, lecturers are on strike?
Yes, they are on strike it is an inherited problem. You know that is the problem with Nigerians. If you are asking for salary increase, for government to be able to implement this salary increment it has to be included in the budget.
If we do not include this salary increment in the budget the National Assembly will say why did you spend money without budgeting? So everything has to be done in order. This is a government that ties itself and rightly so in the rule of law.
You cannot compare the quality of education now and what it was four or five years ago. There is obvious improvement, for a long time ASUU has not been on strike it is not easy to manage this country for heaven sake!
How do you assess the relationship between the President and the National Assembly?
The National Assembly has a president that is very cooperative. The senate is very mature, the leadership of the senate is perfect the leadership of the house of representative is very loyal and the loyalty of the president to the National Assembly is unparalleled.
But there is some assessment among some senators that the President is snobbish of the legislature?
I have never heard that no senator has said that to me. This is the first time I am hearing that. If you know any senator who believes so say it so we can go and ask him..
I will give you an example. Senator Ugbane has just come out of detention after one month in prison. Is that not reflective of the snob?
Is Mr. President a prison officer or a judge? Or is he a police officer?
This President will tell you go and do your job.
The president does not interfere in any way.
The National Assembly has a self cleansing mechanism and there are plenty of people with such accusations and in any case it is just mere accusation until proven in the court nobody can do anything about it and you cannot blame the president for that.
So it is a matter with the police, the court and the president has nothing to do with it and I can assure you. Donâ€™t ask such a question because it is a question that can bring acrimony between both arms of government. You should ask questions that will lead to development, questions that are honest.
Sir I raise the issue on the fact that if your government claims an adherence to the rule of law should it then hold a citizen in prison for more than one month irrespective of whether the person is a Senator or not. What if the person is innocent of the charge?
Friend, how does that now become an offence of Mr. President? If the president now goes to interfere it is you journalists that will say President you are encouraging this you are encouraging that.
It is the responsibility of journalists to make this country governable for everybody and make life easier for everybody you must ask questions that are meaningful questions that can bring about cordiality and improve the society, donâ€™t ask questions that will cause problems because whether I work for Mr. President or not you too you know very well that it is not Mr. Presidentâ€™s responsibility or for Mr. President to interfere in such things that you know and I know you know that.
What is your assessment on the progress of the electoral reform bills now before the National Assembly?
This is to tell you that this is a government of rule of law Mr. President does not interfere. Mr. President has taken a bill to the National Assembly and that is as far as he can go after now what the National Assembly does with it is no longer his responsibility.
One of the elements of the electoral reform bills introduced by the President is to stop decamping. Do you welcome it?
Well, the President and the executive always try to make sure that they please the opposition. The opposition are always crying that their people are decamping.
The President said fine no problem if you want your people to stay where they are you donâ€™t want them to enjoy the big party, the PDP, let it be so. So what has the president done wrong again?
So do you agree with him, is it a good intention?
It is a law before the National Assembly so they will look at it dispassionately.
Yes, it was proposed by the Justice Uwais committee and the President accepted itâ€¦
Yes, the President, the National Council of State, the federal executive, forwarded it. That is the beauty of democracy it is now going to the people of Nigeria, the people of Nigeria will now decide.
So sir, what do you now see of the President personally receiving governor Yuguda into the PDP despite proposing a bill to prohibit decamping?
Journalists! The bill has not been passed yet. It is not an act yet, it is not an act yet!
But it is the spirit of the bill. Does he really share the spirit, does he believe in the intentions of the bill?
The bill has not been passed. In physics everything continues in its state of rest or of motion until the application of an external force. He is law abiding, he is within the ambits of the law until the law is passed.
If that bill is passed the President will not do that, so please give the president some credit.
So what is your assessment of the state of affairs in Delta state?
Good! The governor this is his first term he has done two years and he has performed beyond imagination of most of us and we are encouraging him to continue.
For a second term?
Of course we have a lot of pressure groups that are campaigning for his second term and I am in the leadership of one of them, that is Uduaghan Vision 2020 and I believe that he has done well and I have called upon my friends, the leaders of Delta North and my political associates that there is a need for stability.
Let him have his eight years finish with it and then the Delta north can look towards the younger generation.
I donâ€™t believe that my self at fifty in the next six to eight years should be contesting the governorship of Delta State.
We should allow the younger ones who will be around 40 to 45 then to contest.
Those of us who have contested before did not get it, because of the acrimony and difficulty we went through a lot of us sat down and agreed that we should advice ourselves not to be greedy about the situation not to make it a matter of life and death, or do or die.
We should all sit down and look for a younger one who will carry the flag of the Delta North in the year 2015.
That is the resolution we have reached and we are hoping that everybody will cooperate.
A lot of Nigerians are aggrieved that the federal government is waging a war against the people in the Niger Delta region?
You can see that the President is a listening father, the issue has been addressed. The federal government has said ok we stop, the militants you stop we grant you an amnesty. What else?
What of the basic issues that led to the insurgency?
Yes, the militants have spoken the youthsÂ have spoken, they have made their points the federal government says you give us time to look into these issues you have raised.
By now the East West road would have been completed if not for the crises. You remember that Julius Berger had to pull out and we lost one year.
A lot of activities that were earmarked for the last two years have not been actualized because of these crises.
So we have appealed to the youths to accept this amnesty and give the federal government time.
Let the federal government go back to the drawing board operate the Niger Delta Development Commission master plan. If there is no peace, if the youths do not lay down their arms how can the federal government prove itself? So that is why we are appealing to the youths accept this amnesty so that the government can go in and work.