* What we told the President – Uduaghan
GovernorÂ Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State says the South-South Governors never capitulated in their recent threat to pull out of the amnesty programme of the Federal Government for militants, explaining that they merely reviewed their principled position after President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua guaranteed that the Niger-Delta would not be short-changed in the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and briefed them on the post-amnesty plans.
Speaking to Sunday Vanguard in his private residence in Warri, yesterday, Governor Uduaghan said he did not understand what some people meant by capitulation. â€œBut what I can tell you is that the governors had their strategy of how to tackle the issues they raised and once the strategy worked, we were okay because we have been able to draw attention to our case and actions are already being taken on all of themâ€, he said.
â€œThe governors did not actually come out to impress anybody, we came out to deal with issues that we felt should be dealt with and I donâ€™t want to be carried away by statements by anybody or any group , but , the truth is that what we did has actually drawn more attention to the region than before and I believe that peopleÂ will be a little bit more cautious now in making public pronouncements, people will be more cautious in taking certain decisions and they will consider the feelings of the people.
â€œI donâ€™t understand what you mean by capitulate, but, the truth is that we saw certain things that we felt were not right and we worked out a strategy to right what we believed was wrongâ€, he said, adding, â€œYes, we met with President Yarâ€™Adua, we told him about the Petroleum University and he gave us the assurance that the one in Effurun is there, we also told him about the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and he also assured us that Niger-Delta would not be short-changed as far as the Bill is concerned.â€
He said the governors got assurance that the Petroleum University would be better funded and the signs were already manifest. â€œLet me just give information that even money as small as N500 million was approved for the university almost two years ago but it was not released.Â It was after our warning by the governors that the vice chancellor was invitedfor the first time by the Petroleum Trust Development Fund (PTDF).
Of course, there is the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), which we said is anti-Niger-Delta and right now, they are taking a second look at itÂ to see the areas in which we felt they should show more interest in the Niger-Delta areaâ€, he stressed, adding, â€œThe other is the post-amnesty arrangement, now, I can say the South-SouthÂ governors now know some things that have to be done after the amnesty, the issue of massive development of the area, issue of trying to empower the youths, training them in various skills, we now know about the post-amnesty arrangement and these were the issues we thought were not right that made us to do what we did.
Asked if a concrete amnesty programme was now in place by the Federal Government, he said, â€œYes, there is the amnesty programme by the Federal Government but amnesty programme, you cannot say, I donâ€™t want to use the word concrete because when you say concrete, that means you have sealed up, it has been left in such a way that more things can be added but there is a programmeâ€.
On the report that the governors were to meet with the Petroleum minister, Dr. Rilwanu Lukuman, he said, â€œNo, no, no, we didnâ€™t, we did not hold such meeting, and I mean (laughs), why should we need to discuss with the Petroleum minister when we have the president there. The bucks stop on the presidentâ€™s table and whatever he says is the finalâ€. Dr. Uduaghan revealed that the governors received threats from some people for the principled position they took, but pointed out, â€œWhat we are glad about is that we had a very massive support from the South-South people and apart from the South-South people, we also had sympathy from the other parts of the country.
When such issues as the one we just handled arise, people have their different strategies depending on who you are, as a journalist, you have your own strategy (laughs), you can talk, you can write anything, you can investigate, but, as a governor, I have a way to also handle it like I just told you now. As a governor, these are deeper issues; there are no
t issues one will place on the pages of newspapersâ€.