Mr Ramos Guanah is a foundation member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in Delta State. He has served as chairman of local government council, Special Adviser to former Governor James Ibori and also served as a Political Adviser befor he was appointed as the State Commissioner for Lands, Survey and Urban Development by the incumbent. In this interview, he spoke on Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan’s administration, his aspiration and other issues of interest. Excerpts:
You have been a politician for quite some time now and you started your political career as Chairman of Patani Local Government Council. How was it as Chairman?
I did not start as chairman. Before I became chairman, I was once a party officer. I was the pioneer chairman of the PDP in Patani Local Government Area. I was Chairman of GDM in Bomadi Local Government Area and I aspired first of all as Chairman of Patani Local Government Council when it was created in 1987 and I became chairman in 1999.
If you ask me how it was as Chairman of Patani Local Government Council, my answer is simple. Go back to the people of Patani Local Government Area and ask them how it was like when Guanah was Chairman of the Council. I am sure that answer will come from my people not from me.
As Chairman of Local Government Council then, looking at the little funds you got how much were you able to impact on the lives of your people?
I told you the other time that the people of the council area are in the best position to say that. All the communities in Patani got a minimum of two projects executed by me from Abere to Adobor to
Since 2002 you have been at the state level; how is politics at this level compared to the grassroot?
Politics at the state level is good, is very good. At this level I have moved from the enclave of being tied to a particular local government area, where I now serve the entire state, that is the difference.
When I was council chairman I had limited jurisdiction as far as my activities were concerned, but when I came to Asaba as Special Adviser to the Governor on Local Government Matters, I had to go round the 25 local government areas, give advise to the governor on how the local government and the state government can interface.
But the truth is that the local government is supposed to be an independent arm of government, but unfortunately because the constitution has not made it so. Section 7 of the Constitution says everything about the local government should be dealt with by the state. That is why the State Houses of Assembly make laws for the governance, operations and finance of the local government council.
As Special Adviser on Local Government And Chieftaincy Affairs, how much were you able to improve on the laws of the local government council, across the state?
What I did then, I went round the local government councils to see what they were doing and how they were doing them and I found out that some of the things they were doing had no impact directly on the people at that level of government.
It is not enough to say I want to do these projects. You see that is why I argued earlier on that the council chairmen must be articulate
How will you assess the administration of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan vis-a-vis the achievements of his predecessor, Chief James Ibori?
Like I said just now, government is continuous. Nigeria is 50 years, we are still doing roads, we are still doing bridges, we are still doing water projects. There is no administration that will do all the things we need in this country. In the USA it is the same thing. So for whatever Dr. Uduaghan has done is to consolidate on what Chief Ibori did.
Therefore he has to complete and make sure that the Teaching Hospital in Oghara is functional, that the Olomu bridge is functional, that the Ughelli Township road dualization is continued and on his own, he had to start some new projects too which like I said earlier many will outlive him. If there is a project that is started by any administration, whoever comes should complete that project.
The worse thing you can do to your people is to abandon a project on which someone who was there before you has invested so much and start your own which you may not be able to complete too.
So what Dr. Uduaghan did was to consolidate on what Chief James Ibori started. All the projects started by Chief Ibori that he could not complete before he left office have been completed by Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan and commissioned.
Then he started his own. He is doing projects and he is completing them. The ones he cannot complete, it is my position that whoever comes as governor after Dr. uduaghan in 2015 should complete them and initiate new ones. It goes on and on and on and on.
Do you see the Ughelli/Asaba road dualization as a viable project?
I have worked with Dr. Uduaghan. I know his mind set, and his reasoning. Now the governor preaches a Delta without oil. I have talked with the governor, having reasoned with him. It is possible. It
is not as if the oil in Delta will cease or dry up but we can run Delta independent of oil. We can get revenue from other sources independent of oil. We can get money from culture and tourism, we can get money from agriculture; we can get money from the Ports.
We activate the Warri Port, activate the Koko Port, get the Asaba International Airport ready which will be a cargo airport, get the Osubi airport expansion completed, do the industrial park in Warri, do the EPZ in Koko. I tell you, with the EPZ, Warri industrial park and the these ports at Koko and Warri and the two airports, Delta will boom much more than Lagos or Port Harcourt or Calabar.
Now once we achieve these, there will be need to convey our goods from the Warri port to Onitsha which is the centre of commercial activities in the country today. All the goods that get into Lagos port ends up in Onitsha, and it takes time, and it takes a lot of risk to transport your goods from Lagos to Onitsha. At times they are robbed on the way, at times they are involved in accidents and the goods are lost.
At times it takes about two or three days for the trailers to get to Onitsha with the goods. Now if the Warri port is functional, the Koko port is functional, some of these goods that are being taken to the Lagos port will be diverted to Koko and Warri ports. If your goods lands at the Warri port from the sea port, the road is dualized up to the Effurun / Warri roundabout.
The Federal Government is dualizing the road from the Warri roundabout to Port Harcourt. So if you are going to Port Harcourt with your goods from the sea ports you have a dualized road from there to Port Harcourt. If you are taking your goods from the Warri port to Onitsha once you get to the dualized section of the Warri Port Harcourt road you turn off and face Isoko in Ughelli from that point again, the road is dualized up to Asaba by the state government from Asaba to Onitsha is dualized.
You find out that at every point in time that your goods get to the ports in Warri or Koko, you have dualized roads. It is that reason that the Koko / Ugbenu road is being dualized. So once you pick your goods from the port in Koko, when you get to the junction you either turn left to Benin which is also dualized and from Benin to Asaba is dualized.
Therefore, I tell you it is a very viable project. It is borne out of foresight by the governor to say let us prepare ground for these things now and what will attract the federal government to reactivate Warri Port and the Koko Port are these roads.
Therefore as a government, we are doing these things, so that there is attraction. What will attract people to take their goods to Warri, is for the roads to be dualized, they will see the advantages of taking their goods to Warri or Koko. On the Asaba airport, I can tell you as a person that the bulk of the persons that uses the airport in Warri are from Asaba and the East.
Therefore you have to drive first from Onitsha to Benin or Warri in the morning to take your flight to Lagos. But if the Asaba airport is completed and it becomes functional with international status, you don’t need to go to Benin or Lagos first. From Asaba you can go to Dubai, you can go to China or America.
Your goods can also be hauled to Asaba and because we have warehouses here, all these goods could be stored and in less than one hour any good that is brought by cargo to Asaba could get to Onitsha, unlike the case where you carry your goods to Onitsha, goods from Dubai, China or the USA or the UK, it can take another one week for your goods to get to Onitsha. So you can see that Asaba is attractive, same thing with Osubi.
Warri is the commercial nerve centre of the state today, because it is the domain of the oil companies and oil servicing companies that operates in Delta State.
There is a lot of movements of equipment too, therefore the Osubi airport is attractive. Now all these things I am talking will outlive the governor. Dr. Uduaghan will do his eight years and go and sleep but these projects will still be there. My position is that we must take the first step and that is what Dr. Uduaghan has done.
We cannot say we want to be like Dubai or Singapore without first taking a step.
For just now you may say we not. Seeing all these things reflect or come out into concrete things. But on the long run, Deltans, and Nigerians at large will benefit from it. Dr Uduaghan, I can assure you may just be there to see all these projects commissioned but at the end, he has laid a foundation upon which we can try to thrive without dependence on oil and gas. We are doing agriculture.
Before the discovery of oil, this country was living on agriculture. We had the cocoa pyramid in the west, we had the groundnut pyramid in the north, we had rubber and oil palm, where are these things today? Now because of oil we have abandoned all these things. It should have been the reserve we should have used our earnings from oil to consolidate on our agriculture.
Instead, we have abandoned agriculture and facing only oil. I went to Malaysia, even a parcel of land in Malaysia have either rubber or oil palm, and yet they got the oil palm and rubber seedlings from Nigeria, today they are the largest exporter of palm oil to all parts of the world and rubber. They don’t have the kind of land max that we have, they don’t have the kind of climate that we have, yet they can do that. My charge is that government should look at agriculture and see how we can diversify to agriculture. I tell myself that we can feed the world, plantain, yam, beans, onions: Yes we can feed this world but there must be deliberate attempt for us to do so.
Only recently you resigned as Delta State Commissioner for Lands, Survey and Urban Development and you decided to join the House of Assembly race for 2011 to represent Patani Local Government Constituency in the State House of Assembly. What informed your decision to do this, Sir?
Number one, the people want me to come and represent them in the House, that is number one and it is fundamental. Number two is that the people want a change. The incumbent has been there for three sessions and that is 12 years.
Between you and me and to be honest to myself, our people cannot see the impact of those three tenures, we have not. He has been speaker, deputy speaker, majority leader, he has been everything, but we cannot see those these translated. We see other people in the House of Assembly what they have been able to get or attract to their local government areas, we have not seen.
Over and above that, I’m feeling that I must move. You cannot be static in any particular place, therefore I have thrown my hat into the ring to run for the House of Assembly. By the grace of God I will get it and I will give them quality, effective and proper representation in the House of Assembly.
Recently, you went to Bulu_Agiama where the incumbent member of the House hails from and the traditional ruler there anointed you. What does it portend for you political aspiration?
Yes he anointed me and it is the home town of the incumbent that I am getting that kind of blessing. Therefore it is a challenge to me because I have the support of the people. So if I go, I should ensure that I deliver. So that all the prayers that have been given to me so far will be translated into dividends of democracy, so that they can say that the person I have prayed for is representing us very well.
What are some of the things that are actually agitating your mind for which you want to represent your people?
Number one, the entire local government area is suffering from coastal erosion. I have been in the state Exco and I know it is quite expensive to deal with it, but I think we should start it. Let it be there that government has started something.
Now the local government is mainly riverine, we need a lot of bridges to connect communities. Now when we talk of free maternal health and free health care for the under 5, we have only one General hospital in Patani local government area. So if you are living in Odorubu or Odobor, you will have to travel from all those places to Patani main town to get these benefits. We should work towards having other public hospitals or even one if we cannot get two, that will be located centrally so that the people at the other areas of the local government area that is the Odorubu, Uduophori axis can have benefit of these things.
Even if there is light in Patani the headquarters of the local government, some communities up till now do not have electricity. Now the local government is such that you can do agriculture throughout the year because of our peculiar nature we can get the government to be interested in doing somethings here. We can plant a lot of tomatoes, pepper, a lot of okro in my local government area.
But what we have done so far is just from mouth to pocket. I think the government can deliberately be attracted to say why don’t we concentrate on this area for okro or tomatoes or pepper, we do a lot of potato farming. These things are there what we need to do is articulate a programme that will attract government to this place and you will see that Patani will be booming in agriculture and commerce.
We have plantain, we have banana, we have potato we have okro we have many things. Our climate and soil is just good for anything you want to do.
Sir, don’t you think it is much easier to influence these programmes being in the Executive than being in the legislature?
It is not true. The true is that if there is no budget for it, you can’t do it. So the best person to do it is someone in the House of Assembly. The budget of the year is law so you make appropriation for a particular project, if you discuss these things with the governor and say governor; you want to do Delta without oil we think we can start from Patani, there are the advantages that we have.
We have tomatoes, pepper, okro, yam and potato. We may have to start from there if we make these proposition to the governor he will like to look at these things and say yes these are the kind of things I want.He may just key into it. I am not sure he is aware that Patani does a lot of pepper, tomatoes and okro farming. I think we are about the biggest in the state, but this is at local government involvement.
When I get there I will see how I can attract government interest and attention to it.
How do you intend to translate your legal experience into bills that will promote good living for the people of your constituency?
Because I know what my people need we can now enjoin the governor to draft those bills that will benefit Deltans and at the end of the day we articulate on them, do research, do studies and do those bills.
Not much is being heard of empowerment of the youths particularly in Patani Local Government Area. If elected into the Delta state House of Assembly what do you intend to do in this regard?
I think people are having a wrong conception about empowerment. I don’t think empowerment is about buying motorcycles, wheelbarrows to people. I don’t believe it is so. Empowerment mean first of all to get people to be aware of what is happening by educating them, secondlyyou get them involved in certain activities; like I said earlier on,
if there is light tell them the advantage of the light.
The Delta State Government is into a micro credit programme today. How many people can you get to be involved in the programme? If a man has a barbing saloon, another has a welding workshop and you can get all of them to key into the government programme. But once you bring money from your pocket to buy motorcycles for people, it doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t make meaning to me.
When I become a member of the House, we will call our people together and discuss with them, what do you want? You don’t sit down in you house or office at Asaba and say these are what my people need. It is not about buying some ‘okadas’ for some boys, some of these boys don’t even make good use of the ‘okada’, they sell them.
So how do you intend to initiate sustainable empowerment programme for the youth?
Yes, that is what I am saying, we will sit down here and tell them for instance that we have light here, these are the things you can do.
In putting these infrastructures in place, don’t you think it needs financial backing to set up businesses of their own if they want to be independent or self reliant?
I can tell you that the state government has so much finance that no one is even tapping. Everybody is rushing to Dr. Ashiedu Micro Credit Programme; have they gone to the Ministry of Commerce to see what isthere? Have they gone to the Ministry of Agriculture to see what is there?
There are so many avenues open for Deltans. It will be my duty to let my people benefit from the Ministry of Commerce, benefit in the Ministry of Agriculture, benefit from the Delta State micro creditprogramme.