Engr. James Erhuero is a one time Permanent Secretary in the defunct Bendel state, and was subsequently, Secretary to Delta State Government, (1999-2003). His public service career was recognized last September when he received the national honour of Officer of the Order of the Niger OON. In this interview, he speaks on the just concluded national honours award of the federal government and some topical issues relating to the country and Delta State. Excerpts:
You were a recipient in the just concluded national honours award, what were your observations about the awards?
It is a way of encouraging those who are diligent in their duties to carry on with good work, and that the government is the type that appreciates good things. That is my observation and I am indeed humbled to be one of the recipients. I am also grateful to my state government which must have definitely supported my nomination for the award.
How do you rate the performance of President Jonathan?
I want to say that the president is trying and it is quite too early to condemn him in any area where he is perceived not to have measured up. I think in time he would fix a great deal of the challenges facing the nation. I will rate Mr. President’s performance high, particularly in his choice and focus on infrastructural development.
What is your comment on the allegation by some ethnic groups particularly the Urhobos and the Itsekiris that they have been marginalised by the Federal Government?
I thinks the Urhobos and Itsekiris are correct. When I take a look at the cabinet of Mr. President I do not see any Urhobo or Itsekiri man. I want to say that Urohobos deserve to be given a place in the present government even if the absence of an Itsekiri man is hung on the fact that the government the state has an Itsekiri man as the governor. The clamour for an appointment of an Urohobo indigene is quite in order and I am in support of it, given the population and contribution of the Urohobos to the Nigeria nation.
The nation has just celebrated her 52nd independent anniversary; do you think the country has fared well in the past 52 years?
Well, America that we are all looking up to when we talk of development, probably did not get to the level we are now over a century and half ago. Development is a gradual process and I think the country has tried. So far we have been able to bring democracy to stay and that is a pass mark.
What is your reaction to the spate of insurgency across the country?
The activities of militants in the riverine areas have greatly subsided. I think this should be due to the success of the amnesty programme of the federal government. The youths are being encouraged through jobs, some are in training within and outside the country and peace is gradually returning to the Niger Delta area. In some parts of the north, the activities of Boko Harram still cripple religious and economics activities.
I think these people have become uncontrollable partly because no one has known the reason why they are wrecking heavy carnage on the land. They have not come to say they want this or that, even their sponsors are yet unknown. I believe they have sponsors. There may be elites who are colluding and sponsoring them. You can imagine how some youths in this modern world would say they do not need western education. Is that moral in this jet age? Certainly not. They are even asking Mr. President to become a Moslem.
Sir, as an experienced technocrat, what advise do you have for politicians in the country?
Every one must be up and doing. No arm of government should jeopardize the smooth running of another arm of government, even though checks and balances are allowed for the beauty of democracy. Again politics should not be a do or die affair.
Those who win in election should perform their tasks creditably while those who lose should imbibe the culture of sportsmanship. Our law makers should be dutiful in their task of law making. It is not a tea and coffee affair. Law making is a strenuous job and those who find themselves in parliament should show adequate commitment and justification for why they were elected to represent their people in the house.
How will you rate the government of Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan?
He is trying his best; but one thing you will know is that Delta State can be likened to Nigeria. It is a multi- ethnic and multi- lingual state. So for that very reason, the state has peculiar challenges just as Nigeria has particular challenges when compared to some other countries. I think gradually we the people of the state will understand each other and once the communication gaps are bridged, there would be less challenges and less criticisms against the governor.