By Ben Agande
Senator Nimi Barigha- Amange, from Bayelsa State, in this interview, speaks on the face-off between President Goodluck and Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, and says governors must be loyal to their party.
What is your take on the crisis in the PDP particularly with two governors claiming the chairmanship of Nigeria Governors’ Forum coming from the same party?
PDP is a very large family and such is not unexpected. But I think the way the PDP leaders have handled it, that is the area that is worrisome. I remember PDP has gone through worse crisis and we emerged strongerl. What I expected and what I am still expecting is for the leadership of the party to set up a committee that will look into the areas of misunderstanding and resolve this matter. not out of hand yet. And I strongly believe we will resolve it before the end of year.
What is your suggestion to the party leadership on how to resolve the matter aside setting up committee?
My personal opinion is that it is wrong the way the family has moved. We have the leader of the party being Mr. President, we have the chairman of the party, we have the Board of Trustees (BOT) members. We regard them as leaders at the apex and we obey them. You can go to the field and win an election but if they say don’t go because it will affect the other arm of government you obey. And that is what it means being loyal to your party. You must be loyal to the party because it is the platform on which you became governor, senator, member of House of Representatives. I am not happy that some people disobeyed the party before the NGF election and, after the election, they continued to make inflammatory statements that brought us to this level. But I believe that we will settle the matter and move forward.
Some Nigerians say the punishment of suspension is too harsh for those sanctioned on the NGF crisis.
These are areas we are a bit worried about. The leadership, maybe they have seen more than we know but we feel a committee should have been set up to look into the crisis, get the report and then you can apportion blames. Rushing to suspend a sitting governor does not augur well for the party because we need a state like Rivers. We don’t want a divided state. Rivers State since 1999 has given PDP 100 per cent votes during elections; that is the only state has given us 100 per cent votes, not even Bayelsa, not Ogun State where Obasanjo comes from and we still want the state 100 per cent. So if the leadership of that state has offended the party, the party should tread with caution and show mercy. I personally feel we need Rivers State votes in bulk.
You were once quoted as saying the North-west should wait till 2030 to have their turn in the presidency.
Yes my position has not changed. If the six-year tenure arrangement sails through in the National Assembly and the Houses of Assembly, then it will be a good thing in the sense that a zone will not wait for too long to have a go at the presidency. Instead of eight years, it will now wait for six years. I was thinking that they will think of the present crop of governors and president, but the newly elected ones will stay for six years, that means by 2017 another zone will have the presidency for six years. Before you know it all the zones would have tasted power and we will have peace.
After the South-south, if we are talking about zoning, North is not a zone. We have six zones in the North, so after the South-south, which has not tasted the presidency, until now, it will go to the South East which has tasted for only six months or there about before it will go to North-east. We must consider other parameters if we talk about zoning.
If the North-west is clamouring to come in as President, where then is zoning? You have Abacha, Buhari, Shagari, North-west with three slots. Then North Central three – Gowon, Babangida and Abubakar. North East has produced only Tafawa Balewa. So if the President must come from a zone from the North it will be North East, not North Central, North West.
But if you look proportionally you will see that the most short- changed zone was South South followed by South East, followed by North East.
Whereas we talk about zoning, it is all about the impact the President’s make on the lives of Nigerians. One would have thought that with a South South President, the neglect that brought about militancy and the likes would be addressed. Is this President on the right track?
Is a good question. I like the way the President is going about it not because I know him as an individual. He is not South South President, he is the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The whole nation is his own constituency and if he can handle it this way for the next eight years (two terms), maybe the glamour, the struggle to be President or for one zone to push for somebody will be reduced. If a president will come in and regard Nigeria as his own constituency not caring for his own zone, state, local government area, Nigeria will be better of. So we from the South South, we are not expecting that he will do magic for us. If you are taking about federal project, the only federal project that we have today is the East West Road, from Cross River to Edo and it has been on for eight years and still under construction.
But our happiness is that the President is looking at every area equally. If you talk of voting strength, it was the South East that gave us the highest number of votes. Does it then mean that he will only face South East? No! So any President coming in should learn from the way the current president is operating, regard the whole nation as his constituency.
Your position seems to be at variance with what Asari Dokubo is saying that unless Jonathan emerges winner of the next election by (2015), Nigeria will suffere dire consequences?
Asari Dokubo is an individual he is free to state his mind. The statement Asari made is not stronger than the one Sani Bello or other northern leaders have made. You take him as he is, he is free to speak his mind. But he is not saying that because Goodluck Jonathan is taking care of the South South or because he is South South President Nigerians must accept him. No! That is not the statement, the statement is that other zones have stayed for eight years so the South South zone should also complete its eight years. That is the simple statement that the young man has made. People should not where he (Jonathan) comes from to intimidate him out of office. I read him very well and I listened to him, he has not made any derogatory statement or statement that say he will try to upturn the government. If you read what he said you will know that what he said is not as strong as what the northern elders are claiming he said. So let’s leave Asari alone , this is a free nation so he is free to say his mind.
So what that means other people that are also making inflammatory statement are also free?
I will not call what Asari said inflammatory. What do you mean by inflammatory? Somebody said this person must not contest and another said he must contest is that inflammatory? If somebody said this person must not contest and such statement is not inflammatory why should the one that said he must contest be considered inflammatory? I will not use that word. There has been this struggle that Jonathan must say for only one term than his own supporters not only Asari Dokubo are saying he must complete his two terms.
The North Central youths have said in a statement that Goodluck Jonathan has the constitutional right to re-contest for another four years. It is the way it is put one is stronger, one is not. The statements were the same, one said don’t contest, the other said contest.
Ribadu recently said Nigeria is a sinking ship under Jonathan and experiencing tyranny under him is that true?
I did not listen to Ribadu say that. You know maybe he was misquoted. Because before you say one thing is bad you have to compare. Let him compare the two governments. He was almost the defacto head of one government. He left his own job as EFCC boss and he was everywhere.
He was the person removing governors by unconstitutional means but nobody called him a tyranic leader. So let us not bother about those statements. He contested election and failed so he has tested election and I don’t think even if he contests elections three times that he will succeed.
He was actually doing the work, we praised him for what he did for EFCC but at a time he left his job and started going into general governance. He was always at the presidency and he was just behaving like a catch dog, leaving the main job he was doing. So he cannot throw stone and he cannot point one finger at the present government because four of them will be pointing at him.
His statement is not correct and Nigerians should disregard this statement.
This presidency has been accused of being slow in taking actions and why is the President afraid to act particularly when past leaders make inflammatory statements?
Yes I have heard statements credited some leaders but let me tell you, the president is not a military President, he is not a military head of state, he is a democrat. That is the difference. When he went to Maiduguri and he said he was not going to discuss with ghosts, you heard your so called inflammatory statements from the north, that he gave amnesty to Niger Delta youths and not to the northern youths. But he was not the person that gave amnesty to Niger Delta youths it was Yar’Adua.
So this issue of being slow is better for us. If you look at the way he declared state of emergency, he waited patiently, he followed all due processes and finally he declared state of emergency and got 90 per cent support of the world both internal and external support. Because he was methodically following the events not rushing to take rash decisions. And that is why they say he is slow. Is better for him to be slow than to taking irrational decision that will create more problem. So when statements are made by former heads of state. You now look back to the time this man was in charge of this country, what did he do? And I can say during the Buhari’s regime, it was another controversy. We have not forgotten the 53 suit cases loaded with dollars and escorted by Villa security to this country and he was fighting corruption? You see that is why you just don’t make statements for the sake for it.