*Restates he was not sacked from cabinet
Erstwhile Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe had a homecoming in Asaba, Delta State following his exit from the federal cabinet last week. In this interactive session with journalists following the reception, he spoke on his experience gathered in the Jonathan administration, and his next political aspiration. Excerpts:
Why did you quit the cabinet of President Goodluck Jonathan?
First and foremost, people should help me to thank God, who made it possible for me to serve the nation for over six years. In the history of this country, it is only very few persons that have been there for over six years. I also believe that these opportunities are not only meant for one person. I have done my best serving this country and also believe that I should also come to my state to deposit what God really gave to me to join the Governor and people of Delta State to move this state forward.
And I had to appeal to Mr. President and he allowed me to come and play a great role in Delta State having spent over six years as a minister, working for this country and I remain grateful to God, I remain grateful to the late President Yar’Adua and I remain grateful to my leader, my mentor and elder brother, President Goodluck Jonathan and I remain grateful to the Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan and the people of Delta State for the support they gave me to remain in the Federal Executive Council, FEC, for over six years.
Did you resign or were you sacked from the cabinet?
How can? I worked with President Jonathan very, very well. He is an elder brother, he is a friend, he is my leader, he is a great Nigerian leader and I worked with him over the years. I was not sacked. I resigned and he allowed me to go when I told him that I needed to come to Delta State to support the governor and the people of this state to move Delta State to a greater level, having contributed my little quota towards the advancement of this country.
I do not want to end my political career without coming to my own state to deposit what God has given to me through President Goodluck Jonathan. That is why I resigned to come and contest the governorship election in Delta State in 2015.
Are you claiming that your relationship with the President is still very cordial?
Intact. More than cordial, it is 100 per cent. At every given time, I am ever ready, I am at his beck and call to do what he wants me to do. My coming here (Delta State) cannot stop me from working for him. Any day, anytime, I am at his beck and call to do what he wants me to do.
Why do you want to govern Delta State?
I believe that having been a councillor, a local government council chairman, I have been an executive member of state primary education board in Delta State, chairman of a party, I have been an adviser to Governor James Ibori on Urban and Regional Planning. I have been Minister of Special Duties, I was Supervising Minister of National Planning Commission and then Minister of State for Niger Delta and thereafter Minister of Niger Delta Affairs over these years.
I have garnered some experience. God has been faithful to me. He has deposited enough knowledge in me and I want to deposit such knowledge that has been given to me by God in the service of the people of Delta State. And also I want to support the Governor that has moved this state thus far, to add my own quota to move this state forward. And I think God has helped me and endowed me to be able to take off from where Dr. Uduaghan will stop.
What is your plan for the state if you are elected governor in 2015?
Deltans working together to take Delta State to the next level. Collectively we must be able to push this state forward. We are going to add to what Governor Uduaghan has done to take Delta State to the next level to glorify what God destined for the state.
What is your relationship with the Ijaw National Leader, Chief Edwin Clark now in view of his threat that you cannot become governor of Delta State in his lifetime?
Chief Edwin Clark is my father, my leader, my master and my mentor and he has the right to correct me anytime he feels that I should be corrected. I have no disagreement with him and if for any reason, he feels bad about whatever statement I must have made, made on my behalf or I was misquoted to have made, he should, in all graciousness, consider it fit in his mind to forgive and forget.
Chief Edwin Clark is a rare gem, that we are seeing him now in our generation is a rare privilege. He is not only the leader of the Ijaw in Nigeria and Diaspora, many ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta, which comprises nine states not only in the South/South but also parts of South/ West and South/East, also accept him as their leader. No man can disregard such an elder statesman.
Given your experience working with President Jonathan, do you share the sentiment by some that he is a weak leader?
I think from our history, having been governed by the military over the years, it has also affected our psyche and our perception about people, who are leaders of this country. President Goodluck Jonathan is a democrat per excellence. He has allowed the rule of law to work in this country and so what are they talking about? President Goodluck Jonathan is a firm leader. If he believes in anything, he will take it to a logical conclusion.
President Goodluck Jonathan does not believe in waking up and sacking people because of rumour. President Jonathan is very thorough, he must know why something has happened, he must investigate, he must ask questions to know why these things should happen and you know Nigerians are not used to that and I think a new way of governance, which is through democratic process, government by rule of law must go into the reason of Nigerians because that is the only way we can develop our democracy. He is not a weak leader, he is a great leader, who rules this country by the rule of law and by the provisions of the Constitution of this country.
What are his chances in the 2015 presidential election?
Very, very bright. I can tell you that I have not seen any candidate from anywhere that can rival President Goodluck Jonathan. Who has the credentials that he has? I believe that the challenges we have now that people are talking about are not as serious as the one we had in 2011.
If you listen to the programme during the power and economic summits, where the private sector openly testified that what we are having now, the revolution we are having in Nigeria now, we have never had it before and I believe that Nigerians know what to do and at the right time Nigerians will vote for President Goodluck Jonathan again. I am convinced that he is going to make it again.
What is your reaction to the claim in certain quarters that President Jonathan agreed to serve for a single term of four years?
People have peddled this rumour over and over but none of them have been able to come up with that agreement that they signed and the president has told Nigerians that he never signed any agreement. Who do you want to believe? Is it the people who are saying he signed an agreement because of their personal interest or our president, who said he never signed any agreement?
I worked very closely with President Jonathan, I was the Deputy Director-General of President Jonathan Campaign Organisation, there is nothing like one term agreement that they are talking about. Itfs been a mystery to me and I believe Mr. President wholeheartedly that there was no agreement of that nature. He could not have signed such agreement when he knows that he is entitled to two terms. He is free to run, the constitution permits him to run and we will encourage him to run.
How do you evaluate the performance of the Governor of Delta State? Do you think the state is working under his leadership?
I think my friend and brother, His Excellency Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan started very well and he is finishing very strong. And I will continue to support and pray for him to take this state to greater heights. He has tackled this state from so many dimensions, he has been able to work hard to ensure that security is maintained in the state. He has introduced a new concept of moving Delta State outside oil, “Delta beyond Oil”, he has tried his best and I think that he is finishing very strong to the glory of God.
Do you have any regret as a minister?
I think I should thank God. First, for the opportunity God gave to me. Second, for what I have learnt and for the knowledge I have now about Nigeria.
No single regret. I remain grateful to God, I remain grateful to my elder brother, mentor and leader, President Goodluck Jonathan. I cant help but to thank God.