By Emma Amaize,
Regional Editor, South-South
SINCE Elder Godsday Orubebe left his job as Minister of Niger Delta, early this year, to pursue his craving to become the governor of Delta State in 2015, many controversies have leaped on why he threw in the towel, why he is gunning for the seat, his performance as minister, camaraderie with South-South leader, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, who had publicly kicked against his aspiration.
As if clearing the air on the polemics before the state People Democratic Party, PDP, gubernatorial primaries, Orubebe opened up on these, East-West Road and more in this interview with Saturday Vanguard at his riverside Ogbobagbene country home in Burutu Local Government.
Gossips about contracts
I became a Minister in 2007 and for three years, I never had the opportunity of awarding a single contract. I was writing memos, reading files. The over six years that I spent as a Minister, I only had the opportunity to look into contracts for about three years.
The three years and three months, I was reading memos and writing things, I had no opportunity of awarding a contract of even N10,000. I had no idea about contracts. When Chief Ufot Ekaette left as Minister, I became the Minister of State in acting capacity and I became full minister in 2011 and the only programme I had was the East-West Road. The contract had been awarded before I came in.
Obasanjo and the East-West Road
It was awarded in 2006 by former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo regime, that is a road of over 338 kilometers and the cost is over N340 billion. Now, Obasanjo awarded this project and provided only N1.2 billion. There were no designs, no drawings.
You can see the problem of the Ministry of Niger Delta. It is a ministry of sacrifice and it is one project ministry. I went to the drawing board and after looking at things; I went to the President and told him three things we needed to do.
One, we have to complete the drawings and designs of that road, two, we have to look for money outside government, three, we need a framework with the contractors on how to complete the road. The president told me I should go ahead, so the designs and drawings were completed in 2011 and we realized that the road had 42 bridges spanning from 70 meters – 850 meters and over 1,040 culverts and you have to create earth before you do some part of the road.
I went to the Africa Development Bank, ADB, to take loan, got some money from SURE-P, called the contractors and told them to work and we started work. When I was leaving, a journalist asked me what is going to happen to East-West Road, I told them East-West road would soon be completed. Nobody will stop it and that by the end of May, the entire earth work would have been completed.
Well, last month (July), I went through the road, the entire earth work as I said had been completed, what is left is this rainy season, after the rains, you can count few months from November and East-West road will be completed.
Again, as Minister of Niger-Delta, I had the singular opportunity to employ 360 graduates of Niger Delta origin, which means that in the next 15 years, we are going to have some permanent secretaries from Niger Delta that will be supporting affairs of decision making at top levels in this country. It has not been done by any minister in this country, I did it.
Edge over others
As a former Minister of Special Duties at the federal level, I supported the President by clearing his table, so I know what it means to relate with the presidency, I know what it means for a state to relate with federal ministries and bring what is due to a state to the state and Delta will not lack that with me as governor. As Minister of National Planning, I was responsible for planning for Nigeria and had the opportunity of inviting some of the best brains in Nigeria to work on the Vision 2020 document, which is about bringing Nigeria to be one of the 20 top economies in the world. So if I could plan for Nigeria, Delta state is a fragment of Nigeria, I can plan and do better in Delta state.
Delta of my dream
The Delta of my dream is a Delta where our people believe in hard work, self-confidence and fear of God to achieve things in life. You do not need to have a godfather to get to the top. I want our young ones, our children to have these three virtues of life, I do not want any young man in the state to feel that I need to be close to Orubebe.
I have to be born by Orubebe, I need to be born by Uduaghan, I need to be close to so and so person before he can become something in Delta state. I was the opposition leader in the state before the former governor, Chief James Ibori, made me his Adviser on Urban and Regional Planning. I put put together what is called today in Delta State the Urban Renewal Law.
The road map to my development of the state is ready. I invited some of the best brains in the state to Lagos and I spoke to them for three days about my dream for the state, and over the months, we have been working on that document. That document, Orubebe’s Road Map to the development of Delta state will come out between now and December.
How God made me minister
God revealed to me that Obasanjo will be president in 1998, He sent three angels to tell me and on that day too, He also told me I was going to be a minister, but I did not know the ministry.
The angels showed me a map of the old Niger Delta and a new Niger Delta and one day, a top politician from the northern part of the country came and was taunting me over the map of the Niger-Delta in my office and when he asked me, I told him God is going to create a Ministry of Niger Delta, he laughed the more, but two days after, he was sacked and the then President, Umaru Yar’Adua created the Ministry of Niger-Delta. Indeed, God bypassed protocol in making me a minister after revealing it to me in 1998 as I said earlier.
In 2007, He asked me to prophesy at the gates of Abuja that the then President, late Alhaji Umaru Yar’ Adua should make me a minister. Meanwhile, after speaking to the gates, my friends came and I told them I was going to be a minister and from thenceforth, they should be addressing me as Honourable Minister, they were laughing at me, saying how can? Uduaghan and Ibori will never recommend you.
And when the first list came, my name was not there and they were laughing at me and I told them because of me, a special list would be released. So one night, Yar’Adua could not sleep, he woke up in the morning and called the current President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, who was his deputy then and told him that he wanted to appoint six Ministers without passing through the governors. He asked him to bring names from the South-South.
Goodluck went to his room and was thinking about a young man from Bayelsa state, he heard what God was saying and told him I know one man, his name is Orubebe. That is the journey to my becoming a minister.
People have this impression that you were corrupt while in office, can you tell us what the EFCC has against you?
You know in Nigeria, anyone who has a political appointment is deemed to be a corrupt man, but I told people that politics is not a corrupt activity; it is individuals that are corrupt. It is about governance and what should be given to the people. And I tell people, Orubebe is not corrupt, I went into government as a Christian. I was not influenced by money, and I came out even more fired as a Christian.
In Nigeria, people generally believe that once you are close to the president, you can you use the closeness to do all kinds of things. But I refused to be tempted to do anything and I say by 2015, there is a testimony I am going to share. I was minister for six years and I have just told you that for three years, three months, I was just reading newspapers, reading files, reading memos.
You remember there was a time somebody made a publication that I awarded contracts of N29 billion, paid all the money and the contracts were not in existence when, in actual fact, the contracts that were awarded were just about N6 billion.
Out of the N6 billion, the mobilisation fee that was available for the contractors was about N900 million. I took about 50 journalists to visit all the project sites, gave them all the contract papers, they came and they saw everything and published their reports that the person lied. Ministry of Niger Delta is not a contract-awarding ministry. I can tell you that the EFCC has nothing against me.
What I told new N-Delta minister
When I was leaving and they brought in Stephen Oru, I told him, my brother, I sympathize with you because you will have no single contract to award to anybody and people will not understand. They will say you have awarded all the contracts to yourself. You can ask the question, in a ministry where you are not awarding contract, where is the money to steal?.
In a ministry where you are doing a contract of over N300 billion, maybe in a quarter, you get … take for instance now, East-West road along, they are owing over N40 billion but because of understanding, the contractors are working and then government releases only about N4 billion, tell me the money to steal when you are only going to use that money to pay the contractors.
Clark will be glad to see me emerge gov
Well, Chief Clark is an Ijaw leader and a national leader, I see him as a father and leader till today. Chief Clark has nothing against me. I have nothing against Chief Clark. yes, as father and son, like any other person, there could some areas of misunderstanding but I can tell you categorically that I have nothing against Chief Clark.