By Simeon EBEGBULEM
Minister of State for Works, Engr Chris Ogienwonyi, toured the Benin-Lagos Express road last weekend.
After his tour, he spoke to Saturday Vanguard on the state of the federal roads and what the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan has achieved in the past five months, adding that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State is set to wrestle power from the Governor Adams Oshiomhole Action Congress (AC) administration in the state. Excerpts:
President Jonathan is jostling for the PDP Presidential ticket in the 2011 presidential race. Do you think he will be able to floor other candidates, particularly with the opposition from the north?
From what is going on today, one can conclude a landslide victory for the President.
Today, all the stakeholders are fully behind him, all the six geo-political zones, because of the fact that Mr President is endowed with intellectual capacity, the integrity and the ability to take this great nation to the next level well crafted in Vision 2020.
Again, as a member of the Federal Executive Council, I can speak very well on what Mr President has done under five months. One can see that the issue of the Niger Delta.
There is peace now in the region and we see that it has enhanced our increase in oil and gas production. You recall some times last year that it was as low as 1.5m barrels per day but today we are close to 2.3 million barrels per day. Number two, we must equally commend him for the courage he has taken so far in tackling the problems in the power sector.
Just last week, he was in Lagos to jump start the power reforms and that road map for the power reforms is now in top gear. Again, you realize that any nation where corruption is rampant is a negative impact on our economy and that is the way people see it outside. We are glad the issue of corruption in this country has been tackled by this President.
We are glad to see Mr President has achieved so much respect from the International Community. We do not equally forget his achievements in infrastructural development in the past five months.
I am glad to say that from Mr Ministry in terms of the road sector, I am glad to point out what he is doing in the dualization of the Abuja_Lokoja High way. Today, the President is very keen to continue that dualization from Okene-Auchi-Benin. You realize that it is a major outreach of this nation.
Recently at the last Exco, he equally approved the rehabilitation of the Jebba bridge which is another major North-South linkage in term of economy.
Recently again, you realize his effort to equally commence the second Niger Bridge, another outreach serving the East -West and North -South. And the Ministry of Works is very keen to commence the construction of the second Niger Bridge and that will be something very massive in terms of the economic growth of this country.
You are fully aware of the major effort for the South -East major road. Mr President has equally considered the Enugu-Aba-Port Harcourt major outreach again that will link the major movement from the East through the North. We also have the Maidugiri-Kano-Abuja Outreach that is running North-South.
That is a massive dualization Mr President is supporting today. If you look at the effort he is making to rehabilitate the Airports, just as at the last two council meetings, he has approved substantive amount of money to do the upgrade of the power supply at the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos .
Recently over N200b contract was awarded for the importation of fertilizers to boost agriculture. You equally realize his efforts in the dams. Most of the dams that were down today are all being rehabilitated to make them functional. Many might not see it but I want to say that the President is worker friendly with the recent pay rise he granted to Nigerian workers.
Recently again, to stabilize the top echelon of the university system, he approved the retirement age of Professors and increased it from 65 years to 70 years.
But the North believes that it is their turn?
What President Jonathan is doing today is a continuation of Yar’Adua/Jonathan ticket and that ticket will run to 2015. So what Mr President is doing today is just a continuation of that ticket. And again, simple logic, you cannot dissolve a winning team, like our Ladies, the Falcons that did so well, you cannot dissolve the team.
The President who is taking this nation to our point of Eldorado. Looking at him in the last four or five months, you will find out that he is quite courageous. You realize the issue that happened in the South East where Aba became a place you cannot operate in the day time.
I was in the Federal Executive Council, the President took a very sharp courageous decision, an operation that lasted two weeks and returned Aba to normalcy, why will you remove such a man?
This is one man that has the interest of this nation so close to his heart and I am sure that when we commence telling the Nigerian people what the Exco has achieved in the last four five months, when these start manifesting in the next three four five months, all of us in unison will ask Jonathan to remain.
Jonathan has performed
I think when people start seeing the dividends of what is coming out from Mr Jonathan’s administration, they will marvel. I was in Benin six weeks ago and I was told that there was a wash out between Auchi and Igarra and I drove straight to the site.
I inspected the place and thereafter, I went to pay a visit to the Otaru of Achi, where he complained to me about the serious erosion issues around Auchi. And believe me, on Tuesday that week, Mr President empowered me to ask Setraco to move to site.
I was there three weeks ago. That job is almost completed now. He (President Jonathan) just said, ‘ Minister mobilize to Auchi now and let them move to site’. And we are taking key projects. The Jedda bridge, the second Niger bridge, so we are taking all these key areas.
Oil production has increased The Local Content bill is a bill that is going to ensure the development of the Niger Delta. I have compared the Niger Delta with other coastal areas in America and with this bill now, the people of the region will be empowered to have a better life.
It will create jobs for the youths and then we will start looking inwards on how to use our local resources for the oil and gas industry. These are things hitherto, we are importing.
But with this bill now, a part of this bill will center on internal development and that will be those resources we use to import from outside, I am glad today to hear that many companies want to start to fabricate steel and that is one area that was a major capital flight.
On the average of about $15billion for the oil and gas, you realize that almost 90 per cent was on capital flight. And out of that 90 per cent, almost 50 per cent was on steel.
Will the PDP in Edo state garner support for your boss due to the crisis in the state PDP?
You see me coming to Benin on the average now on a weekly basis. What we are doing now, like I told people earlier, is that in four months’ time, all the problems in the state PDP will be resolved. Today, we are going for another meeting.
We are now seeing a strong PDP, all the members are now talking of peace. I assure you that by end of this month, there will be one PDP in Edo state. We are now on massive mobilizing of our people.
By 7am this morning, I was at Orhionmwon, my Local Government Area, to mobilize our youths, urging them to be part of the registration of our voters. And I can assure you that it will be only PDP in Edo state and nothing else because the people know what they want.
The people of Edo state are fully prepared for the party registration. First and foremost, our programme now is on a grassroot mobilization. We are urging all our members, all the party leaders, to go back home to their various nook and crannies to speak to their people.
Grassroot mobilization of all our members inclusive of those our members that left to other parties. There is now a platform for them to come back to the PDP family they rightly belong. I tell you that the other parties today in Edo state, what they have today are our members.
With the peace back now to this great party, I assure you that before mid October, you will see massive decamping from the other parties to the PDP.
Today, I am the only member of the Federal Executive Council from Edo state. My job today is to educate my people of Edo state that it is through this source that we will get to our destination.
There is a popular saying in Benin – that river that does not flow to the Atlantic will be a sinking lake’. God forbid Edo state to be a sinking lake.
The only way Edo state will be a viable river is that it flows to the Atlantic . We will take Edo state to the Atlantic and that is the PDP.