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Why I’m worried by court action, says Uduaghan

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*”Ibori and I are two  different persons”
*“I don’t know what I’ve done against Clark”

Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, in his first major interview since the nullification of his election as Delta State Governor speaks on diverse issues.

What is your relationship with President Goodluck Jonathan?

Very very cordial. He is my President; the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria .  I have an excellent relationship with Mr. President even while I was in government. Also we came from the same region, the Niger Delta. It makes us to have a common ground on dealing with issues of the Niger Delta.

Even as the Vice President, he always listened to me and respected my views and there was nothing I had to discuss with the President then that I did not discuss with him. So we have an excellent relationship and since the Federal Court of Appeal issue happened, he has been supportive. He stands strongly behind me. He, as the National Leader of the party, has been giving every support to ensure that PDP regains Delta State .

But some people claim you have a sour relationship with the President and is against you to re contest?

(cuts in) No, no, no. The President is not against me at all. Just like I said, he has been very supportive since the Appeal Court issue. We have been relating very well. I think it is some people that are close to him that are trying to do funny things but Mr. President is very good to me.

The same people are claiming that the President is imposing you on the state and that they will do everything possible to resist it?

All I know is that people should not play God. The President is not imposing me on the people of the state. The President is the leader of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the party has said I am their candidate. And of course, as leader of the party, he will not start saying no don’t vote for him. Those saying the President is imposing me on the people of the state are playing God.

You visited Abraka recently where you pleaded with elders and leaders of the area to shun violence in the rerun election; that what happened in 2007 should not be allowed to repeat itself. What actually happened during the 2007 elections?

In 2007, houses of PDP members were attacked. Infact some were killed including a pregnant woman. She was killed in Abraka. Many people died in that area during the then election which was very unfortunate. My appeal to those people is that violence will not get anybody anywhere. And don’t think we should allow such violence to repeat itself in the rerun election.

The PDP has been losing some states through court rulings. What is responsible for the Governors to win at the election tribunals only to loose at the Appeal Court? Don’t you think something must be wrong somewhere?

I think I should allow you journalists to investigate why they won at the election tribunal and lost at the Appeal Court. It is something that will be very interesting for investigative journalism. But what is worrying really is that, I know that in 2007, PDP campaigned in every nook and cranny of this state.

We have the video tapes. We went to every ward and local government area of this state but some people campaigned in only three places in the whole of Delta State . They have no presence at all in the rural areas. They didn’t campaign at all in other parts of the state. And what were they doing? They were preparing for courts rather than preparing for elections. Now people prepare more for courts rather than campaigning and it is very worrisome. I must say it is very worrisome. I think we should encourage people to be more on ground.

Going back to the judgement, I will just tell you why some of us are worried about the judgement. The DPP said elections did not hold at all in Delta State for governorship; but did election take place for the House of Assembly? Because the two elections were held the same day.

Why did they not take a single House of Assembly matter to the court that election did not hold? Is it that election held for the House of Assembly and did not hold for the governorship? Elections that took place the same day. These are questions we should be asking. These are issues we should be raising. He did not take one case of the House of Assembly to court to say elections did not hold and pursue it to the Appeal Court..

So there are so many issues we really need to look at if we are thinking of improving our democracy. We must look at the whole process in totality because what we are seeing is we want to encourage people to depend on courts rather than voting to get to Government House.

How worried are you about ethnicity in the politics of Delta State?

(cuts in) No, no. I am not worried. Let me tell you: in our peace and security strategy when I came in 2007, one of the areas we tried to deal with was that of ethnicity. Now there are two issues with ethnicity. One is the issue of appointment and the other centres on development. What I tried to do, especially on the issue of appointments was to try and distribute them in such a way that every senatorial district and every ethnic group got what was entitled to them. There was a time in the state when one senatorial district had 10 members out of 20 in the state EXCO.

Mind you, there are three senatorial districts and one of this had 10 out of 20 members EXCO. Of course there is bound to be agitation. So we tried to do it in such a way that, yes it might not be 100 percent okay, we tried to evenly distribute appointment.

I also tried to spread development evenly. Of course, there has to be some bias in terms of development especially towards the state capital. People have had issue with that asking why we were doing so much in Asaba. For me, Asaba is the state capital. And Delta State, after so many years deserves a befitting state capital. And so we tried to do a lot more in Asaba than other parts of the state.

So with these two issues, we have tried as much as possible to handle the issue of ethnicity. So I don’t think right now, ethnicity is a major issue in Delta State . But there is no doubt that there are a few persons who are still playing ethnic cards. There is no doubt about that. Infact, one of our leaders Professor Ijeoma, a few days ago came out with a publication that has to do with ethnicity. So there is no doubt about that that a few persons are still playing ethnic champions but generally it has disappeared.

Right in Delta State , anybody from one ethnic group can move into another ethnic group, eat with them, and sleep with them, which was not the case a few years back.

Why is Chief E.K.Clark on your neck? It appears he hates you so much. What is the problem?

I don’t want to play or put much emphasis on Chief Clark. Let me say however that I have so many people above 80 years of age. Infact, a few days ago, one of those elders, Chief Otobo, he is about 85 years, was the Deputy Premier of Midwest region. He is supportive. You see, the issue is about Delta State and not about Uduaghan. Whatever action you take and whatever you are doing, we should ask ourselves, how does it move Delta forward? We have very credible elders. For example, Senator Nosike. These are the people that are above 80 years who are saying let this young man be.

Why is it difficult to resolve the infighting within the PDP in the state?

You see, from 2007, I have done so much to try and deal with infighting within the party in the state. I have personally visited a lot of elders and leaders, including Chief E. K. Clark that people are laying emphasis on. For those who contested with me, I have got a little problem here. My Secretary to State Government then, Dr.Ifeanyi Okowa we contested the primaries together but he later became the SSG.

Infact in the cabinet in the cabinet then I had about four or five persons that contested the primaries with me. Some others who did not come into government had different roles to play in the state and all that. But a few, about three or four who insisted on going the other way. Apart from that, we also put up a committee, an elders committee that virtually went round the state to talk to those who were still opposed to us. We did a lot to reconcile but there is no way we can have  100 percent because there are still a few opposing us for one reason or the other and some times they can be very vocal, so pe
ople hear them a lot.

Are you seeing yourself as a victim of circumstance because Chief E.K. Clark and his group were after the former Governor, Chief James Ibori, your cousin. Secondly they alleged that so much funds entered the Niger Delta without anything to show for it?

As for the issue of the former Governor, well anybody that is trying to tie the issue with what I am having now, I don’t know how they go together. But there is  James Ibori and there is Emmanuel Uduaghan. We are two different persons, different attitudes to life. Whoever is trying to tie me to whatever is happening to that person, I think is missing the point.

In terms of developing the Niger Delta states, people exaggerate the issue of allocation. Yes, allocation to the Niger Delta states is more than the other states but the problems of the region are also much more than the other states. To construct a road in Niger Delta, for instance a 26 kilometer road in the riverine areas, a 26 kilometer road with 16 bridges of various sizes, you won’t see that in any other part of the country.

So if you cost that including sand filling sometimes up to four metres high and the cost of sand filling alone is enough to construct some hundreds of kilometers of roads in other parts of the country. What I am saying is that in the Niger Delta, because of the terrain, the cost of construction is much higher. During the peak of the crisis, the Governors Forum went to Bayelsa State for a meeting and they were shown some of the construction projects going on in Yenagoa. Some of us were amazed because they just had to do sand filling which is a major project and sometimes cost about fi
ve times more than the total project itself.

So the cost of construction in the Niger Delta is very expensive. And even then the money coming in for the development of the region, atleast for the states, after removing wages and cost of running government, what is left is little compared to the needs of the area. The area requires heavy development and the money coming there is not near enough for the actual development of the place. And talking about derivation, NDDC, Niger Delta Ministry, there is still not enough money and coordination for the development of the region.

Why do you think people are not happy with you despite all the achievements you recorded in over three years you were in office?

You see, I was telling the story of the tortoise with some persons recently. And what is this story of the tortoise? Tortoise was given a bigger position and he thought he was doing very well and went to his mother and told her he was doing very well and was happy. But the mother asked him whether he was sure and he said yes. The mother then said to know he was doing very well, he should pretend as if he was dead. And he did that. As soon as the people heard about his death, some mourned him while some others said that was good for him. He didn’t do this for me. He didn’t do that for us.

He was surprised that some of the people that complained most were those very close to him, that were loyal to him, that could die for him. He now found out that such people were not happy with him. I think that is where I am now. People have called me to say you shouldn’t have done this or that.

What are your preparations for the rerun elections?

In preparing for the election, I am using my party platform which is the PDP. We are very much on ground. We have our presence in every ward in the state. So we are using our presence in such wards. If you go round, we have established teams; these teams are built in wards. It is more of grassroots campaign really than the type of campaign on the pages of newspapers and the media.

So for anyone that wants to go into any election now must target the voting population. So our target is the voting population which is more grassroots placed. And we are doing it more through our party rather than directly by me alone.

By the time the judgement came, what was your reaction?

Well, I will say that the judgement was very surprising to me just as most Nigerians because we did not expect the judgement would go the way it went. But today, our lawyers are still looking at the judgement and the lawyers told me they have an issue with it. Everything is being done to deal with the issues.

Why does Chief Clark like you so much and has been against you?

I wish I had another opportunity to ask him what he has against me. I have asked him several times and he said I am his son. Really I don’t know exactly what the issues are.

The electoral tribunal ruled in favour of your party and the Appeal court ruled against. What point did they anchor their judgement on?

I want to leave that to the lawyers. What I know is that my party has said go for another election and that is what I am preparing for now. Like I said, I want to reserve my comments on the Appeal Court judgement totally. My lawyers are looking at it and I think they will come out with something.

I believe the press and the lawyers should actually look into it. Why for instance will they say certified photocopies of documents are not acceptable in court? And secondly, even the lawyers were saying they did not submit certified photocopies. The document that was submitted at the lower court was not certified photocopy. So how did they come about that at the Appeal court. Like I said, there are issues to be raised.

Can you make it in the rerun election?

In preparing for the rerun election, I am using my party platform the PDP in DeltaState. We are very much on ground. We have presence in every ward in the state. Satisfactorily I have done some things that I believe that will qualify me for the rerun election.

Before the three and a half years that I was in office, I had been in government for eight years, as commissioner for four years and SSG for four years; I have gathered a lot of experience about Delta State . And in the three and half years, I have tried to refocus Delta from the state totally dependent on oil to move to a state that in the next few years, can survive with or without oil. That is the focus I am trying to achieve in the three and half years.

Yes. We are an oil producing state; we are a state in the Niger Delta that has depended entirely on oil just like the Nigerian government depends on oil. Now, Is it not possible that this oil will finish tomorrow? Is it not possible that the price of oil will drop like we recently experienced? So in coming into government, I tried to think of what to do to move the state from that phase of depending totally on oil.

We have a lot of natural resources. So in doing so, I believe Delta State can be an economic hub of Nigeria . And so our focus has been that of moving to a state of economic development where we are not just talking about an improved economy but a situation where a lot of our able bodied young men have the opportunity of being employed.

In doing that, in the past three and half years, I tried to put up a three point agenda of ensuring that we had peace and security in place. I believe we achieved as much as possible. We also tried to improve on infrastructure that is required for investors to come into Delta. And basically, infrastructure strategy revolves around improving power, improving transportation, seaports, and airports and of course railway. And then also improving the ICT facilities in the state. Trying to improve the urbanization of our towns in Delta State .

You must remember that the state has at least 14 urban centres or towns. That is why we are different from many other states. Some other states are just one town states but Delta State has about 14 towns that are qualified to be state capitals. So if you are developing one of the towns, you must also, whatever small measure, look at the other towns. Our second strategy really was that of infrastructure that will encourage investors.

And our third strategy is that of Human Capital Development in which we looked at human beings from the day of conception to the day the person enters his grave. What can we do to influence the woman that gets pregnant today? In that case we said the quality of the child that is born depends on how well the child is taken care of while in the womb of the woman. And many of our women do not have access to health care. They do not have the money to access health facilities. So we asked ourselves what do we do and resolved to have free maternal services for every pregnant woman and that was what we did.

Once you are pregnant, from the day of conception to the day you deliver, you don’t have to pay for any health services. It is free. Even for those who have difficulty getting pregnant, they also enjoy free medical services in our hospitals, even up to surgery. For instance, a woman was recently treated of fibroid free of charge under the programme. We put that programme in place for the unborn child and the woman that is pregnant. And there after, the first five years of the child, he has access to free health care.

For the other segment of the society, if you cannot afford to pay for health care, we have three designated hospitals to provide free health services for these people. And after five years of the child, that is when the child is of school age to about 21 or 22 years we take their education up. In the state, we have the primary, the secondary and tertiary institutions. We designed a programme to ensure that our children are engaged in schools.

For instance from primary to secondary schools, they don’t pay. It is free. You don’t have to pay anything whatsoever. Even examination fees for NECO and WAEC we pay for them. To ensure that they receive qualitative education, we also improved the quality of our teachers in our schools particularly in the rural areas. For rural schools we recently employed teachers and posted to the riverine areas. We also pay them special allowances to encourage them to reside in their areas of posting.

After the secondary school level, we have increased the bursary from N10,000 to N20,000 for every student in the university. For post graduate students, we improved on our scholarship scheme. And for every child, every youth that has a first class, the government took up their education up to any level anywhere in the world. We give them automatic scholarship. So that is how we tried to assist the school age of the young population.

Of course, after the school age, what do we do to ease the problem of unemployment? Apart from direct employment we give as a government, I think it is over 14,000 people that we employed in the various arms of government, we also had our micro credit scheme for those who have handiwork. Aside that we also have an agricultural project we called “Youth Employment through Agriculture”. We selected youths, 18 per Local Government Area, into Songhai Farm where we train them on agricultural methods and eventually set up a farm for them in their Local Government Areas either as clusters or individual farmers. All of them are into farming now. We have trained two sets of them already.

Sir, the opposition alleged over N650 billion allocations accrued to the state while you are in office and with all you claimed to have achieved you have nothing to show for the money. That you frittered away the money.

I don’t know who the opposition is but we can give account of every kobo that we got in government. Now, let me say this: when an allocation comes, we have a workforce now about 60,000 persons, that we pay salaries every month. In fact, by the last month, our wage bill was about N5.6 billion. Averagely we get about N9 billion monthly. Wagebill alone is about N5.6 billion, that is one.

Two, we have to give five percent of the 13 percent derivation to DESOPADEC arm of government that is supposed to develop the oil communities and that takes about N2.5 or 3 billion. So between those two, wage bill and DESOPADEC alone, we have spent about N8 billion out of the N9 billion that we have. Of course, you need to send subvention to the various ministries and parastatals.

So sometimes, we were even in deficit. The thing that tries to sustain us is our IGR which is about N1.2 or 1.3 billion. You see, by the time you finish, you have to deep into the IGR to even run the government. Therefore, when they sayN650 billion was frittered away, I just laugh because we can account for every kobo that we received. You should not forget that in this period that I came in, there had been an increase in wage bill of workers by 15 percent which we had to pay and it was during that period that we started paying pension for the workers, that is seven percent of their wages.

Collectively, within this period, we paid 22 1/2 increases in wages of workers. Then we had between 20 and 25 increases in the wages of teachers. In addition, we have also put up a programme that teachers who are in the rural areas be given additional 12.5 percent as incentive to ensure that they remain in the rural areas. Again, we had increased the wages of health worker in this new CONMTISS, we settled for 70 percent. So the wage bill increases.

We have all these increases that have come up and for somebody to say somebody has frittered away N650 billion is very laughable. Ironically, some of those who are making this claims benefitted from the money. So what has happened and I think I can say it publicly is that I tightened a lot of places in government that made impossible for people to carry out what we call ‘business as usual”. I was in government for eight years before I became Governor and so in those eight years, I knew there were a lot of loopholes where people were just trying to fritter away money and of course as Governor having that experience, I gradually tried to tighten some of identified areas.

But these people that we are talking about, when I read their interviews, I laugh. They are making so much noise, how did they make their money? How did they come about building houses in Abuja , Port Harcourt , Lagos , Warri and everywhere in a period of four years. Let us appear before the television for a debate on this. These are some of the people who used to sell contract across the Niger.

We are talking about some of our schools that are deplorable. Today, why are they deplorable? Contracts were awarded for those schools; did they give contracts to those who can do it? Or they sold out the contract out across the Niger . We have issues with a lot of these contractors. Ironically, it is those people who sold these contracts are now coming on the pages of newspapers asking me what did I do with N650 billion. Like I said, let us stand before television cameras for a debate.

Whoever the opposition is, the people who are leading the opposition have had one business or the other to do with government and right now that it is no longer business as usual so that opposition is opposition to a government that is not doing business as usual.

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