By DAPO AKINREFON
MR Paul Odili is the manager of communications to Governor of Delta State. In this interview, he refutes the claim that there was controversy trailing the peace deal between his principal,Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, and Ijaw leader, Chief E. K Clark. He also bares his mind on other issues. Excerpts:
Mixed reactions trailed the Supreme Court victory of Governor Uduaghan. While many welcome the victory, the opposition has kicked against the judgment. What is your take on this?
I am not aware of mixed reactions to the ruling.
If the opposition spoke, they must have done so as poor losers. They lost at the polls and cried wolf that they were rigged out and raised all sorts of hoopla, claiming that they have credible case which they court will see and reverse. They decided their supporters, many of whom had no idea that they had nothing to argue.
From the trial stages right through, the opposition tried to manipulate the public and by extension the courts, but it did not work. We are aware of the extent of the dirty tricks they employed, but you know when you have an upright case, you do not worry too much.
Credit to our legal team they sat down and did their home work well and the courts saw our argument and dismissed their case. Remember that on all the cases they appealed they lost. Whether it is rerun election or the April governorship election, they lost. These are poor losers and should not be given any attention at all.
The aftermath of the congresses held so far by the PDP in Delta has again opened up fresh controversy over the peace deal brokered between the governor and Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark. How true is this?
I am not aware of any controversy. To direct by the party leaders was that leaders and members should go to their various wards and work out a suitable arrangement that will ensure smooth congress. Two meetings were held with leaders and members of the party, in Asaba and Warri with chieftains in attendance.
These meetings were covered by the press and the message was that the era of imposition was over. Leaders at various wards and local government should reach out, embrace one another, even some of those who have grievances and reunite for a stronger PDP.
In those meetings that I talked about I have no recollection of the presence of what you refer as Chief Clark’s faction in attendance. I just have no recollection. Now to read about differences leaves me wondering what they are talking about.
What I seem to detect from some comments in the papers is an attempt to ride on the old man’s back to claim relevance and pretend that there is an issue. Governor Uduaghan in his recent reaction wondered how he could
be negotiating with some leaders of the opposition on an issue that has to do with PDP.
The point is that some of these people backed the opposition all through at the polls and in the court and lost, left homeless with nothing they want to get in through the back door.
Having served in the administration of Chief James Ibori, many had expected that Governor Uduaghan would have reacted to the verdict slammed by a UK court on his predecessor.
The question came up one day and he explained that he cannot be as reckless as some people, because the issue is still in court in Nigeria. He reminded everyone that even the London court has not even ruled and we do not have details of the plea bargain yet. Surely, you do not expect a leader and chief executive in the caliber of Governor Uduaghan to rush to the press under the circumstance.
Being an oil producing state, what is the Delta state government doing to ensure it generates revenue aside from the dependence on oil?
The vision of Governor Uduaghan’s administration is to build an economy that is less dependent on oil, which was christened: “Delta Beyond Oil.” The key elements of this programme is to build robust strategic infrastructure that will support the economy of the state in the long term.
It is investing heavily in transport grid, logistics, power, agriculture and gas based industrial park. These projects are by themselves long term. It will span several years to achieve this, but the idea is to start. He has started and I have heard people who are skeptical, but I say to them: be patient, Rome was not built in a day.
What we have is a 50 year progamme, the key is to begin that journey now, which he has the courage to start. I am please he has the courage to begin to do this today and not play politics by embracing PR projects. In future, all this manifest and we will understand the significance of real leadership.
What is your position on the demand by northern governors for more revenue? What can they do in that regard?
I can’t improve on the response of South-south governors that this is an unhelpful debate which does the country no good. I stand by their proposal that the solution is for all to embrace fiscal federalism, that there should an increase of revenue allocation to the states with more responsibilities and for other minerals to be developed.
There have been arguments for and against the convening of a Sovereign National Conference to address the anomalies in the polity. Do you support it?
Again, Governor Uduaghan addressed this question the other day and he asked who are those going for the conference and how to do you accept the resolutions and implement them when there is a National Assembly. I asked the same question.
These are tactical issues that need to be resolved by those canvassing it. In my heart I don’t have a problem with it but like most things Nigeria, we hardly give deep thought to deep complex issues. The agitation for SNC is one of them.
Critics have picked holes in the administration of the governor, why should Deltans appreciate Uduaghan’s administration?
In five years Delta landscape has changed considerable. When I arrived Asaba five years ago I could hardly spend a weekend here, today I scarcely find fulfillment outside of here. The capital city has grown. Investment in infrastructure such as street lights and the airport has completely changed the state.
There is a housing boom and I think second to Abuja there is a lot of growth. Governor Uduaghan’s social programmes are the most liberal in the country. Free maternal health, free under five health programme, virtual free education, no exam fees is paid in any public school in the state, bursary is paid regularly, scholarship for first class graduates to any school in the world to PHD level.
Investment in physical infrastructure of schools, first class medical facilities in Oghara teaching hospital, which he completed and Eku hospital which he is upgrading to world class level, huge investment in independent power, mercifully by new power regulations states or any investor can originate power and sell to
its off takers, the Asaba airport project that is almost completed, and the second runway for Osubi airport, which will soon start.
Investment in the development of riverine areas through DESOPADEC and I think Delta is perhaps the only state that has been able to do so. That demonstrates Governor Uduaghan’s commitment to economic justice and determination to ensure even development of the state.
What is the administration of Governor Uduaghan doing to ensure it brings about developmental changes to the state especially in creating jobs?
Creating jobs is a daunting task for everyone right across the world. But through direct government employment over seventeen thousand jobs have been created but this is inadequate. We have encouraged self employment through micro credit and partnership with financial institutions at medium scale level.
We have encouraged interest in agriculture and that sector is gradually showing signs of getting not just our state sponsored investment but private investors are showing a lot of interest in it, including the World Bank. Agriculture both at the primary and secondary level is big creator of jobs as well reducer of poverty.
However, for large scale industrial type jobs to be created, we have to solve the energy poverty of the country. It is in realization of this that we are investing a lot in critical investors that will get private sectors interested and from it we can have jobs, because there is a limit to what government can employ on its own.