COMRADE Ovuozorie Macaulay is the outgoing Secretary to the State Government in Delta State. He became the pioneer chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ in the State before he was later elected as State Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC. In the heat of the Warri crisis, he was appointed Commissioner for Ethnic and Conflict Resolutions by former Governor James Ibori. In this interview with select journalists, he spoke on the achievements of the outgoing administration of Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan among other issues. Excerpts:
By Festus Ahon
How then did you go about resolving the Warri crisis?
My first baptism when I entered Warri was even from the media and I had thought I should brief them because the media is my first constituency. But I did not know that all the media houses in Warri were already aligned, so they took the news from whichever angle and that even caused another crisis that took me another one month to build confidence. I said no, I am not here to widen the gap but to close the gap and make sure there is peace in Warri.
The Olu of Warri accepted me, the Okumagbas accepted me and though it took me a longer time to get to EK Clark to accept me and he finally accepted me and I was able to ask them to give me the people so that we could start to negotiate the peace. It was a negotiated peace. First of all the main killings between Ijaws, and Itsekins, a daily thing where oh! 25 corpses were flowing on the river, 150 persons killed etc.
We started at the Naval base the only peaceful place in Warri that we could sit down. By the grace of God, after about six months, I was able to secure the first cease fire. Later on the youths managed by Gen. Zamani the then chairman of J.T.F, was able to get them to start talking and they were meeting at army barrack Effurm, while the elders and other stakeholders were meeting with me at the Naval base.
I succeeded in letting them appreciate the fact that you don’t have to sit on other people’s property. I was now able to start talking with the youths who were in the trenches, fighting the battles.
So today when most of them see me, they come to appreciate me saying Oga na you make our lives turn like this. I did not go to the youth as a commissioner.
When I went to them I wore my T –Shirt, jeans and behaved like them. At times I drank the Ogogoro (native gin) with them. I went into those trenches with them, the gutters, markets wherever they were hiding and committing their havoc, I went to see them and as God would have it, they listened to me.
The settlement came gradually and the Itsekiris started getting back their properties and they were happy with me, so I was getting more cooperation by the day. So at the end of the day some people were not too happy. You know with the marks on my face, they mistook me to be an Iteskiri person but at the end of the day when they knew I have no blood relationship with the Itsekiris they built confidence. I had my challenges but it was God that made it possible to bring the peace.
When I took over the challenges in 2003, curfew was in Warri was from 5pm to 6am, but within one year by the grace of God, the peace returned. In 2005, I have started negotiating night life to Warri, I was on the ground any where I go. Today there are people who see me on the street and call on me. They are people who bought me drink even though I don’t drink. There was a woman who one day gave me ¦ 50 in the market. I don’t forget it and I will continue to value that gift that I helped her to get back to her life. For me that was the height of my service to humanity.
What have been the major challenges of this administration as somebody in charge of the clearing house?
The greed of the people and at times the lack of total commitment on the part of some government officials. Greed in the sense that you know this thing is not supposed to be done and you want the SSG to do it. But the law does not allow me to do it and yet they want me to do it because someone else has done it before.
That is not tenable and that has also brought me into confrontation with persons and the next they say is ‘oh. You know too much’ and when they go outside they would form another story; they will not say the truth’. People should follow due process and set things done right.
To what extent has the administration’s three point agenda benefited the people?
You can not satisfy every human being. It depends on which aspect of the three point agenda that affected you. But one thing that has affected every Deltan is the peace. As far as am concerned, he has done his best. Like I keep saying, let posterity judge him. We have had governors before and we are going to have more after him. And those of us who assisted him have done much to assist him.
Where do you draw your strength from in carrying out your duties especially during the management of conflicts in Warri axis?
I draw my strength from God. I am not a smoker, I don’t go to any native doctor house, I do my prayers. I am not too much of a church person but I believe solely in God.
The state will not be running the same party with the government at the centre. Do you entertain any fear now Delta is looked viewed as opposition state?
No fear because our democracy is growing. In a true democracy, states don’t have any business with the government at the centre. I can be a governor of Delta State and I say I am not going to Abuja for my tenure of four or eight years. What is due you in FAC (allocation) will still get back to you. Nobody will stop it because you are not in the same party with the federal. The federal government from my 12 years in government has not been intervening in issues of development in the states. Instead it is the state that funds the federal projects.