•PIA can’t stay, N’Deltans should contest legality in court

•Ayade’s defection good riddance to bad rubbish

•Why it’s wrong for president, govs to be leaders of their parties

Nigeria missed it with Yar’Adua’s death — Ukweni
Ntufam Mba Ukweni(SAN)

By Ike Uchechukwu

CONSTITUTIONAL lawyer and Cross River politician, Ntufam Mba Ukweni(SAN), in this interview strips bare the APC government led by President Muhammadu Buhari, saying it is unreliable. He also spoke on the controversial Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), Governor Ben Ayade’s defection from PDP to APC and other sundry issues. Excerpts: 

Are you in support of PIA?

 Buhari went ahead to sign it because the law is made to favour his people. I have condemned it publicly on Cross River Television when I was interviewed.

And I said it does not make sense to me for the law to say wherever pipeline passes through can now take part in sharing in oil revenue as an oil producing state, which means even Sokoto becomes an oil producing state.

What is the fairness in that type of law? Kaduna becomes oil producing state, Zamfara becomes oil producing state and they get 30 per cent.

Then the main ones that are oil producing states, the proposal for whether seven was reduced to three per cent.

Then the people who are not from the area that are suffering the hazards, where the oil is being taken from are going to take 30 per cent.

What is the fairness there? It is my conviction that they just made that law in order to favour the north.

Are you part of those blaming NASS members from the South?

They have not done well. The National Assembly members, I feel, were merely doing what the President wanted.

Just like our state House of Assembly is just trying to sleep with the eyes of the governor. Even the one the governor did not tell them, they will do.”

On the possibility of reviewing PIA in the event of a change of power in 2023?

Not even up to 2023. Having signed it now, I feel that those of us from the Niger Delta area should take up an action to challenge the legitimacy of the law.

It should not be allowed to be like that. It cannot be constitutional. That is not fairness.

That is unfair to us. It is unfair to Nigerians. When this Buhari administration was campaigning to come to power, what did they promised us?

We were here. They shut down almost the entire country because of a little hike in fuel price during former President Goodluck Jonathan’s time. But where are we today?

That shows the government is fake. Just like what we have in the state is fake. Fake means they are not doing what they promised.

They are not doing what they say they were coming to do. They just did that to enable them come to power and the situation is worse now.

 How much is a dollar to naira, or naira to a dollar? There is no production in the system so the economy cannot be strong and the government is not doing anything to encourage production. It’s not dashing people money.

 We select people and dash money to make the economy to be strong. Let us be able to learn from China and build our society.

Build our people to have character and industry. And let us know that it is through production that the system will be strong. It is not what somebody gifts you that you can be a man. That system will crumble.

Let us be able to train our children, our society, and our system to know the morals that have worked. When I was a young child, Nigeria naira was only comparable to pounds, not dollar.

Dollar was smaller and inferior to naira, which was when there was production. That was when the farms were functioning. That was when all the industries were working.

 Do you know we were already modelling cars here, Peugeot? Have you been seeing Peugeot here again? We had Peugeot industry.

Go to Enugu, go to Kaduna and you will be sad. Even in Calabar here. The area that Donald Duke administration had turned into recreation at the Calabar South Wharf, these were places for the big warehouses. All the warehouses have been turned into churches.

 Have you seen a country that people pray to get money and then you see their economy being strong? People wake up in the morning, instead of doing their work, they move to churches to pray to have money.

Healthy and energetic people. They go to the churches from morning to evening, some even sleep there and say they are doing overnight vigil and you expect the economy to be strong. That is the culture that the government has imposed on the people.

What are your thoughts on Ayade’s defection?

 I may not sound too political here. I have made this point that Ayade moving to APC is not much of a value to APC because of his person that I know. Having a governor should be a very big thing politically, economically and socially.

 But in our own case, we have not seen such. What value did he add to the PDP? For the six years that Ayade was governor under PDP, I cannot remember him attending one party meeting, and I told them recently when they came to receive me.

I said you should be happy. Now you are having party meetings, which we could not have and there is no organization that can be run without a meeting. It is a good riddance to bad rubbish. I said so and I maintain that position.

 There is one thing I see in Nigerian politics which is not proper. That thing came into place during former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s time, that the President becomes the leader of the party.

The governors in the states become the leaders of the party in the state. That was a very wrong thing done to our political party and our political system, to now arrogate that level of influence.

We used to have a situation in the past when Chief Etim James was the chairman of the defunct NRC. Do you know that the governor comes to the airport to receive the state chairman of the party because that is the party that put him in power?

 The state chairmen were as powerful as that. And if you recall in 1998, John Okpa, who himself was a politician, who knew the strength, the weight of a party chairman was not looking to become deputy governor.

That was not what he was fighting for. John Okpa was fighting to become the state chairman because that was the influence he wanted to wield.

And when it was not given to him, but given to Rev Ikobi, he was not happy. All our efforts to placate him to remain with us, in what we called then ‘Agabi Faction’ was in vain.

 He moved, so, the party can only be strong if it is organized as a political party. In other countries, in United States, is it the President of the United States that is the leader of the party? No, it is the chairman of the party.

In APC, it is even worse because they have about two or three leaders. Tinubu is the national leader, Buhari who is the President is the leader and then you have the national chairman. It should not be so.

And why it became this way is that the resources of the state that are in control of both the president and the governors are what are being used in running parties. It should not be so.

It is party members that fund political parties. Not from government purse. It should not be funded from government purse.

It is party members that contribute money to run parties. But because everybody wants to go to the president or governor for one favour or the other, it has bastardized the entire system.

Is Gov Ayade really running the state from his pocket?

That cannot be correct. It is false. He does not have the resources to run Cross River State from his pocket. He does not have.

The N4 billion local government money in question, is that his own money too? I do not want to sound a little petty. It is not correct. It is absolute falsehood.

Let me remind you during the late Chief Moshood Abiola’s time, Abiola was hundred times wealthier than Ayade. He had everything you needed. He had aircraft of his own. He had press.

He ran solid businesses, construction companies. One, over one hundred of what Abiola had, Ayade does not have.

And yet Abiola was challenged, coming to run the country from his pocket. And that the family he had was too over bloated for a president.

It means we would charter how many aircraft when the President wants to go on holidays with his family. That was what a Yoruba chief said.

So it is not correct. Ayade does not have the resources. He does not have the capacity, and in fact, he does not even have the mind to be able to do proper charity, talk less of running government from his pocket.

He does not have the mind to do proper charity which does not favour him.

 Let him bring out the resources that come into the state, both internally generated revenue and money from the Federation Allocation, the bailout funds – all of them, and the money from the local government .

I told my council chairman when he was coming here to campaign that he should not go and disturb yourself because you are not going to do anything under Ayade’s administration in the local government.

The man is such that he will not see money and allow you touch it.

They were thinking that the money that was held up in the local government account was going to be given to them. I said it is false. I have known this man.

 I know his nature. Sitting here as a lawyer if you do not know your client, it means you are not a lawyer.

If you have done one case for a person, you do the second one and you do third one, which I have done for him, and you do not know his character, it means you are not a trained lawyer.

You must know the psychology of your client, you must know the nature of cases you handle for your client, and this gives you the opportunity to know who they are.

The man does not have the character to do those things he said he would do. Mention one single thing he has promised Cross Riverians which he had done.

His signature project, super highway, where is it? The Deep Seaport, where is it?  The Spaghetti flyover, which I told him and said this spaghetti is foreign. He should change it and give us noodles.  Noodles are produced locally. We have not seen it.

Then what about the smallest thing that the common man needs, put the roads in good condition, make roads accessible to all the communities. Those are simple basic things, not these Utopia things that he is using to drain the poor state.

APC, PDP seems to be the strongest party’s in Nigeria, do you subscribe to a two party system?

 Two party system is not the solution. The solution is to have somebody of character in power. When we had the late Yar’ Adua, was the country like this?

When Yar’Adua was the President of this country, rule of law was being observed, and we were all here. Election was done, he was a PDP man but when the other party wins, he would comply immediately.

That was where Nigeria missed it. The death of Yar’ Adua was where Nigeria missed it completely, because if that man had been there for eight years, Nigeria would have been on the path of rectitude by now.

He was prepared to ensure that things were done properly.

If there is any language worse than that, you can say so. Like in Cross River, they saying that it is politics of the stomach. And that they want food on the table. And then somebody who has lived his life, managing his home, the governor would tell them that he is putting them in position because he is placing food on their table.

My friends are in government occupying positions in offices as commissioners. And I am telling you that what I heard he is paying to them is baffling.

I cannot stay there, that a commissioner earns less than N300, 000 in our state. And then he sits down in that office?

 I have told my own commissioner that when you were in your business, you were earning more than that.

I even pointed at one of his businesses that he was doing. I said go and sit down there within a week, you will earn more than that.

What are you carrying your shoulder that you are a commissioner when you cannot meet your bills.

You are sitting down there answering somebody, and you come and be cheering like children are doing ‘digital, digital’.

Even for the sycophancy they are doing, he is not paying them. If at the end of the month, a commissioner earns less than N300, 000, what can that do? There is no day I do not spend more than that. And that was why I told him I can’t be a commissioner if that is what you are going to pay me.

 I did your case in 2011, it did not take me three weeks – a pre-election matter and you paid me N5 million. I will come and be your commissioner and work for the whole month.

That time, he was even talking about over N500, 000, I told him no I cannot do such kind of work. My children will look at me as if I am a foolish man; that I have a business where I can earn million, then I come and start earning something less than that. For what purpose? I cannot do that.

Do you think there will be a massive decamping of those who left the PDP for APC come 2023?

 I am not being prophetic. But I will say this, all those people who say they have moved with Ayade.

Why they moved is just to be earning that income. Let next year unfold, before we move to 2023 if the landscape will not change.

What are your thoughts on zoning?

 I agree that there should be zoning. During Liyel Imoke’s time, I was the chairman of the committee that spearheaded the zoning.

Liyel appointed me. We sat down here in this my small office with all the big men and I said for harmony let us follow what is contained in the Calabar-Ogoja accord.

 We should modify it and bring it to our own template. I am in agreement with zoning, even though some people have been talking about it, saying that it comes with mediocrity and all that, they are saying it out of selfishness.

The reason I say so is because I do not agree that there is a single local government that does not have a good material to become a governor.

I am their friend. I am their lawyer, I interact with them. Someone will tell you straight no, you say it should go to the north before it comes down to central.

Look at me, I am over 60 years now, before it comes down to central, I would have been close to 80. That is just the selfishness around it.

 Like I try to analyze in previous political arena, we have had situations where politicians have sat down and said let us look round and go and bring a person of character – either a public servant or a retired public servant or a businessman whom they know would do well.

That is where some of these things started moving towards the wrong direction.

You are still using your annex, has Ayade completely taking over PDP secretariat?

 He has not taken it, it not his own. He should go and build a Secretariat for APC. He just did a lawless act, one funny thing in his character.

We will take it back. The landlord had written and said he has contract with PDP. He does not have contract with him.

But in the first place, is he the one that rented that place for PDP? He is not the one. I have been in the party long enough to know.

 I was chapter chairman when that secretariat was rented, and I can say that I was instrumental to the party secretariat moving from state Housing complex to that place. I can tell you the background to it.

 Donald Duke was governor. And then the party was in two factions – Donald Duke and Agabi’s factions. When the party was being formed, there was no money. Kanu Agabi, my boss, donated a bungalow in state Housing to be used for the party’s secretariat.

 Then we used to go there for party meetings. We were having a large executive meeting, which included the chapter chairmen of the 18 local government areas.

When we go for a meeting, most of the things being discussed there were against Kanu. And I told them you cannot stay in a man’s house and plan against him, it is uncustomary that you stay in a man’s house and be planning against him.

And that if they continue doing that I was going to react. I may do something that might not be pleasing.

 That was how they moved out and got that secretariat and we were all having meetings there. Donald Duke made use of it.

Liyel Imoke made use of it. Ayade made use of it. So, why would he want to take the secretariat, even when Donald left he did not come to claim the secretariat?

So he cannot leave with the secretariat. It is not his own.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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