IT'S WHEN PDP WINS ELECTION THAT NIGERIANS ALLEGE RIGGING
Last Tuesday, Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, met with newsmen in Abuja. It was an extensive interview on a wide range of issues in the polity and his state: amnesty program in Niger Delta, the faltering zoning arrangement in PDP, Jonathan and 2011 presidency, update on security measures in his state among others. Daily Sun was there.
Tackling crime in Rivers
'We have been able to address the issue of security. For an economy to grow, we identified four to five basic issues. The first and most important is security. You will agree with me that by the time I came, everyday on the pages of newspapers, you will hear one story or the other about kidnapping, about shooting and robbery in Port Harcourt. It was done with a lot of impunity, the police was helpless.
But I am sure that, if you ask now what is the security situation in Port Harcourt, you will agree with us that there has been a lot of improvement. We have a little bit of decline, but we have identified what it is and we discussed with the President today and we shall begin to address that .
The reasons are very clear. One and the most important is Abia. Because we aren't addressing the security crisis in Abia, we are having cross border crime and I have officially complained, we called a meeting today and that's why we are in Abuja.
We had a meeting with the President on cross border crime. Once it is addressed, Port Harcourt, will get back to the improvement we had before.
When I came, there was no night life, by 6pm, everybody was at home, women were very happy because their husbands were always at home by that time and economic activity reduced drastically. It was important we addressed it and we have done that. We need to sustain it.
The next thing we looked at in terms of security is that it isn't all about arrest, detention and prosecution. It is also about security of food. If you don't put food on the table of Nigerians, they will look for the food themselves. I believe it is the direct responsibility of government to present to the people, legitimate means of economic activity. If government is unable to provide legitimate means of livelihood, the individuals will take the laws into their hands and provide for themselves illegitimate means of livelihood.
If you are a social reality scholar, the usual questions we ask in that school of thought is, what is crime? Who defines crime? Why would a man sit in his office and collect money from commonwealth and when a poor man can not access that commonwealth and collect that money the way that man has done, he decides to expand it and collect from that man who has collected from that source. So, the conceptualization of crime is dependent on where you are in the arms of economic reality.
While one holds that view, one also believes that unfortunately for those of us who are poor, society has defined what is crime. So, government is an implementing arm of the society. When I say `society,` I define it in terms of the wealthy and if I define it that way, I am compelled by that reality to implement that definition, therefore, I don't believe by that definition that the poor should continue to define it as, `because we don't have access to the commonwealth, therefore we should kill and deny people their lives`. But government has a social responsibility, it has to provide employment, because if these people have alternative to crime they will abandon it. That's why we have been creating employment in Rivers State, not only in Port Harcourt.“
Self sufficiency on power
“The next most important thing that act as catalyst to the growth of the economy of any place is power and you heard me cry profusely when the President came to Port Harcourt. I did say that we are self sufficient in power generation. By October next year .. in fact I visited that place, four days ago and they told us that by August we should be self sufficient in power generation, but generation is different from transmission of power.
In terms of transmission, we are also doing very well, we have all the facilities that can boost our power to the sub stations, but the problem is distribution and that's why we have been shouting that the federal government should concession distribution to us.
In fact, the fist statement I made under Yar`Adua was, “allow me to take Rivers State from Power Holding Company of Nigeria“. We will suffer blackout, but in less than one year, we would be self sufficient and they refused. Why? The commercial viability of the Port Harcourt Distribution Company would fail, if it is only Port Harcourt and how many states are in Port Harcourt Distribution Company? Rivers, Bayelsa, Cross rivers and Akwa Ibom states and once you take away Port Harcourt nobody will show interest because it will no longer be commercially viable.
So, we changed our strategy to working with our sister states to set up another distribution company, that will make the federal government to concession the Port Harcourt distribution company to us, so that we can then manage the entire states together.
If you look at it, apart from Cross rivers, though they have a federal government Independent Power Project, the others have their own IPP which they generate power from, but they lack distribution because of the differences in the law which empowers the federal government to manage distribution network, all by themselves. So, we are dealing with issue of power“.
Pressures to run for second term
“I am actually very tired. Everyday, I sleep at 4 am, wake up at 6am. None of my kids could claim to have spent twenty four hours with me. It should not continue that way .That was why I was of the view that if given the chance I wouldn't mind leaving at the end of this tenure. But there are pressures here and there and I quote one of the former heads of state who said to me, `no you have to consolidate, if you don't consolidate somebody would come and undo what you have done and make a mess of the whole thing. If you consolidate for eight years, then most of the things you are doing would have got to appreciable fruition`.
For instance, we are building a new city; to build a new city, will take you five years planning alone before you start construction. We haven't even done much in that regard, people have started accusing us and dismissed it as an avenue to siphon funds, but they don't know that to build an underground in South Africa, takes five to six years of planning: designing and all that before you go to construction, but if you do that in Nigeria they will abuse you. So, what we are doing is to combine both the planning and construction together.
Now, we have given them nine months to design the master plan for the city, because I forced them. It has never happened; to design a master plan is one year and six months. In nine months, they came out with one: on water, transportation, power, sewage, everything—nine months. They were shocked that we could even do it .
Now, they are designing the major projects, maximum one year and they are shocked that they are producing results, because that one should take them up to two years and I say no , because I have a tenure. People will want to see the infrastructures on ground and that's because democracy in a presidential system gives you only eight years maximum and in Nigeria there is hardly what you call continuity, because they will say, what has he achieved now?
So, a lot of people bandy that argument, but I am exhausted really. But people are telling me that I shouldn't be saying that. There are also those who are saying, how dare you say you are exhausted? Don't you know that a lot of investors want to come to Rivers state because of you and what they see as transparency? But if you say, four years some might say let me watch my investment profile, since I don't know what would happen next.
So, they are saying I should run for second term, so as not to drive them away; that they need stability to invest. An investor can wait for four to eight years, invest his money and reap profit and run away. So, if you say you wouldn't stay, they will not bring that money.
But basically that is the truth, I am exhausted. I don't see anything new that I want to do that I haven't done . I have proven the fact that, if you deplore fund promptly you can achieve feats in Nigeria; I have proven the fact that crime can be controlled, if you deploy the law, because what was at stake then in Niger Delta was appeasement versus enforcement and we saw that appeasement was heading us to nowhere.
I asked my colleagues: can we call all armed robbers to a meeting and give them money every month, not to rob and they will not rob?
Of course, an armed robber will not rob, if he knows that once he is caught, the law will take its course, but if he knows that if he shoots this man now, they will come and negotiate with him, he will shoot the second man! Because even if he shoots the second man, you will still call him for negotiation.
Now, from what we have seen on ground, there is a competition between enforcement and appeasement and all those who say `amnesty! amnesty!!` we give the credit to the president and the late president, but we also say to them, that these people didn't want to come out….if you remember very well nobody wanted to come out among the militants in Port Harcourt it was enforcement that worked when they didn't want to come out and they went for a meeting and they were calling for extension beyond October 1st by one month I told Mr president not to extend it by one hour; that if they didn't come out the full force of the law would come to play. Didn't you see them come out on October 1st?
So, the key is enforcement of law and order. That's the key and it is the key to the security of the nation“.
No crisis in PDP
“There is no problem with PDP, it remains very, very strong. In fact, we dey kampe. I am not aware that there is crisis of zoning in PDP. I am aware that the party is still strong and the party is heading for an election. As usual, when we win, people accuse us of rigging, but when we lose, the other party didn't rig. I don't know whether the yardstick for measuring rigging is when PDP win, or lose an election. But truly, I am not aware that there is crisis, but usually there will be competition between different individuals, for either presidential or governorship and they use all sorts of strategies.
In fact, the governors suffer most. Watch out: between now and the next election, you will see all sorts of ICPC, EFCC petitions, commissioners will be arrested and all that because the most important economic vehicle is government and people are desperately struggling to get it; not because they want to do much , but because once you get it your stomach would grow like mine“.
Amnesty on course
“It is actually on course. When it wasn't, I spoke out. The president has met with us and we have made our contributions to what we think is the best means to preserve amnesty. In fact, today meeting was about amnesty and what to do to push it and I am telling you the truth, the post amnesty program is on and we need to continue it and gradually pay all those who got involved in that. That's on course and we should support the president to achieve the result.
I don't know whether the law of sustainability is what we need to achieve sustainability, because all it takes is for the governor to come out and make the law and that's the end. I think what you need to sustain any legacy is strong institutions. If the institution is strong, any governor that comes complies.
What Nigerians need is strong institutions and processes. We don't need strong governors or president, but strong institutions. We don't need any law to compel your successor to buy into what you were doing, but strong institutions. For instance, when we came in, there was no public procurement commission. But we established one by law. You can compel the governor to go through that process.
So, if any governor goes through that process, then you will not need to find out how to procure services and goods. We have done that. Now, we are looking at fiscal responsibility and with that you know how to manage the budget`.
I never betray Odili
“My relationship with Dr Odili? Cordial. Very cordial, I wish it could be better, because I usually tell people that one burden I don't like to carry is the burden of people feeling that you betrayed somebody, if the person had been your good friend, for a very long time.
But nobody would like to hear your own side of the story; nobody wants to hear that my children education was delayed for one year; nobody wants to hear that my things were thrown out of my house, by that same government. At least, it was published by This Day. Nobody wants to hear that the only property that they gave me that I moved to after being Speaker, they seized it, up till today that I am governor.
Of course, I could reverse that, but they couldn't even see the file!
But nobody wants to hear that. Nobody wants to hear that I was forced to a standstill, kobo less and what I did was to put my kneels to the ground for ten months and called God and He came down!
People have forgotten that; all they remember was that you had wonderful relationship when you were Speaker and all that and I said that my family holds that same view—-.that whatever it would take to maintain a good relationship with your former boss, it is important you do it, but when you do everything possible and you are rebuffed, what would you do? Commit suicide?
But I am not saying I am rebuffed, but I am saying we still have cordial relationship, but I wish it could be better. I am not holding anything against anybody. You can not say I probed any governor, or dig into the past. Forget the past. The only way you can talk to your opponent and show the difference between you is when you go to the polls and you show that, ` I can do these!` Then, the people will choose you far and above them.
Jonathan and 2011 presidency
“It is wrong speculation to say that south -south governors have abandoned the President. That's unfair.
It is when we get to that point (National Convention) that you can accuse Niger Delta or South-South governors of not supporting the President. Please, please, it is not good to be carrying this kind of rumour.'
'Some people have written about it, we did not reply. The question you should ask is, when we had the Governors Forum to endorse Jonathan as the acting President, did the South-South governors oppose? The answer is no; so how did you reach your conclusion?.
It is like some people want south- south governors to dance naked to show solidarity to Jonathan.“