NO SOUTH SOUTH GOV WORKING AGAINST JONATHAN â€“ ENOGHA
Robert Enogha, a member of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, was an aide to President Goodluck Jonathan when the latter was the Bayelsa deputy governor. After close to eight years as a state legislator, he is aspiring to move up to the House of Representatives. In this interview, he speaks on his former boss' 2011 presidential ambition and why the North is one of his strongest bases. Excerpts…
How did you feel when President Goodluck Jonathan formally declared to contest the 2011 election?
I think it is a mark of a better beginning for Nigeria; actually the beginning of a new Nigeria. We need to thank God because not only did ears hear but eyes saw and, of course, even the Sani Abacha two-million-man march did not match the crowd that went to the Eagle Square to witness the declaration by a man they believe has what it takes to take them to the promise land.
Between the day he declared and now so many things have happened. Where do you think all of this is taking us to?
It is just the ingredients of democracy, pure ingredients of democracy. In a family setting, by the time your children get to a level, you may want to advance to a position and, of course, they also would want to have their own opinions. So it will only take the grace of God that you are able to harmonise their positions, maybe on the dining table or in the living room. That is what is happening in Nigeria. Elections are conducted by people who also make it what it is. Everybody has the right to express his or her opinion and such expressions are also democratic.
Many aspirants from the North are also in a hot contest for the presidential ticket. What are your fears?
I don't think there is anything to fear. For those that went to the Eagle Square, they saw it all. I don't think there is any reason to be afraid. But what really makes for an election is exactly what is happening now. It will give the sitting president the confidence to fire on and by the grace of God he will still emerge victorious. By the year 2011, he can proudly say this is where we are and this is where I want to take Nigerians.
There is no country in this planet earth that has ever allowed one man to carry on unchallenged, no matter how good you are. Barack Obama was so brilliant during the campaign primaries and all that. Ordinarily, Americans would have said you don't need to contest elections; this young man is too good. There were pockets of interests that came to play. All what happened at that time were meant to strengthen that brilliant and unassuming articulate person that was loaded with wisdom. And so what is happening in Nigeria has happened in other places before and will still be happening as part of the beauty of democracy. So, I don't think there is anything to fear.
We are blessed as a country, more so Jonathan is from the South South. Many Nigerians are even of the opinion that it is only a south-southerner that can clean up the polity. I can tell you that what is going on across the country will end up strengthening the bond of love and unity between the North and South South. It will also strengthen the relationship and the bridge that has been established by our political fathers like (Melford) Okilo and the others. There is nothing to fear come 2011, Nigerians have spoken and God has endorsed it.
But some South South governors are reportedly working against Jonathan's bid?
I'm not sure of any South South governor that is against Mr President because of all the 27 governors that spoke at the Eagle Square, all the five South South PDP governors spoke in the affirmative. And there is no way you speak in public and you go to a hidden place to speak against.
Those are mere speculations. The South South governors are intact for Mr President. I am not speaking for them anyway because I am not their chief press secretary or one of their aides, but I only take them for their words. The thing is that if you are the chief executive officer of a state and you were able talk boldly and openly to vote for and support Jonathan, I don't see any possibility of your coming to say no again.
You are close to the President. Is he not worried about the antics of the northern politicians?
You always mention opposition from the North. I don't see any opposition from any of the blocs in the North. I agree that we cannot have 100 per cent votes from the North but democracy is a game of numbers. So, if we have 90 per cent of the votes from the North, then what are we talking about?
Let me remind you that the vice president is from the North and he is a highly respected son of the region. We have ministers of substance from the North and they are very highly respected. We also have most of the governors from there that are always with the president. We have former heads of state, apart from maybe Babangida, none of them has spoken negatively about Jonathan. Shagari, Gowon and others are on the side of Jonathan. Therefore, I don't see any opposition from the North. Sometimes we overstretch this thing.
We intend to reason for the person that does not reason that way just to create problems. I have been there and I have taken time to assess the people. The real northern politicians are very sincere and more sincere than other tribes. I say that with a high degree of conviction.
Why do you want to leave the House of Assembly for the House of Representatives?
I want to go and make good laws for Nigeria. I want to give very effective representation to my constituency and my state in general. I think I have laid a solid foundation for myself after serving as Personal Assistant to the president when he was deputy governor and for nearly eight years in the House of Assembly. Altogether I have put in 12 solid years in public service. It is a reasonable foundation to be admitted to another parliamentary school. I'm not over-catapulting myself. I believe in climbing the ladder of life gradually.
What scorecard do you have of your stay in the House of Assembly in the last seven years?
To the glory of God, the seven years under review has been very challenging. But I was able to conquer in the sense that I did not only exhibit parliamentary advocacy and maturity but also involved in oversight of ministries and establishments as chairman of various committees. This way I was able to better the lot of the state and in a way influence the smoothness and day-to-day running of those ministries and parastatals.
Beyond that, I was able to initiate projects for the benefit of my constituency. I did not come into politics to enrich myself or to steal but I came in with a mission, which by the grace of God translated into action in the constituency I represent.
The job of a parliamentarian or lawmaker is basically to make good laws. The issue of projects is in the hands of the executive. Our own responsibilities would have been, ordinarily, that of making good laws and all that. But we came out of a place that is so afflicted with poverty.
As chairman of House Committee on Works and Public Utilities, in conjunction with the leadership of the House I was able to initiate what is called constituency projects. The executive assented to our initiative and we were able to secure one project every four years. I made maximum use of the opportunities that I had to influence constituency projects for the benefit of my people.
I knew that my people were in a hurry to have a feel of the government. So, rather than push all the projects to one part of the constituency, I split them. I sub-divided the projects in my first tenure and I was able to electrify and build landing jetties in villages in my constituency. I was able to influence a road project from Azikoro-Agbura- Otuokpoti-Onuebum communities and that is in ward two in Ogbia local government area. Today, it is one of the best roads in the state.