I'LL SHOUT IF JONATHAN FAILS ON PROMISES TO IGBO - GOV OBI
At a time when Igbo are agitated over the zoning arrangement of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State has revealed what President Goodluck Jonathan promised to do for the South East geopolitical zone, which caused leaders of the zone to support his presidential aspiration.
Obi said that he and other Igbo leaders supported the president because he promised to fix South East roads, build second Niger Bridge and give the Igbo their due share in the country, among others. He said that any time Jonathan fails on these promises he would speak out.
The governor said that South East members of the PDP should explain to Igbo what went wrong in the sharing of offices, as announced by the party.
Despite the fact that your party, APGA won about 60 per cent of the state House of Assembly seats and about 60 per cent of the House of Representatives, you are being assessed on what happened at the senatorial election, where APGA lost all seats. The impression is that you were routed in Anambra State.
How do you react to that?
If you had followed the 2007 elections, you will notice that immediately after the elections I did a statewide broadcast. This year, I decided not to do that. This year's election is an improvement of what it used to be. We have seen improvement. What happened in the National Assembly elections was not the true reflection of the wishes of the people, but I don't want to say much because some of them are subject of litigation. The last two elections were more of the wishes of the people. The presidential election showed the wish of the people here. Anybody could raise an argument, but I can tell you that the result was the reflection of the wishes of the people. The House of Assembly also showed the wishes of the people. Do you know that all the senatorial candidates said to have won lost their local government areas? Some lost in their towns.
How do you win election when you lost your hometown and local government area?
The main problem is INEC applied simple majority in the National Assembly election. If it were like presidential or governorship election where you must win certain percentage across the senatorial zone, the result will be different. If you take the Anambra North, the two areas you will not lose are Onitsha South and Ogbaru. These are where you have largest concentration of people. In the senatorial zone, out of the 10 constituencies we won about six. The party declared winner in the senatorial election, got only two, while other parties won two. In the central senatorial zone, there are 10 House of Assembly constituencies. The winner of the senatorial seat again won two out of 10. We won six and other parties won the rest. In the South senatorial district, there are 10 House of Assembly constituencies. We won six. Other parties won two and the winner won only two. In each of them, they lost the two biggest local governments within the zone.
Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu is, undoubtedly a formidable factor in Anambra politics, if not the entire Igbo land. During the governorship election, he campaigned for you and you won. In the last elections, he wasn't around. To what extent would you say his absence affected the outcome of the election?
In 2003, when we won everything, we denied. He was around in 2007, when we won everything and we were denied everything. In 2010, he was around. It was only my election at that time. This time, he was not around because he is not well and if he were around, he wouldn't have changed the results. He has done his beat. Whether he was here or not, it may not have changed anything.
Looking at the performance of APGA in Anambra and Imo, how do you see the party in the next four years when there will be another election, especially in the South East?
In Anambra State, we got up to 60 per cent. I can tell you, it wasn't easy to achieve that. All of you are in the media and so you know the big names in Anambra. All these big names are on one side and for us to defeat them in 2010 and in this one is a feat. Until this election, I have been operating with zero number of APGA membership in Anambra House of Assembly; zero in the House of Representatives and zero in the Senate. To have come from there to where we are now, with all the heavy weights and all known names on the other side, is a great achievement. It's a sign of good things to come.
People have this impression that you have not done much for the growth of APGA in the South East. They compared you to Bola Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State, who was able to grow his party. How committed are you to ensure that APGA survives after your tenure expires?
I always tell people that the day you measure the income of Anambra and the income of most states and what we have been able to achieve with that income, you will appreciate the enormity of my achievements. We live in a country where we do compare two different situations, like comparing what is happening in New York Times of America to what is happening in a Nigerian newspapers. In America, you cannot compare the state of Arkansas, whose budget is not up to 10 per cent the budget of state of New York. Here, if anybody wants to compare me, there are about five states that I don't receive up to 10 per cent of what each of them receives every month. People will be saying look at this man and what he is doing, but nobody wants to compare your level of income. However, I can tell you that if you compare my income to my achievement, it is far better than the other party.
You should remember that Tinubu didn't do this magic when he was governor. He was not impeached. His tenure was not cut short, and he didn't go for constitution interpretation. We are making progress. This is the first we are winning election in Nnewi, Ojukwu's local government. In 2003, 2007 and 2010 we lost. This time, in all elections, we won Nnewi. As I said, the key areas, which you use to measure the strength of the party, are, Awka North and South, Nnewi North and South and Onitsha North and South Federal constituencies, which we all won. We have done very well as a party.
In the build-up to the presidential election, APGA endorsed PDP candidate. What's the deal that led to this? We ask this because PDP has zoned offices and South East did not get much.
The South East governors agreed not to contest for the presidential and the vice presidential positions. We said we would support any candidate with the best interest for the South East. When we looked at the programmes of all the candidates and their promises, Jonathan came tops. That's why we gave him our support and urged our people to support him. I urged my party to support him and I still support him. There are two things here: what he promised to the South East, as a people and the other one is PDP power sharing proceeds. One is confined to the party. When we were talking with Jonathan, we were not talking of PDP sharing formula. Our position is what is there for the masses of the South East and Nigeria as a country and through out his campaign he was consistent that, for example, he would fix Enugu airport to become international airport. He said he would tackle the erosion problem, which is our problem. he said he would build second Niger Bridge. He said he would ensure that we generate power because our people are entrepreneurs and need electricity. These are areas that will benefit the masses of this zone. He went ahead, during the campaigns, to release about N11billion to fight erosion problem and the World Bank is already working with us. These areas where my colleagues and I were looking at because that is what benefits the people.
When you are talking about PDP sharing process, the people we should be asking are the PDP people from our zone. I am not part of that. That was not included in any of my negotiations. I didn't go there to negotiate what individuals would benefit, whether you make Peter Obi's wife this or that person. No. I wasn't looking at that. I was looking at what will benefit my people. He made a firm promise. These are things I want him to do for my people and if tomorrow he is not delivering that, I will say the man is failing on his promises. Never at anytime in our discussion that we bring in PDP power sharing formula.
Are you satisfied with the sharing formula?
As a person, I have to look at what is given to my people, but, as I said before, we have our brothers and sisters who are part of this group and they are the people that should have been part of this sharing formula. Again, personally, I will say let us look at what is there for our people and not just who occupies what.
We have gone round, seen lot of infrastructure. What are you doing about job creation?
What you have seen today is part of job creation. Building infrastructure is part of job creation. In building infrastructure, people have to build it; so they are employed and people have to be in those offices. This state today has a clear vision to achieve the MDGs. The first goal of MDG is fighting poverty and you can't do that without job creation and that has led us to opening up our state, for our people to bring out farm produce from Ogbaru and other places. Again, we said we were going to create about 5, 000 jobs. We have now employed about 2, 200, 1000 in primary schools, 1, 000 in secondary schools and 2, 000 in computer teaching and many of them in civil service. We are also beginning to come up with condusive environment in our universities. This is what we are doing in job creation and we are trying to attract more foreign investors. We are also working with a South African firm, which is going to build its plants in Anambra. Such plants will employ people. We are working with another company to generate and distribute power here, which will, in turn, help to resuscitate moribund industries and they would employ people.
You mentioned that some of the election results will pass through judiciary test and you know you are a master of that route. Are you confident that tribunal will do justice to the cases?
I have always believed that the judiciary in this country is one of the best.
You are the head of Governors' Forum, in South East and the deputy at the national level. With the national chairman of the forum not returning, are you going to take over at the national level?
No. I thank the governors of the South East, who repose confidence in for me to be chairman. I also thank my colleagues at the centre, who, when the occasion came, they also repose confidence in me. As I always said, my name is Peter Obi and not Governor Peter Obi. I will not be governor forever. The only thing I do is ensure that those who repose confidence in me are not disappointed. I try to live up to expectation.
It is said that you were the one that asked Prof Dora Akunyili to vie for the senatorial election, but some people are blaming you for not helping her to win?
Some people will always look for who to blame at any time. I remember when we went to World Cup, in South Africa and we lost, some people said to me that the government is to be blamed for the failure. There were players, but they blamed the government.
Will you support that she be nominated for ministerial post, since APGA is working with government in power?
I have told you that my support for the president is based on what he will do for Igbo and not what he will do for individuals. My interest is not who gets what. My interest is for the Federal Government budget to reflect equally in every zone, especially since we have been denied for along time. Look at the roads, they have turned to death trap: Enugu-Port Harcout, Enugu-Onitsha, Enugu-Abakaliki, Onitsha-Owerri and other federal roads. I want them fixed. I am interested in second Niger Bridge and the Enugu international airport.
The hospitals we visited are monumental edifices, but the environment was not well kept. The hospitals are overgrown with weeds?
I agree with you. The reason is very simple. If you know where we were coming from, you will appreciate what we have been able to do far. If you go to Onitsha today, there are road sweepers. Some of the huge projects, you saw, including the business park, used to be refuse dumps. There's a place called Creek Road. Nobody passed there before, but today, the dirt is gone. Gradually, we will get everything done. We can't do these things overnight and it didn't happen anywhere over night. Today, we are the least indebted state in the country. We have not borrowed any kobo. Everybody is issuing bonds, but we are not going to do that. We believe in our income and we have been able to achieve what those who have issued billions of bonds can't.
The challenge of governance is not about building structures. How have you been able to build human capacity?
We are changing people's priorities and we are changing the values. We are bringing a change in any system. In terms of human training, let me start from the school system. The second goal of MDG is to achieve universal primary education. Our primary schools are doing very well. Our secondary schools are doing very very well. When we came on board, no secondary school had a functional science laboratory. None had a computer classroom. None had a borehole. As we speak, we have been to get 120, 000 computers, including laptops in the schools. I have been able to do about 120 boreholes in the schools. All the schools have functional science laboratories. We are about providing all the secondary schools libraries; over 100 of them have vehicles. We have been able to give all the schools owned by the missionaries back to them.
Before we came in, not one day did the civil servant receive any form of training. Today, our permanent secretaries are being trained overseas, and all sorts of training have been introduced. We are working with European Union and World Bank on training. These were not there. I didn't have a secretariat and even this place (Government House) was not there. I rebuilt the burnt governor's office. We have built the first public library since 1966, after the Onitsha library. Ojukwu built Onitsha library in 1966 and I renovated it. Before I came, the library became a motor park and restaurant. I chased them away and renovated it.
Onitsha, the gateway to Anambra, is an eyesore, from the Niger Bridge. Doesn't this bother you?
I would have shown you a proposal I want to put up to the president to authorize me to do that Onitsha bridge area you know that it's a federal road. It's critical to me to do this. That contract, from the Onitsha bridgehead to Awka, had been awarded to CCC. It is an on-going contract, but it is not being funded. I want to fund it and get refunded. If I get the approval tomorrow, it will be a different story.
Are you having problems getting authorization?
I'm requesting for that. Our vision is to achieve the MGD. When you have a vision, which is your destination, you must have a vehicle that will take you to your destination. Anambra State Integrated Development Strategy (ANIDS) is only a vehicle that we are using to drive to other destination. It is just a process that allows us to plan, budget and execute our plans. Development is not only in one area. It's in every area. We are pursuing every goal of MDG and we are doing well in every goal. We studied all sectors and that is what development is all about.
We believe that you would want your vision to outlive your tenure. Now you have done one year in the second term and three more years to go. In the spirit of continuity, have you ever thought about a successor? Are you grooming one?
That is a godfather area. I believe that should be for the people. Mine is trying to lay foundation for true governance and be able to build institution that would endure. As I said before, bringing change is very important to me. All over the world, change agents hardly survive the change. They are consumed by it, especially those who live by the constitution. People will meet you and say that since you became the governor you have not done anything for them personally. Don't you know the number of people who will tell me that they have not benefited from me? Even some people that work with you are not all happy. What do you want me to do? The worst is that nobody tells you what he wants. They just assumed that you know what they want.
Some of your colleagues are subscribing to a review of the revenue allocation formula. Do you also subscribe to that?
All of us are, because the reason the Federal Government is receiving the huge allocation is no longer there. The airports, seaports and other things have been concessioned. If you put the overhead of the states put together, it is higher than the Federal Government's. Costs within the states put together are higher than the Federal Government's. There is need to readjust the revenue formula, in the interest of the country. There is the need to look at the regional basis for the interest of the country. So, it is not a question of agitation. It is a question of saying what is in the interest of the country. Just as I always say, it is time for us to sit down and plan as a nation. Nigeria is a signatory to MDGs. Other countries that are signatories are pursuing it, as a vision. The issue of water, that every citizen should have access to water, we would just sign it. It's time we take them as an issue. Even if we don't have water scheme all over the place, the local government can be doing borehole; the state government can do the medium sized water scheme and the Federal Government can take the big time water scheme. Same thing can go on in health sector, so that there is plan. But now, we are working and quarrelling with each other.
From what we read on the Internet, it's tempting to conclude that there is crisis in Peter Obi government, particularly high turnover of commissioners, special assistants?
Don't listen to them. In this state or in this zone, my commissioners are the longest. Those who came in with me are still there for five years and I don't know other people who have done this. In five years, out of about 20 executive council members, only about three have left. Within the first year of some other governments, more than six would leave. People have sacked all political appointees, dissolved executive council. Even in Lagos, if a commissioner leaves it is not news, but here if a commissioner leaves in Anambra, it becomes news. When there is strike in Lagos, you won't know there is strike. During the doctors' strike in Lagos, they didn't kill Fashola, and they didn't say he was not doing anything. Ajimobi, without taking over, is quarrelling with Akala over N18, 000 minimum wage. He said it would cripple him. In Ekiti, the governor sacked three VCs and it's not a problem. In Anambra, this would be a big issue.
The commissioner for commerce and industry said some groups were threatening his life. He has a young family. I followed him to the police station to report the matter. He later chose to quit. When I did not have need for a chief of staff, I reassigned the occupier of the office. I have a permanent secretary in the Government House, who does administrative work. I considered her more useful to me. She guides me in something I do. When I became the bank chairman, I wasn't a banker. The first thing I did was to get a banker that knew banking, as my key staff. When I wanted to take a decision, he would advise me. Till today I have an administrative staff, who have retired but I'm keeping her because she can tell me this is how it is done in government. I have director of budgeting. He will tell me the budgetary process, and you need it. People succeed not because they are the best but because they hired the best.
There's the talk that Igbo are marginalized. How would you assess the lot of the Igbo in Nigeria?
Where I want to start is that you take a look at the Nigerian budget since 1999. It shows all the capital budget spent in Igbo land. If you assess it, you will know we are very much marginalized. You know we are unfairly treated; that was why I was saying, in the first place, that my own agitation is for fairness, treating each region as a component of Nigeria. It is only Igbo, in Nigeria that goes to another zone, build a house, live there, help in building the place. If you go to Lagos today, who are the major contributors to the economy? They are Igbo. It is the same when you go to the North, including Abuja. But what do we get in return? We are unfairly treated. That is why when Jonathan gave his offer, we supported him and I will still support his presidency through out the time he would be in office. My support is not something that people question. The promises have to be fulfilled, so that we have a sense of belonging in the country.
Your simplicity in government is noted. You don't travel with a large entourage.
What informed this kind of lifestyle?
Well, I won't say it's simplicity, when you live your normal life. Before I came here, I was chairman of a bank. For me, this is a temporary job and I said it before, my name is Peter Obi, not Peter Governor and I want to live my life. I don't want my office to change my life. I want my life to change the office and that is what I'm doing. I want to change the office. Again, travelling alone is also because I have to look at the cost and the income of the state. We are not as lucky as those with enough money to go with 18 or more people. There was a trip we went. Others were staying in a hotel that was very expensive. I didn't see the reason to stay in a hotel that's costly. The cost was twice more than my overnight allowance. I found a place where I spent only 20 per cent of my overnight allowance and I slept well.
Who fixed allowance for the governor?
It was there when I came. I think it is reasonable. It is not just abroad, even in Nigeria, there are hotels that I don't sleep in because they are too expensive. When I was in the bank, it was the same thing. Now I still stay in the same hotel I stayed as Mr. Obi, which I can afford. Even when I was in the bank, it was the thing. People boast about going to the guest houses in Ikoyi. I was chairman of many companies that have their guest houses in Ikoyi, but I would go to my house in Festac Town and sleep. You see, changing your lifestyle is not easy when you want to change it back. That was why it was easy for me when I was impeached to go back to my village and I want to go back there without feeling that I have lost anything. This is just a temporary job, where I have had the opportunity, above everything, to serve for the first term twice.
People say that politics is a dirty game. You are a gentleman, but have survived. How did you do it?
Let me say categorically, if dirty people play a game, it is a dirty game. If good people play politics, it is a good game. It is something we must do with civility; that is why I said before that even the issue of election, we have a process by which to challenge it. I can say in this country categorically, that nobody has challenged the rascality of politics more than I. I have been in court for more than three years challenging my governorship election and nobody did that before. Eventually I got my mandate through the process of the court.
I was the first person to do that. Again, when I was impeached, people asked me to run out of the country. I said no, that the impeachment was wrong and I challenged it, without quarrelling with anybody. Through the due process of the law, I got it back for the first time. When they were campaigning to remove me, when my tenure had not elapsed, I did not quarrel with anybody. I was not part of the campaign. I used to meet Dr. Andy Uba. We were not quarrelling, but I challenged his election because it was illegal. Then, my tenure had not ended. I went to Supreme Court that decided the right thing. I didn't have to quarrel and call people names.
Anywhere you have seen me call people names, it is during campaigns and I call them in their presence. We need to bring civility into politics. All the parties' objectives should be to build a better Nigeria for our children. We don't have any other country. The ultimate aim is to build a better Nigeria. If any part of Nigeria fails, Nigeria has failed. I live in Lagos, have interest in Lagos, Abuja and everywhere. For me, politics must be played with civility; that is why those of us in office should treat others as human beings, treat people fairly. When I'm going to work, I see school children and the elderly people trying to cross the road. I ask my driver to stop, so that they can pass.
Are people paying tax in Anambra to shore up your IGR and what must the Igbo man do?
Are people paying tax? No. They don't pay and they have not been used to paying. Somebody who is doing the naming ceremony of his child is ready to spend over half a million Naira but the same person is not prepared to pay N25, 000 for me to build school infrastructure to train his child to become a human being. That is why I said we are challenging their priorities and their values. I'm sure one day we get it right.
The first thing for the Igbo people to do is to love each other, work together as a people with a common purpose and be able to engage their counterparts in other parts of the country together, negotiate together and be able to ensure they work together for equity and fairness for the good of Nigeria.
Out of six states in South West, ACN controls five, do you envisage that by 2015 APGA would control if not all the five states, at least four in the South East?
If I can do that, I will be glad. We are beginning to awaken Igbo political identity and it will be. The most important thing, as I said, is for us to work together.