Comrade Samuel Ovuozourie Macaulay, former Chairman of the Delta State Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalist and later pioneer Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Delta State Council, is the Delta State Secretary to the State Government. He has also served as Chief of Staff, Government House for a short period before he was made Commissioner for Power and Energy. In this interview with journalists in Asaba, he highlighted the achievements of the Uduaghan’s administration in the state, the countdown to 2015 elections and the influence of former Governor, James Ibori, on politics in the state and Nigeria. Our Correspondent, Bamidele Ogunwusi, was there. Excerpts:
Comrade Samuel Ovuozourie Macaulay
We read with interest the report about the prisoners transfer agreement between Nigeria and the United Kingdom and the rumored return of former governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori. We want to know what your position on this and the implication on Delta politics as it relates to 2015.
Ibori’s matter is a national issue. I am not that comfortable to tie him to Delta politics. Ibori is beyond Delta politics. No matter the circumstances, it is unfair for anybody to reduce his person to Delta politics. But more seriously, the decision to sign an agreement which will make it possible for Nigerian prisoners in U.K to come home to serve their Jail terms as well as those in Nigeria to go back to the U.K to serve their jail terms is beyond the person of Ibori. He just happened to be just one of the very many Nigerians in U.K prisons. He is just one of them and because he is a big fish; newspapers are using it to sell their papers.
What is the expected take off date of the 16 billion dollar Ugborodo Gas project?
As we talk the take off of the project is not in anyway affected. I was in Abuja with the Chief of Naval Staff and the Inspector General of Police, where we invited the community to a meeting. It is unfortunately the way people are taking the matter. It is not an issue between Itsekiri and Ijaw, or Ijaw and Urohobo. It is purely and Ugborodo affair. It is a family affair. As I talk to you, yesterday I started consultations with a faction and tomorrow I will engage the second faction. And by next Sunday, the full meeting will start. But in the interim, Julius Berger has been asked to go to work and both parties have agreed that nobody will do anything to affect the smooth take off of the Job. This is a project that is beyond Iteskiri as a nation or Delta State. It is the largest gas project in Africa. As a government that is, we want to do what is needful for the community. To me, I done see the crisis the way it is being magnified because even as we are seated here, we are not up to 15 and let somebody throw N100 million here, you will see the way this place will react. If that is so, what do you expect of a 16 billion dollars project? We are doing everything to minimize to what extend the community issues should affect the project. That is why we have reached an undertaken that no matter what the community issues are; and while they are being resolved, the job must be allowed to continue. This is where we are.
There is this allegation that the government is supporting some of those who are fueling crisis in the community. What is your take on this?
You said it is an allegation and when there are issues like this, people must trade blames. Both parties are accusing government. Some are saying government did not take a decision when it ought to, some are saying the government is fueling the crisis. But the question I asked is why did you start the crisis at all? Where you peaceful then and government came and started fueling it? By the way, which responsible government will start to fuel a crisis and start managing the crisis? I abandoned my Job here as SSG and I was in Abuja for one full week. Is it in my interest or in the interest of the state? Is it a governor who is not having sleep that will fuel crisis? Those who said that cannot substantiate it. I re-emphasize here that there is no truth in it. What government is doing is to mediate and minimize the problem. Like I said earlier, with my consultation with one of the groups yesterday, I can say here that we are making a head way.
Kokori community is still under military siege. When are you going to withdrawal them from that community?
Governor Uduaghan has emphasized on many occasions and has repeated himself that as long as Kokori community continues to abhor criminals, the military will remain there to do the needful. Kokori community is not the largest community in the state. It is not also the richest in the state and government has nothing to gain by putting the military there. Instead, the government is losing because the military are not there free of charge. We pay for their up keep. We pay logistic bills. But one of the duties of any government is to make sure that lives and properties are secured. And if there is threat to lives and properties, the government cannot fold it arms. For me, I think that Kokori indigenes themselves should by now come out in one voice, not just condemning the act of some of their children, but to bring them out. And the moment they bring them out, the military will leave and hand them over to security agencies. I believe that if they can kidnap a 75 year old man, an 82 year old woman, and if they can cut the finger of a young man and post it to his people, the people should rise against them. For me, I don’t quite understand when people say there is military siege in Kokori. What else should be there? It has become a national scandal not just a Delta state problem. If Supreme Court judge, his wife and child were kidnapped by this same group of people, what can be more scandalous than that?
Your administration has barely 15 months to spend in office and yet some of your signature projects are not completed. What is your comment on this? Is there any assurance that these projects will be completed before the end of your tenure?
If we finish all these projects and finish issues of development, then there will be no need for government again. This government will do the much that could be done. Just like we met some projects when we came in and we continued with them and completed them, this government also initiated its own projects and it is pursuing them.
On Delta Beyond Oil Initiative, will you say the initiative has been yielding results?
The initiatives started in 2011. And since then, we have been pursuing projects that will make us realize the dream of Delta Beyond Oil. This is a project that every administration in the state should continue to pursue. They should continue with what they meet on ground. Look at Lagos; see what it is making from internal Generated Revenue (IGR) without waiting for Federal allocation. That is what Delta state is working towards. When we came into office, the internal generated revenue of the state was dangling below N1billion, it was between N800, 00 and N1 million, but today, we should have moved to N5 billion monthly conveniently but the Federal Government tax law pulled it down. We are g between N4 billion and N4.5 billion. For me, those are part of the dream of Delta Beyond Oil. You will agree with me that the more investor we have in the state, the more mega projects that people bring to the state, the more people that will be employed, the more the revenue that will come to government. It is not something that Uduaghan must finish what he started. So, the government will do the much if can and the next administration is expected to work on what this government has laid down.
Many people have complained that the level of infrastructure development is not commensurate with revenue accruing to the state. What is your take on this?
I am not aware of people complaining that infrastructural development in Delta State was low. This can only come from our people who are in the Diaspora. You can go round Asaba and do an assessment of infrastructural development in the state capital and other parts of the state. If the Governor of this state is a man that is convenient with receiving awards, I am sure he will spend the whole of this year receiving awards. Even as selective as he is, he is still one of the governor that is most recognized. No Delta State government officials go anywhere to negotiate for an award for the state. Nigeria Guild of Editors came to this state and they round the state, while the Nigerian medical Association also did the same. The Nigeria Army too was here for their National council meeting. They see with their eyes, so, if there is anybody who is in doubt; I will always sympathize with the person. My advice to you, as journalists, is that before you believe such, you can go round as see for yourselves. You will see our footprints in several areas, whether in the area of health, education, or name it. For instance, the first kidney transplant in this country was carried out at the Oghara Teaching Hospital two days ago. For some people, that is enough achievement. You have the Airport there to see. When it started, they said we are using handsets to land planes, today the same people who were making those careless statements are the people flying in the Airport. Some of them are even coming with their private jets. One day, I had a course to meet one of them at the airport and I asked him whether he used his handset to land his plane. So let us live politics aside, when a government is doing well, say it and let us stop peddling unnecessary rumours. To me, there is never an end to doing well. That is why we are still carrying out more projects. That is why we are appealing to the Federal Government to give us more money. This is the only government in the country that said whether your father or your mother is a Delta and you made first class come and you have a Deltan blood in your vein, just come and collect N5 million every year and study anywhere in the world. For me, that is the major achievement of an administration. So, we can go on counting.
What is the atmosphere like in government circles as this administration is winding up?
From the day we were elected or appointed, we knew there is a terminal date. It is not something that is coming unexpectedly. It is something that we knew from Day One that there is a terminal date in government. This is for those that were even elected. For those of us that were appointed, we could be removed anytime. We are at the mercy of the governor. So, that 2015 is coming should not the unexpected thing. For, me, it is not an issue. I always believe that this government has a terminal date. And what becomes of anyone after then depends on your destiny and God.
There is news in town that you are interested in the governorship of Delta in 2015, while others say you want to go to the Senate. Can you shed more light on this?
I am surprised at these speculations, I have not told anybody that I am interested in any office as far as 2015 is concerned. I wish to state here that I really appreciate those people and their concerns. What I can say is that as at today, I don’t have any ambition. This is not to say that I don’t believe in God. I want God to direct me. But as far as for me and speaking frankly today, I don’t have any ambition. Things can change tomorrow. Let me add here that power belongs to God. God gives power to those he wants to give it to. Some people speculated that I want to be a Senator, some say governor and deputy governor. The only thing they have not speculated is that I want to go to the State House of Assembly.
There is this news in town that there was a gentleman agreement that power should shift to Delta North in 2015. And it has been observed that for a very long time now, there is no elected leader at the local, government level. What is happening?
Let us discuss this. In 2007, when Uduaghan was first elected as governor, were you are any fora where it was agreed that power should shift to any area? Can you just tell us who the contestants were in the 2007 election? The answer is they cut across all zones in the state. In 2011, what was the character of the election? What was the voting pattern? If you are not clear with my question what is the composition of the state assembly after the election in 2011? There were about 12 members from other parties in the Assembly. This shows that no section of this state voted en-bloc for PDP and Governor Uduaghan. Let me rest my case here before I am quoted out of contest. On local government election, in all honesty, our local governments have not been able to prove that they are economically viable. In the last five years, the state government augments the salary of primary school teachers which is the statutory responsibility of the local government. And from time to time they still come to the state for one form of assistance or the other. You are aware that before now local governments were beginning to owe salaries. It is with the process that we embark on the journey of stabilizing the local government and start paying the areas of salaries they owed their staff. Some of them cannot even carry out a primary duty of sanitation. We are not holding election yet because we need to stabilize the system. I am saying here that, with the appropriate time, election will be held
– Daily Independent