Written by Taiwo Adisa
Rivers State governor, Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, in this interview with Politics Editors, insists that the PDP will win the presidential election and that the party will not yield much ground to the opposition in the states. He speaks on issues of insecurity and challenges in the state. Group Politics Editor, Taiwo Adisa, presents the excerpts.
DURING one of your campaign stops, you told voters in Okrika that it was payback time for you and that you were once beaten by a mob for supporting an Okrika man as governor. How did this happen?
I left university in 1987 and by 1988, I started working with Dr. Peter Odili and Chief Rufus Ada-Geroge and Chief Rufus Ada-George was our aspirant for governorship. He was running against Seargent Awuse.Chief Rufus George was from Okrika and people felt that it was wrong for any Ikwere man like me to support an Okrika man, but I dared them and I supported an Okrika man and that was how Chief Rufus Ada-George won.
One day, we went to elect officers of the party at the local government level and I contested for the secretaryship. So, when I arrived for the election, I was beaten and admitted to hospital. But the following week, the election was on, I came around, I ran the election and I won. They were surprised that I came for the election after they beat me up. I believe that this is a payback time; if I supported your son to become a governor, you should support me to become the governor this time. And this time, there will be no violence. Nobody will beat them for supporting me.
So, how do you see the challenge coming from Okrika against you this time around?
You would have expected that by the time we arrived Okrika, we would not see the kind of crowd we met on ground. The fact that we saw that kind of crowd was a surprise to me and it was courageous that we hired AIT and NTA to show the campaign live.
What is your plan about reconciling with the enstraged members of the party in the state?
The only member that is affected that we have not reconciled with is the former Minister of Transport. Up till now, Okpara is still with us, he is the chairman of the reconciliation committee.
The former Minister of Transport, who is the candidate of the ACN, said recently that you wasted N995 billion in three years. What happened?
You should have asked him questions about the Eleme junction, that used to keep people lying down there for till 3am, which we built for N7 billion or the mono rail which we built for N49 billion or the secondary schools that we are building, because we are increasing the capacity to 1000 students which is N4.5 billion to build one and we are building 24 and if I win the second term, I will build another 24 which will make 48.
You should have asked him whether all these amounted to a waste. Anybody who sees the schools appreciates them; they are saying you can turn it into a university.
I just spoke to a bank now about what our university is going to look like. They are doing the infrastructural work- water roads, light and others. When they finish we will start building.
Ask him, he lives in Abuja and he doesn’t know what is going on in Port-Harcourt.
He just came in few months ago to run for governorship. The difference between us is that when he served as SSG, there was nothing called due process. Now, there is what we call Public Procurement Law which we now refer to as due process, it is an independent body. We hired an expert from a bank, and we say if you save us xyz, you get xyz. Your job is to save money for us, if you apply the due process, and you save xyz, this is your commission.
To make sure that he saves money, we give him something as inducement so that he can actually protect government money. Tell him that part of the funds we are spending now is as a result of his activities in Okrika.
The insecurity in the state started from Okrika and we spend huge amount of money trying to protect the state. So, if he did not cause us that problem we wouldn’t have been spending money looking for criminals, buy equipment for Police. Virtually all the vehicles they are using we bought. Before he became SSG, Part-Harcourt was quiet and peaceful. We have to buy vehicles for the police, Army, even the Airforce and Navy join in the patrol.
To get Part-Harcourt to where it is now is a heavy burden. They should ask him who caused it. You heard me when I said on AIT, that people can ask the former governor that I went to complain that I didn’t like the way people were treating issues. I complained. When I came back to the house, my wife was the first person who first said it. I was very frustrated and I said to my wife, “you cannot replace life. If you burn down Government House, you can rebuild it , if you burn down House of Assembly, you can rebuild, but if you kill, you cannot replace the life.”
The Ijaw Leader in Okrika, ask why he was not at the rally. Just because he was organising the Ijaws to support us, few days after, he was shot. If I did not fly him overseas, he would have died. That night, I hired an air ambulance to fly him out.
But people saw you as part of the last government as Speaker?
The former governor is my mentor; he was my boss. If Dr. Sekibo was straight on issues, we would not be talking about the last government. That was why I said can we please address issues and because he was not addressing issues, that is why you see us talking about this. I want to remind him, this is where we are coming, you were not there by 2007, you had left to Abuja.
There is the claim the ACN is a threat in this state, especially in Okrika…
So, how many people support them? We met them on our way to campaign. There were three buses. Let us take it at 50 multiplied by 3; that is 150. We met them when they were coming, they were carrying brooms, I saw them. Is it a threat? That is why I said they should have shown his (ACN’s) rally live. At any time we had a rally at that stadium, with a sitting capacity of 15,000 people, you will have over 10, 000 people standing, outside and inside. Even the presidential rally, there were worries because of the crowd but we needed to show that we could pull the crowd.
Recently, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, the ACN candidate, had an issue with the local government over payment of tenement rates for his campaign office…
I didn’t even know that local governments collect up to N50 million tenement rate and we say we don’t have money to run our government. I was not involved; I was out of the country when it happened. It requires courage to do some of the things we did.
We are building 180 megawatts of power at 195 million dollars. If you add the extension of gas pipeline, you will get 200 and something million dollars. It was only 60 million dollars that we got from the Paris Club. Now, we have paid well over 140 million dollars and they will deliver in July. We borrowed 30 million for the road and flyover. The flyover is on federal road and they have not paid us back and we have to complete the project for a period of time.
We borrowed for another flyover at Agip junction. They will only say we borrowed N30 billion. You know what makes the loan very interesting? Every month, they deduct 2.6 billion from our bank account, both the interest and the principal. So, I am not talking about that. What I am saying is that he should know that no government can be run without borrowing. If we say we borrow money to share among ourselves, that is a different thing.
You must have loans as a component of administration. Thank God he knows that; he was lying. A governor or governorship candidate should not talk without figures.
Before now, he was shouting that we had spent N1trillion. I will cross check with the Commissioner for Finance to know how much we have received, but let us even assume it is N985 billion. No matter what we receive, we make sure that we save N1billion.
He can ask First Trustees, IBTC, Skye Bank. IBTC invests the money, Skye Bank is the custodian of the money. There was a month we received N7.5 billion, salary was N5.1 billion; we still saved 1 billion for that month. The 10 health centres, the 14 primary schools and that is why I say he should go and check for himself. Inside the schools, there are 14 classrooms, 15 toilets, an office for the headmaster, a classroom for the nursery, a library because I hate a situation where you are talking and people don’t know what you are talking about.
Tell him that part of the N985 billion he is talking about, we did secondary schools hostels that will take two children per room with toilets. For 1000, it means you have 500 rooms, 500 toilets, 1000 beds.
My children stay abroad by coincidence; before I became governor. When they came on holidays, I told them that I would take them to a school better than those in the UK. They said it was a lie. But
they confirmed that it is better. The school is located on 21 hectares of land. If he says 980 billion is mismanaged, then he must show evidence of its mismanagement.
Election is just by the corner, how do you see the opposition against President Jonathan and the PDP?
I am not in a position to make an assessment about the entire country, but what I can say is that I doubt if any of the other parties can defeat the PDP. We have more governors that other parties. If we are going to lose ground, maybe in one or two states. We will do everything possible to mobilise the crowd to come and vote for PDP.
There are two kinds of people that will vote, those who will vote for the candidate willingly and those who will vote because of the governor. We have been campaigning to the people to help the government to be able to run well by voting our candidates. I pray that we will not lose ground.
What are your fears about the election?
I have always talked about complacency, especially for my own election in Rivers State. If out of 2.4 million people, if 1.3 million people do not vote and the other 1.2 million people vote for the other party, you can never tell what will happen.
What we are saying is, come out and vote. My second view on complacency is that some people still have doubts that votes will not count. On the issue of security, know that there is a difference between Governor Ameachi and candidate Ameachi.
Candidate Ameachi will run the election, Governor Ameachi will still be governor of the state until May 29. Therefore, he has the responsibility to make sure lives and property are protected. So, go out and vote and be rest assured of the protection of the security agencies.
I can only know what is going on in Rivers State and only the governors in other state know what is happening in their states. As far as Governor Ameachi is concerned, the president will have nearly 100 per cent. But I don’t know if we are going to lose ground, I don’t think it will affect the presidential election. I am not a member of the NWC, so, I wouldn’t know why they delayed in signing the code of conduct. They have not called NEC meeting for a long time because we are all focusing on our election. If they brought up the issue of code of conduct, some of us will say we must keep to the code of conduct.
Going by the state of things, do you think INEC is prepared for this election?
About INEC preparation, I am not in a position to tell you whether they are prepared or not.