The Prince Of Niger

Monorail project
That project is not a very popular project. There are two reasons why it is not popular. There is a school of thought that believed that the project will not be completed. They believed that the project is not well thought out and would not be completed and that it is just avenue for siphoning of funds. There is another school of thought that believed that the project is a waste of money and so even if it is completed they won’t be satisfied. I belong to a different school of thought. I believe that the project is fraught with all sorts of issues and challenges. Well, some of us may know what happened, let me tell you. It was supposed to be partnership, collaboration, but the private investors did not come up with their money. The Rivers State government had already put money down. So the question Rivers State government had to ask itself is, what do we do with that money we have already put down? Do we just allow it to go? Or do we carry this burden ourselves? The governor decided that based on the fact that the project was seen to be viable and had benefits to the state, even though the state was supposed to be a minority partner, since the majority partners had disappointed, they were going to take the majority.
Now, when you are in a position of leadership, you have to take tough decisions and that was a tough decision the governor had to take and I for one, support it because I would not want t see the money go down the drains. Now, having said that I support it there are some issues that I think, needed to be addressed. No one is that government, when going into partnership with private individuals, usually what tends to happened is that you leave a lot of thing to the private individuals to handle, like feasibility studies and all of that. Those feasibility studies were done but they were not done with the government involvement. If you are in government, you will think that if a private man wants to put his money then it must be viable. I will give you some examples of the issues that have come out of that. No one, what is the extent of the mono rail? It is supposed to go from Town to UTC junction. From UTC junction, it has two options, either it goes into Ikwerre road or it continues along Aba Road. For me, the feasibility should be able to answer that question, but it did not. It is only now that they have completed the feasibility that says, go along Aba Road, because the traffic along Aba Road means that there needs to be a mono rail to assist and support it. I think, if you ask me, some of these projects if managed, will be criticized today, but praised tomorrow. Look at the Eiffel towers, for instance somebody sees somebody building a tower in the middle of nowhere will be asking what kind of washing of money is this. But we all know that people travel far and wide now to go and see the Eiffel Tower. I am afraid that there is might have to be our own Eiffel Tower. The value of it may not purely be in economic terms, but also in the fact that this is the only mono rail you have in West Africa. But for the governor to have put money down and after ordering equipment and all that, for them to say, no let us forget this thing. I think we have to avoid it. One of the big problems we have in this country is that one person starts a project, another person comes and steps and what you end up with is a deluge of abandoned projects.
I get to be honest with you. Is the mono rail perfect? The answer is no. All we have to do now is to make the best of a not so good situation. I think that the mono rail project as it currently stands can be improved, can be completed and ultimately can have value. Is it something that is going to run for profit? May be not. Is it something that we can sustain? May be not. But if you can build mono rail up to a terminal on the outskirt of Port Harcourt, that means you can arrive Port Harcourt, say Oyigbo, join the mono rail and use it come into Port Harcourt. It will take a lot of money and for all know it may not be something that will happen in the short term. But let is not completely dismiss it as a project that is not worthwhile. I think it can be made worthwhile but it will take a very long time to achieve that.
Do government do due diligence? Karibi Whyte inclusive?
Karibi Whyte was a different issue. Karibi Whyte was a dispute between the two parties about how much money has been used and whether it had been used judiciously. So it is slightly different, but I take up what you are saying. Due diligence is something that is not so regular. Gov. Amaechi confessed and I like his honesty. He said that when he first, came sometime at the early stage, he exhibited naivety. You have to understand that he has never been a governor before and so he will make mistakes. He is a human being. What has happened in this case is that we didn’t have a due process commission and in the absence of a due process commission, Amaechi was awarding things on his own discretion. Without a proper process in place things will resort to be that. It is unavoidable. But I am not seeing a lot of that happening now. For instance, with the gentleman in Due process commission now, many commissioners and heads of parastatals in Rivers state are very angry, because this kind of projects we are taking about now will not fly under a due process regime. When it comes to running out for funds, everybody knows what is happened in the financial market. The case of Oceanic Bank and Union Bank are public knowledge. Everybody knows that those two MDs ended up in jail. So if we know the way the banking industry works, we know that Ben Bruce has personal relationship with those people. If they end up in jail, money is not to going to flow. I don’t know that due process has been able to stop that, but I do know that a lot of things that are going on now have to go through due process and in the absence of due process, which is for procurement purposes, even private-public partnership have to go through a PPP Bureau. Rivers State is the only state other than Lagos that has a PPP law. All these things came after and of course, we are not hearing those kind of stories now. In the beginning when Amaechi entered, the reality of it is that these mistakes did happen. Rivers State people’s money suffered. As a result of that what should have been, did not happen. No doubt about it but I don’t want you to leave here with the impression that, that chaos has not been checked. People are learning lessons. What I would like you to do is, ask yourselves whether these things are still happening, I will personally want to know, because our job is to find out where we make mistakes and correct them. Nobody is going to sit here and come up with the impression that everything is perfect. The answer to that is no, it is not.

Roads still over flooded. What is the government doing to control it?
I was not around but I was told that this was what was going on and of course, we are all horrified by it. There are two things here. The first question is, are we doing proper environmental impact assessment before we start our project? I am a little baffled that in our road constructions, we still find ourselves in awkward positions. The second question is the drainage master-plan which was supposed to be executed. I have also posed the question. I heard it was very expensive and as a result has not been fully implemented. Road constructions are done to construct roads, not to check flooding. They are two different things. The drainage master plan of the state, especially Port Harcourt City is a significant issue. However much money is required to put there, we need to start planning for it, because we have no alternative to it. Even as a governor, I can imagine that you finish building and construction and then there is flood all over the place, it is almost as if it negates everything that you have done. So, these questions have been posed and I suspect that answers would be given. But let’s not make it to mean me speaking on behalf of the government because that is not what I am. I am not here as the governments spokesperson. I am not a political appointee.

What do you have for 2015?
For me, 2015 is still for away. There is no point being carried away with 2015. I contested for governor in 2007, so 2015 is something I can start in my sleep. I don’t need to prepare for 2015, too far in advance of it. I think for me, any distraction from making sure that this current government delivers the so-called dividends of democracy, is a waste of our time. We are dealing with a party that has issued a statement to the effect of not being distracted and I don’t want to start going against that. But for me, you can rest assured that when the time comes, if it comes, it won’t something I will hide. I am not very good at being a coward or a pretender, so when the time comes, and if it comes, you will know. It is not something I will do in a misguided or disguised fashion.
I had a relationship with the media since 2002, and for those people that know the Buguma crises, my relationship with the media has been since 2002.
At a time, I had no intention of a political office, yet I had a relationship with the media and the relationship with the media was borne out of the crises in Buguma. I felt that it was necessary to shine the light on Buguma and I was fortunate enough that will help of a few of my media friends, we were able to shine the light. I have never forgotten the role the media played for me. It is just inevitable that building relationship with the media is part and parcel of my daily activities.
Some people will say, why are you putting billboards up? Why are you doing this? Why are you making donations to people? Is it because of 2015? If I want to do it, I will do it in 2014 or 2013. It is harder to sustain a long term relationship than to sustain a short term relationship. So if I want to do something for a specific purpose, I would make it short term, because people have very short memories in Nigeria. People who you build relationship in 2002, when the time comes that you need them, they will forget that build that relationship, if that is the kind of people they are. So that is not my purpose or objectives. 2015 will take care of itself. 2007, I was a very angry person. I am the son of a king; I am not supposed to be involved in politics. I got involved in politics because I was angry and I am not as angry as I was then, so my likelihood of getting involved in 2015 is not as high. But I wont rule anything in and I won’t rule anything out. What I would do now is to focus strictly on the man that is there now to ensure that he delivers for the Rivers people.

Goal of Princewill Political Associates
Princewill Political Associates basically is trying to get people who are not political to become political and for those people who are political, to politik right. Most of our politics is about money. Most of our politics is about personal interest. Most of our politics is about ambition. For me it is important that we do politics for purpose. Politics really is supposed to be about people. If it is only me, I will change PDP slogan from “PDP power to “PDP – people”, because ultimately politics is really about people. This slogan of power does not fill me with a lot of pride but what can I say? I am just a member. The point I am trying to make is that politics is supposed to be about people and Princewill Political Associates is for people who have the mentality, who believe that politics should be about people. When you see the Billboards, there is a common thing that runs through everything that we do and the common thing is that we need to start thinking differently. “You are blessed to bless others,” “politics is too important to be left for politicians,” “Welcome to Rivers State, Godfather Free, People Focus”. The message we are trying to send in all of those things is that politics should be done differently.
My worry is that politicians are probably the biggest cowards. Yet everybody is afraid of them. I don’t know why. In 2007 when we want to go and contest election in Asari-Toru Local Government Area, all the PDP heavy weights ran away. I was in AC at the time. They all ran for their dear life, meanwhile, we were not carrying a single gun. We were just very very angry and our eyes were red. Now, what I discovered is that many people will not get into politics, yet you will be complaining about the absence of education. You will be complaining about the inability to send your children about the fact that you cannot get proper treatment for your parent’s health condition, or even your own. Who is governor, who is assembly member, who is commissioner, makes a huge difference on the delivery of those services. As much as as anybody is complaining about Amaechi’s 6/10 or whatever he is getting, before him, we had a governor who has 2 or 3 over 10. Now, politics make a difference. I am a Petroleum Engineer. Many people do not know that I have over ten businesses that are running before 2006. So people don’t know my background. They think am just a politician. Most of the money I make is not related to Rivers State government. May be 90% of my income has nothing to do with Rivers State government. So a lot of people had no idea. They think that may be as Amaechi is there, that is why I am surviving. But the ability to make my resource is what gives me the ability that I can speak and criticize him. The other day I spoke to the media in Abuja. Before I got to Port Harcourt, Amaechi had already called me asking me “did you say this? Did you say this?” So, I speak freely and I speak freely because I know that at the end of the day, I can back my words and I am also not hungry. It is not easy. Many people are hungry. But what they don’t realize is that by being a sycophant is not going to change your financial situation. You may make a difference today, but tomorrow, you still remain where you are. So, I think that what we need to start focusing on is giving clear messages. We need orientation; we need to tell people that taking somebody’s money to vote for them today does not guarantee your tomorrow. We need to show people that it is not about politics as usual. Things are different. If you look carefully, you will see what happened in the fuel subsidy issue. People got angry. Government is only beginning to realize that you cannot take people for granted. Now that is what gives me joy. If I can motivate enough people out, there to get angry, then people like me will enter my house, because then there will be no need for me. The reason I am out here is that people are afraid they don’t want to speak, they don’t want to criticize. I am criticizing. When I put the billboard, I said remember the young shall grow. It is a warning. I am making a direct warning and that warning also applies to me. It applies to all of us. When I say politics is too important to be left for politicians. People say, “are you not a politician?” I said yes, even me. It is too important to be left to me. Criticize, ask questions, challenge, because you cannot leave politics to just the politicians. Your children will expect you to question authority because tomorrow if your children cannot get good education, they will ask you, “daddy, mummy, what did you do about education in the state?” And you say, “well these politicians are all thieves”. Me, I cannot tell my children that. I can tell my children I challenged the thieves. Did I succeed or not? That is a different question. But did I keep quiet? Never, that is not going to happen. So the whole purpose of Princewill Political Associates is to build an army of people who learn to question authority, who learn to ask people to give account. That money is not their own, but because you don’t pay tax, many people do not realize that the money belongs to us. How that money is spent is also important.
When Amaechi decided to buy a plane, I criticized him publicly and in a private discussion I said to him, the fact that you can buy the plane does not mean that you should. Consult us, give us a sense of belonging so that when you are taking these decisions, we all feel that we are also aware of it. It is not because you can do it that you should do it. Do you see what I am saying? How many people can tell a governor right to his face? Many people feel that if you criticize governor, you will be starved, you will die. That is not true.
National Network is a paper that criticizes government consistently. To the best of my knowledge, National Network has not died. So, criticizing government does not kill you. Now, may be National Network goes over the top a little ‘but the point is that people should have freedom of speech. They should be free to speak their minds. They should be free to air their views, they should be free to air their opinions. Unfortunately, a lot of Nigerians don’t feel that way. My job is to make more Nigerians criticize, because me, I like criticism, especially constructive ones.
Billboards, satisfaction with Amaechi’s method
I have always spoken my mind. It is just the way it is. I don’t know about whether things are looking better or not. I think, as far as billboards are concerned, I am speaking my opinion. I have done it from 2003 till date, so I don’t think it is time bound. But, one thing I will say is that there will always be cynicism. Whether you like it or not, once you take public offices or once you take public position or you are in position of leadership, there will always be cynics. You just try to do what your conscience is clear about. We are not just giving the messages to other people, we are also giving to us. “You are blessed to bless others,” is a message that I like and the reason I like that message is because at the end of the day. It is reminding you of what is important. So, I think the billboards are from the heart. If anybody ask me to explain any particular one, I will tell you the genesis, why and what we think the message we have sent. There are some people that look at the billboards and they say one thing or the other. There was a billboard that said “free food they run belle, work for your money” and some people were offended by it. They were very angry and said ‘how can you say that kind of thing?’ are you trying to say that we are lazy? But you put a billboard with all sense of duty. Billboards are expensive. I don’t have land in Port Harcourt, I don’t have house. I am renting. If I say I am not going to put billboards I can build a house, but to me the billboards are important. Those billboards hopefully will bring other people. I think I prefer to build billboards than building a house.
I believe that we should deliberately build roads. Amaechi said let us build the infrastructure and let the people build themselves. So, we disagree on that. He was more focused on undergraduate scholarship. I was more interested in post graduate scholarship. He was more interested in labeling militants as criminals and eliminating, I was more interested in rehabilitating. So, we are not the same, but he is the governor and as the governor, he would execute as he deems fit, because at the end of the day, it will be described as Amaechi’s administration. It is not Princewill’s administration. He will take the gains and of course he will take the pains. There is something about his philosophy, let the parents don’t worry about the school fees, let the parents don’t worry about paying hospital bills. That’s more money in their pockets to do other things. If I try to target certain individuals, if I can provide education, if I can provide health, then I can have a society that ultimately, people will be happy. But I have sampled opinions all over. People said to me, the vast majority, Amaechi is trying, but the area of employment.
Now, I think that we should still give him some break. I think the number of our children that are having scholarships; we never have that kind of number before. In fact, there is no state in Nigeria that is training that number of people, and the variety of courses scattered across the world. There is no state in Nigeria. I challenge anybody to tell us the state in Nigeria. The fact that Rivers State saves more than N1bn every month, I don’t think there is any state in Nigeria that does it, not even the Federal government. Some people will say we should spend it. No responsible government or individual, spends all his money. You are supposed to keep some aside for the rainy day.

Kenneth Amapibi

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