Rivers State Governor Chibuike Amaechi told GODWIN IJEDIOGOR in Lagos that he would never return to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), saying as a progressive, he has found soulmates in the All Progressive Congress (APC). He also dismissed insinuations that he has abandoned governance for politicking, insisting works are still ongoing on all projects initiated by his administration, despite the antics of his opponents.
Question:- CONGRATULATIONS on your recent victory at the Supreme Court. Was it something you expected?
Answer:- Well, it is by the grace of God. When we went to court, my supporters were panicking, but I told them not to worry. I told them what they were to worry about was whether I had offended God, not whether we will win or lose. I told them that if I had not offended God, we would win.
Of course, they had no case. My lawyer told me that. My fear has never been whether I would win or lose; my fear has always been whether God is with me.
Once I confirm that God is with me, the rest will fall into place, because God has a way of solving His problems.
Question:- Has Celestine Omehia and his supporters accepted your olive branch?
Answer:- I don’t know, I have not seen them. Honestly, I don’t know. I just returned to the country, so I am yet to see any indication to that effect.
Question:- People are beginning to say that it has been more of crises and you have been politicking and going from one place to another of late and that governance has taken flight in Rivers State in the absence of the governor. What is the situation? Do you still have time for governance?
Answer:- (Laughs) What is governance? Are the people thinking like that been to the construction sites and the contractors are not there?
Those agitated should tell the federal government to release our money. Our revenue has come down from about N20 billion to N13 billion, and if our wage bill is N8.9 billion, you can imagine how much is left after that.
So, they should tell the government to release our money (that is, the additional money that should accrue to each state from the alleged missing money).
But I am always around! What we had was a situation where the former Commissioner of Police was deliberately not controlling the insecurity in the state, because they invited back the same people, criminals we had chased away.
Look at the All Progressive Congress (APC) membership registration that was disrupted. I hear one of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) people said APC is not popular in Rivers State, that we are not on ground and have no supporters.
If we were not popular, then why are they fighting over people coming out to register in the party? If we are not popular, then nobody would go out and register, then they have no need to go and shoot anybody. Why are they shooting at people if we are not popular and have no supporters?
Why are they killing people, if not just to be in power?
Question:- What specific projects have you been able to execute during these crises?
Answer:- I think the question should be what projects we have been able to complete despite the crises. This is because we told the people that we are going to complete all projects this second term.
We have completed more primary schools. We have invited a former President to come and commission 300 primary schools, starting with one, while others will follow.
We have completed another set of 70 health centres, which will take us to 130, having completed 60 earlier.
We have constructed new roads across the state to ease movement. The problem is that once you complete a project, people don’t remember that it wasn’t like that before; they take it for granted.
That is why I don’t commission projects. I only do so in a situation like this, where people are accusing you of not doing anything and you want to show the world that you have indeed done something.
I met Rivers state with just three flyovers, but we have completed about five more, including the one across the East-West road, and are targeting more than that.
We have done so much and we are continuing with our programmes in the education sector. And why did I choose education? These are intangible things.
When Nigerians talk about leadership, they simply ask what roads have the leaders constructed, because those are what they see and praise government for.
But look at what we have done in education. In terms of achievement, we have trained over 1000 graduates in the United Kingdom (UK), Malaysia, India, Singapore and Canada on scholarship.
We have also trained over 50 medical doctors abroad, all now working under the state Ministry of Health today. Now, we have over 600 doctors in the employment of the state, compared to the 200 we met when we came to power, with most of them deployed to the rural areas.
We have bought sea-going hospitals, with doctors and nurses on board, to take care of the riverine areas, where we may not have built health centres.
These were indigent students from across the state offered scholarships to study abroad and later work in the state and contribute their quota to the good and wellbeing of the people.
We have put some very brilliant children in private boarding secondary schools all over the country and when they finish, if I am still in government, we take them overseas to further their education.
The intangible things, to me, are very important.
Before the crises, we had taken care of security in the state and people were going to bed with their eyes closed.
We have equally supplied the state with electricity, with 180 megawatts already running and another 180 megawatts under construction.
I don’t work because I want to be recognised. A governor is like an engineer, who finds solutions to engineering problems to ease the challenges of society.
So, how can anybody say governance has taken flight? In fact, it is security that has taken flight since the former Police commissioner took charge in the state, having meetings with people he shouldn’t.
Question:- Is there any possibility of you returning to PDP?
Answer:- (Cuts in) No, no, no! That is foreclosed. After all, what am I returning to PDP for? We differ!
From day one, you will see that I am different from most of the PDP governors. I am progressive and you cannot compare me to others who are not.
So, why did it take you so long to realise this and join ‘the progressives?’
Well, I was elected on the platform of PDP and one had to show that though we might disagree ideologically, but we could manage the situation.
But when you start managing yourself there, as a progressive, you know that it will explode one day, as has now happened. How can you stay in a party where $49.8 billion is taken for granted? In fact Nigerians still baffle me.
The problem is not President Goodluck Jonathan or Governor Chibuike Amaechi; the problem is the people, Nigerians. This is a country where, whether it is $49.8 billion or $10 billion or any amount could be missing and all of us are silent and behaving like nothing is wrong.
The simple reason there is so much crime in the north in particular is because of the level of poverty in the country. And we have no business being poor in this country, considering our natural endowments.
The kind of money we make from oil should be enough to at least provide for majority of Nigerians.
Let us look at it: $49.8 billion is about N8 trillion, which is Nigeria’s budget for three years. For God’s sake, and nobody is shouting about it?
For sometime, I stopped talking, because it makes no sense.
The problem about corruption is that once you let people steal and get away with it, others will follow.
How acceptable is APC in Rivers State?
If APC is not acceptable in Rivers, why is PDP jittery? Why are they shooting? Why are they stopping us from holding rallies?
For the first time in a while, we now have two parties in Rivers State, unlike before, where one party- PDP- held sway.
In fact, the struggle then was for PDP primaries. The moment you won the PDP primaries, it was like having won the election proper.
PDP used to get over one million votes from Rivers State alone, will they get it this time (in next year’s election)? We will see!
Question:- But there are already internal disagreements within APC in states across the country, including Rivers?
Answer:- Certainly, there would be some people who are sponsored by PDP in the party. What I tell people about APC in Rivers is that if me, as governor, appear not to be interested in what they are doing and who gets what or occupies what position, it should teach everybody a lesson that by March, there would be election.
Come to think of it: Why did the Plaintiffs go to the Federal High Court in Abuja? That will show that it is sponsored, because what these people do is that matters that can and should be handled at the state High Court in Rivers, they just add a federal agency to it and take it to Abuja.
APC is not like PDP, where delegates vote for candidates. In APC, members vote for the candidates in all the elections.
So, why are people so interested about the party structure, when the chairman has only one vote, unlike in PDP, where they give party structure some votes and whoever controls it corners those votes?
So, what is the struggle over who controls the party structure for?
What should the people of Rivers expect from your administration in the remaining part of your tenure?
We will complete the mono rail-project, which is still ongoing…
But the supervising Minister of Education, Nyesom Wike, alleged recently that work on it has been abandoned?
These are people looking for public funds. They should defend their wealth. Let everybody defend his or wealth.
Nigerians don’t ask their former leaders hard questions.
For example, somebody was chairman of a local government council or Speaker of the state Assembly yesterday and today, you see he or she in a Rolls Royce and won’t ask how he or she got the money to buy it.
Instead, they celebrate the person and he or she suddenly becomes a leader. What qualifies people to become a leader in Nigeria today is how much he or she has accumulated or amassed.
Well, there are very few persons who are leading based on their merits, but Nigerians don’t recognise such people.
Go to the site and route of the monorail project and see the amount of work done and if the contractors are not on site, working. The only thing remaining now is the final terminal. We have completed the two stations.
They had almost completed the project, but because we want to increase the length of the monorail, we expanded the terminal from taking just two trains to six trains, where they will park at night.
So, they had to redesign and other things. Besides, they have commenced building and once they finish doing that, the project will take off.
The trains are already in Port Harcourt, the tracks have been fixed, and we have completed the two stations, remaining just the terminal, with contractors working.
So, how can anybody say such a project has been abandoned?
Question:- What becomes of Amaechi, politically, after May 29, 2015?
Answer:- It is something my wife, children and myself will sit down and discuss.
Before, my children told me they were with me in whatever I wanted to do in politics. But my second son told me recently not again, that he would not want to go through this again.
He has a point, so before I take any decision, my family will have to sit down and discuss it first.