Former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Chibudom Nwuche has endorsed the recent peace initiative between the Presidency and leaders of the Niger Delta region led by first republic minister, Chief Edwin Clark.
The chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who hails from Ekpeye, Rivers State, believed the step would restore peace to and engender develoment in the oil-bearing region, if carried to a logical conclusion. To make that possible, he appealed to restive youths in the region to embrace dialogue and desist from pipeline vandalism.
Nwuche also reviewed the recent legislative rerun election in Rivers and gave the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the security agencies a pass mark.
Below is the full interview.
Rivers is a presumed PDP stronghold, but your party, the APC appears to have done well in the last rerun election. What has changed?
The APC has always had tremendous support amongst the masses in Rivers State because many of the leaders in the party had impacted positively the lives of the average Rivers man, especially their constituents. Some leaders were members and speakers of the state Assembly, others were members of the House of Representatives and the Senate; and some were even deputy speakers of the House of Representatives.
How can all these people not have followership that will translate to electoral votes? No state can be rightly described as a fortress for any particular political party; it depends on the leadership of the opposing party and if they are prepared to admit leaders with followership. APC, besides the strength of their original leaders, have also admitted new leaders and therefore grounded in Rivers State. The success recorded in the polls is, therefore, not surprising to me.
Also, the heavy security presence enabled our supporters to come out en masse to vote as opposed to the past elections where they were intimidated and many murdered in cold blood. Many of us spoke up and urged the Federal Government to secure the lives of our people. I am happy the Federal Government is now addressing the security situation more aggressively. The law enforcement agencies are not only more focused, but appearred to understand the sophisticated and organised crime pattern better.
I particularly wish to commend the doggedness and determination of the Rivers South East senatorial candidate, Magnus Abbe, for being undaunted in spite of the challenges and finally emerging victorious. I am certain he will be an influence for good, both at the senate and in his native Ogoniland and Rivers State, as a whole.
How will you score INEC and the security agencies, especially in view of accussations by the PDP of bias?
From what I saw, the security agencies from the Army, Police, SSS and Civil Defence were professional and concerned in maintaining security to allow people exercise their franchise unmolested as opposed to what happened in the recent past. There were instances in my area, Ahoada East and West, were people were murdered for voting APC, and many APC supporters were too afraid to vote. The presence of the Army ensured that people were able to vote their conscience.
INEC must also be commended for doing a good job, for being an unbiased umpire of the electoral process and ensuring that the people’s vote counts. How can you accuse INEC of bias when they have declared winners from both the APC and the PDP? Most observers already knew that candidates like Magnus Abbe would win free and fair elections any day.
INEC must guard its independence very jealously as it is the midwife of true democracy and the only way of ensuring a non-violent transition from one government to another. INEC must be like Caesers wife, “beyond reproach.” It must clear the air and set the records straight on any allegations of bias.
Inspite of the heavy presence of security, several people lost their lives; even a police DSP was murdered in your area…
It was indeed most unfortunate for such an innocent life to be so needlessly wasted by hoodlums who had made the lives of our poor people a living hell for the past two years. We had brought this state of lawlessness to the notice of the authorities several times over the past two years, at great personal risks to ourselves, as these hoodlums are armed with sophisticated automatic weapons.
No matter how heavy the presence of security, there can still be loopholes which the determined criminals will exploit to do damage. These murders were much more in the other elections with less security presence than the last election.
Investors who mean well like the Dangote Group should not be deterred by these criminals as FG has upped its game; they should continue with their proposed refinery project in our area. Our people will work with him (Dangote) and assist the Federal Government to protect their investments.
Recently, a group raised the alarm that some people were out to tarnish your image. Who are they and what is their motivation?
I don’t know why anybody should be after me. I am a law abiding citizen going about my lawful businesses that employs hundreds of Nigerian families from Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja. I am not dragging any land or political office with anybody, as far as I know. I have said time without number that I am not interested in elective offices, whether at the state or national level. I want to focus on working with like minds to bequeath a better Nigeria to our children. Recently, a series of negative and fabricated media write ups got me concerned that, perhaps, the rumours are correct as the media campaign appeared to be well funded in prominent platforms that are expensive to engage.
My believe is that so long as your hands are clean and you are standing on the truth, no matter what they plot against you, it will fail. So, I am not worried, as I know that God will fight for me and expose all those behind such plots. The world will see them in their true colours and shame them. I am also confident that the generality of Nigerians cannot be fooled. They can see through these lies, as they know us very well and know what we can do and cannot do. It will be difficult to dress us in borrowed robes this late in the day.
We hear that part of the plot is to use security agencies to harass and distract you from politics, silence and taint you and also destroy your businesses.
All I know is that my hands are clean and that God will protect me from these people, no matter how powerful they may be in this government. I have always been a businessman since after my youth service (NYSC). I have been reasonably affluent before politics. Many Nigerians in the private sector can attest to this; I only entered politics to serve my poor constituents and to assist in developing our country to take its place in the comity of great nations and not for self-aggrandisement or personal gains. Infact, politics has adversely affected my businesses and stunted their growth. I was a deputy speaker of the House of Representatives for four years and I was never mentioned in sleaze or corruption. I served meritoriously and without blemish. Inspite of the high office I held, I never had a house in Abuja until four years after leaving office. And this was from the proceeds of private businesses and legal practice.
As for my businesses, they are subject to the normal Nigerian problems where you sign a contract and the agencies delay implementation for reasons best known to them. In some cases, you win open and transparent tenders and they upturn them because they don’t like you or have their fronts in mind. Where you are owed several billions, it’s no ones concern, but if any organisation you are involved in owes a few hundreds, you are hounded like a criminal, even though it’s a contract.
Also, occasionally some people in government use their positions to effectively defraud organisations that you are part of and now want to paint you as the villain. God will resolve all these issues as our hands are clean.
Don’t forget that these agencies you mentioned also have a majority of Nigerians with conscience who would not do the wrong thing no matter the inducements, and who would indeed expose such schemes no matter how secretly crafted. I also hope that my traducers can stand up to the hostile enquiries they are instigating against me. I have no fears, even if they fabricate or plant evidence against me as my hands are clean. The truth will eventually come to light and Nigerians will know the villains and the heroes in this saga.
How do you assess the current National Assembly leadership under Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara
The National Assembly under Saraki and Dogara is doing very well. They are providing their members with focused and robust leadership in these challenging times. The National Assembly has also been very proactive in addressing thorny issues facing the nation and assisting the executive find solutions to our current economic challenges by expeditiously considering executive proposals for the amelioration of these problems. They regularly bring problems in different parts of the nation through their motions to the attention of the executive as they are the representatives of the grassroots and the masses and part of every nook and cranny of our nation.
I am indeed not surprised at the stability both chambers have enjoyed under their current leadership, as they both emerged based on the free will of their members without external interference. This is how it should be as anything contrary will spell doom for the cardinal democratic principle of separation of powers between the arms of government and checks and balances.
For the executive, it also allows them to focus on running the country instead of dissipating energies trying to maintain imposed leadership, as the members will always revolt against such leadership and eventually oust them, except they turn 100 degrees and oppose every single executive measure.
Nigerians must understand that the National Assembly is the most important arm of government in a democracy, and it defines the very basis of our democracy. The executive and judiciary are present even in military governments as against the legislature, which is the first to be dissolved in the event of illegal incursions into governance, as it is the most significant component of a democratic government. It is comparatively speaking, the youngest arm of our government and we must support it to grow and mature. We must build its capacity by providing for the training of members in the performance of their oversight functions.
Niger Delta elders recently visited the president to discuss the renewed restiveness in the region. Do you think it will stem the problem?
I believe that the dialogue between our president and our leaders under the leadership of Chief Edwin Clark is a welcome development. I commend both the president and our elders for the initiative, as nothing can be gained from destruction and war. I also want to use this medium to once again appeal to our youths to maintain the peace and stop the destruction of oil facilities as we are the ones bearing the brunt of the destruction to our ecosystem and the attendant insecurity and unemployment because of the movement of industries and businesses out of the Niger Delta region.
The renewed agitation has highlighted many issues of continued marginalisation of the oil producing areas inspite of the 13 per cent derivation that has accrued to the states since 1999, and inspite of one of our sons having occupied the Presidency of Nigeria.
My colleagues and I in the 1999 National Assembly where instrumental in compelling the Federal Government to commence the implementation of the derivation formula, but our people have not seen commensurate development from those resources that should have transformed the six Niger Delta states into mini-Dubais. Also, the lack of participation of Niger Delta people in the ownership of oil blocs and involvement in oil services and the commanding heights of the oil and gas sector have been a disadvantage.
I commend the acknowledgement that we must also shoulder some of the blame for these problems as we have failed to hold our governors accountable for the derivation fund. We also had our sons and daughters as both president, ministers and minister of petroleum and they could not address these problems or the other infrastructural challenges in the region. I urge the current government to look into these problems in the interest of justice, equity and national cohesion. And dialogue is the right way to addressing these issues.