Why Buhari has not been able to address hostilities in Niger Delta — Orubebe | Nigeria Newspaper- Nigeria News| Naija News

8.9.16

Why Buhari has not been able to address hostilities in Niger Delta — Orubebe

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Why Buhari has not been able to address hostilities in Niger Delta — Orubebe 
Godsday Orubebe
You were once chairman of the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) in Delta State. How was your relationship with Buhari?
In fact, it was because of Buhari that I visited Dutse for the first time. It was in 2003 and we were campaigning. The day we received Buhari in Kano was a great day. We got to Dutse at about 2:00am and we received Buhari at 5:00pm. It was also because of Buhari that I went to Kebbi and Sokoto.

What made you to campaign for him?
We were told about his discipline and character, and I didn’t have any reason to doubt it throughout the period I worked with him. I left the ANPP because of prevailing circumstances. I wanted to be in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to change certain things that I never liked and, of course, at that time, the ANPP didn’t have the capacity to change the government.

Do you still believe in him?
Generally, the reason Nigerians voted for him is because they believed in those principles I once believed in. A few things he has done showed that he is still the same person I worked for.
Many Nigerians would be surprised that you have once worked for the president, considering what happened during collation of the presidential election results...
There is no Nigerian who, given the situation I was in, would not react the way I did and at the appropriate time, when my book is written, people will know exactly what happened. I was one of the closest people to Goodluck Jonathan. I was working with security agents, so, I knew many things. Apart from that, the PDP wrote a petition and we took it to the INEC office but there was nobody to receive it. We then took the petition to the INEC chairman at that time, Attahiru Jega. He gave the petition to his personal assistant in the morning only for one small girl, in the evening around 8:00pm, to throw the petition at us, saying Jega said he was not going to take our petition. I said Jega should please give me an explanation and he said he would not give me an explanation. So, I said ‘if you don’t give me an explanation, this thing will not move forward.’ 

Do you regret your action?
In response to the feeling of Nigerians, I apologised to the whole country. I wanted them to know that my plan was not to scuttle democracy.

What can you say about Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade?
Some institutions of the government took me to court, and I cried from the beginning that I am not a corrupt man. I was never corrupt. I am one of those people that have been saying that we should fight corruption in this country because we need to fight corruption to move Nigeria to the next level. But in fighting corruption, the institutions of government should not be sycophantic about it, we should be real. Nigerians want the president to fight all corrupt people, even if they belong to the APC, PDP or any other party.

Sir, there are renewed hostilities in the Niger Delta. As the minister of Niger Delta when the amnesty programme was launched, how do you think the issue can be tackled?
I came into governance at a time when there was real crisis in the Niger Delta. I was appointed by President Yar’adua and when I came on board in 2007, a lot of things were happening, government had engaged many people, and things were not working. I told Yar’adua that the real militants will not ask for money. They were fighting for development in the region, so I told him that the best thing is for us to go to the creeks.

Did you go to the creeks?
Of course, at that time, everybody felt that nobody could go to the creeks. Yar’adua made me the chairman of a committee and I asked him, (the president) to give me a message for the people. He said I should tell them, ‘if you give me peace, I will develop the Niger Delta.’ I went to the creeks and met with the militants and they gave me conditions for moving forward. That time, Ereka was in prison, so they demanded for Ereka to be released, the vice president to visit the creeks to address them and development. Goodluck Jonathan and other government functionaries went to the creeks and addressed 2,000 militants. Ereka was released and throughout the period of discussions, the Niger Delta militants didn’t take one naira from the federal government. They paid their own hotel bills and that was how discussions went on till we had amnesty. Today, we are back to square one again. I see a lot of mercenaries, I see a lot of commercial people who are not determined to resolve the problems of the Niger Delta, and they are only interested in bringing bogus proposals to the government. I have not seen the real plan of the federal government that is geared towards resolving the problems. Let me tell you, the so-called militants are human beings, they are not spirits, if you talk to the right people, the problems would be solved.

How can the present government identify the real militants?
When the government talks to people committed to resolving the problems, finding the real militants will not be a problem.  The thing is not about enriching yourself but doing an assignment for your country.

The president said talks are ongoing with the militant, are you aware of that?
I am not aware. That is what I am talking about when Yar’adua started. We had uncountable number of groups that said they had the key. Let me tell you one thing, a real stakeholder will not come and tell you that this is what we are doing for the militants. You will see the sacrifice in his eyes, in his action and approach to things. A real stakeholder will not tell you that he is the only one that can solve the problem, when we get to the creeks, we will come back with an answer. If somebody says he is going to the creeks to talk to the militants, and goes there with soldiers, policemen, which people are they going to meet?  If you are going to the creeks to discuss with the militants, you have to go like one of them. You go to the creeks like their brother, like somebody who is also concerned about the development of the Niger Delta and they will listen to you.

What are elders from the region doing about the situation?
Well, you know that when a government is in place, one has to be careful as certain things could be misinterpreted. So, some of us are very conscious, particularly some of us that they would want to attack with lies. I don’t attend some of the meetings when they call, because I don’t trust the people.

The country is losing so much money, what do you think is the immediate solution to the problem?
If we don’t know the right button to press, we will not get anywhere. The people must understand that this is where you are going and this is what you want to do. The people must key into your programme and they must see sincerity. The Niger Delta is like any other community, where we have all shades of people at every level, there are leaders they look up to. Gangsters have their own leaders and even armed robbers have leaders. Government should be able to identify various leaders.

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