Bailout: I Never Attacked Buhari – Ojougboh | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Bailout: I Never Attacked Buhari – Ojougboh

Posted: Jul 26, 2015 at 12:02 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Dr Cairo Ojougboh is the Vice Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), South-South Zone. In this interview with FELIX IGBEKOYI, the former member of Federal House of Representatives speaks on the reformation of PDP, attacks on President Muhammadu Buhari, trouble at the National Assembly, governorship elections in some states, and other issues. Excerpts…



You said your party is undergoing reformation, do you see the leadership in NASS as a springboard for the PDP to re-launch itself into national limelight?

We are doing everything possible, legally, to reposition our party; we don’t want to talk about it.

How about the emergence of Ekweremadu as Deputy Senate President?

It is a wonderful thing, it is a great idea, it is a beauty to behold, and more will come.

Before the end of this year, there will be governorship election in Bayelsa, and by the middle of next year, there will be governorship election in Edo. As the South-South Chairman of your party, how prepared are you to win the elections?

You can see the preparations we are making. In Bayelsa, we are very ready; the governor there is doing very well. We are working assiduously to make sure that where there is any crack in the party, we will cement the crack so that we can go forward into the election as a team. In Edo State we are going to the grassroots, and we are working with all stakeholders. We are appealing to everybody who has any grievance to come together and move forward to deliver these two states. The two states are very important to the PDP.

Looking at the steps so far taken by the APC, do you think PDP will be able to reclaim the Presidency in 2019?

Again, that was exactly what I said earlier, that we have about 15 million card carrying members of the PDP. You know, the APC played a very smart one on us, they wore the tag of corruption in the neck of the PDP. Today we are removing that tag from our neck. We are telling Nigerians that the 15 million PDP members are not corrupt. The good people of this country are all in PDP but as at today, as a Christian in any situation you find yourself, we thank God. So we have accepted where we have found ourselves. And let me tell you, we are not on the ground, far from it. We are better than where we were before the last election, and PDP is re-inventing itself. We are urging Nigerians from the ward level, no PDP member should leave PDP, everybody should remain in the party, four years is just like one day. If we remain and work harder, have acceptable candidates and drop our personal interests and greed, if we make sacrifice, the PDP will move forward.

Shortly after the elections, we saw veterans like Chief Tony Anenih resigning as BoT Chairman, and Mu’azu resigning as National Chairman. What does that portend for the party in the coming years?

That anybody has resigned from a position can be for any reason. Let me tell you, Chief Anenih and Mu’azu are very good and strong party members, they are even playing more part, working harder than when they were in positions. If a person resigns from a position that does not mean that he is not a party member. They are working very assiduously to reposition the party, this what I know and this what I can tell you.

In one of his last speeches, former president, Goodluck Jonathan, said he was going to reform the PDP, don’t you think it was a ploy for him to contest in 2019?

Jonathan is a strong party member, he has not told me that he is running. What he has told us is that he is going to reposition and rebuild the party.

Where do you think the party should zone the Presidency to in 2019?

It is not a one-man decision; the party will sit down and take decisions that will affect and propagate it to the next level. The appeal that we are making to members of PDP nationwide is for them to remain strong and committed to the party because the party is going to bounce back. There is no ward in Nigeria where you do not have the PDP structure. People are saying where the PDP will get the money to finance the next election, and I said don’t worry, the last election has shown that money means nothing in an election; money cannot overwhelm the will of the people. This time around, all the card carrying members of the PDP will come out and work, and nothing will stop us from coming back.

There are allegations that the APC, being the party controlling the central government, is trying to manipulate the tribunals to get favorable judgment in Delta, Rivers, and Akwa-Ibom states, what is your reaction?

These are elections that the PDP genuinely won, and any attempt to armtwist us and take the states away from us, we will resist it. Luckily, the PDP has frowned and is still frowning at the decision to take the tribunals from Uyo and Port Harcourt to Abuja. But we are making it very clear that these are states that we have genuinely won, and that we will defend them very well.

Looking at the spate of your members decamping from the party, do you think you can sustain this reformation?

I have just explained to you that the PDP is appealing to its members to be patient because we are going to reposition the party. Where they are going to, there is no home there, the PDP is a luxurious home for them, it will accommodate more members. We are telling them to be patient because we are just on break in the next four years. Where are they even going? They will not accept them there; they will just use and dump them. So, I encourage and implore them to stay.

People say the PDP has failed because of insecurity and corruption. Is it true? 

Since Jonathan left office, the Boko Haram attack has intensified though it is not what we wish for ourselves. Having said that, in PDP we have over 15 million members, out of which less than 1,000 took part in governance. If you go to all the churches and mosques across the country, the good people of this country love PDP. Once we get our arts right, once we begin to exchange greed with honesty, we move forward. Patience is what we need. And this time around, PDP is going to work even better because we now know that there is no Father Christmas. Everybody, your little contribution matters, we are not going to rely on anybody, we need to discipline ourselves and make sacrifice to better the party.

Some stakeholders claimed you were attacking President Muhammadu Buhari on the bail-out funds to the state governors, what is your take on it?

First of all, I have never attacked President Buhari. What I said is that the bailout fund is okay, the intention is good, but we are practising democracy, not dictatorship. Before you can take money out of the Federation Account, you must appropriate it. It is only FAAC that can send money to the states. That is what I said and I stand by it.

Did you attack your boss, former resident, Goodluck Jonathan, over the current predicament of the PDP?

On former President Jonathan, I have never abused or attacked him. The PDP is reforming and undergoing reformation, and there is a committee working to achieve that. I was asked in one of the meetings of the committee what could be the reason for the PDP to lose the last election. I said that there was an agreement for president Jonathan to do one term, that if Jonathan had done one term and did not re-contest, and agreed for a northern PDP candidate to run for the election, PDP would have won the election. I don’t see where that is an attack.

There is a serious controversy between you and former Secretary to the Federal Government, Senator Pius Anyim, to the extent you were called names. What informed this development?

After that incident, the board met and proposed to see the Minister of Trade and Investment to explain to him why the Centenary City cannot be a free zone. And we did, we went to the minister and told him that the issue of the Centenary City being free zone is illegal because the board of NEPZA never approved the Centenary City as the management never sent an application to the board. The practice in law and convention is that for you to license a free zone, the operators of the free zone will write to NEPZA. NEPZA management will second it to the board which will send to its trade and investment committee. The committee will vet the application and return it to the board. The board will now approve. It is upon approval that the management can now send a request letter to the minister. If the minister is satisfied, he can send it to the president. We explained to the minister that since the board did not approve it, whatever license they had issued was null and void because you cannot build something on nothing.

Why do you think the then SGF, Anyim Pius Anyim, is after your life or persecuting you?

Since we held that meeting with the minister, the then SGF, Anyim Pius Anyim, instructed that minister and the Managing Director to make sure that our board does not meet again. In fact, we now gave him more reasons why the Centenary City is illegal. I have explained why the Centenary City is a fraud. Sometime in 2013, as the Chairman of the Board of NEPZA, we received two petitions from two organizations raising issues concerning fraud in NEPZA that the Centenary City was a free zone. Up till that time, the board of NEPZA never knew that the Centenary City was a free zone. So we invited the management to explain to us how come that the Centenary City is a free zone without the board knowing about it. The management had no answer.

What are the reasons why the Centenary City is illegal, and can you convince Nigerians with your reasons?

Number one, it is not in Abuja Master Plan; there is no provision for a free zone inside the Federal Capital Territory Laws. Number two, a free zone cannot be sited at the centre of a city. Number three, creating a free zone inside Abuja for a residential area; it was just a residential estate that Anyim made provision for. We now said look, why are you going to be subsidizing homes for the rich because it is the rich that would leave there. He should have taken the free zone to Agbor or Abakiliki or Gwagwalada or Nasarawa State, where the masses will benefit from it, if he wanted to build homes.

You claimed there were petitions from people and organizations; can you give instances to further boost your defense?

In any case, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria wrote to us and said the board should do everything humanly possible to stop free zone in city centers because number one, it is killing the growth of industries. The idea of a free zone is to give the operators of the Centenary City a waiver through the back door so that they will not pay import duty or machinery equipment and personnel and that they can also treat the issue of expatriate quota. When we received these petitions, we also received the documentation of the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, and what the CAC said was that the Certificate of Incorporation of the Centenary City is not in their file, and that it was not mentioned in the Article of Memorandum of the companies that are the owners of the Centenary City that they will undertake such businesses. In fact, there is no application whatsoever to NEPZA on this issue. So we now told the Managing Director and the Minister that the better thing to do is to cancel it because the former SGF deceived the government to get such expanse of land almost the size of what we have today in Abuja. We now said to him that he did not need a free zone to build Maitama, to build the Central Business District which, by all intents and purposes, is a success story. We told him (Anyim) that this was a fraud and he should stop it, and that is how I became his enemy.

What, in your own opinion, was the former SSG supposed to have done in order to satisfy due process?

And a lot of questions arose with the issue of the Centenary City. Now if the Centenary City has to be a free zone, something must happen. That thing that must happen is that the Certificate of Occupancy of the land on which the free zone is, must be in the possession of the Federal Government. We asked the operators about the C of O and they said, you see, the bank has to give us loan.