The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe, is in the eye of the storm following allegations of corruption and non-performance against him.
In this interview, Orubebe dismisses the allegations and speaks on the frosty relationship between him and Chief Edwin Clark. Excerpts:How do you react to the allegation by some stakeholders in the Niger Delta that you just pocket the money being made available to the ministry for the development of the region? I want to reason that, that is another level of madness exhibited by people who think the way they are, that is the way others are. Today, in this country, there is a process of doing things.
There is a procurement law in place. So how do you pocket money? People talk out of ignorance. They don’t know what it takes to award a contract. As a minister, I don’t have the power to sit down in my office and call in Mr. A and say ‘I give you this contract’. It is advertised; so it sounds stupid, it exposes the ignorance of people who sit in their houses, offices and in the market places to say ministers are pocketing money. It is absolute nonsense.
Is Elder Orubebe actually corrupt in view of the recent outcry by some Delta leaders and a group led by a former member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Dino Melaye, asking the EFCC to prosecute you over alleged corrupt practices? How do you feel about the allegations of corruption against you? Elder Orubebe is not corrupt and cannot be corrupt. Dino Melaye came out that time and said I awarded contracts that were not in the budget, that I awarded contracts worth N27 billion and that I had paid the money and that I have pocketed the money.
He said I awarded particularly one contract for N1.2 billion and then increased it to N12 billion and paid for it. I think Nigerians are cleverer now, they now understand what governance is, they understand the process of awarding contracts. Of course I came out and addressed a press conference. The man said N27billion but the contracts that were awarded were just N6 million; he said I had paid all the money, but the contractors were mobilized with only N990 million.
At the time they were talking, we were owing the contractors and we were even talking to their bankers to let them know that we gave contracts to these people and the money was not available yet and that they should give them time to work
Are you bothered by the call on Mr. President to sack you from the cabinet? I am not bothered because Nigerians, including Mr. President, know that these people are acting foolishly and they are ignorant of the measures Mr. President has put in place to ensure transparency in governance. I am not bothered about them and that is why I don’t talk about it because everybody knows that the allegations are malicious and, unfortunately, they don’t have the facts.
I think the critics are day-dreaming and have personal interests. Some of them expected certain things from me and, when they were not available, then Orubebe is a bad man; it is very sad. But, as far as I am concerned, that concept of blackmailing people for personal gains is an old thing. That is an old concept. The new concept is doing things transparently and getting things done so that Nigeria can move forward.Godsday Orubebe The smear campaign is a cheap blackmail and I will not succumb. We are doing things transparently and we continue to do it despite the claims by this category of people. We cannot be intimidated, we are on course and we will get to where we are going. I think it is better that they begin to act as reasonable people and get their facts right before they come out to misinform the public.
If you say Elder Godsday Orubebe is that upright, why do you think they are after him? I want to believe that some of them see me as a threat; some of them feel that with Elder Godsday Orubebe around, they would not be able to realize what they want to gain in life. Some of them have confronted me that I want to take leadership from them and I begin to wonder if leadership is just for some people. Leadership emerges through the will of God and I have never contested leadership with anybody.
The rumours are everywhere in Delta State that you are nursing governorship ambition in 2015. I have told people who care to listen that, today, as far as I am concerned, my immediate concern is to work for Mr. President, support Mr. President to enable him deliver his Transformation Agenda. I stand as one of the key supporters of Mr. President, one of the key loyalists of Mr. President to do what he wants us to do to move Nigeria forward.
As far as I am concerned, 2015 is still very far and it is in God’s hands. When we get to 2015, that is when other things will come up. When we get to 2015, I have the right to contest like any other Deltan but that is not in the agenda for now. But you are being accused of declaring for governorship during your recent condolence visit to the family of a prominent Urhobo politician, Chief Lords Alams Barovbe, in Ovu, Ethiope East LGA.
Can any reasonable person ever believe that someone who wants to be a governor would go to a burial ceremony to declare his intention? It is absolute nonsense. I was there on condolence visit and we were talking about the activities of the man and that was how we ended. And so it was nonsense, it was cheap blackmail for anybody to say that. If I want to contest for governorship of Delta State, even if I want to contest in 2015 and I want to declare, number one, I would have made proper consultations and number two, when I am declaring, the entire state will gather at one place for me to declare and tell them.
But your leader, Chief Edwin Clark is one of the people who accused you and he even said you are not fit for the governorship of the state. Chief Clark is entitled to his opinion but, fortunately, in the statement, he said he was told, he was not there. And so he must have acted from an uninformed position.
I am sure some mischievous people that are always around looking for their daily bread must have carried that information to him. But, thank God, he said he was not there, he was informed. Number two, if I want to contest the governorship of Delta State in 2015, Chief Clark also knows that I have the capability to run for the governorship of Delta State, I am not barred by the constitution and I have support of people and nobody will stop me from running.
He is free to support anybody but there are thousands and thousands of people who will also support me if I want to run in 2015.Are you of the opinion that the petition by some Delta leaders to the EFCC was rooted in the governorship issue in 2015? I don’t want to talk about where they are coming from but, as far as I am concerned, it is absolute nonsense, baseless, it is unfounded and self-serving and they cannot smear my name. People of Delta State and people of this country that I have related with know that I am a man of integrity. A section of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Burutu LGA of the state, where you and Clark hail from, recently announced your suspension from the party. What is your reaction?I am glad you said a section of the PDP.
I think we have, today, a group that was put in place by Chief Clark and it is these people that went on air to say Orubebe is suspended but I don’t lose sleep over it because it is of no consequence.What is your relationship with Chief Edwin Clark now? I don’t have any problem with Chief Edwin Clark. He is one of the leaders we have in Ijawland. Our relationship is very cordial. But supporters of Chief Clark have openly said that you are an ingrate in view of the widespread belief that he recommended you for appointment as minister.
Why are you ungrateful? Chief Clark did not recommend me for appointment as minister, but he supported me when the battle over my appointment started. He was not the one who nominated me but he supported me when there was crisis over the appointment. I know the person who recommended me; at the appropriate time I will mention that name. I was recommended to the government by a young man, whose identity I will reveal at a later date.
However, I have done everything humanly possible to carry Chief Clark along.What is your relationship with the leadership of the PDP in the state? My relationship with the leadership of the PDP is very cordial. Peter Nwaoboshi is my state chairman; he is a very strong, great man, he is doing very well and I am supporting him and his entire executive so that we deliver PDP for all the elections in 2015. PDP is the only party we have in Delta State. I am very happy with our executives and the way they run the affairs of the party.
How can you say that when Chief Clark accused you of instigating some members to drag the party to court? How can I instigate people to take the party to court? That is the beauty of democracy, everybody has the opportunity to say whatever he wants to say. That is the beauty of democracy. If I have cause to go to court, it is me that would go.
If people are aggrieved and they go to court, are they saying people don’t have any right to go to court to seek redress? If somebody is walking and stumbles on a wood, it is Orubebe; I think they should stop this nonsense. And I have told you that I am working with the state chairman of PDP to ensure that we deliver in all future elections.