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I would have to debunk the popular belief that the South-South benefitted from former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration; the South-South did not. For instance the only road to the Refinery in Port Harcourt through my own place, Ahoda, to Bayelsa, Benin, Warri and to Lagos, the road was not done and it remains a death trap as we speak.

You may recall that a tanker fell at Okobri in Ahoda Ekpeye and over 30 lives were lost as women who were trying to scoop fuel due to poverty were killed. Under Goodluck Jonathan, my tribe, Ekpeye had no member State Assembly, House of Representative or as ambassador, board member; my tribe benefitted nothing from Goodluck government, even there were no federal government projects. It was at the tail end of the administration that I was appointed chairman of NICON.

The same goes for Itseekiris, Urohbo, Efiks, Ikweres and Ibibios. The only tribe that benefitted was the Ijaws, but as for benefits to the South-South, there is nothing. I can say that other tribes benefitted, like the South-East who were appointed into key positions.

I hope the present administration would bring the South-South back into the mainstream. What you think or expect to come from your person may actually come from another person.

It has been reported that stakeholders in the South-South are not happy with the ongoing investigation in NIMASA, the trial of people like Tompolo and others…

Nigeria was headed in a dangerous direction where corruption had become almost a way of life. Many of us had advised those in government, both verbally and in writing, to fight corruption, build infrastructure, empower the youths and develop the economy. But those in government seem not to yield to our advice but rather, listened to the counsel of those who seem not to know what they are doing.

What it takes to fight corruption is leadership which President Muhammadu Buhari is providing now and he is walking the talk. He is not seen to be corrupt and Nigerians are good followers. If Nigerians have had better leadership in the past, they would not have tended towards corruption. Even the corrupt that are being tried should see it as a sacrifice for national development and should cooperate with the government. Many of us are happy for the development that is happening as the country was on auto pilot and headed for the precipice, with ministers doing as they like.

It got to a point where many businessmen were being punished for doing business, many are paid in some government agencies but the same government officials come collect more than half of the monies paid to execute projects. There were times when adverts were placed in Tender journals, the Ministers themselves did the tendering and deceived the public into buying those journals and paying tender fees.

So, it is important that we fight corruption and support Buhari’s government to succeed. It is not easy to find someone like Buhari that would lead a country, preside over the commonwealth and work to fight corruption without getting involved in corrupt practices.

Do leaders in the South-South region really support Buhari’s anti-corruption war?

Our leaders know themselves and we know our leaders and they are supporting this fight. If our sons were empowered to be in position of authority, they should act right, they should not be corrupt. I don’t believe any genuine leader from the South-South would oppose Buhari’s anti-corruption war. What have we gained in the South-South? If the monies made in the past years were properly deployed, we should be having good roads and youth employment in the South-South but our people have no source of income and the Minister of Petroleum under the past government claimed that oil blocs were allocated to people from the North.

We had the President and Minister of Petroleum for almost six years; did they allocate oil wells to people of South-South? No, they did not!

Many Nigerians feel concerned that the Buhari administration does not seem to have a proper economic management team right now.

I think perhaps they should expand the team by finding people with competency and experience who have done similar things in the past to work with the team they may have now. We need to empanel an economic team as a focal point and a goal driver.

Also we need to fight security beyond Boko Haram; security is beyond Boko Haram which is one aspect in the North-East. Insecurity in the South and in South-South in particular is another; it is politically induced and must be fought.

Several of those accused of corruption sometimes seem to be easily let off the hook by the judiciary; as a lawyer, how do you think the judiciary can further help the anti-corruption war?

I believed in the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary because it is the last hope of the common man. Judiciary is supposed to provide succour to the down-trodden and it is the temple of justice. Occasionally, it may be slow but that is the nature of justice the world over. Nowhere do you see discharges same day because they must weigh the evidences, collate the facts properly and allow advocates to present them before judges and argue the cases.

If what we are doing is not anchored on the rule of law, it would be on weak foundation and can be easily overturned afterwards.

But many see the judiciary as making the anti-corruption war somewhat difficult?

What we should do is to increase the capacity of the judiciary to perhaps employ more judges so that the cases can be decongested. We must find ways of automating the courts to make them faster. There is the need for the judiciary to re-orient itself as we are all Nigerians.

The wheel of justice grinds slowly; this is the nature of justice. People may expect it to move faster, but the rule of law wants fair hearing, even for the accused. The rule of law assumes that someone is innocent until proven guilty. I think we should be patient with the judiciary.

The judiciary must re-orientate itself and there is need for the judges to be more expeditious with cases and to support the war against corruption, for the benefit of all Nigerians.

What is your opinion about the Buhari administration’s change mantra?

The situation is that at a point where Nigeria was, if there is no change the country would have collapsed. There has been remarkable improvement in how the country is being governed. For once, I see a leader who had every opportunity to talk about corruption as this is our biggest problem. Also a leader should be a teacher who should be a mentor and should be able to tell the people where he expects the country to be in few years and what he expects of them.

He needs to live a virtuous life. We had become a country of needless consumption as we lacked leadership, but we have a new one now and we must all support the government to succeed.

What is your view about the current situation where almost all politicians, including those in the opposition, now want to become members of the ruling party?

I believe people should be in parties based on conviction and not for short-term benefits. Many of us that left the PDP initially had to do so due to the incompatibility with leaders of that party.

For instance, in my area, people like Peter Odili were in charge and I tried to go to the Senate three times. My people supported me and if elections were held three times I would win all the time. But these so-called god-fathers saw me as a threat and denied me, even after winning the primaries.

Secondly, I also don’t like the corruption being encouraged in the PDP; at one time, the party ticket was for sale. Years ago, we supervised the primaries in Anambra and there was not a single case of corruption. Those that won did so without paying anything. But when the ticket is for sale, you cannot expect the people to change the party. For instance, ex-Speaker, Ghali Naabba was in the PDP but he was suppressed along with all of us because we stood firmly against the President’s narrow agenda. This was why close to 90 percent of us in the House under Naaba were marked out as people who should not be allowed to progress further because we opposed the then President.

You find that in such circumstance, you don’t have a choice than to find a platform that allows vibrant people to thrive and that is what APC is and which they must keep doing.

For those who are crossing over now, I believe they should ponder a while and ask themselves how they would be viewed, if they would be regarded and rewarded in any manner. They should think: ‘Would they see me as somebody who is an opportunist? There are some states preparing for elections; in those states, it may be useful to admit more numbers and with the change agenda of Mr. President, there would be less interference, there would be free and fair elections.