We’ll Witness Massive Reconstruction Of Roads –Comrade Macaulay

AS a Broadcast Journalist for 20 years, he set some remarkable standards in adherence to ethics and tenets of professionalism. Also as an activist and labour leader both at the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), he set some enviable records.
Comrade Ovouzourie Macaulay served as Commissioner for Ethnic Relations and Crises Resolution in which capacity he played leading role in resolving the seven year old ethnic insurgence in Delta State.
He has also served as Commissioner for Energy. Currently, he is the Secretary to the Delta State Government. Comrade Macaulay recently interacted with The POINTER in Asaba, Delta State where as the administrative clearing house of the government of Delta State, he spoke on the policy direction of the Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan administration and the critical areas the government is working assiduously to ensure improved living condition for the people of the state.
The interview was anchored by Godfrey Ubaka and Peter Osuhor.

Comrade Ovouzourie Macaulay, Secretary the State Government, Delta State


You have been a critical player in Delta States democratic evolution right from the Ibori days. Now, as SSG, what key legacies will the Uduaghan administration bequeath to Deltans in the areas of improved service delivery and social infrastructure?
You will all agree with me that Uduaghan’s administration is an offspring or child of Ibori administration because Uduaghan was a commissioner and later SSG and so whatever we are doing today are mostly things that will enhance the well being of Deltans and the needs of Deltans right from when the democratic process started. In other words, we are filling gaps, first and foremost, that were not met in the formative years for we all know that when Ibori came in, that was in 1999, it was as if nothing was on ground in the state, and so the government started by laying a foundation where the past five years has been filled with that foundation and so in terms of service delivery, you will agree with me that we have gone a long way. In 1999, we had nothing like intercom in our offices. In 1999 there were only few permanent secretaries who could boast of even having official cars to ride to work. Directors were carrying files in their armpit and mounting Okada”.
It was also during the administration that we introduced the housing loan for civil servants so that while in service you should be able to start preparing for your retirement because as a labour leader then, I observed that when most people retired from service, they found it difficult to want to go to their homes just because they don’t have a place to put up. So we fought and got the approval of the revolving loan for civil servants which is still on till today.
Many people, while they are still in service, can now obtain the loan and start developing their own houses, possibly in ones home town where you hope to retire to at the end of the day and I know of many people who have benefited from this who are comfortably settled in their homes or in their localities today after retirement.
In terms of training, you will agree with me if you look at the budget, there was not any budget for training prior to this time but today, budget for training both locally and international training is so high and we are not even saying that is enough yet we are still fighting to improve on this every day. A few days ago I was holding a meeting with the Head of Service because for me as a person I am still not satisfied yet with the caliber of people we have today in service and I believe that if we don’t pursue the training and retraining by the time the present top echelon of public servants go on retirement, the state will be having problems of manpower, so we are still training and will continue to train our people.
Coming to infrastructure, you will agree with me that starting from Asaba today we have what we can be boastful of as a state capital but we are not proud of it. Even since Uduaghan came in 2007 you will agree that Asaba is almost undergoing a revolution, same for Warri, same for Sapele, same for Ughelli and of course this is the only state in this country where you have what might be termed four possible state capitals. In other words you have Asaba here as the main state capital, we have Warri as the economic nerve centre of the state, we have a place like Ughelli, we have Agbor, we have Sapele. We must develop these places. Simultaneously unlike most states that just have one capital city that once you develop it, that is the end of it and so it is not easy to appreciate what we are doing in Delta State because what other states put into one city we spend in 2,4,5 cities because one, is the sensitivity of our people, two is the geographical location that we must access. So to the best of my knowledge we have the best that we can leave behind at the end of our tenure in 2015, both in terms of manpower development and in terms of infrastructural development.
The State Government has said so much about diversifying the economy. What practical steps are in place for now so that Deltans can depend less on crude oil?
Well, when we use the word ‘Delta without oil’, we refer to those things that will be able to generate employment without resorting to allocation from the Federal Government. You can see that between 2007 and 2008, we had tried to develop the state and you must have cognizance that we cannot develop it alone so we made investors to come in and we must have to provide the right atmosphere in terms of structure on the ground and in terms of security and that is why you will recall the first major project of Dr. Uduaghan in 2007 was street lights and the first phase of street lights was in Asaba and Warri and from there we started to expand to where we are today. You will also recall that during that period the level of killings and violent crimes particularly in Asaba and Warri was very high. There were a lot of killings in Asaba and you don’t know where they were coming from and we realized that crimes thrived under darkness and that was why the first step was to start doing the street lights, not just for aesthetics but for security reasons.
So, that was one of the steps that was taken. Now, with security in place, you are sure that investors can come in, another major step we needed is the airport we are having today. Today, you can fly to Lagos and Abuja from Asaba. Serious and well established business people can take their private jet from any part of this country to come into Asaba. The resource is another step towards a Delta State without oil.
Thirdly is the dualisation of 150 kilometer road from Ughelli to Asaba which is ongoing now. Those of you who have passed through that road will bear witness to that fact. On the first day of January, I passed through that road and there was a massive construction work going on on that road.
Then, we have the training of our youths. We have investments in the area of agriculture so that at the end of the day, you have a Delta State that can be self-reliant because without these investors, we cannot generate the required revenue. Without the investors, we cannot give the required employment to our people. We have in the state, Obasanjo farms Limited, a joint venture between the Delta State and Obasanjo farms. On completion, that project is to absorb a minimum of 2000 persons. You can all bear witness that there is a massive development along Ogwashi-Uku-Kwale road where the farm is sited, these are some of the steps. There are so many others. The Export free zone in Koko, the expansion of the Warri Port are all steps and we will not wait for the Federal Government alone to come and develop the state for us. We must do it on our own. The cardinal point is to make life more meaningful and comfortable for our people.
The Independent Power Plant, IPP, we are embarking on is part of it. There can be no development without power, because what the investor wants to know is what is the level of power in the state.
Nobody wants to rely on generator but we give time for some of the things to mature. You have heard that just before the end of last year, we got the license so those who were thinking that we were playing will see that the license for the IPP has been granted and I can tell you that within a couple of months we shall invite you to come and witness the arrival of the turbines. These are some of the steps and many more.
How is the Governor Uduaghan administration coping in the face of opposition. How true is it that cracks do exist in the Uduaghan carbinet and what role are you playing in these cracks, if any?
Well, first, opposition is part of democracy. Opposition strengthens you because if there is no opposition at times you just feel that all is well but what we condemn is bitter form of unhealthy opposition. Delta State is a very unique state. Delta State is the only state where after election until another election we are in courts. Delta has that record of being in court from one election to another election even while we are going for fresh election we are in courts over election for over the past four years which is not done anywhere else. But that is not the fault of the man in government. In real democracies where people are better organized, if a man has won an election he has won and you pat him on the back and whatever ideas you have, you put it across to him and if your own idea of contesting an election is to come and render service put your ideas on the table and I also know that even in 2007 after Uduaghan won his first election, he extended his hands to say please, come and join me, please come and nominate people and there was nothing suggestive that they were prepared to go to court and of course, you can not stop them and as well, the judiciary did its job. At the end of the day Uduaghan is still in office but all power belongs to God. No man can acquire power on his own.
Whatever we are today is what God has destined for us to be and so if you undertake a venture in politics, it is like any other business.
If it does not work for you, take it that it is not your time or that it is not your destination. Deltans should learn to accept defeat and those who win or who are victorious should learn to be magnanimous.
Question of the divide between being an activist and now being government, there is nothing wrong is being an activist
Activism is about service. All I worked for in 20 years was seeking better deals, a good wage for the people. People with that kind of background (activism) should come into government. It is only from amongst people like us that you can find better service. Today, we all can see what is happening in Edo State. That is our background, that is our training and commitment.
My style may not be other peoples style. People may not like me for the way I go about issues but I do my job the way it will please my conscience and please God. I do not do my job to please individuals. I follow the rules. We cannot continue to make mistakes. You just have to be patient and allow me follow the procedure. For example, may be at Exco you then bring a file and I say take it to my secretary and let it be properly registered so that in the case of any problem we know where to find the file but they will say no, no, no.
For instance, in government there is an end of budget year and when the budget year as ended you expect me to endorse your file, it is not possible. I am no novice in politics. If there is anybody who wants Uduaghan to succeed it is me because I am one of the three people who started the race with him. The rest came in after we started so there is no way you can say I want him to fail. Whoever says I have offended him, it is because I refused to do things he wants me to do. Lets go slow and steady. Uduaghan as a man is very meticulous. He is a governor who reads every line of a file you send to him.
DESOPADEC budget has been stagnant for three years but there has been no explanation and the people are complaining, why has the budget been stagnant?
I may not understand when you use the word stagnant I know that even as we talk, projects are going on in DESOPADEC, because of public complaints just as you are complaining now, the governor took over the management of DESOPADEC to make sure that funds were properly utilized. At the end of that exercise, surely we discovered that there were flaws in the way the place was being run and the governor set up a committee of bureaucrats, structures were defined and over time, a new board was constituted. They first have to come for budget alignment to be able to pay their debts.
DESOPADEC was built on ethnic bases or nationalities –Isoko represent certain percentage and Ijaw another percentage.
I don’t agree that the budget is stagnant. The Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC budget has just been passed by the National Assembly. There is now a rule in contract award. You just don’t go and award contracts.
If you look at the present situation in Nigeria today as a result of the removal of fuel subsidy and as the SSG, what will be your agenda as a sort of soft landing for Delta State workers and Deltans in general?
Fuel subsidy removal is not a Delta State issue. It is a Federal issue and it is a very critical issue. It is a national issue we should worry ourselves on how to get to work, transportation, health, education, etc are issues that should be addressed by the removal of subsidy. Ordinarily there is nothing wrong with fuel subsidy removal but I advice the federal government to find a way to cushion the effects of the removal. Nigerians, especially Deltans do not like to pay tax but in Lagos, tax is paid even for public convenience there is no amount of step that Delta State will take that will solve it. It is a national issue.
The internal revenue we generate for this state is massive because peace returned to Warri. When I was appointed commissioner Shell was out of place of work, chevron was not at work. They were all closed down. And as a result of God and my efforts when Ibori called me and we started boasting of producing thousands of barrels of oil starting from the first 20,000. For three years I never wore suite I only come to Asaba when they had Exco meetings, outside that I was with the boys in the ghettes and I settled all the youths who were used for the Warri crisis and as I said the leader in me was revealed and that was the turning point because from my poverty line I went into broadcast in journalism, led life of an activist for more than 20 years.
I retired out of my own volition because I felt there were no fresh challenges, both at the labour front and in place of work. The then governor invited me to government with one statement, “Macaulay’ go and help to solve Warri crisis”. That was the only go ahead Ibori gave me and I went to work. While there, we started the fight for the minorities to have a share of government house. Power must rotate. Every Deltan must be given a sense of belonging. Government House belongs to all of us.
There is never an end to struggles. Then, how do I unwind as SSG, I must tell you what. I have lost my social life in spite of what people want to say about it, I hardly have time because how do you really want to go and socialize or unwind when files are in your office, when there are political issues for you to solve, when there are security challenges around the place. For being with my operatives I won’t be able to sleep fine. Even if I want to sleep, sleep will not come in my mind because I will be wandering with all of these things so I work myself to sleep. Since I became the SSG to this state I have not gone to bed earlier than 1.30am and I must be up by 6.00am. Earliest I go to bed is between 1.30 and 2.00am that is because I want to be convinced that I have put in my best.
Once in a while I find myself in the midst of friends I am happy and I can take a glass of champaign but I can never go out of my way to pull a bottle of champaign because I want to play big, that is me and food wise, people in Warri laugh at me that I quarrel with food. I take tea, mostly herbal tea. I don’t really have any food as best food as long as it is hot. All I known is that I can’t take cold food once it is hot, depends on my mood what I want to eat depends on my main mood.
Books, I read books on crime and some politics. Those are my favourite books politics and crime.
Women, sex well in fact in every mans life you find your, own level, infact, it depends on you what you want to do with and for me like I have said, today my office is my woman. Even when I satisfy my self that I have done the best for the day I am happy with myself (and part of the back pain I may have today is that I brag, I nag. You call me and you do not have anything to say I shut off the phone but if you don’t have anything to tell me, you say you want to see me. What do you want to see me for. What do you want to see me for. If you don’t have anything to tell me, for goodness sake, please because the office is not for me to socialize. That is not to say I hate women. I like them and I have a wife, I have a mother.
Sir, my question is on the road repairs and construction, shortly after the rains season, we saw the construction of some patche of roads in Asaba. Few weeks later we saw that the maintenance of roads had dropped in Anwai road, DLA road and Ezenei up till now nothing is being done, why is it so, sir?
First of all let me correct the impression that road maintenance probably is the responsibility of the DLA. That is not very correct. There are roads where the DLA has to show responsibility. There are roads where the Ministry of Works has to be very much involved, especially the city roads. You will agree with me that this is the first time and probably the first time in this country where the budget which is for the next year has to start just at the end of the fiscal year and why did we choose to do it this year? It is because we wanted to go into massive construction. Job actually started towards the end of the year because we wanted to rehabilitate certain roads for the Christmas. Having done that, we needed the budget to continue. Like I said earlier, we make haste because we want to follow the rules. So after this budget has been signed you see all the contractors would go back to site.
It is also not very correct to say some of those roads you mentioned were properly penciled down for dualisation. They are for resurfacing, Ezenei for instance, and I know that by last night, his Excellency, the governor added more roads because as soon as he got into this state yesterday, he went round town himself and he was at Cable Point, Marine quarter and we will have decisions on some of these roads to be added. Right now, the Ministry of Works will begin to look in to the papers when they will be signing the budget. So this year we are also picking some roads in Warri and other cities so that between now and April when the rain begins to fall we will be able to do some beautiful work. The challenge that government has identified has been taken over and will be accomplished so no road has been abandoned.
How soon can Deltans begin to look forward to local government elections given the fact that for a while that tier of government has been without elected officials?
And I will say very soon. Delta State is a unique state and we want to do things the right way. At the right time when all measures have been put in place in the councils the issue of the local government elections will be dealt with.