GOVERNOR Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State was recently appointed Director-General of the Buhari Campaign Organisation. At an interactive session, Amaechi among other things, reels out plans of the campaign organisation and also clears the air on knotty issues. Excerpts:
Why Jonathan is in trouble — Gov Amaechi
Says he didn’t fund Buhari’s campaign
By Dapo Akinrefon
IS it true you funded the Buhari campaign for the primaries?
I did not. Buhari did not spend money for the primaries. Anybody who said they spent money should come forward with evidence. We have maintained consistently that Nigerians would fund us and that is why we have launched our campaign we are hoping that people will contribute. It is there on our website; you will just look at the account and go and pay.
And we are making sure that we convince General Buhari to be the sole signatory to that account. That is the way we would raise our money. We would not depend on rich men. You can’t fight the president on funds. See how much he raised from people who some of them collected the N2.3trillion on oil subsidy and are yet to pay back. If he is not prosecuting them for oil subsidy, why shouldn’t they pay for his election?
Symbol of change
The president is trying to raise over N200 million for power and then those people he is helping to raise the money are giving him N500million. We can’t fight the president with money, we will fight him with the people. We will fight the president by telling Nigerians that they have to vote for change and the symbol of change for us is the APC and General Buhari. I will like to reiterate again that General Buhari did not pay anybody to vote for him at the primaries and he won because Nigerians want change.
How do you intend to combine your duty as director-general of the APC presidential campaign with your duties as governor?
We will try. That is why there is a deputy governor. I have a deputy who is efficient and I will also from time to time go back to the state. But we need to deliver and we are all making sacrifices to deliver this change. I don’t know how people feel. The president and the federal government have not denied the fact that N2.3trillion was taken for oil subsidy and that was six months in 2011.
Oil subsidy before that time was N300billion, so how did it rise to N2.3trillion and the people are not afraid? The federal government and all its agents were not afraid that N2.3trillion was taken. So, basically, I don’t mind what I can do legally to make sure that there is a better Nigeria.
What about the controversy that you have not paid eight months salaries?
Anybody who said I have not paid him salaries should come forward. We have paid up till December; you can call Rivers State to confirm. I got a Blackberry message on Tuesday, saying; “Thank God, we are going home with our salary before Christmas.”
Payment of salaries
What we agreed in the cabinet was that we should make sure that everybody goes home with his salary before Christmas because as a Christian, I know that December 23 and 24 are the two days that Christians like to shop. I do not owe salaries in Rivers State. I am proud to say that I will pay salaries until I leave office and I will continue to pursue development projects in the state.
I was even surprised that the president’s spokesman even put it in one of his statements when he was responding to the accusation that the people who contributed to the N21billion are those plundering our economy and he said after all, Governor Amaechi funded the election of Buhari while he owes teachers eight months salary. And I asked the question, for you to be a presidential spokesman, facts and statistics must be on your palm; you shouldn’t joke with that. But the man was just reacting to gossip.
What are Buhari’s programmes for Nigeria if he wins the 2015 election?
The message is simple. Buhari chased away Maitasene while he was Head of State. Many Nigerians will remember that Maitasine was like Boko Haram and they were killing people in Borno and Kano and Buhari chased them away because he is a strong leader.
We need a strong leader now to chase away Boko Haram or it will chase us away. Buhari will deal with insurgency because he has done that before. Many Nigerians would remember that when Borno was attacked by Chadian rebels, Buhari as an officer of the Nigerian Army almost chased them into Ndjamena. He had crossed the Lake Chad when President Shehu Shagari called him back. If he didn’t do that, Borno would have been overrun by Chadian rebels and till today Chad has never crossed into Nigeria to fight us. It takes a strong leader to do that.
We will deal with insurgency. The country may be broke now because of two factors. The first which is very critical is the diversion of funds at the NNPC. That is the greatest factor for me. The level of diversion in the NNPC has affected everybody including me.
We will deal with power because if you don’t address it, you cannot tackle unemployment. The essential factor for industrialisation from elementary economics is power.
So, when you hear that people in the power sector contributed N500 million for the president’s re-election, where did they get it? First, you must pay your bill every month whether you like it or not; whether you have power or not. People are now being forced to pay N75 every month whether they use power or not. So, they are being punished for not having power.
How do you respond to the claim by the PDP that Buhari is a semi-illiterate jackboot?
Our campaign will be issue-based. The president has a PhD in Zoology, how many farms do we have and how many people has he employed? If you say the president has a PhD and Buhari does not have one, let him show us his thesis. You are bringing yourself to the level of those who are making those allegations. Don’t bring yourself to that level, remain focused on the issues and let the president meet you there.
Many have defected from the PDP to the APC and as soon as they move they become progressives. What exactly does the APC stand for and what is the ideology of the party?
How many people would say that when I was in the PDP, I wasn’t a progressive? Those who left the PDP are the progressive wing of the party.
Please tell me what else I need to do to become a progressive. The ideology of progressivism is about the people and I bother about them a lot. That is why there is free education in my state which is not part of the PDP manifestoes. While in the PDP, I introduced free education and health care. What else would I need to become a progressive?
Those who studied at the University of Port-Harcourt will say that I have been a Marxist from my university days till today. APC stands for a progressive ideology and you can see that in our manifestoes.
What is the assurance that Buhari will win the presidential election?
The simple electoral arithmetic is that before the president had the South-south and Southeast 100 percent, but now there are problems for the PDP in Cross Rivers, Akwa-Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta States. It wasn’t like that before.
By this time the PDP would have been dancing but have you seen them doing so? When they were doing the Transformation Ambassador of Nigeria (TAN) rallies, I knew that it will get to this point.
You have not seen the PDP dancing or doing any major campaign because there are problems everywhere. There is problem within the party in Enugu, Ebonyi and Abia States. So, it is no longer the same. The electoral map appears to have changed.
If we go to the north, does the APC have problems in Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa and Sokoto? Did we have problem in Lagos State? No, it is the PDP that has problems in those states. So the political map has changed and that is why I believe that by God’s grace, Buhari and the APC will win. I am a Christian and I think positively.
I am not from the north; I am not from the south. I am a Nigerian. I don’t believe in indigeneship, but in citizenship. Buhari will win the 2015 presidential election by God’s grace and he will also win because the political map does not favour the president anymore. In 2011, in the South-South and Southeast, we said he is our brother and now we are saying he is no longer our brother.