Comrade Ovuozourie Samuel Macaulay is a man of vision and impeccable qualifications. He has held several political offices in Delta State including being a Secretary to Delta State Government and pioneer state chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).
He was recently appointed by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as the pioneer Director-General of the newly established Warri, Uvwie and Environs Special Area Development Commission (WUEDA). He speaks with WARRI TODAY’s ITEVEH EKPOKPOBE on the challenges ahead. Read except:
Congratulations on your appointment as the pioneer Chief Executive of WUEDA, what can you say of the challenges ahead?
Let me start by saying that I am not strange to pioneering. I pioneered the Delta State chapter of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), I also pioneered the state council of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) as well as Directorate of Inter-Ethnic Matters and Conflict Resolution. So, I’m not new or a strange man in the matter of pioneering. Also, Warri is a familiar terrain for me when it comes. As a Deltan, Warri has been a part of me, I grew up in Warri, and so I have a fair knowledge of the geography and terrain of Warri and the environment. As one who resolved an ethnic conflict of over seven years, I’m also familiar with the sensitivities of the people of the area. So, for me, there is no big deal.
However, the challenges I see are inherent in the confidence the governor has in me for this appointment. I believe in working to justify confidence. When people say you are good, you must try to be better. If you are carried away when people say you are good, then they will run away. So, basically I see no challenges.
What do you intend to do to address the purpose for the creation of WUEDA by Governor Okowa?
Anybody who knows Warri in the 70s and 80s and hearing that an agency has been created to look into its development will know that there are many things to be done. Today’s Warri is not the Warri we used to know in the 70s. We will agree today that Warri is one of the dirtiest cities in Nigeria and that is a major challenge. We cannot be talking of development in the face of this high level of filth. We cannot also talk of good health in the face of filth everywhere. There is a lot to be done.
Talking about the filthy nature of Warri is just scratching the surface. What about the flood? What about the bad roads, what about the traffic and the chaotic nature of place? There is so much to be done that it cannot be finished at the end of this tenure.
But what we are going to do is to lay a pioneering foundation that we will build on and for the Succeeding governments to build on. Before now, there was no strong base for Warri development. All approaches were ad-hoc. But in the wisdom of the State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, there was need to establish something that is permanent and in his words, he wants ‘a holistic’ development. Not just about drainage or roads but cutting across social services including health, environment, education and everything about Warri to be handled by one agency.
Governor Okowa wants to hold one organization responsible for what is happening to Warri and I think that is the wisdom in establishing the agency. As we all know the agency is new. Since it is a pioneering agency, for the next three months it may look like nothing is been done. Because we need to do a lot of paper work and to look at the law and we also need to sensitize people.
I responded to some questions during my swearing in reception which is still causing ripples and of course, that is the way it is going to go. We cannot put a new edifice on top a decaying one. If we wish to develop Warri and its environs, we need to clean it first and in the cause of doing that, there will be some displacement.
For instance, a modern market has been built, but some people chose not to use the market, but to trade on the road side. Of course we must tell them no. you have a market. Take a shop and sell your wares there. When I say we are going to step on toes, it does not mean we are going to deprive people of what is their right.
We also know that there are a lot of illegal buildings cutting across natural water ways. Such building must go down. We cannot protect one man’s business and let the generality of the people suffer; the future of a whole generation of people. You cannot talk of building drainages when some people are building on water ways. So there are a lot of issues we will look at.
Why should Warri be a city of caravans? That we must also address. People just get lands and the next thing is to erect caravans and start business. It is not perfect for the aesthetics of any city. We all say, Dubia is beautiful, London and New York and a retinue of other world renowned cities. Why can’t we make Warri beautiful by putting in effort? This is the only country where people run away from paying taxes but expect everything from government. Can it work? It’s not about saying government has not done it. What have you done in your own way to make things right? People should be ready for changes, and it cannot come by without some people making sacrifice.
Demolition of caravans in Warri is not new. Most times, it takes barely two to three weeks for them to be re-erected.
What will you do differently this time?
The previous attempts were ad-hoc attempts. There were no plans to sustain the efforts. Now there is a permanent agency in place which will start and ensure that it takes it to the end, supervise and sustain it. The agency is not ad-hoc. It is going to take a holistic approach towards the development of Warri.
We may not only remove caravans, but also erect something enduring in that place to deter returns. Also, you cannot just because you rented a house close to the road, erect makeshifts for markets. In some streets in Warri, kiosks are lined from the beginning to the end, thereby destroying the aesthetics value of buildings in that street. To this one again we say no. If you wish to sell, get a shop in the market. The best government can do is to build markets. Whoever refuses to make use of them does that to the detriment of his or her business. No responsible government will close the eyes to that.
On markets…We are not going to start speaking on specifics. Like I told you I know the sensitivity of the people of the area. I’m going there with an open mind. First, we must clear Warri to become a clean environment. And in making it clean environment, we are going to step on toes. You cannot put a beautiful edifice without destroying the bad one that was there. So, we must step on toes and people must be ready to make that sacrifice for Warri to be clean.
For Warri to be that kind of city we are looking forward to, we must eliminate all those street trading, road side trading, all those caravans must go and we must clean the environment of the dirt before we talk of drainage. That will be the first assignment by the grace of God.
Can you please define your position in meeting the expectations of the people?
By the grace of God, their expectations will be met. Let them pray for the state because first, we must ensure that there is peace. We call on the leaders of the area and the youths in particular, to give me and the agency the necessary environment to carry out our functions. Two, we plead with our youths of the Niger Delta to reduce restiveness if not eliminate it so that the state can get money.
The source of money for the whole of this country is through the oil. And once that oil is not flowing from your area, of course your revenue decreases. Because of the restiveness of the Niger delta, particularly the Delta part of it, Delta state went down to number four but today by the grace of God, it’s gone up to number one.
So we need not only to sustain that number one but to increase production because if the governor does not get enough money, you will not expect him to put money into that agency. It is the more money he gets that will encourage him to fund the agency adequately and if the agency is not adequately funded, there is no magic anybody is going to do.
So, for the miracles we are expecting to happen the agency has to be properly funded and for the agency to be properly funded, the governor has to get more money from the federal allocation. And for him to get more money from the federal allocation there must be peace in the oil bearing communities.
In a nutshell…There are machineries we will put on ground. but for now, we are just starting. Like I said, the next three may look like nothing is happening but we will start seeing things happen from October. If we don’t lay a good foundation, we will not know what to do. Nevertheless, Deltans should be ready to make sacrifices to take Warri to the enviable heights that we all envisage. If I were those with illegal structures, I will start relocating before the government comes with their bulldozers. Thank you!