Until his enlistment
into the long list of governorship aspirants under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atamuno Ajubo Atamuno was a relatively quiet philanthropist not given to partisan politics. But when he finally emerged, many realised that he indeed meant business.
That business is to contribute to the well-being of the thoroughly impoverished Rivers people in general, and men and women of his immediate constituency the Okrika speaking Ijaws of Rivers State. To be seen as a serious contender, an aspirant under the PDP, according to him, would require an initial investment of N100 million.
This covers, office structures, logistics, contact and mobilization and indeed initial campaign financing. Others are collection of Expression of Intent form, N1 million, Nomination form N11 million, State Administration fee N3 million and South/South Zonal office fee N2 million.
After all these, what was his impression regarding inta-party democracy and what options are left for him, was a question The Tide posed to him. His answer was simply ‘awful.’
Atamuno is an apostle of zoning of political offices for equity, unity and political integration. It is his belief that Rivers State in 1999 experienced relative political peace within the PDP on account of the fact that the founding fathers of the party willingly ceded the governorship slot to the upland part of the state, which led to the emergence of Dr. Peter Odili.
After eight years, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi who succeeded Odili is also from the upland of Ikwerre ethnic extraction.
This makes it unacceptable for another uplander, not to mention an Ikwerre son to succeed Amaechi as flag bearer in the 2015 gubernatorial elections.
Atamuno described as bad political calculation the emergence of Chief Nyesom Wike as flagbearer of the PDP, saying it will be a burden on the party, as it was likely to engineer protest votes. “How do you explain to the average Ijaw voter in the state that he will be denied political power at the governorship level for 24 years? Atamuno wondered.
So what are the options left for him? Atamuno said he expects the National leadership of the PDP to properly address the issues raised by all the aspirants and undertake a broad-based reconciliation to ensure that all aggrieved stakeholders are pacified and reunited behind an eventual flagbearer.
“Afterall there can only be one candidate of the party”.
But if that is not done, he warned, just as some have defected to other parties, many more would follow suit. Although, he said, not all the governorship aspirants are serious individuals, some of them can make a change that could impact on the party’s fortunes.
Atamuno said he had no personal quarrel with Nyesom Wike, but thinks that the succession of an Ikwerre man by yet another Ikwerre son, is poor political calculation. Besides, the process of Wike’s emergence through the total colonisation of the party structure, according to him, made it difficult for anyone to enjoy a level playing ground.
“Using party structure to close-out other aspirants and winning the primary is one thing and using that same capacity to win the general elections is another challenge.
What Atamuno expects the eventual PDP primaries’ winner and the party leadership to do is to carry out an all-embracing reconciliation of all aggrieved aspirants and not pick and choose stooges to speak for others.
Atamuno, who is the facilitator of the Rivers Mandate Group and Okrika Cultural Foundation said his primary concern is to contribute meaningfully to the development of the people, especially of the indigent youth Rivers in the state in general and his local government area, Okrika in particular.
Whether he succeeds in his political ambition to become governor or not, he would continue to pursue that mission. Already, as many as 120 young men and women have responded to his call to obtain free JAMB forms for enrolment into tertiary institutions.
Out of this number, 20 will be granted automatic scholarship if they succeed in gaining admission into universities to read Engineering, Law, Political Science and Accountancy. According to him, this number will be reviewed upwards annually and expanded to include many more disciplines.
Atamuno identified a lull of competent manpower as responsible for the engagement of foreigners and non-indigenes by multi-national firms operating in the state. This is not healthy and needs to be tackled in time, to avoid major youth protest in the future.
Atamuno said he was discussing with foreign firms over the possibility of coming to Rivers State to invest in the marine construction sector. With two such investments, graduate unemployment within the area, he said will be wiped out completely. “If two such companies start operations in the Okrika axis of the state, unemployment of the youth of the area would have been eliminated completely.
Charity, he said begins at home, and hopes to target the Okrika youth in particular and those of Rivers State in general as the focal group of his development initiatives.
That feeling, he said accounted for his involvement in the formation of Okrika Cultural Foundation, non-political pressure group that has pioneered the development of the Okrika Language, through the sponsorship of various events, seminars, symposia and revival of indigenous Okrika language programme on Radio Rivers FM.
Atamuno, an International Business mogul with offices in Asia, Europe, and the Americas, said his preference to assist the needy was indeed deliberate. “I have seen poverty. I have tasted it. I have fought poverty. And I can tell you, it is not easy.
According to him, he had tried his hands in many ventures, including buying and selling detergents in the open Lagos market and streets to break even. Such travails with-out support can never be easy and was not.
That is why he has chosen education as a choice of investment to assist the needy and indigent write JAMB and gain admission into universities. With the free JAMB initiative and scholarships for successful candidates, Atamuuno hopes him, empower young men and women to pursue their dreams.
These, according to hi, form part of the compelling reasons for his enlistment into the roll of governorship aspirants within the PDP. And because he is very passionate about it, nothing would stop his poverty alleviation programmes with or without his emergence as governor of Rivers State.
Soye Wilson Jamabo