As the Rivers State Government and people celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the epochal creation of the State by General Yakubu Gowon (rtd), on May 27, 1967, to assuage the yearnings of the minorities of Ijaw extraction for identity, justice and freedom, from the dominance of the majority ethnic groups in Nigeria, The Tide Editorial Board sought an assessment of the political leaders of the State, on how well the state has fared among the comity of States and its future prospects. The State Chairman, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Bro Felix Obuah, bares his mind on the performance of the various administrations in the state in this exclusive interview with The Tide’s Acting Editor, Donald Mike-Jaja; Chairman, Editorial Board, Goodluck Ukwe; Group News Editor, Nelson Chukwudi; Political Editor, Victor Tew; Op-Ed/Features Editor, Boye Salau and Political Correspondent, Ike Wigodo, last Wednesday. Excerpts.
We understand that Government is busy ensuring that the ongoing Rivers State at 50 is successful because this government cannot do it the second time, but there are criticisms by others, especially the opposition, who said there is nothing to celebrate. What is your take on this?
Well, what do you expect from the opposition party? They have never seen anything good. They want to criticize at all times, but the good thing remains that this is a government that has gone beyond political lineage, this is a government that has touched lives, this is a government that, within two years, has surpassed the achievements of the past immediate government of wasteful eight years.
We are aware that we need to celebrate so many things, we have our heroes who fought gallantly for the birth of this state. We know where we are coming from and we know where we are today. Before now, we were with the people of Bayelsa, today, Bayelsa was carved out from Rivers State and ever since, you can see the tremendous achievements and development that has cut across the breath and length of the State.
We have to celebrate our heroes. If not for anything, Rivers State produced Miss World within this short time of our existence, Agbani Derego. Fifty years is described as Golden Jubilee even from the Bible, it is a time for celebration and sober reflection.
Let’s talk about the developmental efforts, from where we are prior to this period; we have the entire cause to celebrate. Those who said there is no need to celebrate should think. During his (Amaechi) administration, what did he do?
We are proud that in this administration, within two years, apart from the Golden Jubilee, we have every cause to thank God because Wike has touched lives. Virtually, all the roads in the State are in good shape and wearing a new look. The place was dirty before we took over because the contractors were not paid for six months. All the streets were asking for cleaning, but today, Port Harcourt is gradually returning back to its original status of Garden city. You can see the lighting effects visually in all the streets in Port Harcourt, Security, before now, was serious concern to the people of Rivers State, but today, most of us can sleep with our two eyes closed. We need to celebrate that we have marked 50 years. If individuals who marked 50 years can go at length spend money to celebrate, how much more a State like Rivers.
In spite of our shortcomings, we can say there is need to celebrate when you clock a golden year. We are not celebrating Wike at 50,we are celebrating Rivers at 50, that is why the government of the day has also deemed it necessary to honour our great leaders who fought for the birth of this State and those who have contributed in no means for the development of the State. Wike is not celebrating PDP or himself as a governor, he is celebrating those that have contributed immensely towards the growth of Rivers State. Soon, you will hear more than 100 people that have done one thing or the other, it will showcase our reach culture to the outside world. Rivers people are happy, some do not know that the State is blessed, but with this celebration, it has showcased us to the world.
Would you want to say that Rivers State has achieved its dreams, visions and aspirations?
We are not there but with the likes of our present leader, whom I christened as God-sent, if all the leaders and former governors of this State had done what the present government is doing, I bet you, we would surpass more than expected by our heroes. But, there is one adage that says, when you wake up from sleep is your morning. Now that God has sent a messiah after Rivers people cried to Him, God carefully chose Chief Barrister Nyesom Wike whom I can say God made him governor. Nobody will today say he made Wike governor if not God. Nobody believed or gave him a chance that he will be governor. The former governor said over his dead body will he live to see Wike become governor, but today, he is living and Wike is a governor. That is to say man proposes and God disposes. It is the will of God that Wike will be the governor at this time and celebrate Golden Jubilee. No two governors that will celebrate Golden Jubilee and God has made it to happen at this point in time.
As a matter of fact, Wike has done marvelously well and we appreciate what he has done for the people. We are not yet there, but we are sure to get there by the time this young man finishes his remaining two years. I am sure that our forefathers even those that are dead will rise from the grave and say yes, this is our dream state.
What legacy will prosperity remember this administration for?
So many things. If not for anything, this administration should be remembered for taking governance to God. Many feel that they are there on their own, but this is government that said they build on a foundation of God. Anything the administration is doing, it must put God first, that is why they are surviving. If you see the Pleasure Park, it is something that will live for a very long time. The Ecumenical Centre that will soon be commissioned on 28th, it is something those generations to come will leave with. The unity this government has brought in is something all of us are beginning to appreciate. Before now, you heard upland and riverine dichotomy, but today, we hear of new Rivers State. Wike has a lot to be remembered for. This is two years, by the time the administration comes to an end, you will see what we have achieved. The dichotomy of upland and riverine has been nailed and killed. It is no longer existing today .We only talk about NEW River State.
The governor chooses the best hands irrespective of where the people come from. Before now, nobody would have accepted that Commissioner for Finance is from Ogoni, Secretary to the State Government, Ogoni and Environment Commissioner, Ogoni. Nobody is complaining because these hands are good hands. We speak one language, New Rivers State. Wike has united everybody to know that we are one from one cultural background.
Nigeria returned to democracy since May 29th, 1999. It is 18 years running now uninterrupted. Within this period, PDP has produced all the governors of the State, including the last administration. As the government looks forward towards the next 50 years, do you see PDP retaining power in the next 50 years in Rivers State?
The issue of PDP retaining power in the next 50 years can only be answered by God because power belongs to God. I don’t know if I will still be alive in the next 50 years to know what happens then; I can only talk about now. I will not say about tomorrow because tomorrow belongs to God. We are celebrating 50 years and who told you I will live the next 50 years to know what will happen then. I can tell you for sure, if I live in the next dispensation, PDP will still hold to power in the State because one, our signpost is the good work of Chief Barrister Nyesom Wike, it speaks volumes for themselves, that is our campaign. People have seen that we do not make promises that cannot be fulfilled. It is something one can see and feel. In the Diobu axis, before now, it was no go area, you cannot drive your car there, no business, but today you can see the area is something else. So, nobody in Diobu area will tell you that they have not enjoyed or benefitted from this government. When 2019 comes, I believe, they will be the first to ask the governor to come out and run because of the good work he has done. I can tell you for sure that my children know that by the next dispensation, PDP will retain power because they listen to radio and know what is happening, I can say of today, but not tomorrow, PDP is the best thing that has happened to Nigeria.
When PDP was in government at the centre, let me digress a bit, the Israelis were clamouring for a King and God told them, you don’t need a King. They say, they want to be like other nations, we want to have a King and God gave them what they wanted not what He wanted for them, that was how he gave them Saul to be the King and came in, they saw the difference. They now started regretting, saying if they had known, they would not have requested for a King. PDP did marvelously well for this nation, but at a time, there was a gang-up, conspiracy, even within the house, because some people felt cheated because they did not grab. When Jonathan was busy working for the nation, some persons were interested in their selfish interest, they connived, conspired and ganged up to remove the head and bring him down. God said I have given you a messiah, who will bring good for the people of this nation, but you refused and ganged up against him, I will give you a leader that you wanted. That was why he allowed temporarily APC to come in, so that the people will realise the one I have chosen and the one you wanted. Which is better? When PDP was in power, how much was the last exchange rate of dollar, house rentage, everything. During their campaign, they said no applicant, everybody would be paid, dollar will be one dollar to one naira, bridges will be built in the air and sky, no death any more, they will restore the dead. Many promises were made, people filed in behind them, they fell into the wishes of man. That is why today, we are suffering. If you look at the two, you will know that PDP is of God, APC is of man. So, now you have seen that it is good to allow God’s decision to prevail. You have tried that of God which is PDP and you have tried that of man which is APC, it is left for us to choose.
There is this feeling that Rivers State is PDP and PDP is Rivers State. So, do you see a sustained leadership of the State coming from the PDP?
You have said it all, you said from the inception, this State is of PDP and today, we still have a PDP governor who is still doing well. You do not change a winning team, it is only when leadership fails that you talk about change. But if they are satisfying the yearnings of the people, there is no need to change it. If the editorial team of The Tide is doing well, nobody will say it should be changed rather, they will give them more responsibility. PDP is the answerer. Rivers State is PDP and PDP is Rivers State.
There is this concern by Nigerians that party manifesto has been lacking in Nigeria and that whatever achievements that were made revolved around the charisma and ability of the candidates, not because they are following party manifesto which is supposed to be the guide of the candidates. To that extent, can PDP righteously say whatever is being done in Rivers State is done in line with the manifesto of the party?
I disagree with you. When you talk of party manifestos and candidates, you are talking about two things. We do not have independent candidate now. No leadership emerges without passing through a party and a party has its own manifestos. If you watch closely what Wike is doing and go back to our manifestos and check if it was what Wike promised to the people or not before he came on board. He said if God deliver it for us, we are going to build an altar for the Lord, that is the Ecumenical Centre he is building, if God allows us, from the first day of swearing in, we shall have operation zero potholes. On the 29th, after the inauguration, as he was leaving, he launched the operation zero potholes. Read the party manifestos and see if there is a deviation. If you watch again, the leadership does not do anything outside the budget; each community, senatorial and local government areas are represented in the State Assembly, Senate and House of Representatives. They put it in the budget; it is left for the executive, based on the availability of funds to know the first one to handle. So all that Wike is doing are those things that are in the New Vision. Be informed that some manifestos of political parties are built on fictions and not facts to arouse the interest of the masses. That is the type that is leading us today at the centre; they came with a very big and bogus manifestos that are not achievable. Like I said earlier that they promised to build bridges on air and sky, they will change woman to man and man to woman; these are manifestos that other parties have. That is why we do not believe in them, rather we believe in the truth. The Bible says, ‘only the truth shall set you free’. PDP gives the people the truth. But while we are giving people the truth, the world never wanted it, that was why God allowed what we wanted, for us to learn lessons and realise that He gave us a party that is ordained by God, they chose the one ordained by man. Those ones ordained by man are those bogus manifestos that they are not keeping to. But PDP will continue to follow the manifestos.
Many have commended Wike that he is doing well in the area of infrastructure. Even the Vice President named him Mr Projects and David Mark also acknowledged his good works for the people. Would you say the agriculture sector has received the same attention?
Well, in examinations, you are asked to choose nine subjects. In the course of that, you may score some A, while some B and C. Once you score C, it is considered that you have gotten credit. In terms of infrastructure, Wike has scored A, security, he scored B, in agriculture, he has scored B+. So, we do not expect him to score A+ in all the sectors, what matters is that he has achieved the maximum credit In all, he had scored credit.
There is this belief that every government achieves a lot during the first term in office including the last administration. We know what happened during the first term and what happened during the second term. It is not limited to Rivers State, it cuts across the states. As the chairman of the party and the right hand man of the governor, what assurance will you give Rivers people that if the governor finishes his first term and gets re-elected, he will continue with the current pace?
There is this adage that says, the journey that will be good is known in the morning. From this morning. Wike has done well. His life style is different from others. His managerial ability is quite different from others. Others in their first tenure were affected by godfatherism, but when they realised in the second tenure that they were subjected under somebody throughout the first term, that they were not independent; in the second term, they want to be independent. But Wike is not like that, he is given absolute free hand to rule Rivers State from the first day. He has been tested, trusted and packaged for Rivers people. He is a true son of the soil. His father is from here, mother from here, wife is from here. So, he has no other place to call his own rather than Rivers State. He owes Rivers people a duty to develop the State. So, we are not talking about first tenure and use the second tenure to amass wealth. Wike already is a made man. He is talking about name now, he is one man that lives by his words. We have seen him as council chairman, down to the time he was Minister and now Governor. His antecedent has not shown any doubt that he will change. He will remain who he is till tomorrow. By their fruit, we shall know them. So, if by tomorrow, he is made the President of this country, I tell you, he will not change from whom he is. He is an achiever and wants to leave a legacy that he will be remembered for. If you go to Israel, Dubai and other nations, what gives them money is tourism. We depend so much on oil and forget that tourism is a money spinning venture. The Port Harcourt Pleasure Park will attract foreigners and this man does not play politics with projects. He has brought in the best hands in terms of construction to handle Rivers State as a project site. Let’s pray for Wike that the second tenure will come to pass and you will know that there is a difference between him and others.
Would you advise the governor to change some of his aides that are not performing well for better stewardship?
Wike’s aides did not contest election. Aides are not tenured, they are help maids. So, any one he deems necessary is no longer living up to expectations, he has all the constitutional rights to change them. I still feel that it is a collective effort. No person will claim he knows it all or is paragon of ideas. Any success recorded by Wike’s administration is a collective responsibility by him and his aides.
will come on board. That is why we are very patient.