We’ve Every Reason To Celebrate – Obuah


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. Our photographer, Ibioye Diama captured the scenes.  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, perhaps the opposition, who argue that 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 leaning. 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, but since 1996, Bayelsa has been 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 were 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 as 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 mark 50 years can go at length to 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 small meansure 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 yet, 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 surpassed 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  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 any 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 thegovernor. 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 a government that said they will 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  May 28, (yesterday). It is something those generations to come will live with. The unity this government has brought in is something all of us are beginning to appreciate. Before now, you heard of 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 Rivers 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 on to power in the state because one, our signpost is the good works of Chief Nyesom Wike, there speak 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. When he 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 God had chosen and the one they wanted. Which is better? When PDP was in power, how much was the last exchange rate of dollar, house rent, 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 PDP governor who is still doing well. You do not change a willing 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 answer. 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 revolve 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 rather than character of the principal actor involved?
I disagree with you. When you talk of party manifestos and candidates, you are talking about two things. We do not have independent candidates now. No leadership emerges without passing through a party, and a party has its own manifesto. If you watch closely what Wike is doing, and go back to our manifesto and check if it was what Wike promised to the people or not before he came on board. He said if God delivers him for us, we are going to build an altar for the Lord, that is the Ecumenical Centre he is building. He said, 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 manifesto and see if there is a deviation. If you watch again, the leadership does not do anything outside the budget; communities, 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 Rivers 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 manifesto that is 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 agricultural sector has received the same attention?
Well, in examinations, you are asked to chose 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 has 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 in the first term and what happened in 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 realized 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 has been 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 enmass 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 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 fruits, 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 doing 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 a paragon of ideas. Any success recorded by Wike’s administration is a collective responsibility by him and his aides.
Governor Wike, a few days ago, alerted that the Federal Government has abandoned Rivers State, and this has been like this over the years. What is your take on this?
Well, when you say the governor said the state was abandoned by the Federal Government, it is an understatement. Primate Nicholas Oko of the Anglican Communion also said he went to Bonny and  vowed never to go there again, that the people are suffering, that these are the places that have been feeding this nation, and advised whoever that is concerned to ensure that there is a bridge to link the area with Port Harcourt. Was it Wike that said that? That tells you that the Pharaoh that knows Joseph is not the one that handles authority. If the Pharaoh that knows Joseph comes on board, there is no way Rivers State will be jettisoned. I come from Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area, a small island that is feeding the nation, but you cannot talk about any federal presence there. But we believe in God that one day, the Pharaoh that knows Joseph will come on board. That is why we are very patient. Rivers State, and indeed, the Niger Delta are supposed to be seen as the most developed area in this nation, because of the natural endowment God has deposited in our soil. But we believe that at the right time, we shall get our share. In the state of things, we are not being treated fairly. Look at the East-West Road, look at our airport, tell me any federal projects in the state that you will say is fully completed or functioning well? The Federal High Court, the state intervened because it saw how it was congested. It was a death trap. Instead of the Federal Government building good structures there, the state is now building and donating to the Federal Government. This is the type of leader we have, whom we say is a messiah. Federal Government should live up to expectations.
The PDP is factionalised now and is expecting a judgment from the Supreme Court; do you think, after the judgment, the party will remain one united family?
Well, there are movements. As we have mobility of movement, human beings also move. Who are those called APC, they all came from PDP. Anybody who is aggrieved will definitely move out if he so wishes. I cannot tell you that after the judgement either way, that everybody will be the same. Some people from APC are looking forward to come back to PDP, while some who are not PDP want to come to PDP. I am receiving new members daily to PDP. You can see the number I have received in PDP. So, after the judgement, people who will come in will come, and people who will move out will do so. What matters most is that PDP has come to stay.
Are you comfortable remaining the sole administrator of  RIWAMA? And secondly, the governor recently raised alarm over the new cult group that  is allegedly being recruited by the former governor, Chibuike Amaechi, to cause harm in the state. What is your response to this, and how do you think this matter should be addressed?
I am comfortable as the RIWAMA sole administration. It is a call to service. The governor needed somebody who has the capacity, zeal and love of the people. When we came in, there was no road, dirth all over the places, Rivers State was polluted, the state was a garbage city, no longer a Garden City, the governor shaded tears after inauguration as he was driving pass the streets of the state capital, the service providers because they were being owed for six months, abandoned their work. You know that wastes are generated daily and every second, so, if it is not cleaned for a day, it will be difficult to pass there. It is like what happened in the Bible, ‘there was war in the heaven, God said whom will I send, He was looking for a good hand to deliver His people, that was how He beaconed on Moses to lead the people of Israel. That is how Wike was looking for a good hand to manage RIWAMA, and he beckoned on the chairman to do the job. It is a collective responsibility. We came to deliver Rivers people together. The first assignment is that cleanliness is next to Godliness. Before we talk of food and others, our environment must be clean. This was the first assignment, he called me to serve. it may not be the best for me, but I see it as a call to service. I am happy in any position that is given me to serve. Oko said, ‘be a servant leader’. If he appoints me today as a messenger of the Rivers State Newspaper Corporaton, I will happily go and serve. I am happy doing the job. I have passion for it, any job given me to do, I do it with passion. I travel with my football team, “Go Round Football Team” to most of their away matches, because I have passion for it. Some ask how do I survive managing a Professional League side as a private man, I say it is passion. Not everybody would like to invest in human development, but my motto remains: ‘Service to humanity and God’.
The second question, we are aware the stock in trade of Amaechi and his co- horts are feeding on cult- related groups. Show me your friend, and I will tell you who you are. Some persons where stripped naked in the university for cultism, some said they won elections in Ogoni area, their antecedent, some who came on air and asked people to carry guns, now we are through with elections, keep it, it was there in the media. We know, we have to shout so that people would be aware of it. Some have taken amnesty, some said they cannot be fooled all the time and decided to drop their arms and embrace peace. So, they are not comfortable, and are recruiting more people to cause disaffection in the state. But they will fail because this government is built on God.
As we mark Rivers at 50, what is your message to Rivers people, and the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation (The Tide)?
We should embrace peace and see everybody as one. We should work towards achieving the dreams of our fore fathers. Nobody should kill themselves because of power because power belongs to God. There is no power that will be except ordain by God. We should not kill ourselves because we want to clinch to power. Lets allow God to prevail in our lives. Lets unite as one body, lets unite and work for the overall development of Rivers State, lets unite and see how we can bring development to Rivers State rather than cause violence ans insecurity. Lets unite and bring investors one purpose: development and love for one other.
The Tide should move out from its present status. They should work hard to circulate beyond Niger Delta, and to compete favorably with other national papers. It should not be seen as only Rivers State newspaper but go beyond. Its reporting should not be only political, they should move away from that, and engage in investigative journalism. It should work more on investigating. They should move away from eye service because their work is very important. Without communication, everybody is blind. They should develop the vision to upgrade, and I wish before the end of this administration, The Tide will be circulating in the North, West and South-East of Nigeria.