Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike in a Special Appearance on Channels Television Sunrise Daily talks on the forthcoming elections, disqualification of Rivers APC to participate in the polls and sundry national issues.
On the disqualification of APC candidates in Rivers State, Is it possible that when it gets to appeal, it will turn things around?
It cannot be turned around. The law that we practise today is that they did not have any lawful primaries.
What happened is that we felt that, look, you have to comply with the provisions of the law and of course if you look at Section 71 of the Electoral Act and then Section 66(b) and Section 221, Section 106(d) and Section 176 of 1999 constitution as amended, what we merely did was to look for interpretation, that look, for you to sponsor candidate for election, there must be a valid or lawful primaries. And so, if a court has said that APC did not conduct a lawful or valid primaries and should not participate in the general election, so, we are not talking about any case of APC candidate. No, we are talking about the compliance with the provisions of the law.
So, your case wasn’t the APC. Why did you go to court?
We are not talking about candidate of APC, we are talking about what the law says. The law says, you must comply with certain provisions for you to participate in the general election. And the law says look, this party did not comply with the provisions of the law, and therefore, INEC if this party has not complied with the provisions of the law, can they still be recognized to participate in the 2019 general election? And this is what is provided in the Fourth Alteration of the 1999 constitution, No:21, Act 2017, which says that a political party can challenge INEC if INEC is not complying or carrying out what they are supposed to do. And that is why we came into.
But, if this was any other political party, will the PDP have gone to court?
If there is any other political party that has not complied with the provisions of the law and we know, of course, we will do this same thing. There is no special thing about it. We have complied, we have carried out our valid and lawful primaries, and so, we expect you as a political party to also comply. And if you don’t comply, you cannot participate with us.
So, the APC is challenging the competence of the law here. How do you view that?
But, we went to court merely for interpretation. But, you ask yourself, what type of interpretation? As we are saying, an interpretation of section 87 of the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended, section 221 sub-section 65(2b), section 106(b) and section 176 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic as amended, whether APC being a political party seeking to nominate or sponsor candidates for the 2019 general elections into this offices, they are entitled to nominate or sponsor, without having a valid or lawful primaries for its aspirants. The court should Interpret this sections of the law of the Electoral Act and the constitution. Two, in view of the electoral act and the constitution, can INEC still allow APC to participate in view of the fact that they have not complied with the provisions of the electoral act and the constitution of not having a valid and lawful primaries. Thirdly, in view of the judgement of the State High Court that nullified the primaries of APC, which means there were no primaries abinitio. Having nullified the primaries, can they still be allowed to feature in the 2019 election. Now, what is your own contention? Their contention is that, look, these are internal affairs of the party, that PDP has no business. But, we said no. It has gone beyond internal affairs of the party. We are not interested on who become your candidate, we are talking about you complying with the provisions of the law. At least, do comply with the provisions of the law and if you are not allow to participate. We are not saying that this should be your candidate. That is not our business. And in doing that, we came under, if you look our judgement of the Supreme Court. Look at page 16 of the judgement of the court. And it is important for people to understand not just necessarily when you hear story, you say, oooh, PDP took APC to court.
Remember, on the 10th of October, 2018, the State High Court nullified the primaries of Now, also remember that there purported candidate, Tonye Cole sort means to apply to appeal that judgement as an interested party, because as at that time, he was not a party in the matter. Also, remember that there so called party Chairman who is a wanted person by the court who is suppose to be facing multiple murder trial so applied for leave to appeal that judgement, and in doing that, on the 23 of December, 2018. But if you look at the Fourth Alteration, No:21 Act of 2017, it allows that; once it is a pre-election, you must apply or you must appeal within 14 days the judgement is given. And the judgement was giving on the 10th of October and the so called candidate for the APC and their chairmanship candidate in quote applied after 23 days in which case, they applied out of time. Now, when they go to Court of Appeal, the man of the other side of the APC, filed a motion to say look, if the appeal filed, is incompetent. Why, because the judgement that was given was a content judgement and therefore they did not seek leave of court before the appeal and two that even those who are seeking to join to appeal, they have done that after the time, and therefore their appeals are defective.And the Court of Appeal presided over by Justice A, Abubakar said yes, it was out of time and that appeal was struck out. And the main appeal patterning the judgement of the 10th of October was dismissed on the ground that they didn’t seek leave since it was a consent judgement. Therefore, the judgement of the 10th of October giving by by the State High Court is still valid. They have appealed to Court of Appeal and lost. Now, what do we do as a party, we say look, if there were no primaries as heard by the court, can INEC still allow these people to still participate in the general election? It cannot allow them.
And part of the argument also is that at this point, the contest for your party to have come in at this stage has a missing link because they haven’t participated in an election with the person contesting against me.
No. That is not correct. First of all, every person who has that view does not know what the law said. Now, you have gone to court, court has given judgement. Whichever way you look at it, rightly or wrongly. What you have to say is that this was the facts of the case, or this judgement was that, these were not the issue, the judgement was judge beyond this and that, I don’t see it like that. And they went to appeal that judgement and they lost. Right now, look at what we are talking about. The law about us, we say no, we say section 285(14) of the 1999 constitution, fourth alteration No.21 Act 2017, says as follows; for the purpose of the section, pre-election matters means, any suit by; (1) an aspirant who complain that any of the provisions of the electoral act or any act of the National Assembly regulating the conduct of primary of political parties and provisions regarding to political parties for conducting party primaries have not been complied with by the political party in respect of the selection or nomination of primaries of elections; (2) an aspirant challenging the actions, decisions activities. Look at were we come in, (3) a political party challenging the actions, decisions or activities of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, disqualifying it’s candidate from participating in an election or a complain that the provisions of the electoral act or any other applicable law has not been complied with by the nomination of candidate of political party for an election time table, for election, registration of voters and other activities. So, we are a political party, and we are saying that, look APC has not complied with the provisions of the electoral act by holding valid and lawful primaries, and haven’t comply with that, you cannot with this qualify to participate in the 2019 election as far as this offices are concern.
But they have an option?
No, the point am saying is that, so when you say that PDP is an interloper. No, the court gives us that opportunity. As political party, we can say that INEC, this particular party in sponsoring it’s candidate did not comply with the provisions of the electoral act and the provisions of the constitution now.
Was there any intention that they were going to field candidates when the court has ruled otherwise that warranted your going to court?
First of all, we are members of the public. I know the court nullified their primaries and I want them not to participate in that election, which means that you cannot be part of what we are doing because you have failed to comply with what the law said that would enable you to sponsor candidates. So, it is not for him to say why should I not wait until after the election.
Your Excellency, there is concern that it’s as if the PDP sat back and was looking for avenues to underscore the activities of the APC considering they are afraid of war.
With all due respect, is there any election in the state that you will say APC has defeated PDP. Mention one.
What about the APC senators?
You want us to say what happened. You know and that is the more reason we accuse INEC and the security agencies. Take for example, INEC declared PDP candidate as the winner of the election and INEC certified result sheet. Then the APC went to tribunal. Police tendered original sheet of INEC. How did the police have the original result sheet. Police has original sheet, INEC also have.
But the matter got to court?
The point I am making. INEC has not even ask themselves question. We have the original sheet, how didÁ the police also have the original. There cannot be two originals. Which means, they compromised by printing two originals by giving one to police.
Was this one proven?
Well, we don’t criticize the judiciary. Once judgement is given, we abide by it. But what we are saying, it has never happened. That where a police report will be accepted above that of INEC and we don’t want that mistake to continue to happen. You can’t sit down and continue to complain.
It is not APC that seems to suggest to everybody that what you will do. But you have raised issues concerning security of the state especially leading up to the elections. And now that from every submission, the APC seems partly out of the game. That gives you free room to continue and there will be peace before, during and after the election.
Answer: No. In fact, let me tell you. All of us we know what APC had planned and it is in the public domain that APC does not want election in Rivers State. They will cause crisis so that the election will not take place the day other elections were supposed to take place in other states so that they will be able to bring in security to overcome the state and manipulate as they did in Osun State.
But, how do you justify that?
But it happened when we had a bye election. We all saw what happened. Just a bye election of state constituency. 122 units within the city and not even in rural area. The police aided the process. The electoral Commissioner from Akwa Ibom State who was one of those who came to supervise the election said he could not believe how APC aided by security carted away electoral materials. Unknown to them, he saw everything. I called the Commissioner of Police then, fortunately he is gone, Zaki Ahmed, I said I can’t believe this.
But isn’t this an attempt to get the APC out of the election, so that you can have fill.
No, it’s an attempt to put things right so that you must comply with the provisions of the law. It has come to the point that people will not keep quiet . Now, let me tell you, Buruji went to court against PDP, Buruji got judgement against PDP at the Federal High Court. INEC wrote to PDP that they are going to comply and uphold the judgement by the Federal High Court even though that Adetutu and his team had gone to the Court of Appeal. That is To tell you that INEC has various interpretations. Now, because it is PDP, INEC wrote they would comply the judgement of court.
Now, when its primaries of APC, the lawyers of the other faction write to INEC that you cannot recognize the candidates because the court has nullified the primaries, abinito, there are no candidates, so you cannot. You know what INEC did; INEC wrote to APC notifying them for their information of such a judgement, not telling them that they will comply. But for PDP, INEC wrote to PDP that they are going to comply with the judgement; that they are going to make sure that the judgement is implemented. But, when it was on APC, INEC wrote to APC notifying them that look there is such a judgement.
So, this is about the mode of operation of INEC?
That is why people don’t have confidence in them. If you look at the letter they wrote to APC on 22nd of November, 2018, they merely say that we are in receipt of this judgement from a man called Henry Bello informing us that this is the judgement of court and you must comply and therefore, they are now sending it to them for their own knowledge.
But His Excellency, what about Zamfara, INEC immediately told APC
No, it’s a different thing. It’s like you don’t also understand. Whose interest? Who are those who are saying that APC do not have candidates in Zamfara State? What they were saying is that there were no primaries in Zamfara State.
Even though they have gone to court to challenge it.
Look at the interpretation, when there are judgments against PDP, immediate enforcement and complied, when there are judgments against APC, we are studying the judgements. I am giving you an instance, a practical one. It happened at Ogun State. We expected INEC as an unbiased umpire, having done the same thing with PDP in the case of Ogun State, that the same thing has happened to APC, we are going to comply with the judgement. They did not do that, what they did was notifying them about the judgement, so you can now see.
Is it about the Senatorial election?
Yes, whether you like it or not, how come you have two original result sheets? How come that you as the person conducting the election, you have the original result sheet, all other people are supposed to have duplicates, the accredited copies, the green copy and the rest of them. Police will have copy of all that, the agents will have copies of all that. Now, INEC certified their original copy and under, what happened, police went and certified their own original. The question I am asking is that INEC, what’s going on? How come, was it that you printed two originals, is it supposed to be so?
How do you know the court done that?
Is you that say. Look, yes, we have gotten your complaint. We are worried about it, we can assure you that, that will not happen again. We want you to reassure the people, instead of you to keep quiet. How did they get the same serial number of the original of INEC and the same of the police. It means that they have gotten two originals and we must have to work at it. Look, let me tell you and that is what we are saying, if somebody lets you that this election is going to be free and fair, please, no, no, INEC cannot deceive me.
We are saying the court judgement in Rivers State now about APC, but you know some members are not going to participate, at this stage is going to be difficult for the APC to get to the court of Appeal and Supreme Court and sort itself and get a candidate.
No, no. it’s not correct. They have already got to the Court of Appeal and lost, they have appealed to the Supreme Court. What the court did was to give the intricacy of the judgement of the High Court. That was all.
But the party is still going to appeal?
It’s the same thing. What we are saying is that look, based on the judgement that nullified the primaries which means, there was no valid primaries or lawful primaries as it were and therefore, if there is no valid or lawful primaries, you cannot participate in the general election.
Then for those who feel that if you say that you have participated in several elections with the APC and won them, why then do you go to court and want them out of this election.
No, it’s not me wanting them not to participate , it’s you not complying with the law. If you’ve gone to participate in an election, the law says, for you to participate in it, you must do this, and I have complied and for you to participate, you must do this, you must do that, did I say don’t comply. Why do people say it is me that has caused their problem?
What happens to their supporters?
There must be other options. Support any other parties. We have no quarrel about that. What we are saying is that look, for you, you refused to comply with the law . If we will comply, you must comply.
But, we know how politics is in Rivers State, what if at the end of the day, you have a lot of protestations and perhaps because of some sort of stalemate elections don’t hold as scheduled, would that not affect you?
Do you know part of the ground plan is to make sure election did not hold at the same time with other states. That is the background design with the collaboration with of security agencies.
Who is making the back ground plan?
The APC and the government. You all know. With all due respect, the new Commissioner of Police came to pay me a courtesy call and he said he will be professional. And I said, please, please I am tired of this professionalism. All I want you to do for us is, fight crime, fight cultism, fight kidnapping, but don’t tell me you will not come here and side APC. Don’t tell me that story. I don’t require that, I am not going to sleep for you to tell me that you’re going to be neutral. How?
Did he tell you that he is going to be neutral?
He said so, but even at that, I will tell him, you don’t make me to go and sleep to tell me you are going to be neutral.
We believe that there are going to be security challenges in the state, but that challenges is now politician?
No, no, no. Right from day one, that is what they have attributed the security threat to. Look, let me tell you something, I know you are aware people invaded the court, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN said that matter must be investigated. You are aware. Has police investigated that matter uptil today? Because they know that people invaded the court, the temple of justice. Uptil today, the police has not investigated that. I was watching the News , the President was standing when they were giving flags to their so called candidates. The so called APC Chairman whom the court had declared wanted for multiple murder trial was standing where the President of the country was standing. A person declared wanted by the court for multiple murder trial. The police gave him security movement, the police has been ordered to arrest the man for the murder trial, yet the man is moving with security. What is that telling you? Are you tell me to sit down? Take for example, I am a sitting governor for Christ sake, no Chief of Army staff can say I have ever one day since I became a governor requested for a soldier . I don’t need it. But you see those politicians, you are sitting here, you see them with troops of soldiers moving about. And I said what is going on in this country. We have reduced ourselves to the point that ordinary politicians, you see platoon of soldiers moving with them.
When they were in opposition, didn’t your party use them?
It’s not correct. I challenge you. You know it is not easy. Assuming it was so, though not correct. If it was so, and you say you want to make it change, do you think you must continue with that pattern? If you are saying that you are giving a change, these things were not done right till now and then instead of you to change that, you are continuing with that, so, where is the change?
You are saying that the process is not going to work out, that the elections are going to be compromised. Why do you say that the election is going to be compromised?
Now, let me tell you something. You remember the 6th division created. The headquarters of the 6th division is here in Port Harcourt. Then I hear they have a new GOC. Rivers State government played a major role to commence that 6th division. Rivers State government played a major role in terms of providing accommodation and the rest of them. Do you know that as I sit here, the so called GOC who is sitting in my own state, where we have provided them virtually everything for them for the 6th division to take off, he has gone to visit my colleague in Akwa-Ibom State, he has gone to visit Delta State. Do you know that the GOC has never deemed it necessary to pay a courtesy call on the Governor of the state where the headquarters of the division is?
Isn’t it that professional?
Is that professional? That courtesy demands that you cannot pay a courtesy visit on the seat of government. . If they are posting, they say he must report to the Ministry of Transportation first, if it come to CP, you must report there first. When the last Commissioner of Police, Zaki Ahmed was going, I said, I told you, they are going to use you and dump you at the appropriate time. They sent one Cross River boy here, a Brigadier General who came and carried out the functions he was instructed by the army headquarters on our Neighborhood security. What happened, Neighborhood security was a creation of law. We were not the first state that started this community policing. We took it from Lagos State. Police and DSS are not members of the board. Here, we included them members of the board. In order to go far those that we employed were to be trained by the security agency. And so, during this period, they got approval to go to NYSC camp, government camp, federal government camp for training. They wrote to Nigerian Army to send instructors and they acknowledged, they wrote to police, they wrote to the DSS, then people were all there. What happened, they sent the soldiers to chase everybody away that we are training militia. You train militia in government camp? You train militia by writing to the army to send instructors, you train militia by writing the DSS and police. No, the Brigadier General, he was very happy and when he invaded the camp. After completing the assignment, he has been sent to Kontagora. He is from Cross River State. When he was leaving, he wanted to see me I said no, I don’t see agents of satan. Now look what happened in Edo State, the army were there, look at what happened in Kogi State. Come to Rivers State, which was a creation of law, then you came to say we are creating militia. The point we are saying, they cannot deceive me. So you are sitting here and you see a GOC who believes that he has a specific assignment.
Why do you come to that conclusion?
Is not that I got to a conclusion. It’s very clear. First of all he ensured that by making sure that Neighborhood Watch does not exist, that is the politics. Two, he came to a state where you have the headquarters and you don’t know that courtesy demands you must pay respect to the authority that I am the new GOC, I am here now. And you want to tell me that nothing is going on.
Is it possible for Rivers State to have a peaceful elections.
I have always say that INEC and Security are the cause of violence Rivers State. People say politicians are the ones causing trouble, which is not true. If I come to you for example to do what is unlawful, must you do it? I go to INEC and say INEC come and do this for me, are you under any obligation to do it?
Assuming they do?
We Rivers people are always very peaceful, law abiding. The only time we have crisis is when we see the electoral umpire being biased and and the security operatives trying to manipulate the freedom of a political party which we will continue to resist.
Is it a political party or individual politicians within a party?
APC are in power right, the security apparatus is working for them. For Instance, they called the IG and say there is no way as a government at the center, we cannot control one of the states in the south south . Therefore we are looking at Akwa-Ibom and Rivers State, make sure you work out the modalities. As a good IG, you will say sir, I have no role to play but my role is to make sure we protect people to vote. As a Governor some many people have come to me, why don’t you go have a deal with the Federal Government so that you will have your way smoothly . But why would I do? Must I be a Governor forever?
Does the peace accord mean anything to your party?
That is a ceremony . I don’t like those ceremonies. All those things are mere public display.
You don’t dance to it?
As an individual no. This Peace Accord doesn’t work. Truly if you want us to have non violent elections, those to sign the peace accord are INEC and security agencies because they are the ones that create the environment for violence. If INEC doesn’t support APC and do their job for example, would there be crisis?
You believe that there is no sincerity of purpose from government to ensure that….
Infact I was shocked and surprised that the President refused to sign the electoral act into law. I remember vividly in my matter when we went to court, the Supreme Court acknowledged that the card reader is an innovation and it will help us to move to the next stage of our election process . But it is not backed up by law. Therefore, there is now need to amend the electoral act to bring this card reader that will in a way reduce the level of fraud . Now the legislature has come up with a law to authenticate the card reader, you refused to sign it. A process that you said helped you to win election.
He didn’t say that he’s opposed to the card reader
That the President has refused to sign the electoral act is purely to manipulate the 2019 election. All of us know. It is not about coming to television to tell me you will create a legacy of free and fair elections, when you have refused to sign what will enable us to have free and fair elections.
The President gave his reasons
With all due respect, it is not correct. The National Assembly corrected the electoral act after the presidency complained. The second time, you complained that the National Assembly mixed up issues and the interpretations will be difficult. What is your business? That is why there is always an amendment.
But the Card Reader is there?
It is not backed by law. What is there is manual. The law said it is manual. All these things Mahmoud is saying is neither there nor here. INEC guideline cannot take the place of the law.
Why did you terminate the contract and concessions of Subsidiaries for Sahara Energy ?
When will you do it that It will not be political? In 2015, we set up a commission of inquiry, they came up with a white paper report and indicted the former Governor. He went to court, lost at the High court and Court of Appeal. He refused to file his brief at that Supreme Court and we filed that the Appeal should be struck out for onward prosecution and he went and filed his brief. The Attorney General said we should begin to implement the White paper because there is no stay for us not to implement the White paper then the Attorney General died. Having buried him, we appointed a new Attorney General and he needs time to study it and having studied it he said we can go ahead and start implementing the white paper. So even if you do it after election, it will still be because the man contested against you.
Those Demarketing Rivers Should Stop Spreading Falsehood -Sophia
Only recently, the Rivers State Ministry of Information and Communications orgainsed an essay competition for students in the State as part of the second phase of the advocacy campaign of #Our StateOurResponsibility, aimed at changing the negative narrative about the State.
The first prize winner of the competition, Miss Oyibo Sophia Awajibenem, now the Ambassador of the programme and the face of the Information and Communications Ministry for three months, is truly passionate about advancing the frontiers of the campaign.
In this encounter with our General Manager, Ernest Chinwo and Group News Editor, Victor Tew, she dwells extensively on the imperatives of potraying the state in its true positive status, given the giant strides of the state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, and many more.
Could you please, tell us about yourself?
I am Oyibo Sophia Awajibenem from Ngo in Andoni Local Government Area. I am 18 years old. I am a public health student. I reside in Port Harcourt.
I school at Port Harcourt Joint Professional Training and Support International Institute.
I am the Ambassador of the Rivers State Ministry of Information and Communications. I am patriotic and ready to achieve more success.
I will like to further my education in order to become a Medical Doctor.
How do you intend to go about that in terms of resources and all that?
It is by being studious. By going out there to read and gain information, do my research and also being focused. The determination in me will keep me focused
Why did you participate in the essay competition orgainsed by the Rivers State Ministry of Information and Communications on the advocacy programme tagged. #OurStateOur Responsibility?.
I did it because I love the vision of #OurState OurResponsibility. I deemed it fit to participate to promote our State as an individual and also as a youth.
What really spurred you into partaking in the essay competition? Is it because of the pecuniary benefit attached to it or an altruistic concern to change the narrative of the State?
Firstly, I never saw the competition as a challenge. I just wanted to write the truth. I wanted to make known what I felt was what we as individuals, as the State should do.
I wanted to spread the love. It is not just about your personal benefit or your personal need. It should go around, it is collective.
What was the major attraction to you?
I don’t want to use the word major because I saw just the Ambassadorial duty. First to be the Ambassador of the ministry before I ever read down to see that there was a cash prize attached to it. I wasn’t concerned about the cash prize, I was concerned about being an Ambassador. I wanted to represent that and that was the goal.
When you submitted your essay and was shortlisted, how did you feel?
I felt overwhelmed, this is where the trust comes in. They should know who we are personally and believe in us, that it is actually from within. I had to go there, to do what I had to do because it was not something that was forged, it is the passion in letting people know. So I felt appreciated by that means.
OurStateOur Responsibility. How do you see it?
It is a vision. It is telling us that we have roles, obligations, duties to perform in the state. When we say #OurStateOur Responsibility, it includes everyone. We are the State, we are the government and that responsibility is what we have to render to the state.
Well, there was a statement credited to you in your essay. You did say that you remembered a piece by Erekosima.What did you think about that piece?
The piece by Boma Erekosima is a motivation. It is what inspired me to write, to participate in the essay writing. It actually spelt out my essay. That piece was a summary of what I wrote.
Can you recount it?
Love Rivers State or leave her alone, don’t pull us down, see what you can do for us, engage yourself in meaningful activities, no room for gossip and do something meaningful.
How does it relate to us, the youths of today, our politicians, those who are trying to pull the State down and those who don’t have the interest of the State?
When we say we should love the State, it means that we should love ourselves, everything about the State, we shouldn’t be into propaganda, we shouldn’t spread rumours, flasehood. We should appreciate the fact that our State is improving. We should see the progress, we shouldn’t just vandalise those things that have been provided for us. We should use them as resources. We shouldn’t be idle because an idle man is the devil’s workshop.
We should grab opportunities, work with them and make them a success.
We find our youth involved in anti-social activities. So, what is your message to youths of Rivers State?
There is no benefit in doing things that are irrelevant. We should put our vision where it will benefit everyone, it should not just be personal. Don’t do things that are illegal. Grab opportunities that will promote the nation, that way, we all can grow.
How do you think the youths can be detached from being used as political thugs and all that?
If they are given proper knowledge about the consequences of the things they indulge in, I feel that it will bring them to the consciousness that they are better off than being thugs. Proper orientation of being good in the society to be leaders of tomorrow. That way, they will see the bright side of it and focus on good visions in promoting theState.
If you are asked to draw up a sensitisation programme for youths, how would you go about it?
I will start with an orientation or a sensitisation programme because it does not just start like that. You make them understand, you bring them to their notice and do a follow up. When you tell somebody about something, as you let them be, you are not really convinced that you are passing the message to them. You have to follow them up, bring up situations and platforms that will ensure that they are actually rooted in being successful.
As the face of the state Ministry of Information and Communications programme: #Our State Our Responsibility, what would you like to do?
As an Ambassador, I am an advocate of something, an advocate of the vision, #OurState Our Responsibility. I am here to start a programme to enlighten the youths about the good opportunities that abound in the State and to make our leaders know that we are not lazy and we have talents and if only we are given the platform to showcase them, we will do better.
It is something that we as youths have to bring out the best in us.
OurStateOur Responsibility, how do you see it?
It is a vision. #OurStateOur Responsibility is a vision that is telling us that we have roles, obligations and duties to perform in the State and when we say #OurStateOur Responsibility, it is not just one person, it is everybody in the State.
Some politicians in a bid to score some cheap political points have been known to brand the State as unsafe for people to live in, unsafe for investments and all that, do you share in that view?
No, I don’t, because we are in this State. We go out and come in to our houses. We should be security conscious. For investors, people who go about their business activities, I feel that the trust should be there.
There should be a benefit of the doubt and as far as Rivers State is concerned, we are the people who will showcase the business. We should be exemplary.
So there is no room for falsehood or any kind of conviction that we are not safe. We are safe.
So what is your advice to those demarketing the State?
I will say that they should stop spreading falsehood. There is no gain in spreading lies. At least, they should come and see for themselves. And those investors also for you to invest in a place, you should have a background check on whoever you are going to invest with or who your investors are for you to know better. Not just by word of mouth but seeing it.
How do you see the Wike administration
He has really done well. The Rivers State of yesterday can not be compared to what we have now. Port Harcourt is beautiful and safe. Port Harcourt is filled with so many businesses, so many organisations are doing well, so there is prosperity.
What about human capital development, are you impressed?
I am, because it is improving. it is not like how it was before. we are doing well.
Rivers State is blessed.
As an Ambassador of the Ministry, what is your advice to the youths, politicians and leaders?
To the youths, I will say success is not determined by age grade or age limit, we need to grab opportunities. we do not have to wait for us to be told what we have to do. We recognise who we are. Because we are the leaders of tomorrow and it starts now.
We shouldn’t wait till that level where they throw accusations at us that we are not doing anything. We need to show that we are ready for the future.
To the politicians, I feel that education is the key; knowledge is power, they should actually support the youth and everyone in Rivers State and they shouldn’t do things that make youths to regret.
They should support that which is good, education , security and also when it comes to bringing up talents. I feel that there should be more investments.
To our leaders. they should keep up the good work, because we look up to them.
They should be exemplary, they should be disciplined.
There is this misconception that the youths of our State are only interested in what they can do for money to come immediately and are not conscious to the extent of working hard, believing that their efforts will yield dividend tomorrow. So they prefer what they can get now What is your reaction to that?
I feel that it is a practice. It is not our culture because we have to be hard working. we have to be professional, we have to know what we have to do to attain such position, is not by having it immediately, because that is theft, corruption and greed.
We have to work diligently to get what we want. So it is wrong for anybody to have any amount of money that is not from a genuine source.
I feel that all we need to do is to put our hands on deck to work for that which is right at all times.
One thing we have noticed in our State, especially the state capital is indiscriminate dumping of refuse. Are we saying that it is not part of our responsibility to keep our State clean?
It is our responsibility to keep our environment clean and safe because when our environment is dirty, it affects our health. so we should actually work at our health, our wellbeing and also we have agencies which are controlling that. If the agencies are working, it is our responsibility to support them in making the place clean, because we all are humans and it will be inhuman for some one to be working for the cleaniness of our environment then, we all make the place dirty.
It’s not right. So our responsibility is taking it up to ourselves as humans to make our environment clean.
You were Commissioner for Information for 30minutes, how do you feel about that?
It was amazing, it was a rare opportunity, and I feel that for anyone to sit there as a commissioner, then, there is a whole lot to do, it is not just by saying it but it is by showing it. Our Honourable Commissioner, I know is showing it because having sat there, I saw so many opportunities on that seat and this has actually motivated me to do more to sit there one day.
Having sat there for at least 30minutes or so, will you go into politics?
Yes. For you to be a citizen, involving in politics is just what to get you to that level, it is not a bad thing.
What extent has your participation in this essay competition motivated you?
It actually gives me an opportunity to meet people, to see things, to have views, to hear about what the world is saying. So, I feel that encouragement is not by saying or being an Ambassador, it is being here in the State and doing more for the State. So, I feel motivated to bring that picture and few presentations of what the vision is, that is what I feel.
As an Ambassador for some weeks now, what has been your kind of schedule? Have you met some new persons, some new opportunities so far?
It has been excellent, but not easy, because this time around in my life, I try to schedule things and share some of my times there is time management and there is this hospitality you have to show to everyone because they want to know more about you. You give them the chance to express themselves, and that has actually made me to realise and have the knowledge about everything and because they throw questions you are not familiar with. That gives me the room to read more, that gives me the room for human resources management, to understand people, to actually know more about people, to understand their mood and where they are headed to, and to understand their different perspectives and to know what they indulge in.
Where do you see Rivers State tomorrow and in the future? .
We are already in the future because we are getting to the top; I see an extraordinary State; I see a beautiful State; I see a State that is without or should I say with less corruption, that is with more of development. That is where I see Rivers State.
Wike Has Made Rivers People Proud – Eke
His Majesty King (Dr) Leslie Nyebuchi Eke, Eze Gbakagbaka, Eze Oha Evo III of Evo Kingdom in Obio/Akpor Local government Area of Rivers State, is a First Class Traditional Ruler.
Trained as a Biological Scientist at Illinois State University, Bloomington Normal, United States of America, he holds a Masters Degree and Doctor of Philosophy Degree (PhD) from Wycliffe University & ATS, California.
Suave, ebullient, accessible, humble, down-to-earth and cerebral, Eke is also the Secretary General of the Association of Niger Delta Monarchs (ANDMON) and the Public Relations Officer of the Rivers State Chapter of Traditional Rulers of Oil Minerals Producing Communities (TROMPCOM).
In this exclusive interview with our Production Editor, Donatus Ebi and cameraman, Egberi A. Sampson, Eke poignantly bares his mind on sundry issues affecting the State and the nation. He particularly eulogises the Executive Governor of the State, Chief Nyesom Wike for the giant development strides of his administration within the past six years and comes to the inevitable conclusion that he has surpassed the achievements of his predecessors, having performed beyond the expectation of Rivers people.
His Majesty, by virtue of all that you have seen in the State in the past six years, what are your comments on the achievements of Governor Nyesom Wike?
As it concerns us and the Governor, Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike is God-sent, a purposeful Governor, a vision-full Governor and a man that knows why he is Governor, why he did come to contest and contested as Governor. And this man, meticulously, seriously, honestly, has continued, day by day, month by month, to roll out projects that are impactful to the society, to Rivers people. Roads infrastructure, schools, hospitals, human capacity, I mean continuously. This man has turned the Garden City into a city of flyovers. And that is very meaningful. We very much appreciate such a person. And unfortunately, he can’t go for a third term. We wish he goes for a third term. He is going to give so much to the Rivers people.
He has made us so proud. He has distinguished himself among the Governors and governments in Nigeria. All the things he has done, other governments and even the Federal Government should learn from him.
A case in point is the Coronavirus pandemic. Our Governor took proactive actions in time and that is why Rivers State did not suffer much from the pandemic and they had to learn from him. He has impacted on the people commercially, economically and otherwise. Even our Christian lives have improved because he gave this State to God and declared it a Christian State. He built an Ecumenical Centre and God literally has come down to work with His people and has begun to give us a sense of direction, a sense of belonging. We appreciate so much from the man, who has unlike others, really worked even in the second term, working like it was the first term. And we are grateful to God for all his achievements. He is a true Ikwerre son. We appreciate him. We pray that he would find more to do even after he has left this stage of governance. We couldn’t have had it any other way.
Would you then say that Governor Wike has performed beyond expectation?
Very true. This Governor has done beyond expectation. Looking at precedents, looking at people before him, what he has done even per month, it is unequalled anytime, anywhere in the history of Rivers State. This Governor has done so much.
In spite of all that you have seen he has done, is it not surprising that there are still pockets of opposition in the State?
Well, it is unfortunate but we must have opposition. We must have people that agree and people that don’t agree. It is normal. We just want to encourage them to criticise constructively. They should engage in constructive criticisms. They should criticise him constructively. Not just opening your mouth for opening sake. This time around, it will be very difficult. You know, he has been accused of 3D projects. It is no longer 3D now, because you can come there and see it for yourself. You will see the flyovers. Who does three flyovers at the same time? Nobody. And he has told us that he has more, seven more to deliver to Rivers people and put us on the world map of very very improved humane settlements. We appreciate that.
You said it is unfortunate that the Governor won’t run for a third term, but there are people out there calling on him to run for the Presidency come 2023. What is your take on this?
At his point, I am not a politician. For him to run for a federal office, it is entirely his prerogative, it is at his discretion. It is left for him to decide. He has to watch the politicial terrain and decide what he wants. But one thing is sure. Anywhere this Governor, Chief Ezenwo Nyesom Wike finds himself, he would deliver on his promises, he would deliver on the NEED Assessment of the people. This man is in tune with development. He is in tune with the people. And I am not afraid. If tomorrow, he runs for the Presidency, it is Nigerians that will gain because he is going to work tirelessly. I don’t know where he gets his energy; he is going to work tirelessly and fearlessly and deliver on the things that matter to the people.
As a royal father, which areas would you like to advise the Governor?
Well, first and foremost, he has to watch his back. He is a Governor that works by self-conviction. And so he cannot be deterred by anybody, by superiors’ stories, very bad advice; he is unaffected by those kinds of things because he is a man of conviction. When he decides on a project, he delivers, because he is in tune with the people. He is a grassroots politician; he feels the pulse of the people. And I am sure he knows what Nigerians want too and if he finds himself in that national stage, I have no doubt in my mind that he will win and provide dividends of democracy to our people.
We have been having some security challenges in the country and even in the State in recent times to the extent that Governor Wike had to impose curfew in the State. How would you react to this?
Well, the Governor has done well in the area of security. This Governor has done more than any government, to give state of the art equipments to security operatives in the State, both water and land. He has done so much and continues to do. So, the rest is left for these professionals to deliver. The Governor is not a policeman or a soldier. He has built a Guest House for the Army, giving them vehicles, and the police, you know it, giving them so much including other security organisations. The government has done so much for the security people and they are supposed to complement the huge expenditure of government on them.
The idea of having a curfew is also part of his own actions to mitigate these security lapses that are creating fears among our people. So, he is helping them. It is good for them. It is good for them to complement what he is doing, in terms of speaking to the people by his now and then broadcasts. It is to encourage them to know exactly what government is up to. It is for them to know what is happening. In this way, they are able to work with him, and stay distance and time with the Governor and not begin to feel that he is not doing enough. He is talking to them constantly. The security operatives should complement this government’s efforts and prove it right in its activities to secure lives and property. I support the government of Ezenwo Nyesom Wike. I support him wholeheartedly and he has done well. I score him high and give him excellent mark.
But some people are still complaining about the curfew, what do you have to tell them, both the residents of the State and Rivers people?
The curfew we should obey. The residents and people of Rivers State should obey the curfew. It is even in the Bible, that we should obey the laws of government. And so, if it is this one regulation that government has brought, we should obey. It is not for peace-loving rivers people but this is to catch the criminals. We too should complement government’s efforts by obeying the rules and regulations. Like when we had the lockdowns, don’t we see that we are enjoying health now? At that time too, people criticised the government and the Governor, but today, they have swallowed their words. They are enjoying health now. If the Governor had left Coronavirus to fester, then, it would have been terrible for our people. But today, we are walking around, the markets are open, and everywhere else, people are able to live their lives.
His Majesty, some Nigerians are today calling for the restructuring of the country and some too are calling for secession, from the foregoing, what do you think is the fate of Nigeria and what do we really need?
Obviously, to sustain the various geo-political zones of Nigeria, we do need restructuring within one Nigeria. And people that are resisting this, obviously, in time, will bow to the yearnings of the people. If you go back to the time when we had regions, we had relative peace. We are not saying we should go back to that but those kinds of things we were enjoying regionally, should begin to be apportioned within the States. Like for us in the South-South or the core Niger Delta, it is very important that we enjoy the proceeds of the God-given minerals that we have. We cannot have these minerals and people who are somewhere else, even beyond the shores of this country, are enjoying them. We can’t have that. No responsible government can do that. What God has given Nigeria is for Nigerians.
What do you have to say about the ongoing Constitution Review vis-à-vis the need for the traditional institution to be given roles in the Constitution?
The Constitution Review is welcome even if we are hearing that they are spending so much. Unwarranted expenditure is not good but the Constitution Review is good. And as it concerns the traditional institution, we need to spell out the functions of traditional rulers. With what we are doing, now, that I say it is illegal, as per it is not captured in the Constitution. But when it is captured in the Constitution, then, it serves as a support for us to do what we are supposed to be doing; and that is to complement government in the area of governance. So, that is very important. We should be captured in the Constitution. Traditional rulers are very important in nation building. They are very important in creating national identity. We are doing it now. There is this unofficial regulation, as it were, for Northern traditional rulers to come and visit their counterparts in the South and vice versa, both in the East and the West; that kind of friendship is ongoing. But it needs to be captured in the constitution. If it is captured in the constitution, it will be sustained and it will be done as a matter of duty.
FG, Insensitive To PANDEF’s Agenda – Ogoriba
We similarly urge the Federal Government to take decisive steps to enforce the Zero Gas Flare deadline.
The devastating effects of coastal erosion and lack of effective shoreline protection for the coastal communities of the Niger Delta must be tackled as a matter of urgency.
The Maritime University Issue
The Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, is largely regarded, by persons from the Zone, as symbolic and deserving. Its closure and certain statements around it, have been viewed as insensitive and out rightly provocative. This, of course, is aside from the obvious potential benefits that the Institution offers to the technical and managerial capacity enhancements of, not just persons from the Zone, but all Nigerians. We, therefore, strongly urge the President to direct the take-off of the already approved Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, in Delta State. The prompt take-off of this University will most certainly assure the people of the Niger Delta that President’s Administration is truly a sensitive, listening and inclusive Government. Also, we strongly urge that the announced plans to upgrade the 30-year old Maritime Academy, Oron, Akwa Ibom State, to a university should be implemented.
Key Regional Critical Infrastructure
There is the need for the Federal Government to fast-track interventions on some of the indicative Regional Infrastructure viz:
• We wish to thank President for ensuring that the first phase of the coastal railway project is provided for in the current 2016 budget. We urge the Federal Government to further ensure the full implementation of this project that is designed to run through all the states in the Niger Delta, up to Lagos.
• Complete the existing East-West Road.
• Work should resume on the abandoned Bodo-Bonny Road Project. We note that NLNG had already offered 50% funding for this Project.
• Implement the proposed East-West Coastal Road Project, which stretches 704 km in length along the Atlantic coastline, from Odukpani Junction in Cross River State, connecting over 1000 communities, to Ibeju on the Lekki-Epe Expressway in Lagos State (Design already completed by NDDC).
• Implement the development of inland waterways and riverine infrastructure.
• Remove bottlenecks militating against the full activation and utilization of the existing ports in the Niger Delta, including Port Harcourt, Onne, Calabar, commence dredging of the Escravos bar-mouth which will open up Burutu, Koko, Sapele, Warri and Gelegele Ports to deep sea-going vessels and expedite work on the dredging of the Calabar Port. The Deep Sea Port project in Bayelsa State also requires consideration.
• We urge the commencement of work on the Ibaka Deep Sea Port for which Feasibility has long been completed.
Details of other regional infrastructure projects will be presented in the course of the dialogue.
Security Surveillance and Protection of Oil and Gas Infrastructure
The incessant breaching and vandalization of pipelines, and oil theft, have taken direct tolls on oil production and supplies, with corresponding adverse effects on the economy of our dear Country. Pipeline vandalism also damages the environment, health and economic activity of inhabitants of affected areas, as well as complicates environmental cleanup efforts.
It is therefore our view that an urgent review is done to pipeline surveillance contacts to give the responsibility to Communities rather than individuals in a manner that ties some benefits to their responsibility. Communities would then see their responsibility for the pipelines as protection of what belongs to them.
Relocation of Administrative and Operational Headquarters of IOCs
The Headquarters of most Oil Companies are not located in the Niger Delta Region. As a result, the Region is denied all the developmental and associated benefits that would have accrued to the Region from their presence. It has therefore become imperative for the IOCs to relocate to their areas of operation. This move would create a mutually beneficial relationship with the host communities.
Despite being the core of power generation in the Country, most Communities in the Niger Delta remain unconnected to the National Grid.
We, therefore, advocate a power plan that strongly ties power supply in the Region to gas supplies, thereby giving all sides a stake in improved stability. Because of existing infrastructure, this should be an area where the Government could deliver the swiftest and most noticeable change.
Economic Development and Empowerment
The Federal and State Governments need to signal their interest in sustained economic development in the region by:
i. Implementing the Brass LNG and Fertilizer Plant Project and similarly concluding Train 7 of the NLNG in Bonny
ii. Reviewing, updating and aggressively driving the National Gas Master Plan to integrate the economic interests and industrialization aspirations of the Niger Delta Region
iii. Creating a Niger Delta Energy Industrial Corridor that would process some portions of the Region’s vast hydrocarbon natural resources, where they are produced, to create industrialization and a robust economic base in the Region that would improve the living condition of the Citizens.
iv. Expediting work on the Export Processing Zones (EPZs) in the Region, in particular, the Gas City, Ogidigben and Deep Sea Port, Gbaramatu, in Warri South LGA of Delta State.
v. Harnessing the huge rain-fed agricultural potentials of the area through the development of farm estates, fishery development projects and Agro-Allied Industrial Clusters.
vi. Harnessing the entrepreneurial ingenuity of the youths in the Region to keep them gainfully employed in legitimate businesses, and away from restiveness.
vii. We urge the use of ICT as a tool for peace, job-creation and development. Appropriately deployed ICT can be the elixir to create much-needed jobs, promote entrepreneurship and create wealth in the Region.
vii. Resolve the various issues leading to the non-operation of Delta Steel Company, Oku Iboku Paper Mill, Edo Textile Mill and ALSCON.
Inclusive Participation in Oil Industry and Ownership of Oil Blocs
The sense of alienation of Niger Delta indigenes from the resources of their land will continue until there are affirmative actions that guarantee the involvement of these communities in the ownership and participation in the Oil and Gas Industry. We, therefore, urge the Federal Government to enunciate policies and actions that will address the lack of participation as well as imbalance in the ownership of Oil and Gas Assets.
We similarly urge the institution of Host Community Content within the Nigerian Content framework, across the entire enterprise chain of the Petroleum and Maritime sectors.
Restructuring and Funding of the NDDC
There is the urgent need to adequately restructure the NDDC to refocus it as a truly Interventionist Agency, that responds swiftly to the yearnings of the grassroots of the Niger Delta. Communities must be able to have a say in what projects come to them. We also urge the full implementation of the funding provisions of the NDDC Act.
Strengthening the Niger Delta Ministry
Since the creation of the Niger Delta Ministry, even though it was meant to function in the mode of the Federal Capital Territory Ministry, its funding has been abysmal. There is an absolute need, therefore, to adequately fund, and strengthen this Ministry to the purpose for which it was created.
The Bakassi Question
The fall out of the ceding of Bakassi to Cameroon continues to threaten the security of the southernmost part of the Niger Delta Region. The unresolved issues arising from the Green Tree Agreement continues to create tension and plague the region. There is also the lack of a well-coordinated transparent blueprint for the development and resettlement of the displaced populations. The host communities face huge abuses and are unable to reestablish their respective means of livelihood. We, therefore, recommend a comprehensive resettlement plan including development for the host communities and displaced populations to reduce the risk of making them into a Stateless People.
The clamour for fiscal federalism has continued to be re-echoed by different sections of the country. The people of the Niger Delta region support this call and urge that the Federal Government should regard this matter expeditiously.
What message would you want to pass to the Federal Government for being insensitive to these issues five years after?
It is regrettable to say that the 16-point agenda has not been attended to thereby bringing about high rate of insecurity in the region.
For emphasis, after having several interface with these boys, they saw the reasons for dialogue than allowing the region go in flames as a result this brought about ceasefire in the region making everyone to be enjoying the relative peace being enjoyed today.
I want the Federal Government to know that when these boys see that there is blatant refusal in addressing their issues by the Federal Government, they are capable of making the region go into flames, adding that he appealed to the Federal Government, and other critical stakeholders responsible for the implementation of this 16-point agenda to be sincere to themselves and do the needful, adding that what the people in the Niger Delta region want is that all must be fair, just and equitable in what they do, so as to engendered peace and security to the Niger Delta region.
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