Former House of Representatives member and one-time Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) boss Dr. Dakuku Peterside is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State. He spoke with Deputy Editor EMMANUEL OLADESU on zoning and the push for power shift to Riverine area of the state.
What is your assessment of the political situation in Rivers State?
Charged, toxic but not irredeemable. We are witnessing the collapse of social bonds that once held our people together. The political class is more interested in their welfare than the concerns and aspirations of the people. The level of hopelessness is astonishing. High rate of unemployment, failure of social services, deepening distrust in the state government and insecurity pervades the land. Rivers people are no longer proud of their government. The traditional institution is abused daily and workers are mocked by the state government. The political parties in the state have not helped matters, I don’t think we have held the government to account for the humongous resources that came into the state purse in the past six years. One thing I am sure of ,is that whoever takes over from the current Wike led government has a lot of work to do. Politically our dear rivers state is a shadow of its old glory.
From what you have said, please asses the Wike administration which has been in charge in Rivers State for almost seven years?
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We have witnessed total collapse of governance in the past seven years. The level of disenchantment of the people is simply unbelievable. Our Governor has not helped our image either, his public conduct and unfounded boisterousness is not what any rivers man would be proud of. The government has not done anything tangible to improve the lot of our people or put us on the path of growth. Almost all the major achievements of the past governments are being eroded. I will give you a few indicators. There are no tangible, I repeat, no tangible project in 20 of the 23 LGAs of the state and all socio-economic development indicators are on the negative. Social services especially of education, health care and portable water have collapsed completely. Workers have not been promoted for seven years and none has been sent for any form of training and that has had a lot of impact on their level of motivation. Pensioners are being owed for several years with no conscience. Students are not considered for scholarship or bursary. Farmers are not supported and private property is acquired forcefully. No society can develop that way. Our Governor is more interested in primitive accumulation of wealth and sharing state resources with a tiny clique of political associates. His latest passion is to use state resources to pursue his presidential ambition to the detriment of rivers state development. In pursuit of that objective, he said recently he wants to focus on stomach infrastructure after abandoning rivers people for seven years.
What factors in your opinion do you think will shape succession politics in Rivers state?
You are I know that the God factor is the one factor that determines every outcome. From the human analysis perspective, in no particular order, five factors will shape the politics of succession in my state.
The first is competence and character. Rivers people know that more than ever we need someone who can lead us to quickly rebuild the state and create economic opportunities for our people. The state, one of the most endowed, has literally collapsed in the past seven years and we need to rebuild urgently. Only a competent, experienced, visionary and dedicated leader can do that. Somebody who is forward thinking and has a track record of performance. The second factor, CR Amaechi and Nyesom Wike. It is a fact that both of them control the platform of the two dominant parties in Rivers state and for today only those two parties have the potential to win the governorship of rivers State. The third factor is the riverine and upland dichotomy. The riverine Ijaws feels that they have been out of power for 24 years and their agitation is gaining momentum to the the extent that it can no longer be ignored. A lot of uplanders are sympathetic to the riverine Ijaw cause. Next to the riverine Ijaw agitation is rivers south east senatorial district agitation. The argument is that they are the the only senatorial district that is yet to produce a governor till date. The final factor is the effect of national politics. Ultimately it is the call of rivers people that will determine the kind of leaders that will be thrown up, as they often say, a people get the kind of leaders they deserve. These are not exhaustive.
From what you have said, zoning or rotation is not the most important factor that will determine the outcome of the 2023 elections. Why is it so?
The incontrovertible truth is that as a state we have lost a lot ground. The primary interest of our people today is who has what it takes to rebuild the state and create economic opportunities. We got so much money in the past seven years and all we have to show for it are flyover bridges on two arterial roads. Recall that apart from statutory allocation, 13 percent derivation, internally generated revenue, we received huge sums of money as refund from federal government for projects executed by previous government. Having lost the opportunity to turnaround the development fortune of our state in the past 7 years, Rivers people consciously want a new lease of life and only a competent, visionary and courageous leader can give that at this point in time. This has forced us to place emphasis on competence and character over which area the person comes from. This has not taken away the fact that our people know there are competent and capable persons from all parts of the state but may be few are prepared for governance today.
Let’s look at this riverine ijaw agitation again. How meaningful is the agitation for power shift to the riverine part of the state?
I have always said that in developing democracies, rotation or zoning is one of the methods to promote inclusiveness and equity in the polity. If you have that at the back of your mind, deliberate effort must be made to give all geo-political zones in a state or country opportunity to participate at the top echelon of government. To that extent I believe the agitation of the riverine ijaws have merit just as the agitation for the presidency to shift to southern Nigeria has merit. Traditionally, rivers state have upland and riverine dichotomy. In the past 22 or 23 years, the upland part of the state produced all the governors, somehow to the exclusion of their riverine brothers. Personally I believe competence and character should be the most important factors in electing a governor and I also believe we can find riverine Ijaws with these competencies.
How United is Rivers APC ahead of 2023?
APC is not only United, but also strong and poised to form the next government in Rivers State. I acknowledge as a fact that there are issues, but they are being resolved. However all tendencies and interest coalesced around uprooting PDP, Wike and the humiliation they have brought to Rivers people and enthroning a forward looking, progressive, visionary and competent government. All internal skirmishes in my party are being resolved. What rivers people want is a credible alternative to the power drunk, directionless government led by Wike. Mind you APC did not field candidates in the 2019 election but this time around we shall field candidates.
The predominant opinion is that reconciliation has failed in Rivers APC…
It is not true that reconciliation has failed in APC rivers. Reconciliation is a long term process and not an event. The beauty of Rivers APC is that the key actors are committed to enthroning peace. The key actors appreciate that the state urgently needs a new lease of life. Very often what people appreciate is the final outcome and not the work done or being done. All sides are talking and we are all not proud of what our state has turned to. We also need to manage some pride and ego here and there for the interest of the party. The important thing is that before 2023 elections we will put our house in order. No body should expect that in a party of one million members you will not have differences in approach and methods but we all subscribed to a common goal and the leadership of Rotimi Amaechi.
Does the likelihood exist that you will renew your bid for governor in 2022/2023?
All options are on the table. I have been consistent that rivers state needs a competent, credible, visionary and experienced leader with ideas on how to turnaround the state and benefit for all our people. If my team and the party thinks I am the man, who can prosecute the war I will not run away from the challenge. But, that is a decision for the leader and leadership to make. I am presently talking to like minds across the state and the unanimous opinion is that we need a resourceful, visionary, experienced and capable governor who can work with others to restore the lost glory of our state.
What is the assurance that APC can displace PDP in the next governorship poll?
I am not God. I am not 2 million rivers people who will make that decision but there are certain things I am sure of as day coming after night. Rivers people are not satisfied with the thoughtlessness, greed, inhumane nature and gross incompetence of the Wike and PDP led administration in the state. Rivers people are looking up to APC to give them a new lease of life, restore our glory and create limitless economic opportunities using our human and natural resource endowments. The second thing I am sure of is rivers people are amazed about how the governor has gone about acquiring every and any property for himself and his cronies and the only thing that will give them succor is for him to be held to account for the resources of the state he was entrusted to manage. The third is the fact that rivers people know that birds of the same feather flock together, they have seen previous government and compared it to Wike and PDP led government in the state, it is like comparing day and night. The decision to vote out Wike and everything associated with him is not a difficult one. He and his team simply brought ridicule to our state.
The feeling in town is that your leader , Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is about to declare his interest in the presidential race. What are your expectations?
It is not a feeling, it is victor Hugo , the French writer who said nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come. Nigerians are tapping on Rotimi Amaechi to come forward with his youthful vigour, visionary leadership capacity, hands on approach, courage, and take our country to the next level. I am sure he will accept the challenge. I have engaged with a lot of people across the spectrum of society and there is unanimity of opinion that he has what it takes to move nigeria forward. My expectation is that after the APC convention he will make his position known. The race for presidency, given our multidimensional security and developmental challenges, is not for those who are not prepared and equipped to Lead. Amaechi’s track record in Rivers state and Federal ministry of transportation has recommended him to Nigerians.
What is your view about the 2022 Electoral Act?
It’s a bold move to enhance transparency and credibility of elections in our country. In the recent past elections have been marred by large scale rigging, you can vividly recall the 2015 elections in Rivers State that was a mess. The new electoral act gives legal backing to the use of technology in voter accreditation, election results transmission and early commencement of campaign. In summary, the new electoral act has the potential to change our electoral process for the better, but INEC and the political actors also have a key role to play.
Your assessment of the Buhari administration?
This government came at a time when hopelessness pervaded our land. I think the government has succeeded in restoring law and order, a successor government will continue the work. The government have been outstanding in infrastructure development.
What are the qualities you expect in a person that should succeed President Buhari?
Nigerians expect to see a man who has a clear vision of how to move the country forward with the energy to realise the vision. Nigerians like to see track record of what you have done in the past. We want to see courage and commitment, integrity and resourcefulness. Our country men and women know that we are literally at crossroads and only a competent president is acceptable to us at this point. There is so much work to do that we expect our incoming President to work at least 10 hours daily. My gut instincts tells me the year 2023 will be an important year, that will be a watershed, in our history.