A Rivers elder and Wike’s chief strategist, Glory Emeh, in this exclusive interview with IGNATIUS CHUKWU, reveals what Wike did to save the oil state last Saturday. He also reveals the mood in the government now and what to expect in 2019. The chief tactician however warns against stirring trouble in the state that still holds the key to the nation’s oil wealth.
(Culled from BD Sunday)
You are the Special Adviser to the Governor Byesom Wike on Politics and Strategy, what is the mood in administration and in the ruling party (PDP) in Rivers State following the widespread violence that led to suspension of the by-election of August 18, 2018?
For us in Rivers State and for true Rivers men and women, we were rather embarrassed by the posturing and the activities of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in that by-election. Gov Wike has in the past three years shown that the criterion for voting anybody into office in Rivers State should be the ability to perform, going forward. He has also tried to break down the barriers that divided the state into riverine and upland thinking. He has united the people into one family.
The PDP went out of their way to do door-to-door campaign, using the party and organizations that are friendly to it to canvas for votes in this particular election. We were taken aback that while we did that, the APC and their backers were planning something that could push the state to crisis or war; something the international community did not expect that would happen in Nigeria after 19 years of democracy.
The governor was very proactive in the emergency situation; and so, what would have snowballed into a very big uprising in the state if the PDP had reacted in the same manner that the APC acted, was thus averted. The governor went on air to calm the nerves of PDP supporters across the state. The PDP was taken unawares by the actions of the ‘factional’ chairman of the APC, Flag Ojukaye Amachree, and those he commanded in the Port Harcourt 3 on that fateful day.
The belief of the people of the state is that this situation should not continue. We should discourage it and condemn it. I am happy that the greater number of our people and others in the Rivers Elders Council, the Committee of the Rivers Patriots, and Support Popular View Group, among other groups, have all come out to condemn this on unmistakable terms. They have condemned the actions of Flag Ojukaye Amachree and those in the same boat with him. The people have said that this behaviour is alien to the Rivers culture and their known behaviour. That is why we feel embarrassed, not just because the election was disrupted and cancelled or suspended, but because of the character displayed by APC leadership in the state. It was unlike Rivers. In the past almost four years, Gov Wike has re-arranged the psyche of the people of the state and his behaviour has cemented the bond of fraternal co-existence of our people. His actions have broken all the barriers of what we used to call riverine/upland dichotomy. So, Rivers people are now united, cohesive, and now work together toward a state where politics should no longer be do or die affair. To win an election, you listen to the voice of the people, you talk to them, win their votes and earn it. You would be happy that you have touched their hearts. That is what Gov Wike and the elders of the state are preaching. That is the paradigm shift in Rivers politics. People should not paint Rivers State in bad light anymore. We are a peace-loving people and a very important state in the federation.
We are the highest producer of oil and gas. So, any ugly behaviour or uncultured actions and attitude of people born out of wedlock would create problem for Nigeria. That is why President Muhammadu Buhari and the government at the centre should continue to discourage the APC in Rivers State to desist from uncultured behaviour that is likely to create an atmosphere of insecurity, rancour and acrimony. This is because politics all over the world is an interesting game where you talk about your capacity and programmes and policies to win support.
That is why Gov Wike spent over two months going round the state commissioning over 153 projects at a time. He was telling the people; this is what I have been able to do in this short period of three years. Since you are asking me to come back, I am considering the request. If I come back, I will double what I have done before.
Many people think that what happened was an effort by the APC to demonstrate what they would be capable of doing in 2019; as a political strategist who was in APC and is now in PDP and is an insider, is that how the think-tank in PDP sees it?
First of all, it is a mistake for anybody to think he can take power by violence. You know violence begets violence. Wike has consistently preached peace. That is why the entire Christendom in Rivers State declared him the Ambassador of Peace (actually Apostle of Peace). It is no mean feat. That award puts him in a situation where he cannot do anything otherwise. That was why immediately that ugly situation occurred he went on air to plead with our people not tow the path of violence as orchestrated by APC on that day. I do not think that with the degree of condemnation that the unruly behaviour of the man commanding the APC rampaging team that day would repeat itself. I believe that they are human beings and they can see that nobody clapped for them, even the APC themselves. I gathered that the APC national body condemned their action. I think the original plan was mismanaged by those who carried it out because the level of violence they unleashed on the people over a small election of eight wards was uncalled for. If you are popular, go and ask for votes. Both candidates are from the same community of Rebisi in Port Harcourt local council; just a constituency. The two young men should be allowed to compete between them and we would see who is more popular. The Rebisi community can decide that. Whoever they voted for is their son. The irony is that both of them worship at the same St Thomas Church and belong to the same St Thomas Youth. What the APC would have done is sit back especially as their factional state chairman is not from that place. The law is that you don’t go to a constituency that you do not belong to. I could not cross Ikwerre Road to go peep into what was happening. The law says, do not go if you are not from there. So, it becomes very strange and irresponsible for somebody from Asari-Toru local council area, irrespective of the position he occupies in the party, to go there. The PDP state chairman lives in Port Harcourt but he left for his hometown (ONELGA) to avoid any entanglement. May be they think if they cause some insecurity, it would help buttress their rumour that Rivers State is insecure.
I do not think they can do it again. The world has condemned it. I do not expect that those who manage APC and their several factions would attempt what they did before. If they do it, I think they would be calling on the international community to descend on them. I expect them to call their followers to order.
What next now after suspension of the exercise by INEC?
That is the responsibility of the INEC and they have taken their position. The irony is, if INEC officials had confined themselves to their office and did not go out to see things for themselves, it would have been different. It is only a snake seen by one man that can become python, not the snake seen by many people. That is the danger the APC exposed themselves to. By the fact that INEC personnel were trapped and were equally held hostage, that materials were destroyed, you don’t need a soothsayer to know that INEC has taken a decision that does not require any other interpretation. According to one of them, what they saw was unprecedented. It falls at the bottom of what is known as standard even in our country. It ought to be cancelled in its entirely. INEC has done the right thing by going according to their impulse and experience. If not the grace of God, many would have perished because many persons were trapped. Ammunition, armoured carriers, etc, were on show. Even as backward as Nigeria is, what happened was still terrible. Those who were there saw hell. We do not think it can repeat. Anybody who attempts to repeat it is calling for God’s wrath upon his head.
The Director General of the Nigerian Maritime and Safety Administration (NIMASA), Dakuku Adol Peterside, observed last week at a press briefing that all the indices that measure states were in the case of Rivers State pointing downward; he thus wondered why Wike was being held up high. Do you see his point?
First, Dakuku Peterside is a very young person who even worked under me when we worked for then Gov Peter Odili. So, whatever he says should be handled by fellow young people. However, as the governor’s special adviser on politics and strategy, and to put the records straight, I can help the world to appreciate what is on ground. For eight years of Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi administration, I was in the UK and I am therefore not in a position to talk about that administration. On the same right, Peterside has been away in the past three years and is also not in any position to discuss the Wike administration. But, because he comes home and goes, I think he is in a position to at least see some changes.
The evidence of change in Rivers State is everywhere. For instance, a friend came from the UK to my house, but he could not recognize Abacha Road in GRA 3 anymore. He once lived there while he was in UNIPORT before he went to England to study Law. He could also not believe he could get into Port Harcourt in 15 minutes from the airport. That was simply because he followed the new link road Wike just constructed.
We do not need to use this interview to narrate the barrage of infrastructural projects Gov Wike has executed but I have already told you that the governor spent two months commissioning over 153 projects across the state. So, if somebody decides not to be truthful over what everybody has seen, how is it my concern? Such a person is even ruining himself politically by distancing himself from what everyone sees.
The people are seeing a governor who has re-arranged attitude towards governance; a governor who continues to instill confidence in governance and instills a new spirit of the time; a governor who continues to promote fresh commitment to the values of vision of performance; and a governor who has prescribed solutions to problems of our people. He has even done so within a framework of a more ideological perspective. And everything he is doing he has been done so that our people would continue to enjoy the dividends of democracy. This is a governor that has re-arranged the side of our people to appreciate one another. This is a governor that has shown that performance is the basis of electing anybody to office. It does not matter what anybody says. That is why most of us have chosen to talk less because the taste of the pudding is in the eating. Gov Wike is working; in fact, he is a practical man.
People speak but they are talking to people who know the truth. I was in a church on Wednesday, August 22, 2018, and a lady told me how she had to switch off a radio station that was airing Peterside speaking what she said was irritating. She said she was driving on smooth road constructed by Wike to Elelenwo. She would have had to struggle on Aba Road for about two hours but she just hit Peter Odili Road to Woji Bypass and she was in Elelenwo, joining Eleme to Ogoni to Eket. Fiam, she was in Eket. She was thanking Wike for this and when she heard Dakuku Peterside saying he did not see what Wike was doing, she said she switched off. We should stop talking about each other but about projects and issues.
Look at Borokiri! Everybody knew that Borokiri suffered and was shut down for eight years of Amaechi. It became impassable because all the roads failed. But this was the best designed area of Port Harcourt. Wike has changed all that. Why cant APC and my younger brother Dakuku Peterside appreciate that somebody has brought some changes in the system and encourage him to do more.
Everyday they call themselves Ijaw, and they are the people that use the Nembe jetty to travel, but they were in office for eight years and did not bother. Wike has built an international jetty which can only be compared with that in Lisbon in Vasco da Gama. You will see the embankment there. Today, people can board boats without folding their trousers. Women were walking into water folding their wrappers to board boats. Wike is an Ikwerre man but he has done that, but this man is an Ijaw and for eight years did not solve this problem. Dakuku Peterside is an Opobo man but did not do anything for eight years about his people. Now, I drove to Opobo with Felix Obuah in a convoy of six cars. To the Opobo people, it was a mystery, hearing siren. People were running out singing praises of Wike.
I am not talking because I am working for Gov Wike. I, Glory Emeh, I would have said so if he was not doing the right thing. I do not have anything to lose by saying the truth. If a man is doing well, tell him so he can do better. If he is not doing well, tell him so he can change. Must you be the only person who says a snake is a python when it is not?
People will hate you if you don’t appreciate a man who has done what they are seeing and touching. If a man from the UK can shout in happiness, how come you who fly in every time cannot see any difference? Where were Dakuku Peterside and the APC when the area was not done? In fact, the day I was on inspection with Gov Wike on that Woji Road, I did not know where we were until one Ogbonda told me when I asked. I was expecting to go through Aba Road, Artillery Junction, etc, but we got there through Eastern by Pass, Abuloma, Amadiama, Peter Odili Road, Slaughter, etc. We must continue to thank Gov Wike, irrespective of what anybody is saying.
Rivers people are happy; they are united that once in their lifetime, they can find a leader they can trust, a leader that has united the people, a leader that is passionate about the welfare of the people, and a leader that is prepared to think. It is not everybody that is prepared to serve. I have served five governors. I once asked Wike, ah, how are you managing to think. He is ahead of his peers. There is nothing he does without thinking. Wike is a prepared governor. Everything he wants to do, he thinks about it, reviews it, and examines it. Look at all the structures he has executed, he thought them out. He plans ahead.
Our prayer should be for God to give him long life, good health to come back for another four years, and also give him the wisdom to ask God to reveal to him a successor to double his efforts. By so doing, Rivers State would be better. Condemning him because you want to give a dog a bad name in order to hang it is very bad.