The new Chairman of the United Rivers Alliance, a movement for the propagation of equity, consensus and fairness in Rivers State, Hon. Dason Nemieboka spoke with our correspondent on the change of guards at the pro-Riverine movement and sundry issues.
Que: Sir, the last time we spoke, you were secretary of United Rivers Alliance, URA and the former Deputy Mayor of Port Harcourt city, Hon. Alphine White was chairman. How come you are now signing statements as Chairman?
Ans: Thank you. Your observation is right. The process of selecting members of the steering committee was long and tedious, and that’s because of the task ahead. We were diligent and finally settled for the former deputy Mayor.
But not long after we began work, he called a meeting and informed us that he was going back to join his former party. He explained that for personal reasons he would take that step and so he was stepping down from the chairmanship and indeed the steering committee.
Now, that is honourable if you ask me. We are not at war with PDP, APC or any other. It is just that we at the steering committee are too committed to the vision to be partisan. That doesn’t imply that we have anything against any party or individual. That the Catholic priest isn’t given to marriage doesn’t mean that he is against marriage. We are just too focused to allow partisanship.
Que: So, is Hon. Alphine White still a member of the United Rivers Alliance?
Ans: Oh yes. Indeed, every Rivers indigene and resident is welcome. Hon. Alphine is very passionate about the success of the vision, which is to enthrone the culture of equity and inclusiveness. He has only excused himself from driving the vehicle and I think we shouldn’t personalize it. Right now, I am Chairman and Engr. Sylvanus Ned from Andoni is Secretary.
Que: How would you react to the insinuation that, his withdrawal will negatively affect the organization?
Ans: Well, if you leave a system and nobody missed you, then you were not even needed in the first place. So, we miss him because he is very valuable. But it’s a system and we have adjusted quickly.
Sometimes it’s better your distractions come early than later. A number of stakeholders had developed cold feet when the news of the chairman joining PDP broke. We received calls, we answered questions and offered explanations. Now, that’s normal. We didn’t set out for a stroll on the beach, we have cut out for ourselves a difficult assignment, which will come at a great price and sacrifices. So, if you hear a NO and go back in. Then you were not ready from the beginning. I can assure you that, those who feel that we are not serious will regret the despise tomorrow.
You know some stakeholders are afraid of several things. Some people think governorship is a pair of shoes that can be gifted. They forget that the stakes get higher at the expiration of a second term.
Que: Why are the stakes higher at the expiration of a second term?
Ans: Because the incumbent is ruled out of contention by the constitution. So, those who are afraid of him will be emboldened to venture. You know that regardless of the performance of any governor, even traditional rulers and opinion leaders would ignore even their sons with proven records of administrative acumen to sing ‘oh king (governor) rule forever!’
But at the end of his second term, his friends and associates would all jostle. Communities would send delegations to Government House to ask the Governor to handover to their son.
Even those from the section of the incumbent would ask to be given an opportunity. So, you have aspirants and gamblers all at the lineup.
Que: Exactly how would the URA influence the election if you are non-partisan?
Ans: Good question. Firstly, all aspirants and hopefuls are members and stalwarts of the various parties. We encourage them to be committed and do their best. We shall supply those needs that partisan constraints won’t allow them get now.
Our work or input is strategic and extensive, but I can’t disclose more. Just know that we are determined to mobilize and coordinate our people to achieve our set goals.
Que: Are you not worried that the riverine themselves may sabotage the election of any individual? Especially since there are divisions like languages, party
Ans: The same energy you need to fear is the same energy you need to believe. Those who think they can’t, are correct, and we who believe we can, are more correct, for we surely will.
You see, as an Ijaw man I can’t imagine how Nnamdi Kanu would think of having me in his dream republic. I am not and will never subscribe to that gamble, but can I dismiss his achievement in mobilizing his people? My brother, nothing can stop an idea whose time has come. Nobody in IPOB is thinking of Anambra, Oguta or Ebonyi now. I am not saying Biafra will materialize, but their desire has overshadowed the fears of the minority Igbos.
We are focusing on the possibilities, we are working on the prospects and preparing for the black legs. Of course, we are aware of the culture of selfish tradeoffs: ‘You can take the governorship and appoint me Chief of Staff or SSG or even a commissioner.’ There are those whose claim to leadership is loyalty to an individual, they may not be trusted to midwife such a vision, but we know a few things that are in our favour too.
Que: What if both the PDP and APC field riverine candidates?
Ans: Then we have succeeded before the ballot is cast. Some, have asked why we didn’t adopt a party, but that will not serve our interest.
You may even ask, what if we have multiple riverine candidates and a candidate from the other section? That will be a dangerous setting but we are on course.
Que: Sir, what do you make of Governor Wike’s recent comment, that no individual can make anyone Governor in the state?
Ans: Is that in response to Amaechi’s reported comment on supporting riverine governorship?
Que: Yes, it is.
Ans: Okay. Well, I think both Governor Wike and Minister Amaechi are right. It depends on how you heard it. You must agree with the Governor because, we have over two million registered voters and so if an individual says, I made you Governor or I will make you Governor he is not mathematically correct.
But then, we know that our politics is party based, so if the leader of a strong party says I will support you, the job is 51% done. Because no matter how popular you are, you need a strong platform.
My joy is that Governor Wike hasn’t said that he would work against the emergence of a riverine person as Governor, so he too can support a riverine in his party, because that’s the right and just think to do.
Que: So, would URA at some point endorse any particular candidate or aspirant?
Ans: We are not a mushroom party group seeking the attention of a candidate for post-election pecuniary benefits. Our job is to work for the acceptance of the just concept of inclusiveness by encouraging the people to protect our heritage. Until all Rivers people feel that sense of belonging, we can’t be united. We are not talking aspirants or candidates; we are marketing an idea.
Remember, a time was when the Ikwerre wanted to pull out of Rivers State. A time was when the Ogoni wanted a state of their own. Nobody should be made to feel unwanted in their state. For instance, if Nigerians elect an Igbo as president tomorrow, more than half the members or supporters of Nnamdi Kanu would abandon his course.
Que: Have you penciled down possible aspirants in the various parties?
Ans: It’s not our duty to draught anyone into the race. We have however identified a number of politically active and visible riverine people who we refer to as principal stakeholders. We think that given their antecedence aspirants and later candidate(s) may emerge from amongst them. We can only encourage them to play it right within their parties.