Champion of riverine governorship and Chairman of United Rivers Alliance, URA, Dason Nemieboka, recently visited our office and we again spoke with the articulate political activist. Our chat which covered Rivers and national politics as well as activities of the URA, was as usual, engaging, revealing and stimulating.
Que: Sir, what do you make of the just concluded state congresses of the All Progressive Congress?
Ans: Positive step. At least it was rancour free. So yes we congratulate the APC. And hope that going further, we shall have a viable challenge and so all parties can put their best foot forward. You know that what makes parties field inappropriate candidates is when they believe that the people have very little chances or options.
I personally hope to see APC, PDP and the other parties field their best candidates. Best in the circumstance, that is best from the riverine they can find.
Que: there were several reports of parallel congresses in many states, doesn’t that portend disharmony?
Ans: Well, politicians cannot help disagreeing because the interest and stakes are high. However, I am happy to note that the congress in Port Harcourt wasn’t problematic.
Que: But, there are claims that a parallel held in Rivers State too?
Ans: That I am not aware of, what I heard and saw on national television was the congress at Polo Club, and when I saw the Minister for Transportation cast his vote, I wondered why they didn’t show Senator Magnus Abe. If that implies that they have not yet harmonized, then it’s unfortunate.
Que: What do you make of recent alignment of former political foes nationally and even in the state?
Ans: It’s a welcome development, if you ask me. We need broad based reconciliations and cooperation. That’s why I feel sad when I see politicians inherit enemies and make absolute statements.
Recently Femi Fani-Kayode made headlines with his return to the APC. Meaning that he had moved from PDP to APC, then back to PDP and now back to APC. It was shocking to many, because eloquent as he is, he had said all matter of unprintable things again both sides of the divide and was on national television sermonizing about new realities and working to build a united Nigeria. Well, for those who lack values, it’s about their material well-being per time.
Even in Anambra, we saw former APGA stalwarts including the outgoing Deputy Governor jump ship. They just the APC weeks to the election and months to the end of their tenure. For me, that is a reflection of our values. But they are all within their rights to do as they wish.
Here in the state, we saw Hon Ogbonna Nwuke and Hon. Chibudom Nwuche and others cross over to the PDP. You have to relate with people to know why they do what they do. But whatever our reasons, emptiness of our political culture is in the heart of the matter.
So, I won’t be surprised if Amaechi and Wike find themselves in the same party, working together. Political parties are not cults, so politicians can move as they fancy.
However, I can’t help but note that this is because we are ideologically bankrupt as a people. What is happening is normal, here but abnormal in other climes. But for us in Rivers State I think that there ought to be some fundamental reconciliations between stakeholders to allow for a robust contestation in 2023.
Que: Please tell us, is the United Rivers Alliance going to endorse or adopt any party or candidate at some point?
Ans: Hmm, you ask a hard question. The United Rivers Alliance is a political pressure group; we are on a crusade to win back for Rivers people the stabilizing philosophy of live, and let’s live. Our interest is beyond partisanship. We are working for the good of all.
To answer your question pointedly, we have to focus on the vision, which is to establish the institution of power alternation between the two sections of the state. Just as southern governors are calling for the return of the presidency to the south. But as individuals, people can have preferences, however, our job is to persuade the major political parties to field riverine governorship candidates and Rivers people would elect the best.
Que: Sir, with the pledge by the Minister for Transportation and leader of the APC, Rt. Hon Rotimi Amaechi that he would support the election of a governor from the riverine part of the state, why hasn’t the United Rivers Alliance collapsed into the APC?
Ans: URA was not formed to collapse into any political party. URA is on a mission; short term, champion the election of a governor of riverine extraction as Governor in 2023 and subsequently, insist on the steady swing of power between the riverine and the upland.
We are grateful that Rt. Hon Amaechi has boldly declared his belief and commitment to natural justice. That is how fearless leaders behave. Very unequivocal, and so things around him should just fall in place. For instance, by his posturing, it will be safe to say, even if the presidency is coming this way, riverine people in the APC should maintain focus.
Que: Seriously, do you see such a possibility?
Ans: Nothing is impossible with our political class. Did you see those who left to form APC? Did you hear them speak about, PDP, President Jonathan? Do you remember how the former president was vilified? They even carried a mock coffin for him? Simply because he chose to venture to be a democrat.
Look around now, who is where? Today they are asking the former president to come to their party to run for the same job they shoved him out from. Atiku and Saraki and others have returned to the PDP just as many from the PDP have found accommodation in the APC. So, why should I lose sleep if Wike and Amaechi reconcile and work together.
Que: You were Publicity Secretary of the Accord in Rivers State, tell us the status of the party in the state now.
Ans: The Accord is one of the registered political parties in the country, when the electoral body, INEC deregistered parties recently, Accord was not affected. That means that the party is still potentially viable. I think it had one or two members elected into the national assembly. Maybe it would make greater impact in the future elections.
Que: Please where is Chief Dumo Lulu Briggs, I mean politically?
Ans: Thank God you added the last part. Coincidentally, I met him recently. I was invited to the finals of the DLB inter-tertiary institutions debate and quiz competition at the Rivers State University. It was an awful event. Someone described him as a one-man government, and I commend his philanthropic spirit. However, I didn’t get the chance of talking with him, because after the event, the crowd around him was enormous. But when next I meet him, I will tell him you asked.
But I understand that many have been concerned about his electability or otherwise because of the high traditional stool he now occupies in Kalabari land.
Que: So, you cannot tell us, if Chief Lulu Briggs is still interested in the governorship…..
Ans: Are you not interested in the governorship of Rivers State yourself? If you are not, you won’t be asking me. So, we are all interested. Will Chief Dumo run? I’m not in the stead to say, find him and ask him yourself.
As Chairman of URA my interest is the election of a riverine man or woman as governor in 2023, if you want DLB to run go fetch him.
Que: But what if the APC and PDP field riverine candidates?
Ans: Of course, that is what we want. They should. I understand that some may think that that would be counterproductive, but no it won’t. Remember in 1999, when political landscape was tense because of the annulment of the June 12 election, the powers that were, decided that they would encourage a shift of power to the south west. Politicians in the north, rallied around Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and he secured the presidential ticket of the PDP.
When the parties saw the mood of the nation, other parties picked their candidates from the same region. So, parties actually respond to the mood and prominent narrative. The APC, PDP and if there be another serious party they should field candidates from the section that equity demands should produce the next governor.
Que: So, is Ogoni not qualified to produce the governor in 2023?
Ans: My dear brother, they are qualified and eminently so. Who will say, the land that gave rise to men like Magnus Abe, Magnus Kpakol and many others isn’t qualified to produce a governor. The Ogoni, like the Etche, Ogba, Kalabari, Opobo, Okrika and everyone else is qualified and will indeed produce a governor. But it’s not all at the same time. Justice is that after twenty-four unbroken years of upland governorship power should move to the riverine. So, while all can and should produce, Rivers people will select from among the riverine. When it returns to the upland, then, they will be considered. All Rivers people know what is right and fair, only the selfish try to alter that fact because of their interest.
Que: But Magnus wants to run for governorship …
Ans: Did he tell you so, recently? I doubt, but if he so desire, I wish him well.
You see, Senator Abe has made a name and a mark for himself, but it will be good if he reads the signs of the season well.
Even at the risk of being accused of stroking controversy, I will say that Magnus Abe achieved a great feat by breaking Amaechi’s political family and going away with 70% of the top commanders. So, if you despise him it’s at your peril.
But watch closely, where is he politically? Is he in charge of APC? Or is he a top shot of the PDP? Your guess is as good as mine. I can assure you that even in the event of a split and the emergence of another national party Senator Abe might not gain control, and so I think he should use his tongue to count his teeth.
The game requires brains, brawn (resources) and more importantly timing.