The Chairman of the United Rivers Alliance is a calm and easy-going writer and political analyst. A respected media personality, Dason Nemieboka spoke with our correspondent …. in Port Harcourt on a range of state and political issues.

Que: Now that Wike has lifted the ban ……?

Ans: My brother, Wike didn’t lift and ban for there was none placed on political activities by any known law. The Governor merely encouraged those in his party to freely engage in political consultations from yesterday.

There is a culture of the electoral umpire releasing a timetable for every election. So, when the circle of elections draws nearer, the regulator gives the parties the rules, which gives a window for electioneering campaigns. The window usually closes at midnight on the Thursday leading to the election. But politics and political activities is an all-season engagement. Remember, the end of an election, is the beginning of politics for the next election.

So, nobody placed a ban or lifted anything. However, we can’t pretend that the political atmosphere in Rivers State had remained gagged for many months because, possible aspirants in the leading parties of PDP and APC were in the shadows. And so, Governor Wike’s statement would free them from the fear induced silence.

Que: Please can you be explicit on what you called fear induced silence?

Ans: We know that when politicians are unnecessarily silent, the system loses ideas and opportunities to improve. So, the encouragement to PDP members to engage, would help the polity.

We need to hear the opinion of politicians on topical issues. The people would want to know how their minds function. For instance, you as media men should get their views on issues of national importance or even local matters. That way the people would know those who seek to govern them.

Que: What is your take on the sacking of the Commissioner for Health by Governor Wike?

What can I say? I had served as a Special Assistant and I know that the Commissioner is the governor’s representative in the ministry. So, he is appointed like a special assistant in that particular sector.

Many have castigated the governor, some accusing him of high-handedness. But I think that the governor’s style and expectations are not strange to his appointees so, those who are know that they can’t be subservient as much as he expects, should take their walk. If you can’t stand the smoke, leave the kitchen.

Que: If opening aspirants to the people, helps deepen democracy, why are governors and political leaders reluctant to open the space?

Ans: Good question. The first reason governors discourage partisan activities is the distraction it brings to governance. However, smart governors and leaders know when to and where to draw the line.

I am impressed by Wike’s declaration, because he added that, those in his government who are interested in running for office, can throw in the towel and face their political ambitions squarely.

By so doing, the Governor has given his appointees who are ambitious the window to ship out and pursue their dreams full time. We want robust communications and engagements. We can’t afford another lamentation of ‘oh, we didn’t know him. We were deceived by his pious countenance.

Que: Sir, how does the Wike statement affect the activities of the United Rivers Alliance?

Ans: Oh, the release would allow Rivers people see the dance steps of the PDP as touching the balancing of political power in the state. With the level of awareness already created and the understanding that we must coexist by conscious efforts, the people would be drawn or repelled by the kind of aspirants that the party turns out.

The PDP must read and respond to the mood of the state.

Que: But everyone is free to campaign and contest?

Ans: If everyone is free to contest and win, why was Prince Uche Secondus forced out? Yes, everyone who means the constitutional requirements can run for the governorship. But our parties have said the poor cannot. They imposed obstacles like cost on the way of the poor by choice. The same way Nigerians and Rivers people can place considerations peculiar to them.

It is the same concerns that the APC leader in the state, Hon Amaechi saw and declared his preference for a riverine candidate in the next election.

Que: But Amaechi hasn’t lifted the restriction …..?

Ans: The question is, did he place any restrictions? I don’t know. I read somewhere that both Amaechi and Wike are setting up structures and even campaigning for 2023, yet the politicians behind them were too afraid to voice their dreams.

But I think that, the caution may even be self-imposed. Look at it this way. If Amaechi and Wike have stiff holds on their parties, what about the other parties? I think the challenge is with system. The factors gagging the hopefuls are beyond Wike and Amaechi.

There is so much uncertainty in the parties. There is insecurity, there is economic hardship which would increase electoral cost. The way it is, politicians would prefer to wait till the last minutes so they can manage their cost.

Que: What do you make of Governor Wike’s declaration that he will not impose any candidate?

Ans: Another wise move. I hate to be personal, but I can’t help commending smart actions or posturing. Many have expressed disbelief, claiming that it would be impossible for a sitting governor to pay a blind eye to who becomes his successor or party’s candidate.

But I have reason to believe Wike. He has shown that he is more realistic than those before him. If he said he wouldn’t care about who succeeds him, I wouldn’t believe. We are all interested in who becomes the next governor. The incumbent’s interest might be slightly higher that yours and mine, but his vote is as single as yours and mine. He is interested. At least to protect his achievements and legacies, he would desire a worthy successor. But the word is ‘imposed.’ Many have gone the extra mile to impose successors, thereby earning more post-office enemies, and then their successors turned around to torment them. That is more painful. No matter how crafty you are, you can’t beat the devil in his game. Remember that after all Rochas did, he couldn’t impose his choice in Imo State.

It would be in everyone’s interest if a governor respects himself and allow the people decide their governor. That way, his frustration would be less.

Que: Are you against incumbents and leaders supporting candidates?

Ans: I am not against supporting candidates, after all we are persuading and lobbying rivers people including Gov Wike and Hon. Amaechi to support riverine candidates. I am against godfatherism. Mentor younger politicians but not control them. A mentor is identified by the mentee because they have seen virtues of the mentor and would want to emulate them. So, mentoring is positive but not godfatherism, which is mafia-like.

Que: What should we expect from Rivers politics in 2022?

Ans: Of course, we expect increased partisan and political activities in the state and country. We hope that the aspirants would be open to discuss developmental issues to convince us that they can take us a step higher. We hope that the demonstrated understanding by both the upland and riverine sections would blossom and determine the outcome of the governorship election.

In 2022, we want to see the political parties resolve their internal challenges and offer the people credible candidates. If we see new parties or the dissolution of existing ones, let it be in the best interest of good governance. I anticipate a shift, and it would lead to the first truly people’s governor. The activities of 2022 would lead to the emergence of a candidate that would be embraced by the people.

Que: At what point would the URA declare its candidate?

Ans: URA is an idea that seeks to enthrone mutual understanding amongst Rivers people. Rivers people would individually vote for candidates. In 2023, Rivers people would elect the best available hand who is from the riverine section. If the existing parties big or small whichever gives us credible and acceptable candidates will win votes.

Que: So, don’t you have personal preference … a preferred candidate?

Voting is by secret ballot in Nigeria. My vote is not for any aspirant but a candidate of riverine extraction who would make all rivers people happy and expand our economy. So, now you know.

“I think that the governor’s style and expectations are not strange to his appointees so, those who are know that they can’t be subservient as much as he expects, should take their walk. If you can’t stand the smoke, leave the kitchen.”

“I anticipate a shift, and it would lead to the first truly people’s governor. The activities of 2022 would lead to the emergence of a candidate that would be embraced by the people.”

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