Rivers 2023 Governorship: OGONIS ARE NOW AGREEING WITH US – Dason Nemieboka

Hon. Dason Nemieboka, Chairman, United Rivers Alliance, URA, is again our guest and the journalist turned political strategist is always a delight to talk with any day. In this interview, Hon. Nemieboka spoke passionately about issues around the governorship of Rivers State.


Que: We barely have a year to the 2023 elections and URA and indeed riverine people haven’t found their champion?

Ans: well, what do you expect?

Frankly, many have a faulty understanding of the process. And so, what moves them more are the sentimental outbursts. The fact that you have discussions that center on the propriety or otherwise of is significant. For those who thought the United Rivers Alliance, or any other pressure group or even cultural group for that matter can effectively streamline the emergence of aspirants, then, they are living illusionary lives.

Individuals would always be propelled by their interests; some nationalistic, and others selfish. Someone recently opined that we encouraged all APC and PDP hopefuls to meet, and agree on a consensus aspirant. So, we have a champion in APC and another in PDP. Of course, it sounded novel on paper, but we know better. I simply asked the person if he knows the meaning of choking in politics, and the discussion ended. So, you see, we cannot have champions before the ground rules are set.

Que: Does that mean it’s healthy to have several aspirants from the riverine session of the state?

Ans: It’s indicative of the mood of the state. People respond to social realities. There was a time when you won’t five southerners aspire for the presidency of the country, regardless of the number of parties. But today, we hear five names just the Niger Delta.

Why do you think it is so now? I will supply the answer. The mood of the nation favors a power shift. And the same conditions are prevalent in the state. The Rivers situation is more compelling. So, the harvest of names is a natural reality.

Que: But, won’t that weaken the quest for the election of a governor of riverine extraction?

Ans: Well, it will, if we don’t manage the processes well. We cannot at any point imagine that we have the right (legal or moral) or political capacity to stop anyone from seeking to run. If you think you can, then you can.

You see, even the almighty political parties lack the right to stop anyone who meets the minimum requirements. That is why they use the cost of forms to filter.

However, we are not excited about the plethora of aspirants, because we know that some are only pretenders whose interests may be distractions. We know that there are those, who would be used by others to try to compromise our chances. However, we think that credible and marketable aspirants of riverine extraction should showcase themselves.

We cannot deny the parties the chance of fielding their finest.

Que: So, what would be the contribution of the United Rivers Alliance to the process of the election of the next governor?

Ans: You see whoever, eventually becomes governor APC or PDP has been helped by our efforts. But more specifically, we have created and sustained the buzz that sold the narrative. Of course, it’s not a monopoly, but URA is in the heart. We have maintained the conversation with leaders across party divides, we are encouraging all credible aspirants and when the parties choose their flagbearers, we would work around all others to ensure that those who would lose out of their primaries would rally around the candidate for total victory.

You know that in the past, those who lose out of such contestation, become tools in the hands of joy killers.

The United Rivers Alliance will play more significant roles as we get closer to the elections; however, we can’t divulge all.

Que: Sir, are you implying that upland aspirants cannot run for the governorship in 2023?

Ans: My friend you know I don’t talk like that. If I recognize that even as appreciated as the work we are doing is, we cannot arrogate to ourselves the right to stop any riverine aspirant. Is it the other man’s child I can order around?

What we can say is to appeal to our brothers and friends on the other side, to show understanding by not crowding the selection process. Just as we are as southerners pleading with the north to show understanding and support the south produce the president in 2023. We can only appeal to their conscience.

Recall that in 1999, when the mood of the nation favored the election of a southerner, and more specifically, a Yoruba from the southwest. Even the northerners constrained themselves. And Abubakar Rimi was ignored by the north to make easy the election of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. So yes, the Ikwerre, Ogba, Ogoni, and others have a right to contest the election, but in the spirit of ‘live, and let live.’ In the spirit of equity and justice, they should wait for when power would return to their session again.

Que: Sir, remember, that Senator Magnus Abe had been quoted as saying that power isn’t given but taken …

Ans: Well, I cannot say he is wrong, because every statement is judged in context. When you desire something, you don’t sit at home and expect it. You identify what you want, and figure out how to get it. Then you begin to work on your plan.

On October 1st last year, we wrote to the leaders of major ethnic groups in Rivers State, we addressed Ikwerre, Ogoni, Etche, and other leaders in open and private mails. We were appealing to them, to encourage their sons and daughters to support the emergence of a governor of riverine extraction. Am sure the senator read that communication too.

And only recently, Dr. Ben Biarbi has followed suit. He has on behalf of the Ogoni elite called out to others to support the Ogoni elect a governor. So, if Senator Abe once felt we were wrong to have asked that it’s riverine turn. Or appealing for support by others, at least they are now agreeing with us.

Riverine people had been seeking a return of power for a while now. We had in the past talked and worked. And we are still working. It was in the course of our agitation that the senator realized that we had successfully sold the narrative that the next governor should be riverine. So, strong was our argument, that he began to declare that Ogoni is riverine.

Listen, you are not riverine simply because you have a river, everyone has land and almost all have rivers. You are upland, if your culture and vocation, and indeed existence is influenced by the sea. So, in our state, there are those whose lifestyles are influenced by the river and others their farms. They read the tide for almost everything.

I’m an old boy of the famous Government Comprehensive. Now, we have people from all parts of the state and beyond. We talk and relate freely, however, I have noticed that when people have to share parables or give native illustrations, they unconsciously reveal where they come from.

So, you realize that even though we live, talk and relate as brothers, we have cultural tendencies. The point I am making is that there is nothing wrong with coming from anywhere. But we have distinct tendencies and none is bad. So, all should have access to power and opportunities.

Que: So, should Rivers people just pick anybody simply because he is riverine and make him governor?

Ans: Of course, not. What is expected is that the major political parties should reduce the tension in the land by recognizing that after twenty-four years of unbroken upland governorship power should return to the riverine.

The political parties should create then enabling environment. Just as we seek from the national. We cannot help but commend the APC national for giving the right body language and the leader of the party in Rivers State, Hon. Amaechi for openly stating that his party would do justice by fielding a riverine flagbearer for the 2023 governorship.

We hope the PDP and its leader in the state, Governor Nyesom Wike would toe the same line.

Que: And what if the PDP doesn’t field a riverine candidate?

Ans: We believe they will. The PDP isn’t insensitive, or high-handed. They will give Rivers people our desire. The leaders here are also looking for considerations up there. And you know natural justice isn’t partial. That’s why they say do unto others what you expect others to do unto you.

Notice that it was the northerners themselves across party lines that began to clamor for power shift nationally before the southern governors rushed to make a statement that almost threatened their aspiration. So, I think the leadership of the PDP knows that only a riverine candidate should be considered in 2023.

Que: So, who will the United Rivers Alliance support amongst the five Niger Delta presidential hopefuls?

Ans: URA is an omnibus organization focussed on the enthronement of the culture of power shift so that over time all Rivers people would have a sense of belonging. We are not a 2023 project team, but a unifying alliance, so I cannot speak beyond my mandate here.

So, for anything beyond the governorship of Rivers State, we can at best speak as individuals. At this point, I can respond to the appeal of Dr. Birabi. Yes, the United Rivers Alliance would team up with other Rivers people to support the emergence of a governor from Ogoni extraction, but not in 2023.

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