Blunt and articulate political activist and Chairman of the United Rivers Alliance, URA Hon. Dason Nemieboka, again spoke with our man… The discussion centred on current issues of politics as they affect the governorship of Rivers State and the participation of two Rivers politicians in the presidential race. Excerpts
Que: Sir, we believe you are excited about the emergence of riverine governorship candidates in the major parties for the 2023 elections.
Ans: It’s actually with mixed feeling. Yes, riverine candidates but…
Que: Why so, if I may ask?
Ans: As you know, politics is a coctail of intrigues and schemes. So, the party that wants to win, puts its strongest foot forward to withstand the push. After the 2019 experience, one would expect that the parties and their leaders would know how to walk on the mine fields in 2023. Even the fact that there are ongoing political revolutions cooking across the land, suggests that leaders should be circumspect with their choices.
There is a cloud of uncertainty over our nation. So, it would be costly to count your gains at the middle of the game. It is unwise to invest time and other resources trying to protect an embattled candidate or unpopular candidate, while others are gathering strength for the battles ahead.
Que: But that was what your organisation was canvassing a short while ago.
Ans: We are excited that both the APC and the PDP chose riverine candidates, which gives us the satisfaction, that our agitation is fruitful. However, we can’t pretend that the leaders of the two parties were more concerned on retaining control than fielding the finest they could get from the riverine in their fold.
We had hoped that either parties would have given us a very charismatic, grassroots and sellable riverine candidate that would almost automatically stimulate a mass movement.
If either party had given us that, the process would have been on auto-pilot by now.
Que: Are you saying both Arc Tonye Cole and Mr. Sim Fubara are not …..
Ans: My brother, it’s not about what I say, what’s important is reality. If the parties got it right, there would have been an instant spike in political activities in the parties. Unfortunately, the reality is that both parties are struggling to get their members to accept their candidates.
Our thinking was that either the PDP or APC would have been adopted by now as the riverine party.
Maybe you didn’t hear about the sudden death of a young man, Mr. Justice Kulakpi from Ikwerre Local Government Area. The report is that the young politician was highly expectant that, the APC which he was totally committed to, would announce a popular and charismatic aspirant. It was said that the announced name which was against their expectations gave him a heart attack and the chap died a few hours later.
What does that tell you? And for the PDP, the candidate is regarded as a political green horn and so has alienated the political establishment. So, you see that they lost the chance of taking us on a cruise. As a pressure group, it would be premature to pop champagne. We are only saying, the major parties lost an opportunity to maximize the advantage.
Que: Could that be because of the allegations hanging on their necks?
Ans: Oh no, I don’t work with media speculations, rumours or witch-hunts. Those EFCC and white paper cases sound more politician that criminal. So, I will leave them for their lawyers to deal with.
Our position is premised on the fact, that party members were at best indifferent and at worse discouraged. However, they have become candidates.
Que: But that means other parties can still make the difference?
Ans: Oh sure. That’s why we haven’t announced any adoption. Now that none of the lead parties could take the advantage, we are hoping that a smart candidate would step in and bridge the gap.
As things are now, most governorship candidates are riverine, but we don’t need ten candidates, we want only an acceptable candidate that would force a collapse of all adventurers and make the work easier for us. The current situation is even risky for the riverine.
If we are careless, someone from the shadows might upset everyone and shock us all.
Que: Why can’t riverine leaders and the URA rally candidates to step down for a formidable candidate?
Ans: Strategies are not discussed in the media. What will happen will happen at the right time. We are confident that the rumbles would help the emergence of a phenomenon.
Time will unveil what it has for us.
Que: Can we talk about anticipated impact of the botched presidential bids of two Rivers sons?
Ans: With all the stories and interpretations in the media, what can I say?
Well, on the positive, I think we could be proud that they both went that far. Second position isn’t easy in any race. Unfortunately, in politics there are no silverwares for the second (silver) position.
But seriously, I think we must have learnt, it’s not over until it is all over. I think both Governor Wike and former Governor Amaechi were too confident. Over confidence isn’t always a virtue, it beclouds.
I am happy that the issue in the PDP today is our governor. However, I would advise that he plays smart and manages his emotions for the good of Rivers State.
Que: Are you suggesting that Gov. Wike supports Atiku after he had been denied the Vice-Presidential slot by Atiku?
Ans: Truth is his options are few. What is more, he had repeatedly said he didn’t want to become Vice President, and words are powerful seeds. Then again, we must recall that the choice of a running mate is that of the candidate. So, if the candidate thinks that a particular person fits his play style better, he can bench Ronaldo if you know what I mean.
I think Governor Wike has a moral duty to wholeheartedly support his party’s candidate to the best of his ability. Therein lies his honour. He is a two-termed governor and we know that no one suggested his running mate. I would rather ask that he ignores the nudges from a few brother governors and others with dwindling political influence to push him into a fight that would hurt us in the state.
If PDP would win the presidency, it will. And if it won’t win, then that’s the will of God.
Que: What do you have to say about the growing popularity of the Labour Party candidate, Mr. Peter Obi?
Ans: I am impressed that the culture is changing. Clearly, Nigerians, especially of the younger generations are taking advantage of technological developments to apply knowledge-based solutions to social problems. We are gradually moving towards ‘government by the people,’ and Mr. Obi is the one the wind is sailing.
But I believe that, the excitement would wane with time. Scaffolds are neat for the optics but pillars alone support and sustain the building. The fact, that traditional politics is threatened is progress.
Que: What if there is an alliance between the Labour Party and the New Nigerian Peoples’ Party?
Ans: Unfortunately, that window now appears shut. I was optimistic that with such an arrangement, we would have a national third force, but it was blown away by ego and pride.
Even though Rabiu Kwankwaso and Peter Obi can’t go back to becoming running mates, after their names had gone to INEC as presidential candidates, they both priced their chances too highly.
You could say I am best for the seat of president and not be even a Special Adviser if you don’t win. So, smart guys would consider the political realities and strike compromises that would bring them in first.
Que: And do you think the swelling popularity of Peter Obi can influence the governorship results in Rivers State?
Ans: Frankly, I don’t believe that the political ejaculation would last the entire night. The level of planning and coordination required for elections isn’t picked up on the social media. However, I think that the shaking will gradually lead to the needed reforms in the near future.
As regards Rivers governorship, I think it’s a different kettle of fish. The issues here, more than sloganeering and yellow marketing are:
1. Riverine people can’t wait any further to produce a governor.
2. Both Governor Wike and former Governor Amaechi each want to produce a governor he can control.
3. Senator Magnus Abe wants to be the next governor as an Ogoni man.
So, the interplay of these interests wouldn’t allow the influence of the Obi movement. Even if the Labour Party adopts a popular candidate, he or she must be situated in the above equation. Therefore, Rivers State has a peculiar need and the solution is finding someone in whom all forces can find a compromise.
In fact, I foresee a governor from a party that may not form government at the centre.