Our Correspondent spoke with Port Harcourt-based Public affairs analyst and Chairman of the United Rivers Alliance, Hon. Dason Nemieboka, on recent developments in the state and country. He spoke frankly on the political situation, the chances of some parties and candidates and the future of Rivers State.
Que: Greetings Sir, as usual, we would love to get your thoughts on recent developments in the polity.
Ans: Thoughts are now read on the social media you know. Twitter and Facebook are now the place for thoughts (laughter).
My dear, the talking points are countless, what exactly are you asking?
Que: The Rivers State House of Assembly ……
Ans: Sincerely, I would prefer if you said, the Governor or the Executive arm, because in Rivers State there is only one arm. The others, especially the legislature merely exist.
And if it is about the derecognition of Sir Celestine Omehia, then I simply align with the countless condemnations flying all around, it is unfortunate.
Que: The leader of the Assembly said, they recognized that they erred in the first instance, and so now with better information…..
Ans: We bla bla bla. What was the need for the recognition in the first place? Did Omehia write a petition to the house? How would his recognition as a former Governor improved the lot of Rivers indigenes? You see, all these shows that, the house has never been equip for the tasks for which they are funded.
Except that we all know that they work as directed. And so, they leave their thinking caps at home, because they have never needed them.
As a people we can do nothing about the shame and embarrassments we constantly suffer at the hands of our elected leaders. Did you see the mockery on the faces of newscasters on national television as they discussed the absurdity of our actions?
Que: And you think, it’s because they are telly guarded?
Ans: Oh sure. We are in a State where thinkers are hated, the system thrives on mediocrity. And the leader’s style is sauced in intimidation, so all around him, are like palace jesters, they just do his bidding.
Rivers State since creation had been the envy of others, until now. We now feature in the news like weather forecast, and unfortunately for the wrong reasons.
Que: Sir, elections are a few months away and the State Governor just announced restrictions on the use of public-school facilities, what do you think is the motive of such an Executive order?
Ans: It’s unfortunate that we shall continue to tolerate mediocrity and kneel-jerk decisions at this age. You see, the Governor’s thoughts as manifested in his utterances and actions, reveal that he had long finished with governance and is fully and irreversibly in the mood for politics.
Even when he attempts to give reasons for his actions, the denominator is still bold enough. We are in dare need of jobs; employment opportunities are our greatest need as a State now. As bad as the figures are, the indigene plight is worse and nobody is thinking about it.
If we had a history of destruction of public infrastructures during political rallies then, we could understand. But at a time when, people are thinking of ways of reducing electoral expenses, you seat to craft a law that seeks to increase cost? Clearly, many would see it as a trap aimed at hindering certain candidates.
“We are in a State where thinkers are hated, the system thrives on mediocrity. And the leader’s style is sauced in intimidation, so all around him, are like palace jesters, they just do his bidding”.
Que: The spokesperson of a certain candidate has even alleged that the law may have been targeted at their candidature, do you think that Governor Wike can be so particular?
Ans: Well, I wish he isn’t. But Rivers people and indeed all Nigerians have observed several unbecoming actions and utterances of the Rivers State Government, so it would be difficult to say no.
However, I want to give the government a hint of public property that requires urgent protection. If you drive allow the Trans Woji bridge, you will notice that the poles of the street lights and armour cables are systematically been removed. In the same vein, the iron fence around all the roads, Trans-Amadi, especially the slaughter axis, and even the newly built flyovers are been removed. I think the government should try to protect the endangered infrastructures instead.
Que: Sir, do you think that the PDP can retain Rivers State beyond May 29, 2023?
Ans: I am sure, you are asking if they can win the governorship in Rivers State, because the government at the center is APC.
Que: Yes, by your assessment, do you think …..?
Ans: I have serious doubts. There are three critical elements that fuel my doubts for the PDP in Rivers State.
The first is historical. Certain things are predestined. That no incumbent in Rivers State has ever successfully enthroned his successor, is not just a fluke, but most likely a divine order, to keep men in check.
The second is the mood of the nation. Accept is or not, Nigerians are tired of the status quo. Whether at the state or federal level, we need fundamental change. Nigerians want to do away with the old order.
You see, I tell people, Mr. Peter Obi is nothing new or extraordinary. He has been around; he had governed and wasn’t fantastic in anyway. The Labour Party has been here, and haven’t made any significant impact, so what’s the magic?
In fact, Obi was Atiku’s running mate and am not sure he attracted 10% of the votes they got in 2019. Even now, he first signalled his intent in his PDP (Obi is more PDP than Labour, if you ask me). However, when he saw the mad influence of money and backed down, he struck the right chord.
Nigerians are tired of reckless spenders of public funds. It is the belief of the people that poverty and hunger are so, prevalent because, 85% of public funds are wasted. So, a man who says I can’t spend so much to get into office, may not be as abusive of public trust as we now see.
And even in Rivers State, we have a candidate who fits that bill. Dr Dawari George is the unique and distinct brand. Notice, that all every opponent says of him, is that he is good enough but lack the funds to match the deep pockets. I am sure that when we leave the starting line, you will see strategic alliances. Many top Rivers politicians would abandon their party candidates and support the man, who would bridge the leadership gap.
Que: But you said three reasons and you have given just two?
Ans: Oh, pardon me. The third is the PDP itself. If after the last primaries, the PDP managed her affairs well, maybe their chances at the center and indeed, the state would have been brighter.
However, in the aftermath of that exercise, we noticed too much dirty and bad blood. Yes, I have noticed that Gov Wike is now calming down, but.
Again, Governor Wike cannot pretend that his preferred candidate is popular amongst the party. Or that he didn’t hurt key stakeholders in the process. The same cry against the federal is here too, and pretence can’t cover it. Sabotage would play a big role.
What is more, loyal PDP members in all the LGAs are as hungry as others, yet, they watch daily as their leader spends public funds signing on politicians from other parties. So, PDP loyalists now see themselves as good only for electoral use. They are no fools, they will react.
So, for emphasis, the political history, the mood of the nation and the dissatisfaction in the PDP would hinder the PDP at the governorship in Rivers State.
“I am sure that when we leave the starting line, you will see strategic alliances. Many top Rivers politicians would abandon their party candidates and support the man, who would bridge the leadership gap”.
Que: Are you therefore saying that Dr. Dawari George would win the next governorship election?
Ans: That would be arrogant and insensitive. Governorship campaigns haven’t even started. I think, that many admire his qualities, the right mix of experience, exposure, character, humanity and accessibility. We have other candidates and they shall all be in the market place soon.
What I see again is the mood of the State, I think Rivers people including majority of the Ikwerres believe that both Amaechi and Wike have done their bid, and we want a breath of fresh air. Like Peter Obi, Dawari George is not a stranger to governance, because the job would definitely overwhelm a learner, regardless of private sector experience.
He too doesn’t have the money to spend, but he represents that clean break. He is the bridge. We are all Christians, but even the God factor favours him. Rivers people have a great chance in him and must take advantage of him.
Que: Abandoning one’s candidates would amount to anti-party, don’t you think?
Ans: No. Nigeria and Rivers State are at crossroads, we don’t need partisan people, we need statesmen and patriots. Those who think in terms of what is best for my state or nation, not party. In fact, if you vote for all the candidates of any party because you are a member, then you are part of our problems. Rivers people and indeed Nigerians would vote candidates not logos or leader’s instruction. That is the change we want and the change that can move us forward.
Que: But we have candidates like Tonye Cole, Magnus Abe and Dumo Lulu Briggs?
Ans: Do you want me to be sentimental? Ok they are all responsible Rivers leaders in their own rights, but I am talking about the one, not one of those who can be. Of course, Dumo, Cole, and Abe are richer than George, maybe Abe is even a bit more experienced in governance, but should I list a plethora of why Dawari is better? For the love of our State, they should be encouraged to back him.