Dr DAKUKU Peterside, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress and former Director-General, of Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), speaks with News Point Nigeria on the political violence in Rivers State, the G-5 governors and the chances of his party in the state in the coming elections.
You have been quiet in the political scene until the APC rally in your hometown, Opobo. Why is that?
You mean I have not been noisy? True. I have always been a methodological and strategic politician who do not believe in noise . I have been seriously involved in my party at the Federal ,state and local government levels. I express my opinion on relevant political matters regularly, either through my write ups, television appearances or community engagements. What matters is effectiveness and efficiency and not the noise or optics. Opobo rally was inevitable, that is my home LGA. Unfortunately, the state sponsored violence against a peaceful party rally to engage the people.
There was allegation that the APC masterminded the violence in Opobo and started blaming the PDP?
It is infantile, deceitful and pedestrian to allege that APC sponsored violence against itself. Simply ridiculous. Opobo is unarguably the most peaceful community in Rivers State until it was desecrated by this political desperado . All that transpired in Opobo on 31st January has the well known trademark of Rivers State sponsored political violence led by the infamous garrison commander himself . Repression, intimidation and violence is Wike- led PDP main strategy in Rivers State. Wike has never won a free and fair election before, is stiff scared of competition and in his heart of heart knows his record of performance in office . So for him, the only way he can survive is to encourage violence. It’s a shame. You can easily see the pattern. Apart from Opobo, it happened in Etche, Ahoada West, Omuma, Degema, Tai, Okrika and Port Harcourt at different times against different political actors. The method of execution is the same in all the affected places. Disheartening is that security agencies have abdicated their role. I challenge anybody with any shred of evidence that APC sponsored violence against itself to come forward.
The state government actually said so. Kindly react to that?
I don’t believe the state government said so. Their initial press release said we did not obtain permission to use the community open space in Opobo and that it was for that reason that they mobilized security to stop our rally. A tacit admission of their complicity. The same state government cannot now come back and say it is APC that attached itself. I am a man of peace who have no history of getting involved in violence. Even the blind and deaf in Rivers State know the man who believes in violence as a religion and a strategic tool that must be deployed to achieve political ends.
Is it true that you and Amaechi have some quarrels because you were not happy that you were not reappointed as NIMASA DG?
There is absolutely no truth in that assertion. We rather enjoy a robust relationship. I have no ill feelings whatsoever against Rt Hon Rotimi Amaechi. First, he is not the appointing authority and so did not deny me a second term if I wanted. Second, I did not lobby anybody dead or alive to be reappointed in NIMASA. The truth is that at the time, I had made up my mind to run for political office but that did not work out. I don’t habour ill feelings against people, it’s not even my nature. Let it be known that we have no issues at all. We remain the family that we have always been.
What is your view about the G-5 governors and do you feel they are influential?
G5 Governors? Self serving or driven by patriotism , your guess is as good as mine. They are serving governors so must have some followers. Is their followership sufficient to influence the overall outcome of elections in their respective states or the nation – I don’t think so. My own state Governor has access to state resources and he is abusing the control of our commonwealth for political purposes but he seems not conscious enough of the fact that the times have changed. Money has its place in politics but it is limited. The other point to make is that local political circumstances will make it impossible for all of them to go in one direction. My very good friend, Abia Governor will have to examine the local situation in Abia before making any political decision. Obviously his best bet is to remain with his party. This applies to all others. Their leader, Nyesom Wike, is simply garrulous, boastful, lacking in tact and a comedian . He may not be the proper person to use in assessing the political relevance, input or value of G5 governors.
Do you think the G5 governors have a point in their agitation for Ayu to resign for someone from the South to succeed him for balance, etc?
You can make a good case at a wrong time or in a wrong way. It is no brainer that after the elections, if PDP ever succeeds, Ayu would have to go to make way for a southerner to preside over the party. However it is evident that what is going on now is somebody’s decoy to fight a personal battle for his selfish interest. If Wike was given Vice Presidential ticket of his party, would he be agitating for Ayu to vacate the office now? These governors cannot think we are all fools. There are ways to engage if you are a true party man. This whole fight is about themselves and has nothing to do with the interest of Nigeria, Nigerians or any region.
Do you think they (G5) are influential?
I have responded to this earlier. For emphasis sake, they would have some influence but not sufficient to determine the overall outcome of the elections. The dynamics and political landscape have changed. 2023 is not 2015 mind you. There was no BVAS in 2015. We did not have this level of political awareness and economic situation in 2015. We had two major parties then but today that is not the position. I suspect they the so called G5 governors may overate and over reach themselves. There will be consequences.
Are you aware that Wike is supporting Tinubu for the Presidential race?
I am not aware. I know there is so much disagreement and divergence in his team in Rivers. I bet you, Wike is playing a survival game and will not go out of his way for anybody. His perceived support base is all hogwash, make believe or just a creation of sponsored media. He thinks he is smart but everyday his inconsistency and dishonesty becomes evident. His present reality is that he has boxed himself to a tight corner. I feel for him. He obviously needs help.
If Asiwaju wins the election, won’t Wike deserve some credit too?
I am not in position to answer that question. What would he have brought to the table, perhaps Rivers state government money? Obviously not popular support as he has none to bring. I have not seen him campaign for APC. It will be incautious for Wike to claim any credit if APC and Asiwaju succeeds. There is no rewards whatsoever for betraying your party.
Governor Wike will be leaving office in about three months. How would you rate his performance in nearly eight years?
Spectacular failure. I give him credit for three things. The first, building some flyover bridges in Port Harcourt. The second, spending so much money in the media to market the first, an amount that can at least build more bridges. And the third, the first Governor to successfully run government without budget for nearly eight years. We have never in our history had a Governor who abandoned the civil service, ignored investment in education, refuse to address health care, did not think agriculture is worthwhile but gifts our commonwealth in pursuit of political goals. That same man spends heavily on the media to create a false impression about performance. I feel for Rivers people.
What is your view about the Governor’s frequent outburst?
It’s now habitual. Habits as you know are hard to break. I think he is wired to crave for attention albeit negatively. The unfortunate thing in this case is that he is bringing opprobrium to the state. Some Nigerians might think that our Governor is a representation of whom we are. Far from it. Rivers people are one of the most civilized species in the country. We are decent, humble yet courageous, enlightened, contented and urbane. This man want to conquer his immediate environment using crude tactics .
Are you insinuating that he is a terror or despot?
Not a despot. May be a democratic despot or pseudo democrat, or a man who does not believe in democracy. He is working hard to hide his anti- democratic values and practices. Following him closely, you will immediately notice that he is not wired for serious engagements nor is he for fair contest. This whole concept of democracy is about plurality of ideas and options .
What is your view about the withdrawal of the entitlements of Sir Celestine Omehia and de-recognizing him as former Governor?
No comment. The Governor has chosen to play politics with everything including the gifts he gave out earlier .
Why has Rt. Hon Amaechi being quiet all this while, and why hasn’t he openly campaigned for Tinubu.
He is available and accessible. Reach out to him. He was in Plateau and Adamawa respectively. He has been to Rivers state, front and back holding political consultations. Campaign is not all about rally, in fact it is at one end.
Where is he? Do you know his whereabouts?
He is in Nigeria. I know his whereabouts. He is active and engaged.
The elections are here already. What is the chances of your party, the APC in the state?
Very bright. Rivers people are tired of Wike and everything he represents including trying to get a third term through the back door. They want a new lease of life. The serial failure of Wike is the strength of APC. His self serving nature has not helped him. I am optimistic APC will form the next government in the state .