Nigeria’s Ambassador to South Korea and Director General of the Nyesom Wike Campaign Organization, Desmond Akawor spoke with a select group of journalists in Port Harcourt at the weekend. Rivers State Correspondent, Tony Ita Etim was there. Excerpts:
Governor Nyesom Wike said wants to conduct a forensic audit of government resources and properties allegedly mismanaged or looted. Does this suggest a probe of the Rotimi Amaechi administration?
What I know is that governor Nyesom Wike has signed a social contract with the Rivers people. This contract is to get them the dividend of democracy. So far, he has got the judiciary opened. The House of Assembly is being put in full use and our legislators are there doing their legislative businesses. I want to tell you that these are assignments that are not simple linking it to what happened in the last administration. Wike has also assured that every kobo and every property of Rivers people that had been carted away must be recovered. As a democrat that he is, recovering those things will not take governor Wike his personal involvement. But I can tell you that he will get them through appropriate court processes and committees. One thing I am sure of his that, Nyesom Wike will not go the Amaechi jungle way in recovering our looted commonwealth. He will go through due legal process to find out why Rivers properties were given out without due diligence. We know that those properties were given to Amaechi’s close relations and political associates without any recourse to due process. If getting those things back will amount to probe, so be it. But the governor was very careful when he used the word recovery rather than probe.
Oil revenue has drastically dropped and this is affecting not just all the states but the national government also. Do you think Wike be able to cope with the lean resources in Rivers state?
With my interaction with Wike as his DG of campaign organization, he has made some encouraging statements. First, a leader will succeed if he tells his followers the result he is expecting from them. The moment the leader starts to cut corners, his followers will follow suit. He knows what is available in the state and that will inform the prioritization of issues. Rivers state is wasting so much. This is a state that has the best ports, yet those ports are wasting away. Amaechi does not know anything about maritime business. He does not know what happens in Onne. Has he even ever visited Onne? Look at agriculture. There is so much revenue there and we have enough arable land in this state. Wike is going to be a realistic governor and not a governor o n t h e pages of newspapers. During Dr Peter Odili government we had ten percent investment in petrochemical and even T I N A PA . These investments prepared us for today. What has happened to those investments? We invested so much in power under Dr Odili and when Amaechi came he went and told NEPA to pay him for what they were evacuating. Yet, this is the same man that said Odili did not do anything. We will find out what happened to our investments. Rivers state has already been positioned to handle salaries and some projects before the payment of federal allocation. Wike will go back to the place God has positioned us and plan better for the good of our dear state and people. Today, former governor Fashola has made it for Lagos to have container-landing fee. What is happening to us! An Aba trader will choose to clear his container in Lagos and truck it down the east rather than come to Onne or Port Harcourt ports. Amaechi has threatened that we will not be able to pay salaries. He is not God. I can only tell him to wait and see what God will do. Workers will not be owed under Wike’s administration. Look at the monorail and the Karibi-Whyte hospital. The amount of money wasted in those projects is enormous. To uproot the monorail will cost nothing less than N5billion. It is a death trap. Look at the Greater Port Harcourt City. Where will that lead the state! Amaechi wanted to squeeze Rivers state, but we will bounce back. In Amaechi’s first tenure, he started very well. But that was when Nyesom Wike was still with him. I think when Wike left him, the spirit of God departed from him too. He started very well but ended dismally. But suddenly, power entered his head and he started to misbehave. He was insulting the President, insulting everybody.
APC in Rivers state is in the Tribunal challenging the governorship election. Doesn’t it trouble you?
Nothing will come out of it. They said there was no election. But you saw governor Amaechi, APC candidate Dakuku, APC chairman Ikanya voting in their various places. These are the same people saying there was no election. They said PDP killed their people. Does it mean that PDP killed their people in the first local government area, the second, third and all through the twenty three LGAs and none of their members could resist the killing? Amaechi even said at a Town Hall meeting after the presidential election that now that Buhari has won, all the security agencies were loyal to him. That is the same person that came out to say PDP rigged the election. Two things were against Amaechi in that election. First, Rivers people were angry that he made our brother to lose the election. They were angry that the judiciary and the House of Assembly were closed down under his government. They were angry that he pulled down the Olympia hotel. If we do election ten times, PDP will win ten times. APC has a very funny symbol. How can you campaign with a broom? It means that you either a native doctor or a night soil man. I can tell you nothing will come out of that tribunal. Wike is willing to extend the hand of fellowship to others including Amaechi and all his APC members. Dakuku, I know will want to do that, but Amaechi will never allow it. Look at the transition; they refused to comply with our committees. The vehicle that was used in the ‘60s by governor for salute was not released to us. They carted away everything from the Government House, how will you reconcile with such a man?
With the current intra party crisis and mistrust in the PDP do you think the party will be able to come back to national reckoning soon?
I can guarantee you that PDP will bounce back even stronger. What happened is a proof that when you are in a journey and you encounter some trouble, you have to return to the junction you started from to reposition yourself for a better trip. I believe that whatever transpired in the process that led to the lost at the election, we would get it right. Already, the national chairman, Dr Mua’zu had since resigned, the BoT chairman, Chief Tony Anenih has also resigned. This development is to allow the reformation of the party at that level so that we can reposition ourselves for the challenges. And this will certainly lead to our retaking power at all levels. With the coming on board of the Acting BoT chairman, Haliru Bello and the Acting national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus and the crop of governors PDP has produced, I can attest to the fact that we will not only bounce back stronger but will go all the way to get back power as a political party. We have formidable structure as a party that has been on ground for sixteen years. These are not structures that APC can afford to build over night. You can see that APC is a party of many parts. It will take them time to fuse together as one. You can see the problems they are already having in sharing positions at the national level because they must satisfy the component units. They must satisfy ACN, ANPP, CPC and the rest of them that form that alliance. This will certainly take them a long time to do and it will not be devoid of rancor and some misgivings within the ranks. We are one PDP. The structures are there from the ward level to the national. All we need to do is to change the captains steering the ship and we are up there stronger and better again for the good of Nigerians. Look at the chairman (Prince Felix Obuah) of the PDP in Rivers state! Are you surprised that Bishop Kattey described him as ‘a rugged chairman? That is the kind of leadership we want for the party. If we can take a cue from some states that have done well and we position our party leadership at the national level, 2019 will definitely be another year for PDP.
As the then Director General of Wike/ Banigo campaign organization, how did you feel when former President Goodluck Jonathan conceded defeat to Mohammedu Buhari on March 28?
Well, as members of the PDP what happened that day were not our plan. Our initial plan was to win the election. As you know, you can only vote in your ward in your state. You may not know what happens in other states and you don’t have control over those things. Jonathan was the President of Nigeria and the leader of our party, PDP. If at that point when we got at least 90 percent of the results, the President in his own wisdom decided to concede to General Buhari, I think he was in a better position to take such a decision. You can see that he is being hailed by countries of the world as a great man who has exhibited the spirit of sportsmanship. A lot of people had predicted doom for Nigeria, but Jonathan’s action disappointed those prophets of doom. Jonathan has become a world-class democratic figure. Any country he enters into, he would be held in high esteem. As loyal party members, our desire was to win that election. But this is a game where as you go in, you win some and you lose some. For us in the South-south, particularly in Rivers State, we campaigned vigorously and we even gave him the highest number of votes so that he could win. Unfortunately, you saw what transpired in other states of the federation. We here did the best we could but it did not just work out for us.
Giving the outcome of the last election, do you think that the issue of trust could be overlooked? Given that the voting pattern in the presidential election was done on ethnic and religious lines, do you think a south-south person in the party would have had that trust of a northern or south-west member of the PDP?
It later became clear that there was a crisis between some members of the national working committee, NWC and the presidency. There was buck passing. There is a common adage that a house that is divided against itself cannot stand.But that is in the past now. The moment we are able to restructure the national working committee and up to the BoT level then we can be sure of doing well. The structures are there as I said. The foot soldiers are ready to work. What happened to us was that there was a total disconnect between the NWC and the Presidency.
Do you think ex-President Jonathan as the current PDP national leader of the party is capable of giving the party the needed leadership quality that it desires for the challenges ahead?
We have already appointed people in acting capacity at the center. I doubt if the former President will want to take any position. I see new group of committed people, dedicated Nigerians coming on board to steer the wheel of the party to success. I sincerely believe that we will do well in our next approach. Don’t forget that PDP has been there at the center for sixteen years giving Nigeria and Nigerians quality governance and an enduring democracy. I doubt if there is any party presently that can surpass that feat. Yes, what happened in the last general elections happened but we cannot continue to live with that experience, rather we have to strategize for a greater future with our dear party. We have to reposition and move towards 2019 to get back power.
So you also subscribed to the insinuations that international conspiracy cost Jonathan the Presidency?
There is no politics anywhere in the world that you don’t have internal and external factors coming to play. The international communities will always come to express their interest base on their investment in that country. You cannot shy away from that fact. The way it happens is that those who have investments will always want their investments protected and such protection is by their participation in the politics of that country in one way or another. It will not be strange to believe that there were external factors that came to play giving the result that we saw in that election. I believe that with time, some of these things will become clearer and we will all know what truly happened.
What are your expectations of Mohammedu Buharis government?
If you look at Mohammedu Buhari’s pedigree, you will notice that he is somebody that will want to ensure that whatever has eaten so deep into our national fabric which is corruption, he will want to make attempt to weaken it. They say that a good dance starts from the first step. If you look at the appointment of Ahmed Joda into his transition committee, you will appreciate the fact that the man is not carried away by the gold around him. He is looking for quality materials. The message he sent to the governors on the issue of appointments indicates that he wants to be independent. To fulfill those things he was unable to achieve as a Military Head of state, he will do better. He has attempted for three times to be president. God made it for him on his fourth trial. I think he will do well. He will make a statement as a man that will do well and those dancing around him, as butterfly will fade away with time.