Dr Dakuku Peterside, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress and former Director General, of Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, speaks with DENNIS NAKU 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 on 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 does 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, not noise or optics. The 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 an allegation that the APC masterminded the violence in Opobo and started blaming the PDP.
It is infantile, deceitful, and pedestrian to allege that the APC sponsored violence against itself. It is simply ridiculous. Opobo was unarguably the most peaceful community in Rivers State until it was desecrated by this political desperado. All that transpired in Opobo on January 31, 2023, has been the well-known trademark of Rivers State-sponsored political violence led by the infamous garrison commander himself.
In Rivers State, Wike and the PDP’s main strategies are repressions, intimidation, and violence.
Wike has never won a free and fair election before. He is stiff-necked and scared of competition, and in his heart of hearts, he knows his record of performance in office. 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. It is disheartening that security agencies have abdicated their responsibilities. I challenge anybody with any shred of evidence that APC sponsored violence against itself to come forward.
The state government actually said so. Would you please 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 mobilised security to stop our rally, which is a tacit admission of their complicity.
The same state government cannot now claim that the APC attacked itself. I am a man of peace who has 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 Rotimi Amaechi have some squabbles because you were not reappointed as NIMASA DG?
There is absolutely no truth in that assertion. We rather enjoy a robust relationship. I harbour no ill will towards Rt. Hon Rotimi Amaechi.
To begin with, he is not the appointing authority, and so he did not deny me a second term if I wanted.
Also, I did not lobby anybody, dead or alive, to be reappointed to 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 harbour ill feelings towards 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 they must have some followers. Is their following sufficient to influence the overall outcome of elections in their respective states or the nation? I don’t think so. My own state’s governor has access to state resources, and he is abusing the control of our commonwealth for political purposes. But he seems not to be 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, the Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, will have to examine the local situation in his state before making any political decision.
Obviously, his best bet is to remain with his party, the PDP. This applies to all others. Their leader, Nyesom Wike, is simply garrulous, boastful, and lacking in tact. He is 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 the PDP National Chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, to resign for someone from the South to succeed him for balance, etc.?
You can make a good case at the wrong time or in the wrong way. It is a no-brainer that after the elections, if the 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 interests. If Wike was given the 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 them and has nothing to do with the interests of Nigeria, Nigerians, or any other region.
So, do you agree that they (the G5) have some influence?
I responded to this earlier. For emphasis’s 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 bimodal voters accreditation system 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 case. I suspect the so-called G5 governors may overrate and overreach themselves. There will be consequences.
Are you aware that Wike is supporting your party’s presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, for the presidential race?
I am not aware. I know there is so much disagreement and divergence in his team at 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 every day his inconsistency and dishonesty become evident. His present reality is that he has boxed himself into 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 a position to answer that question. What would he have brought to the table, perhaps Rivers State government money? He obviously does not have popular support because he has none to offer. I have not seen him campaign for the APC. If APC and Asiwaju succeed, it will be incautious of Wike to claim any credit. There is no reward 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?
A spectacular failure! I give him credit for three things. The first is building some flyover bridges in Port Harcourt. The second, spending so much money in the media to market the first, is an amount that can at least build more bridges. And the third was the first governor to successfully run a government without a budget for nearly eight years. We have never in our history had a governor who abandoned the civil service, ignored investment in education, refused to address healthcare, did not think agriculture was worthwhile, but gifted 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 the people of Rivers.
What is your view about the governor’s frequent outbursts?
It’s now habitual. Habits, as you know, are hard to break. I think he is wired to crave 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 who we are. That is far from it. The Rivers people are one of the most civilised species in the country. We are decent, humble yet courageous, enlightened, contented, and urbane. This man wants to conquer his immediate environment using crude tactics.
Are you insinuating that he is a despot?
Not really, he may be a democratic despot, a pseudo-democrat, or a man who does not believe in democracy. He is working hard to hide his anti-democratic values and practices. If you pay close attention to him, you will notice that he is not wired for serious engagements or fair competition. The entire concept of democracy revolves around the plurality of ideas and options.
What is your view about the withdrawal of the entitlements of Sir Celestine Omehia and de-recognising him as a former governor?
I have no comment. The governor has chosen to play politics with everything, including the gifts he gave out earlier.